AFTER two months in our self-isolationist bunkers, it’s only natural that most of us have developed pronounced symptoms of territorial short-sightedness.

Beyond a longing for that free-to-roam sunshine holiday abroad, it can be quite a challenge to recognise that one day – hopefully soon – we will again be engaging with the wider world.

But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the world beyond our doorstep matters, and how we engage with it equally so. Yesterday’s confirmation of five million coronavirus cases worldwide was another sobering, if not entirely unexpected, reminder of that.

The health and safety of our fellow citizens has rightfully been given top priority of late. The geopolitical implications of the pandemic, meanwhile, have understandably played second fiddle, even if those implications may, in the long term, prove just as consequential.

So what kind of geopolitical atmosphere is Britain likely to encounter when it surfaces from its shambolic self-isolation? Perhaps an equally pressing question, too, is whether the UK Government’s foreign policy strategy will be fit for purpose in addressing the new world order when we do?

For make no mistake, whether its diplomacy, economics or security, the post-pandemic world while still recognisable, will have been relandscaped in ways seriously challenging to navigate.

This might not be the “second wave” threat from the pandemic that many people are talking about, but its presence stalks us just the same.

Viewed from a strictly Scottish Government perspective, any UK response is, of course, frustrating to say the least, given that Scotland’s hands are largely tied while foreign affairs remain a reserved issue.

It’s a frustration only made worse for many ordinary Scots, too, who have had to sit and watch as a UK Government obsessed with “Britishness” and a fatuously misguided notion of its standing on the world stage totally messed up on warnings about the coronavirus threat from overseas.

Britain since then, though, has not only been found wanting, but has been found out, becoming an international laughing stock. Indeed, even before the current crisis, so out of step had UK foreign policy become, that post-pandemic it’s likely to be dragged from pillar to post by other nations seeking to recalibrate or align themselves within the world’s diplomatic ranks.

READ MORE: UK coronavirus response strengthens case for Scottish independence

As history has time and again shown, great global changes set off chain reactions, and any nation needs to be fleet of foot in ensuring it’s not left behind when it comes to gaining leverage through a sound foreign policy strategy.

By now it’s more than obvious, however, that any well-honed pre-emptive skillset is not part of the current Tory Government’s toolkit, home or away. It failed in coping with the challenge on its doorstep. It’s a fair bet it will fail again, leaving Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab reaching for the Nytol if he’s not to be kept awake by the geopolitical aftershocks of the pandemic.

INCONCEIVABLE as it might seem, the signs are all there that the UK will once again be blindsided, this time on the foreign policy front. On those terms, uncharted diplomatic territory lies ahead, but its outline as carved out by the pandemic is already emerging.

To begin with, alongside the UK’s own shortcomings, it’s a place where the status of the United States as a global leader has also been found seriously wanting under the presidency of Donald Trump.

The terrible human cost from the pandemic aside, conservative estimates see the US economy shrinking by between 6% and 14% in 2020, the largest single contraction since the demobilisation at the end of the Second World War.

Quite simply, the pandemic has come at a time of profound uncertainty over America’s future role in the world and its commitments to transatlantic security.

The crisis, too, has shredded much of what was left of the US-Chinese relationship. In Washington, any return to a pre-2017 world of “strategic engagement” with Beijing is simply no longer politically tenable.

Asked this week by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee to assess the impact of Covid-19 on the global order, the Obama administration’s former ambassador to the UN Samantha Power immediately referred to China’s rise.

Meanwhile, here in Europe, other governments are taking note of the way things are shaping up.

One recent poll by the German think tank the Korber Foundation found that Germans are now almost equally divided on whether Washington or Beijing is the more important partner, with 37% choosing the United States and 36% China.

All this is part of the realpolitik of a rapidly shifting global diplomatic arena, and you might well ask where does a post-Brexit, post-pandemic UK fit in and what leverage might it have in this new international order?

READ MORE: Scottish Government more trusted than UK to tackle coronavirus

WELL, if the UK Government’s recent track record is anything to go by, then chances are it will be left whistling in the wind. For if the pandemic has made one thing clear, it’s that the contests for diplomatic influence, economic advantage, military dominance and technological prowess will be part of geopolitics for years to come.

Writing recently on the political website The House, Tory MP Tom Tugendhat talked enthusiastically of the need to review Britain’s approach to the world.

“It must rediscover the lost art of strategy at the heart of Whitehall, and foreign affairs is a key part of that,” Tugendhat argued.

Foreign affairs are indeed a key part, but don’t hold your breath waiting on positive results. Already a major UK Government review of the country’s foreign affairs, defence and intelligence strategy due to be published this year has been pushed back indefinitely because of the pandemic.

As Tom McTague, the London-based staff writer of the US magazine The Atlantic, recently observed, the immediate consequence of this is that the review, when it happens, “will be less strategic and more tactical”.

“Officials in London will have to focus more on ‘What can we afford?’ and less on ‘What do we want to do?’, an approach that is short term, ad hoc and defensive,” wrote McTague.

Sound familiar? This is just the start. If you think the UK Government was ill-prepared for the onslaught of the pandemic, just wait and watch it struggle with its geopolitical aftermath.

It’s sure to be no less ugly and just as chaotic.