Security Policies of Sunak and Truss and Their Impact on the Global System

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After the resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the UK, it is expected to be replaced by either former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak or former Foreign Minister Liz Truss. Although Sunak as an Indian origin candidate, was at the forefront in the election race at the beginning, it is stated that former Foreign Minister Truss has taken the lead in the latest polls.[1] It is thought that since Truss was the Minister of Foreign Affairs before, it is more likely for Truss to know the global interests of the UK closely and therefore came to the fore as the most favorite candidate.

On the other hand, the fact that Sunak, who was the Minister of Finance, does not have enough experience in Foreign affairs weakens his hand. In any case, the candidates have started to make promises on issues concerning the global interests of the UK, especially regarding Russia, China and Brexit. Ultimately, this change in the prime minister’s seat will not only affect the relationship between the UK and European Union (EU); but also shape its relations with the transatlantic. The impact of this “seat problem” will even extend to the relations with the Asia-Pacific.

Considering Russia’s attack on Ukraine and China’s increasing threat to Taiwan, it is expected that global defense and security policies will be main determining components in Britain’s foreign policy. In this context, the promises of  prime minister candidates in the field of economy and foreign affairs alone are not sufficient; defense-security policies will also be effective in their success in the election. Because the report “Global Britain in the Age of Competition”,[2] mentions the importance of developing an integrated perspective in security, defense, development and foreign policy of the UK.

In this context, it is wondered how Sunak or Truss will deal with threats to Britain’s global interests and what discourse and tools they will use in response. According to a poll which was made among British public, 45% of the people believe that both Russia and China pose the same level of threat.[3] Therefore, it is important how the candidates will construct their defense-security policies in order to deal with the threats posed by Russia and China.

On the subject, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace stated that the country needed a stronger and bigger army and emphasized that the defense budget should be increased in this regard.[4] Accordingly, the UK may lose its position as Europe’s largest defense spender in the next ten years, if the budgetary restrictions continue. In this respect, the UK may fall below the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) target of “2% of the defense budget to national income”.

At a time when such threats from Russia and China are increasing, Ben Wallece naturally favors giving more importance to the country’s defense-security policies. If necessary precautions are not taken against these crises that suddenly appear in the world, it may not be possible to protect the global interests of the UK after a point. For example, Truss suggests that lessons should be drawn from Ukraine, that China can exhibit similar aggression in Taiwan, likewise Russia’s aggression on Ukrain, and therefore military support should be given to the island country from now on.[5] On the other hand, it is seen that Sunak cannot make a concrete policy, discourse and promise about the “Russia and China threat”. Only in July 2022, Sunak announced that he would be stricter against China in a statement he made in order not to lag behind the competition with Truss.[6]

It should be noted that Sunak, who previously served as the Minister of Finance, is inexperienced in defense-security policies as in foreign policy. For this reason, Truss criticizes Sunak, claiming that if he becomes prime minister, Britain will not be able to protect its global defense-security-economic-political interests.[7] In addition to this, Sunak’s views on Russia and China are not clear. Therefore, when he comes to power, it is difficult to foresee what measures he will take against these threats.

Based on her promises in the election race, Truss announced that she would increase the defense budget to 3% of the national domestic product in the next 5 years; Sunak advocated that it should be increased to 2.5% over some years.[8] During the Johnson period, defense expenditures were increased above the 2% target set by NATO and kept stabilised at these levels. After Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022, it came to the fore that the UK should spend more on defense.

On the subject, Sunak opposed the “arbitrary” increase in defense expenditures. But on the other hand, he supported NATO’s 2% target. Moreover, he emphasized that it is not even the ceiling; but the need for a base.[9] Therefore, Sunak is always in favor of sticking to the 2% target. However, he is opposed to immediate “arbitrary” increases in expenditures.

Truss, on the other hand, favored more military support to Kiev during the Russia-Ukrainian War. It is seen that in the foreign policy and security interests of England, Sunak is not flexible enough and will have difficulty in keeping up with the changing situations. The principled and planned stance brought by being an economist indicates that he cannot be pragmatist and flexible in foreign policy. However, the war and peace situations in the world and the threats related to these circumstances are changing all the time and the states have to keep up with it. Sunak’s principled policies could harm British foreign policy interests.

