Foreign Policy in a Post-Brexit World

Patrick Wintour, the Guardian’s diplomatic editor reports on our fringe meeting at Conservative party conference in Birmingham.


A new American isolationism and the transformation of Russia’s global status has led to the “world order getting out of control”, and “unimaginable things happening”, the international development minister Rory Stewart has said.

He also suggested that, faced by a swaggering Russia, there was little that “poor old” John Kerry or Barack Obama can do in Syria in the final few weeks of their White House administration. He suggested different strategic questions could be asked if Hillary Clinton were elected.

In a frank assessment of the scale of global disorder rarely offered by a serving government minister, Stewart warned:

“The world is getting out of control. You look at that whole arc of what is happening in northern Nigeria, in Mali, in Chad, what is continuing to happen in Libya, the problems that persist in Somalia, not to mention what is happening in Darfur, South Sudan, Yemen, Ukraine, in Iraq, in Syria, you are looking at a real collapse of the multilateral system at a time when the United States is increasingly doubtful about what it can do to solve it.”

Speaking at a fringe meeting organised by the thinktank Radix at the Conservative conference, Stewart added: “A lot of the great driving theories that kept the American public involved have gone, of which the most important from 1946 to 1989 was the fight against communism. That was the way of really motivating the American public to invest and spend on defence. Those ideas have gone now. You cannot motivate the public in the same way.

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