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Atlantic Charter for a New Era

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    21st Jun, 2021

At the CARBIS BAY, England, the US President Biden and the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed a new version of the 80-year-old “Atlantic Charter” recently, using their first meeting to redefine the Western alliance and accentuate what they said was a growing divide between battered democracies and their autocratic rivals, led by Russia and China.

Context

At the CARBIS BAY, England, the US President Biden and the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed a new version of the 80-year-old “Atlantic Charter” recently, using their first meeting to redefine the Western alliance and accentuate what they said was a growing divide between battered democracies and their autocratic rivals, led by Russia and China.

Background

  • Meeting on the eve of the G-7 summit, both the leaders released a “revitalized” Atlantic Charter, rededicating their governments to the defense of an open, rule-bound world, and seeking to rally the West at a time of global crisis.
  • First announced on August 14, 1941, a group of 26 Allied nations eventually pledged their support to the original Charter by January 1942.
  • The document is considered one of the first key steps toward the establishment of the United Nations in 1945 and of the NATO.
  • The 1941 Charter had grown musty and did not reflect a world of different challenges, from cyberspace threats, climate crisis, Covid-19 to China.

Therefore, the need of the hour was to revamp the charter to reinforce democracy, open societies, and a rules-based world order.

Analysis

The original Atlantic Charter

  • The original Atlantic Charter included eight common principles.
  • Among them, the United States and Britain agreed not to seek territorial gains from the war, and they opposed any territorial changes made against the wishes of the people concerned.
  • The two countries also agreed to support the restoration of self-government to those nations who had lost it during the war.
  • Additionally, the Atlantic Charter stated that people should have the right to choose their own form of government.
  • Other principles included access for all nations to raw materials needed for economic prosperity and an easing of trade restrictions.
  • The document also called for international cooperation to secure improved living and working conditions for all; freedom of the seas; and for all countries to abandon the use of force.

The new charter

Alike the older charter, the new charter also includes eight common principles.

  • First, to defend the principles, values, and institutions of democracy and open societies, driving national strength and the alliances.
  • Second, intending to strengthen the institutions, laws, and norms that sustain international co-operation to adapt them to meet the new challenges of the 21st century, and work through the rules-based international order to tackle global challenges; embrace the promise and manage the peril of emerging technologies; promote economic advancement and the dignity of work; and enable open and fair trade between nations.
  • Third, to remain united behind the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the peaceful resolution of disputes; to defend key principles such as freedom of navigation and overflight and other internationally lawful uses of the seas.
  • Fourth, to harness and protect innovative edge inscience and technology to support shared security and deliver jobs at home; to open new markets; to promote the development and deployment of new standards and technologies to support democratic values; to continue to invest in research into the biggest challenges facing the world; and to foster sustainable global development.
  • Fifth, to affirm the shared responsibility for maintaining the collective security and international stability and resilience against the full spectrum of modern threats, including cyber threats. NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.
  • Sixth, to continue building an inclusive, fair, climate-friendly, sustainable, rules-based global economy for the 21st century; to strengthen financial stability and transparency, fight corruption and illicit finance, and innovate and compete through high labour and environmental standards.
  • Seventh, to tackle the climate crisis, protect biodiversity, and sustain nature.
  • Eighth, to strengthen health systems and advance health protections, and to assist others to do the same.

Significance of the new charter

  • Where the original charter contemplated the “final destruction of the Nazi tyranny” and called for freedom to “traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance,” the new version focused on the “climate crisis” and the need to “protect biodiversity.”
  • It is sprinkled with references to “emerging technologies,” “cyberspace” and “sustainable global development.”
  • In a direct rebuke of Russia and China, the new agreement calls on Western allies to “oppose interference through disinformation or other malign influences, including in elections.”
  • It ranks the threats to democratic nations in a technological era.
  • By taking a leading part in the effort to vaccinate the world and providing resources to confront the gravest public health challenges, it is a powerful demonstration that democracies — and not China or Russia — are capable of responding to the world’s crises, and can do so faster and more effectively.
  • It underscores Biden’s desire to move away from the ‘America First’ foreign policy doctrine of Trump and affirms his aspiration of re-establishing America as a prominent defender of the international world order.

What is in it for India?

  • Signing of new Atlantic charter is a key stepping stone in India interaction with the west since during signing of last charter Britain PM Churchill specifically excluded Indians from the principles of self-determination which form the core of previous charter.
  • This had poisoned India’s relation with west in its initial years and cast a long shadow of mistrust in years to come.
  • New Atlantic charter deals with challenges like climate change, biodiversity, rise of authoritarianism in which India is a key stakeholder thus can hold the promise of heralding a new chapter in India relationship with the west.
  • Furthermore, the commitment of USA to provide 500 million Covid vaccines without any strings attached also come as a breather to countries like India who are emerging from deadly second wave of covid and grappling with acute shortage of vaccines.

Conclusion

The new Charter largely reaffirms existing policies, focusing on the need to strengthen cooperation in areas such as security, technology and global health, all of which the US and UK already work together on.

Those days, however, are long gone when America was dominant globally and to succeed the new Charter and it’s all of eight principles, it will need the entire like-minded liberal countries at the same platform. The invitation to India, South Africa, and Australia was a calculated step in this direction.

The global landscape and agenda have shifted. America’s main strategic adversary, China, is becoming a true peer competitor, with an economic might and technological prowess the Soviet Union never enjoyed. Biden, arguing that we are at “an inflection point in history,” seeks to reconsolidate a core of Western democracies that can collectively push back against Beijing, as well as Moscow.

But this club approach to world order, founded on a core of advanced market democracies, has its limits, not least because the United States is deeply entwined economically with China and will need cooperation from its rival—as well as Russia—to address a slew of transnational threats, among them the existential dangers posed by climate change and nuclear proliferation.

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