Confidence, prestige, influence and perseverance: British foreign policy during the 1970s and 1980s evinced all these qualities. There were reverses and retreats, but there were also successes. Britain continued to act like a great power and to be treated as such. Through consultation and negotiation and through diplomatic, political, economic and military measures, Britain remained an active participant in international affairs. The British went on pursuing their vital interests, and they could still sway others. Britain was no mere spectator. Although some major events of the 1970s and 1980s happened without British involvement, most did not. While there were significant agreements and relationships that did not depend on Britain’s input or approval, on the issues that most affected Britain there could be no progress and no resolution without a British contribution. Britain’s decline relative to other great powers of the late twentieth century is not in doubt, but the remarkable thing is not the decline but the ways in which it was hidden, denied, delayed and minimized. The Americans, Soviets and others were aware that Britain carried less weight in the world than it once had, but they also knew that they could not discount British influence.
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Michael J. Turner
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