Comparative Strategy Analysis: the UK and Japan

The study of the presented problems is actualized by a complex internal environment – complex processes taking place within the European Union at the beginning of the 21st century. Brexit dealt a strong blow to the integration processes in Europe and the EU’s position in the international arena. Blair’s pro-European course led to an increase in the position of Eurosceptics in the country and to some destabilization in the Europeanism-Atlanticism construct in Great Britain.

Nevertheless, the UK is well positioned to benefit from globalization. At the same time, it assumes the responsibility to control the threats caused by globalization, but the setting of a multipolar world determines events that have largely influenced both the situation in the world and the policy of Great Britain in general (Heffernan et al. 2016). New international organizations are beginning to form, with the help of which multipolarity is beginning to take shape in the world.

Core assumptions consists in the fact that increased interdependence and, at the same time, competition between individual countries and macroregions leads to the fact that phenomena that are difficult to comprehend and conceptualize, including the image a country, attractiveness, the ability to shape political discourse on the global level, acquire increasing importance. In addition, the approaches to understanding power in international relations have changed: if in the past, strength was understood, first of all, the military and economic power of a country, today the concept of “soft power” is gaining more and more popularity.

As for national interests, Great Britain is very actively expanding the spheres of military and strategic influence in the Far East, analysts record an increase in the diplomatic representation of London and in Eastern Europe. In general, the “imperial” traditions of the development of foreign economic relations of Great Britain take the form of soft diplomatic power. As can be seen, British soft power foreign policy is primarily aimed at supporting business and educational institutions; the government and the British Council play the role of intermediary and “guide” to international markets.

Challenges and Treats for the UK. Power and Influence

The following threats to security in the modern world are identified: changes in the balance of economic and military power of the leading countries of the planet; growing rivalry between states and the emergence of more powerful non-state players. This also includes the threats of terrorism, extremism and instability; cyber threats; the destruction of the system based on international law, which makes it difficult to reach consensus and counter global threats (Evans 2017). However, many factors of instability, including social inequality, demographic change, urbanization, climate change, global economic and other shocks, are likely to persist in the medium and long term. Namely for this reason, the authors of the strategy point out, that Great Britain is orienting its foreign policy towards stabilizing the situation abroad.

The conflict with Russia has been identified as one of the threats to British national security. At the same time, London leaves open the possibility of cooperation with the Russian Federation on global security issues, including international efforts to combat ISIS and cooperation on the Iranian nuclear program. Despite the Russian factor introduced, the main emphasis in the new strategy is placed on hybrid threats and means of internal and external response. The document notes that Great Britain has never been so protected from some threats and defenseless from others at the same time.

Opportunities, Objectives, and Instruments. Power and Influence

According to the new strategy, the objectives of UK national security is to protect the population, territory, economy, infrastructure and way of life, to reduce the possibility of threats to the kingdom, its interests and the interests of allies. As part of the analysis of the conceptual search for British defense doctrine, it is possible to identify a movement from archaic theories of the Cold War period to ideas related to the elimination of hybrid threats and the conduct of network-centric military operations. The latter implies the conduct of active local operations with relatively small forces at a great distance from own borders. In addition, the traditional specifics of the formation of British defense policy remains, as a factor in actively defending its economic and political interests in Europe and the world.

At the same time, it is argued that the UK consistently defends international order and has already done a lot to ensure predictable state policies and non-violent resolution of contradictions. These provisions of the document are fully confirmed by the country’s real foreign policy. Great Britain does not emphasize military methods, its interests in the field of defense are manifested only in the context of protecting its national borders, the life and health of its citizens. The main thing for it is, first of all, effective diplomacy, although the issues of military forces do not remain completely untapped. Bearing in mind joint efforts to counter challenges and threats, the British strategy is aimed at interaction at the level of such integration structures as the UN, the European Union and NATO.

In foreign policy, Britain’s diplomatic efforts are aimed at reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world, and its strategy includes strengthening relations with countries such as India and China. In British strategy, the United States is considered an important strategic partner of the United Kingdom. The UK also intends to move away from the fight for energy resources through the use of alternative energy sources, as well as to address issues related to climate change. The strategy provides for the need to combat the proliferation of nuclear weapons both jointly with other states and international organizations, and independently. Much attention is paid to the fight against terrorism, a detailed program has been developed to identify, prevent, suppress terrorism.

In numerous international rankings of “soft power” and “country brands” the United Kingdom has consistently held a leading position. The term “soft power” is present in the political discourse of the country and is used in official documents. Britain’s soft power policy was institutionalized; however, Brexit could seriously undermine Britain’s position and authority in the world. The most obvious and direct consequence of Brexit for Britain’s international standing is that it will no longer participate in shaping the general policy of the European Union.

