The United Kingdom: Perspective On Transatlantic Relations And Priorities For Security And Economic Cooperation

Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Hoover Institution, Stanford University

In this episode of Battlegrounds, H.R. McMaster and Mark Sedwill discuss the future of the transatlantic relationship and priorities for cooperation among allies and partners to take advantage of opportunities and  overcome challenges from Xi Jinping’s China to Vladimir Putin’s Russia to jihadist terrorism.

H.R. McMaster in conversation with Mark Sedwill, Baron Sedwill of Sherborne KCMG FRGS, on Wednesday, March 31 at 9:00am PT.


In this episode of Battlegrounds, Fouad and Michelle Ajami Senior Fellow H. R. McMaster interviewed Lord Mark Sedwill, a high-ranking British diplomat and public official who has served in various United Kingdom government positions, including as head of the Home Civil Service (2018–20), national security advisor (2017–20), director of Afghanistan and Pakistan of the Foreign Commonwealth Office (2010–12), and NATO senior civilian representative in Afghanistan (2010). In this wide-ranging conversation, Sedwill discussed the UK’s national security interests with respect to its alliances with the United States and NATO member countries; the ambitions of Russia and China; the two-decade war in Afghanistan; and his country’s diplomatic relationships with Pakistan and India.

Sedwill explained that while Russia is significantly weaker militarily than combined NATO forces, it has ruthlessly and efficiently attacked its American and European adversaries in the cyber and information domains. To strengthen its deterrence against Moscow, Sedwill argued, the transatlantic alliance should demonstrate the capability of all its instruments of military power, both traditional and nonconventional. He added that NATO members should affirm their commitment to the NATO treaty’s Article 5, which holds that an attack on one nation is an attack on the entire alliance. Sedwill noted that while some European Union leaders have recently sought to become less reliant on the United States for their nations’ security through a policy called “strategic autonomy,” they should nevertheless realize that the United States and the European Union have far more shared interests than differences.

The conversation then turned to the twenty-year war in Afghanistan, where Sedwill served in the early part of last decade. He argued that the war could have ended much sooner if NATO forces had had clear objectives and were more resolute in their commitment to provide security and help achieve peace for the Afghan people. Sedwill said coalition forces need to be realistic about the Taliban’s ongoing presence in Afghan society but explained that he opposed a peace framework that would allow the extremist group to take over the government. He offered that a future strategy does not need to include a heavy troop footprint in Afghanistan. Instead, NATO forces should continue to provide security for the fragile government, furnish economic assistance to the Afghan people, and persuade regional rivals Pakistan and India that stability in Afghanistan is in their mutual interest and not to engage in proxy conflicts.

Finally, Sedwill addressed China’s ambitions from the perspective of UK interests. He explained that the United States, United Kingdom , and likeminded democracies should stand united against  Beijing for egregious actions such as human rights violations within its borders, the dismantling of rule of law and democracy in Hong Kong, its aggression in the South China Sea, and worldwide intellectual property theft. However, Sedwill also said that he doesn’t want to see a conflict between the democratic world and China, maintaining that authoritarian governments will stand down if democratic nations are strong, steady, and consistent in defending their ideals.


Mark Sedwill, Baron Sedwill of Sherborne KCMG FRGS, is Chairman of the Atlantic Futures Forum, Chairman of the G7 Panel on Global Economic Resilience, and a cross-bench member of the UK Parliament’s House of Lords. He is a senior adviser to Rothschild & Co. He was Cabinet Secretary & Head of the Civil Service (2018-20), National Security Adviser (2017-20), Permanent Secretary at the Home Office (2013-17), and HM Ambassador and NATO Representative in Afghanistan (2009-11).

H. R. McMaster is the Fouad and Michelle Ajami Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.  He is also the Bernard and Susan Liautaud Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute and lecturer at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.  He was the 26th assistant to the president for National Security Affairs. Upon graduation from the United States Military Academy in 1984, McMaster served as a commissioned officer in the United States Army for thirty-four years before retiring as a Lieutenant General in June 2018.

Battlegrounds provides a needed forum with leaders from key countries to share their assessment of problem sets and opportunities that have implications for U.S. foreign policy and national security strategy. Each episode features H.R. McMaster in a one-on-one conversation with a senior foreign government leader to allow Americans and partners abroad to understand how the past produced the present and how we might work together to secure a peaceful and prosperous future. “Listening and learning from those who have deep knowledge of our most crucial challenges is the first step in crafting the policies we need to secure peace and prosperity for future generations.”

Sign-up to be notified:

Upcoming Events