There has been a lot of comment this week about thatphotograph –taken at the recent G7 meeting of world leaders, showing President Trump under pressure from the other 6, but looking like the stubborn teenager refusing to do his homework. And then the twitter spat with the Canadian Prime Minister! What a strange period of global leadership.
But my eye was caught by another photograph all together. A chilling snap of the leaders of China Russia and Iran standing together at a recent Chinese summit, issuing a joint communiqué. It sent a shiver down my spine as I recalled the historic axis that these three countries have sometimes enjoyed, and not always with benign outcomes.
What damage could they do to global stability if they team up once again? Russia: effectively a gangster state where political differences are settled by a bullet to the head; Iran which is the most prolific sponsor of terrorism in modern times and China which is slowly rising to the top of the table and will soon be challenging the USA in terms of global economic and military might. The growth of China has been impressive, but it remains a totalitarian state which brooks no dissent, very much controlled by the Communist party.
Each of these three states is looking to increase their sphere of influence, albeit in vastly different ways.
If our children are going to inherit the unparalleled peace that my generation has enjoyed, we have to find ways to counter this threat.
First of all, we must not let the historic alliances of democratic and free nations splinter. Western weakness will only encourage the ambitions and actions of undemocratic nations who seek to flex their muscles. We need to show unity and strength. We need to show that our values bind us together and bring prosperity to our people.
Second, we must maintain and build contact with these autocratic countries, and others like them. Purists will always want us to be banging the desk every five minutes about human rights violations and lack of progress on issues of equality and diversity, but we should tread carefully. These are important issues and we must sometimes raise them – but not at the expense of establishing sound relationships and open channels of communications that can nip in the bud possible future conflicts.
We need to become experts again at pragmatic “realpolitik.” Our children will not thank us if we get this wrong.