National Interests in the Context of Domestic and International Environment: Japan

First, the National Security Strategy emphasizes that the shift in the global balance of power has increased the importance of the Asia-Pacific Region (APR) in the international community. At the same time, Northeast Asia is a focus of actors, including countries with large-scale armed forces, some of which possess nuclear weapons or are developing them. Despite the increasingly visible differences with Washington on a number of important international problems, regional realities make it inevitable that Japan’s security stake on a military alliance with the United States is inevitable. In the National Security Strategy, this point is reflected in a separate paragraph. The document emphasizes that the Japanese-American alliance is the cornerstone of Japan’s security. A new direction of Tokyo’s foreign policy is cooperation with Russia and other CIS countries. Until now, Japanese-Russian relations are developing in a peculiar way. The predominant place in them is occupied by the negotiation process on the conclusion of a peace treaty and the solution of the problem of the South Kurils.

One of the internal political problems in Japan is the aging of Japanese society, which inevitably brings social issues to the fore, the change of generations, in which people who have not received the “anti-war vaccination” begin to play the first roles in politics and business, the pendulum of the mood of society itself: after a relatively moderate course pursued by the party ruling in 2009-2012, increasingly pro-American prime ministers are coming to power, starting with Naoto Kan and ending with the now retaining Abe.

Challenges and Treats for Japan

In the second decade of the 21st century, the situation in the Asia-Pacific region is characterized by the preservation of the potential for conflicts. This is especially clearly seen primarily in the East Asian subregion. Here, there is a nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula, and territorial disputes over islands in the waters of the seas, the Taiwan issue, and border claims. In the current conditions, with the emergence of new challenges and threats to national interests, countries of the region are forced to radically reconsider their approaches to ensuring their own security. A typical example in this regard is Japan, where a course was taken to revise the basic principles of defense policy and strengthen the military component in the national security system.

North Korea is said to be one of the actors contributing to the escalation of tensions in the region, as it is taking provocative actions and increasing its potential for weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. At the same time, the Japanese leadership is seriously concerned about the rapid growth of the military-political and economic capabilities of the PRC, as well as its activity in all spheres of international relations.

In its new security strategy, Japan conceptually went beyond the concept of a “simple defense force” containment policy and enunciated a new security concept through the creation of a Japanese “dynamic defense force” based on de facto national activities. The construction of a dynamic defense force is driven by the need to take into account the multilateral and complex nature of security issues, as well as other destabilizing factors. If earlier Japan almost entirely relied on the so-called military “umbrella” of the United States in matters of national defense, then the new doctrine shows a shift in emphasis towards increasing its own defensive capabilities (Oros 2017). In fact, the new military doctrine prepares the process of Japan’s possible transformation into a truly military power.

Japan is interested in preserving the strategic confrontation between Russia, China, and the United States, which has developed in the Asia-Pacific region in the postwar period, which would further deter each other with the help of nuclear and conventional weapons. On the one hand, Japan is objectively interested in weakening Russia’s power potential in the Japanese direction, and on the other, in strengthening the American forces to contain Russia in the Asia-Pacific region.

Opportunities, Objectives, and Instruments. Power and Influence

Japan intends to defend its security, as well as advocate for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region from the standpoint of proactive participation in maintaining peace, based on the principles of international cooperation. The country is taking the necessary measures to preserve the Japanese-American security alliance, but at the same time is trying to pursue a relatively autonomous policy more in line with its economic status. This goal is achieved by such methods as creating its own Self-Defense Forces, for which Japan is increasing military spending; developing a security dialogue with Russia, China, and South Korea; establishing closer ties with Europe, primarily with the European Union. However, the country is pinning its greatest hopes on enhancing its role in international organizations. It strives to lead in APEC, to strengthen its influence in the APR by participating in the activities of ASEAN. Japan is actively advocating for UN reform and expansion of representation on the Security Council, hoping to become its permanent member.

In the Eurasian doctrine of Hashimoto, which guides Japan in its foreign policy pursued in the APR, the central place is given to further strengthening its positions in this region. Tokyo is the founding member of the Asian Monetary Fund, in which it has the largest contribution, ensuring Japan’s leading position in this structure. Japan is also the main founder of the Asian Development Bank. In addition, Tokyo continues to participate in joint projects through various international organizations, puts forward new programs, and actively participates in regional forums and meetings.

The main instrument of Japan’s Middle East policy remains the financing of programs for economic cooperation, modernization of infrastructure, ecology, organization of confidence-building measures and post-conflict restoration of state institutions (Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestinian-Israeli settlement). Making independent political decisions in the field of regional policy, together with ensuring stable oil supplies, are the main tasks of Japan’s “new Middle East policy.”

