British Prime Minister Liz Truss, a politician often compared to Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher, is presenting herself to the world as a steely leader for tough times.
The new prime minister has come to the United Nations to argue that in an increasingly unstable world, like-minded allies need to band together against those who seek to weaponise the global economy. In her speech to the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, Truss will call on bodies like the Group of Seven industrialized nations to act as an economic equivalent of NATO, helping one another endure the economic shocks unleashed by Russias invasion of Ukraine.
This is a decisive moment in British history, in the history of this organization, and in the history of freedom, Truss will say, according to excerpts released in advance by her office. The story of 2022 could have been that of an authoritarian state rolling its tanks over the border of a peaceful neighbour and subjugating its people. Instead, it is the story of freedom fighting back. But this must not be a one-off.
Two years after Britain dismayed many of its allies by leaving the European Union, Truss wants to reassure the world that her country will be a reliable, trustworthy and dynamic partner to fellow democracies most urgently, to Ukraine. Shell pledge Britains total commitment to Ukraines fight against invasion, including a further 2.3 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) in U.K. military aid.
Truss plans to overhaul Britains security and foreign policy blueprint, which was updated just last year, before Russias invasion of Ukraine upended global security. She also has pledged to increase defense spending to 3% of gross domestic product, from its current level of just over 2%.
Truss also said en route to New York that Russia will only be freed from international sanctions if it pays recompense over its invasion. She did not elaborate, but American officials are looking at whether assets seized from wealthy Russians could be used to fund Ukraines reconstruction.
It all adds up to a bold start for a leader in office for just two weeks. Truss won a Conservative Party leadership contest early this month and was appointed prime minister by Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 6, just two days before the monarch died. The first days of Trusss term have been shrouded by a period of national mourning, so the trip to the U.N. represents the debut of both her international aims and her domestic agenda.
Truss is a stolid orator, so her speech is unlikely to contain the fireworks of her voluble predecessor Boris Johnson, who left his UNGA audience bemused in 2019 with a speech about technology that mentioned terrifying limbless chickens and pink-eyed Terminators from the future.
She is aiming to catch the mood of a pivotal global moment, as Thatcher did in 1989, when she hailed the thawing of the Cold War but issued a prescient warning about climate change. Thatcher said humans were not the lords of all we survey, but the Lords creatures, the trustees of this planet, charged today with preserving life itself.
Or like Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009 warning it would be a failure of global responsibility if the worlds poorest countries did not share in the global recovery from the Great Recession an entreaty that went largely unheeded.
Before Truss gives her speech, shell hold her first meeting as prime minister with President Joe Biden. The two leaders have different economic views, with Truss advocating a brand of low-tax free-market policies derided by Democrats like Biden as trickle-down economics.
The two countries common approach to Ukraine has gone some way to healing a trans-Atlantic rift caused by Brexit. Trusss hawkish statements about Chinas increasing assertiveness and calls for Western allies to cut their reliance on Russian oil and gas also vibe with the views of the American leader. But Brexit, and its impact Northern Irelands peace process, has driven a wedge into what both sides sentimentally call the U.K.-EU Special Relationship.
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