Talk about putting the cart before the horse. Speaking of British Eurofighter jets currently on visit to Japan the British Ambassador to Washington vowed these will be followed by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier which will likewise patrol the South China Sea — in 2020 when the carrier is finally operational.
“Certainly, as we bring our two new aircraft carriers onstream in 2020, and as we renew and update our defense forces, they will be seen in the Pacific.
“And we absolutely share the objective of this U.S. administration, and the next one, to protect freedom of navigation and to keep sea routes and air routes open.”
It’s doubtful the Chinese will be impressed by such a faint threat, but they have already noted its unfriendly nature. United Kingdom was one of the western countries which hopped aboard the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank last year and received around 3 percent of the vote for its investment.
The British threat is even stranger when one considers even Americans are reconsidering whether aircraft carriers have a role to play in the first day of a theoretical war with China — or if in the era of long-range anti-sip missiles carriers better not approach the shores of near peer competitors.
Moreover the Queen Elizabeth is supposed to offer home to F-35 fighters but these have been plagued with delays, cost overruns and technical problems. It is anyone’s guess whether the F-35 will actually be ready by 2020.
In the mean time United Kingdom is down to just nineteen destroyers and frigates and as The National Interest notes has fewer infantrymen than were killed on the first day of the Somme Offensive in World War I.
There is no great shame in slipping from great power status but there is something particularly ungracious in the way London has handled the decline of British power.
Everybody understands UK is merely riding the coattails of the US and would not think of provoking China off its shores if US were not doing the same. But whereas other governments might understand that makes them lapdogs British government still somehow manages to delude itself it actually matters.