Cablegate: Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg Outlines The

DE RUEHLO #1771/01 1850948
R 030948Z JUL 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 001771



EO 12958 DECL: 06/30/2018

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Maura Connelly for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (SBU) Summary. Nick Clegg, MP and leader of the Liberal Democrats, called for the UK to adopt the UN’s “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine in his first major foreign policy address. In his speech, titled “Terms of Intervention” and delivered at Chatham House on June 23, Clegg enumerated criteria that should dictate Britain’s overseas military involvement and reasserted his support for a more cohesive European Union. He explained that despite his personal support for the Lisbon Treaty, the EU should not ignore the Treaty,s referendum defeat in Ireland and plow on with its implementation, but neither should the EU let the “no” vote stand as an obstacle to the development of a stronger EU. Clegg attacked the Labour government on a variety of issues, alleging that it had misallocated defense spending and it had lacked candor with the British people about commitments required in Iraq and Afghanistan. He added that it is time for the UK to reassess its military policies with regard to both countries, and called for an immediate withdrawal of British troops from Iraq and increased military and technical support for Afghanistan. Bio info at para 8. End summary.

Criteria for Liberal Interventionism

2. (SBU) Clegg,s primary message was the UK,s need to adopt a doctrine of what he called “liberal interventionism,” similar to the UN’s concept of “Responsibility to Protect.” This doctrine, explained Clegg, calls for the UK to become involved in foreign conflicts only if a) the cause is just and as a last resort, b) intervention is well intentioned, c) military action is proportional and sanctioned by legitimate authority, and d) there exists a reasonable chance of success. Clegg argued that the UK must adapt its military and strategic resources to the post-Cold War world, and mentioned the need to focus more on supporting troops in the field as opposed to spending money on “outdated” weapons systems such as the Typhoon fighter jet and Trident missile system.

Iraq and Afghanistan

3. (SBU) Clegg briefly touched on Iraq, and reaffirmed the Liberal Democrats, position that troop levels must be drawn down. He said that the “unjustified” invasion of Iraq has severely damaged the UK,s moral authority, and will make it difficult to institute his “liberal interventionist8 policy proposals.

4. (SBU) Clegg argued for more aid and assistance to be sent to Afghanistan, underscoring his belief that failure there would lead to greater instability in the region and a proliferation of narcotics production. Moreover, he called for the Brown government to be more forthright with the British people about the costs and length of involvement that will be required to secure a stable Afghanistan.


5. (SBU) Clegg also touched on Zimbabwe, and explained that, despite the pressing humanitarian concerns, Western military involvement would be counterproductive, in part because there is no regional support for intervention. Instead, he supported UN involvement, and called on South African President Thabo Mbeki to curtail electricity supplies to the country.


6. (SBU) Clegg argued that the UK must take a stronger role in Europe. He sees in French President Nicolas Sarkozy an unlikely ally in the development of stronger French-UK military coordination, and explained that while the development of an EU military capability cannot be allowed to undermine NATO, the EU should still possess a military force strong enough to act unilaterally if necessary. He also said that, despite the now gloomy prospects for ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, the EU can still move forward. It is time, he explained, to stop “tinkering with the machine and put it to use,” and called for Britain to be more involved in major EU decision-making, instead of merely criticizing such decisions from the sidelines.
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7. (C/NF) Since becoming leader of the Liberal Democrats, Clegg’s general foreign policy tone has softened. His earlier hard-line rhetoric against the war in Iraq and on extradition/rendition issues has given way to a slightly more thoughtful and measured approach. These issues have lost some of their domestic vote-getting potency and therefore Clegg and others have turned to new topics. In taking the reins of the Liberal Democrat party, Clegg is restrained by the responsibilities that his leadership role imposes on his rhetoric, though he has not yet succeeded in imposing complete discipline on the members of his own party when it comes to their public comments on foreign policy subjects.

8. (C/NF) Clegg himself spoke confidently and passionately in his address about the UK’s need to become involved in a more unified EU. He appeared quite knowledgeable in response to questions about the International Criminal Court and UK military spending, though slightly less sure of himself when asked about Darfur and Burma. Having only assumed the leadership of the Lib Dems last year, he appears to still be broadening his understanding of, and comfort level with, international issues.

Bio Note

9. (C/NF) Clegg, like many Liberal Democrats, is individually articulate, charismatic, and personable. Since taking over the leadership of the Lib Dems, he has become more nuanced and realistic in his approach to domestic and foreign affairs. While he used to focus on Iraq and rendition in Parliament, earning quick applause from his Lib Dem colleagues, he now focuses on domestic issues that matter more to the voting public.

10. (U) Clegg serves as the Member of Parliament for Sheffield Hallam. He was first elected to British Parliament in 2005, and was elected the leader of the Liberal Democrats in October 2007. From 1999 until 2004, Clegg was a Member of European Parliament, and served as Trade and Industry spokesman for the Alliance of Liberal Democrats for Europe. Prior to working in politics, Clegg worked as a journalist and as an aid/relief project manager. He has academic degrees from Cambridge, the University of Minnesota, and the College D’Europe.
Visit London’s Classified Website: ed_Kingdom

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