Dr. Shetler-Jones’ essay titled How allies ‘position’ the United Kingdom was published in May 2021 by UK-based think-tank Council on Geostrategy. As part of a series of papers on Discursive Statecraft, Dr. Shetler-Jones’ essay examines how the United Kingdom (UK) is positioned, by allies, in terms of its character and ranking as a world power. Drawing on examples from the US, Germany, and Japan, Dr. Shetler-Jones identifies three forms of discursive statecraft which allies use to ‘position’ the UK.

  • The instrumentalising move: to direct an ally’s policy choices so that they align as much as possible with one’s own preferences.
  • The restraining move: to position an ally in a way that makes it less likely that it will take action with the potential to rebound with undesirable effects on one’s own interests.
  • The reinforcing move: to construct or shape narratives about an ally with an eye to reinforce a message about one’s own identity.

Although allies use a combination of the three to achieve their goals, Dr. Shetler-Jones found that each of the example countries tended to rely on a dominant style that suited their ‘positioning’ needs towards the UK. Japan in particular has been consistent in its use of the identity reinforcement move with the aim of positioning the UK as an active and principled ally that looks beyond its region. In analysing the various approaches and examples of allies’ ‘positioning’ of the UK, Dr. Shetler-Jones asserts the importance of being able to identify these efforts and if necessary, call them out.

Dr. Philip Shetler-Jones is an associate fellow at the Council for Geostrategy.

Click here to read the full paper.