British Overseas Territories and “Global Britain”: the geography as a factor of world policy

One of the reasons why the UK decided to be separated by the European Union is the policy of “Global Britain”. By this term, a review of UK’s foreign policy is noticed. One part of this policy is the geography. UK via its Overseas Territories has a chance to implement this review.

A map that depicts all the British Overseas Territories. As it is obvious, UK has access to several places across
the world, controlling some of the most vital regions. (Source: Wikipedia)

To begin with, the British territories in Cyprus are of vital importance. They are two. The one is near Limassol called Akrotiri. It is on the west Cyprus. British have there a settlement for the families of the military staff, barracks and a military airport. This airport offered the British planes which are stationed there the chance to fly over Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.  The other area is Dhekelia near the UN Buffer Zone on the east. There are units of light infantry. Both those regions are on the edge of the eastern Mediterranean basin, so the British army has access to and can control the Middle East, the one half of the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal and the Black Sea.

The other important territory is Gibraltar. Being at the beginning of the Mediterranean Sea, has strategic importance. First of all, it controls one of the most neuralgic water and land passages in the world. Regarding the sea, it’s in the point of connection between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. It offers access to North Africa, the west half of the Mediterranean Sea and on mainland Europe because it is in the Iberian Peninsula. Some units of light infantry are stationed there, while it was used as a naval base until the 1980’s. Adding the bases on Cyprus, a network of British control stations all over the Mediterranean is created. In addition, Gibraltar and Cyprus offer a “bridge” that connects the British soil with the Atlantic Ocean and with the Middle East and beyond. So, the British troops have a lot of stations and passages to move and that ability offers political control as well.

Another important region of the British foreign policy is the Atlantic Ocean. Although Gibraltar has access to the mentioned ocean, however there are other Atlantic territories. The islands of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha are some of them. Especially concerning Ascension, this is a base-island meaning that an airfield of the RAF had been built. This airfield called Wideawake was used as a transition base for heavy air bombers of RAF during the Falklands War. Its importance is high because NASA and USAF have installations there as well. Another fact is that those islands are near the West Africa, offering control of that region. The other vital islands are the Falkland Islands. Located near Argentina- South Atlantic Ocean, were targeted of Britain’s enemies during the 20th and 21th centuries. The Falklands War is the most popular conflict between Argentina and UK. The UK won and an important factor was the British bases across the Atlantic. British forces were easily and fast moved from the British ports to those of Falklands. So, UK can project its power on the South Atlantic Ocean.

The UK has presence as well as to the North Atlantic Ocean. Its positions in the Caribbean offer access to this maritime area and, of course, are a link with the US. It’s a fact that each British government can control in combination with the British territories on the south, the biggest part of the Atlantic Ocean.

The UK has installations in Antarctica as well. The main base, that of Rothera, thought it contributes to the scientific research, at the same time it provides a lot of chances. Firstly, it assures the British representation in that part of the globe. Secondly, it creates a base for further British activation not only scientific, but economic, military and other. In a conclusion, the Antarctica soil supports the global British foreign policy.

Lastly, one of the most geostrategic positions of the world is the Diego Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean. Located in the Chagos Archipelago it is on a remote area. However, its position is in the centre of the above Ocean. It provides shelter and support for ships, personnel and materials moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean or from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean throughout the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. Additionally, it supersedes the water passages in that region. Furthermore, it has proximity to the East Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and the Southeast Asia. Because of those advantages, the British quickly, during the Cold War, bought it from Mauritius and resettled its residents to other neighboring countries. Moreover, they built military land and naval facilities and an airport. The US knowing its importance, decided to lease it from UK. The two countries had an agreement and until now the US Army deploys there some of the most finest and expensive weapon systems. The Island protects the US and British interests in the whole region. Undoubtly, it’s about a notable strategic position.

In conclusion

It is evident that the overseas territories favor a lot the UK interests and the “Global Britain” policy. They are dispersed in different Oceans and continents, but they connect each other. Also, they facilitate the movement of the UK Army. The latter can move wherever it wants knowing that there are bases which can provide it with the necessary. The fact that some of those territories are near British military bases in other countries, especially in the Middle East, make them much more important. So, at the military sector UK has the advantage.

At the sector of foreign relationships each British government has the ability to take part at the developments in any part of the world. It can intervene in Syria and Cyprus, it can affect the politics in the MENA region, it can affect the European politics and it can press other governments such as those of India and Cyprus to maintain good relations with the UK. Another important fact is that with these territories the UK-US relations and their strategic partnership is enhancing. Last but not least, the UK has the ability to spy on China from Diego Garcia Island.

Lastly, at the economic sector, London has several opportunities. It can collaborate with other states on maritime borders demarcation and in its territories there are plentiful deposits of minerals and energy resources.


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