Britain stands ready to fully support the US in carrying out its role of “global leadership”, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.
Speaking on a visit to Washington, Mr Wallace said the two nations needed to be prepared to stand up to “an ever more aggressive and regressive Russian and an economically and militarily expansionist China”.
He said the current deployment of a Royal Navy carrier strike group – including a US destroyer and 10 Marine Corps F35-B fighters – to the Indo-Pacific was an example of the way their militaries were able to operate “seamlessly” together.
“We are ready and able to share your burden of global leadership wherever and whenever it is required. Let’s not leave until a major conflict breaks out.
“The status quo is not self-perpetuating and our forces must adopt a campaigning approach now.”
He said they were committed to upholding the rules-based international order and would support nations in the region is disputes with China over fishing rights and freedom of navigation.
“We believe in fair play. We stand up to bullies – we don’t like bullies,” he said.
Mr Wallace indicated his disappointment at President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan, saying the rest of the international community had little choice but to follow suit.
“When the president said we are going to leave, we have been here 20 years, the international community really didn’t have a choice,” he said.
“Do I think that is the end of the matter in Afghanistan? No, I don’t. The history of Afghanistan says no-one’s done,” he said.
Mr Wallace also told a news conference there had been gains won due to Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan, including reducing the amount of terrorist activity in the UK, but that the two trans-Atlantic allies needed a longer and clearer strategy in regard to their foreign interventions.
“One of the missions we went there (to do) was a CT (counter terrorism) mission that absolutely had effects on the streets of Britain,” he said.
“We had, after a few years, almost no attacks or inspired plots from al Qaida on the streets of Europe and the United Kingdom. And that matters. And you bank that. OK, that’s not forever, but we had 15 years of a depleted AQ (al Qaida) unable to inflict violence on us.”
But he added: “China has a hundred-year plan. It’s really it’s really stark, the difference between a hundred year plan and what’s our plan? Four years, three years?
“I think we all need to recognise that there’s no short term fix and that it’s a long endeavour to stand up for your values you believe in.”