In countering the challenges and threats to Japan’s national security, the government plans not only to strengthen Japanese-American cooperation in the field of security itself, but also to expand it in other areas of bilateral relations. First of all, this concerns the deployment of formations and units of the American armed forces on Japanese land. At the same time, the Japanese side proposes to revise the distribution of functions within the framework of the bilateral alliance, taking into account the changed situation in the region and the capabilities of partners.

As one of the measures to bolster the Japanese-American alliance, Japan’s National Security Strategy identifies deepening trust and expanding cooperation with partners in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. The document states that priority is given to countries that are united with Japan by strategic interests and share common values. These are South Korea, Australia, ASEAN countries and India. For each such partner, the document defines the framework for possible cooperation.

At present, active diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region is stimulated namely by Japan, and precisely East Asia, in civilizational terms, is capable of challenging the Pax Americana ideology as an instrument of US strategic dominance. However, the central question in Japan’s strategic perspective is how to become a truly global power without risking US national security support and achieve global recognition while avoiding the hostility and mistrust of East Asian countries.

Strategies Comparison

There are both differences in the national security strategies of Japan and Great Britain, ranging from reasons for adoption to practical applicability, and overlaps. The most significant of these is the protection of vital national interests. In both strategies, national security acts as a complex multi-level system. Its main subsystems are the security of the individual, society, and the state.

The UK strategy is based on “practicality.” Unlike the Japanese strategy, the British one is more concrete and controllable. For example, it provides for the creation of a national register of potential risks, which will be available to all citizens of the country. The Japanese strategy focuses mainly on the main priorities and contains practically no specific proposals for countering threats.

Mention should be made of the concept of “security identity,” which determines the evolution of the countries’ foreign and defense policy. This is a set of collectively accepted principles concerning appropriate state security behavior that enjoy broad political support and are institutionalized in political decision-making. The security identity of post-war Japan was based on three principles: refusal to possess armed forces, from using military force, except in cases of self-defense, and refusal to participate in wars.

With security environment changes, the relationship between the influence of different norms on the formation of foreign policy modify. Thus, the collapse of the “bubble economy” discredited the Japanese development model in the eyes of many, and China’s growth, including its displacement of Japan from the second place in terms of GDP, gives rise to doubts about the possibilities of Japanese leadership in the world and in East Asia. The attitude of the Japanese population towards the foreign activities of the self-defense forces is gradually changing, the use of military force is widely discussed, which was unthinkable a couple of decades ago.

In Britain, the last decades was marked by the search for a single national idea that can create a harmonious space for a diverse population and its historical prejudices. The new concept of security reflected this search for identity within the security identity, which was seen in a shift in focus from imperial ambitions to addressing internal threats. At the same time, special forces, designed to solve problems in the interests of ensuring national security, are of great importance in British strategy. To increase their readiness to act in various conditions, both independently and together with allies, it is planned to more than double the volume of investments in these forces, modernize helicopters and military transport aircraft for the transfer of special forces over long distances. It should be noted also that both strategies pay attention to cyber-security. While British strategy describes only overall threats and their causes, Japan strategy proposes some steps to address cyber-security risks.

Japan simultaneously claims about its “peaceful orientation” and “Proactive Contribution to Peace,” thus resembling British strategy. However, the main difference which can be traced is orientation of Japan primarily on raising geopolitical status and influence in the region, while the UK strategy focuses mainly on domestic threats. Analysis of the content of Japan strategy shows that, despite the pacifist rhetoric, Tokyo’s new course reflects a clear departure from the traditional understanding of pacifism as a denial of the state’s right to war. The reality is that the Strategy reflects a fundamental turn in Japan to national security policy. The UK strategy contains broad section devoted to promoting prosperity, to support growth and sustainable economic development both in national scale and overseas. The issues of emerging markets and global economic reform are also covered, while Japan strategy is focused solely on defense (military) and geopolitical areas. Only small two-paragraphs section is devoted to matters of energy and environmental issues, without providing details describing outlined prospective efforts.

Thus, while the UK mainly strives to protect its national interests in post-Brexit landscape and overall in today turbulent environment, Japan evidently shows growth of ambitions in the region and, in the prospect, in the world, based in strengthening Navy forces. The Japanese strategy focuses on the achievement by the state of one of the leading places in the world on the basis of large-scale participation in the affairs of the region. For the UK at the present stage, it is more relevant to counter terrorist attacks and global climate change.


Evans, Geoffray. 2017. Brexit and British Politics. Polity.

Heffernan, Richard, Colin Hay, Meg Russel, and Philip Cowley. 2016. Developments in British Politics. Palgrave.

Oros, Andrew. 2017. Japan’s Security Renaissance: New Policies and Politics for the Twenty-First Century. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

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