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Britain`s Global Influence Waning, Newsweek Says

Posted August. 03, 2009 09:03,   


“Forget the Great in Britain.”

Britain was once called the "empire on which the sun never sets." Though it lost its power after World War I, the country had dominated the world for several decades thereafter as a smaller superpower.

Such dominance was thanks to its superiority in economic sectors such as finance, cultural influence, strong military capabilities backed by a nuclear arsenal, and strong ties with the United States.

Britain partially maintained its former glory by intervening in global conflicts and raising its voice in international affairs.

As the global economic crisis dealt a heavy blow to its financial sector last year, however, things have rapidly changed. With consumer prices dropping for the first time in 50 years, deflation is looming large.

In addition, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits has topped two million, the first since 1997. The International Monetary Fund said Britain’s debt-to-GDP ratio will near 100 percent in five years from 68.6 percent now.

The U.S. weekly Newsweek said in its latest edition that Britain’s international influence has significantly weakened due to the global economic crisis. In the feature "Forget the Great in Britain," the magazine said, " Suddenly, the sun that once never set on the British Empire is casting long shadows over what`s left of. Britain`s imperial ambitions, and the country is having to rethink its role in the world—perhaps as Little Britain, certainly as a lesser."

Throughout modern history, Britain was the only country that pursued a great role on the global stage going beyond its national power. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher joined forces with U.S. President Ronald Reagan to unravel the Soviet Union and pursue the expansion of capitalism.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, who served in the post for a decade from 1997, dispatched British troops to fight wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Britain also ranked second only to the United States in the number of military interventions. Blair temporarily regained the global influence his country had under Winston Churchill by participating in U.S.-led wars.

Britain can no longer exercise such power, however, because of slashed defense and diplomatic budgets in the wake of the global economic crisis, Newsweek said. This is because massive budget cuts weaken both hard and soft power. The former uses military and economic power to change other countries` behavior and the latter utilizes information technology, culture, and arts to achieve the same effect.

The country is also having a hard time maintaining its nuclear deterrent as a budget shortage is delaying the introduction of a cutting-edge missile system for nuclear submarines. Rapidly emerging economies such as China and India and the U.S. campaign to strengthen its ties with emerging powers are also threatening Britain’s international standing.

It is unlikely that a new prime minister from Britain’s Conservative Party will regain the country’s prior influence in the global arena. The party recently told parliament that it will become more difficult over time for Britain to exert influence over world affairs like it used to.

Dr. Ian Kearns of the Institute for Public Policy Research, a leading think tank in Britain, said, "Although we are a relatively wealthy country and we have a seat on the U.N. Security Council, we are a power in decline."