Their Impacts on the Global System

The change of prime minister in England will not only affect the balances within Europe; it will also affect London’s relations with Washington. This will certainly have some reflections in Asia-Pacific. While the USA wants Truss to win; China will support Sunak.

If Sunak wins the election, it’s effect on the global security will be as follows:

  • Relations with EU Countries: In the 2016 referendum, Sunak, unlike Truss, supported Brexit from the very beginning. In other words, Truss defends Europe more strongly. But Sunak may not be as enthusiastic about Europe’s security as Truss is. In Russia’s war with Ukraine, both Johnson and Truss strongly sided with Kiev. However, it is thought that Sunak will not be able to show the same solidarity and will remain soft towards Russia.
  • Transatlantic Relations: While complying with NATO’s defense spending targets, Sunak may not give sufficient support to the US’s Russia and China strategy. More precisely, Sunak can pursue policies that are more independent from the Washington administration at the global level by advancing in line with the vision of “Global Britain” and the goal of “Starting the Golden Age with China”. In short, if Sunak takes office, the global solidarity of the USA and Britain may be damaged.
  • Relations with Asia-Pacific: When it comes to relations with China, the best word to describe Sunak might be “realpolitik”.[10] That is, it favors compromise rather than conflict. In this respect, Sunak advocates being mature, prudent and balanced in relations with China. In this case, if Sunak becomes prime minister, Britain will cooperate less with the United States in the Pacific.

If Truss wins the election, it’s effect on the global security will be as follows:

  • Relations with EU Countries: Truss, who was against Brexit at first, later started to advocate the opposite. For this reason, it should not be forgotten that Truss supported the “Britain is Stronger in Europe” campaign during the 2016 referendum process.
  • Transatlantic Relations: It can be said that NATO’s effectiveness in Europe will increase as a result of the strengthening relations with the USA. Britain’s rapid increase in its defense budget during the Truss period will put pressure on European countries in this regard. London’s strengthening of ties with Washington could have both positive and negative effects on European security. A stronger NATO, increasing its influence in Europe, could be a provoking factor for Russia to embark on new adventures.
  • Relations with Asia-Pacific: If Truss becomes prime minister, the UK will focus on developing a global security policy, including the defense of Taiwan. Greater British involvement in the Pacific could make China more aggressive, and eventually war in Taiwan could become inevitable.

[*] Tercüme: Egemen ÖNEY, Geliş Tarihi: 10.08.2022, 11:47-Teslim Tarihi: 10.08.2022, 14:45

[1] “Liz Truss Now Leading Rishi Sunak by 24 Points in Race for No 10, Polling of Tory Members Finds”, Independent,, (Date of Accession: 27.07.2022).

[2] “Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy”, UK Government,, (Date of Accession: 27.07.2022).

[3] “Winning the China Vote”, Beijing Britain,, (Date of Accession: 27.07.2022).

[4] “UK Needs A Bigger Army, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace Signals”, Sky News,, (Date of Accession: 27.07.2022).

[5] “Rishi Sunak is “Best Described As Realpolitik.”, Twitter,, (Date of Accession: 27.07.2022).

[6] ““I’ll Change This on Day 1 As PM”: Rishi Sunak Talks Tough On China”, NDTV,, (Date of Accession: 27.07.2022).

[7] “Rishi and Liz Go to War over China”, DailyMail,, (Date of Accession: 27.07.2022).

[8] “Rishi Sunak vs Liz Truss: Key Policy Differences”, The Hindu,, (Date of Accession: 27.07.2022).

[9] Aynı yer.

[10] “Rishi Sunak is “best Described As Realpolitik.”, Twitter,, (Date of Accession: 27.07.2022).

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer graduated from Sakarya University, Department of International Relations in 2014. In the same year, he started his master's degree at Gazi University, Department of Middle Eastern and African Studies. In 2016, Tamer completed his master's degree with his thesis titled "Iran's Iraq Policy after 1990", started working as a Research Assistant at ANKASAM in 2017 and was accepted to Gazi University International Relations PhD Program in the same year. Tamer, whose areas of specialization are Iran, Sects, Sufism, Mahdism, Identity Politics and Asia-Pacific and who speaks English fluently, completed his PhD education at Gazi University in 2022 with his thesis titled "Identity Construction Process and Mahdism in the Islamic Republic of Iran within the Framework of Social Constructionism Theory and Securitization Approach". He is currently working as an Asia-Pacific Specialist at ANKASAM.