BRITAIN'S NEW GOVERNMENT & ANGLO-AMERICAN RELATIONS: A COMMENT
"The election itself is unlikely to have much effect on the UK's day-to-day relationship with the United States. Intelligence and counterterrorism cooperation and regular discussion over operational planning and political strategy in Afghanistan will ensure that officials and political leaders retain elements of the "special relationship" into the next UK government....
The election may prove to be a hinge point in an ongoing structural shift in the bilateral relationship. The British government has felt itself to be increasingly marginal to America's long-term strategic bilateral relations. Britain is of little relevance to U.S. policy toward China (whether strategically in terms of China's growing political-military presence in East Asia or of its role as an increasingly formidable economic competitor), or toward India, Brazil, or Russia. Each of these countries present important challenges to U.S. political and economic interests, but in ways that do not involve the UK in the way that it was involved in U.S. responses to the Soviet threat during the Cold War or to promoting European security in the post-Cold War period.
A Conservative victory or a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition could lead to an attempt by the new government to demonstrate a greater independence from U.S. foreign policymaking. The economic pressures that the next government will face could play into this dynamic. Reflecting this sense of UK-U.S. strategic distancing, British Conservative and Liberal-Democratic leaders, more so than Labour, have pointed to the need for a more balanced approach to British foreign policy. The Conservatives remain staunch supporters of NATO for UK security. But they have suggested that Britain needs to build its own close set of bilateral diplomatic relationships, both with big powers such as India and China, and with other medium-sized powers in East Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. The Liberal Democrats have emphasized the need for the UK to commit more clearly to the European Union as the lever for furthering Britain's future international priorities. For their part, Labour leaders have been consistent in pointing to the interlocking value of a close Transatlantic and European set of relationships--the strategy that Tony Blair sought to pursue until it was derailed by the Iraq war. A Labour victory would likely see little change in UK-U.S. relations, therefore. A Conservative victory or a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition, however, could lead to an attempt by the new UK government to demonstrate over time a greater independence from U.S. foreign policymaking. The economic pressures that the next government will face could play into this dynamic".
Robin Niblett, "Poised for a British-U.S. Realignment," 5 May 2010, in www.cfr.org
"It is more than a little ironic that Nato has committed itself to defining a new strategic concept at precisely the moment the transatlantic relationship counts for less than at any time since the 1930s.
In part this development reflects Europe’s success. While Europe was the central arena for much of 20th- century history and a principal theatre for both world wars and the cold war, it now is mostly at peace. The Franco-German rift has been replaced by a broader integration of the continent inside the European Union, with France and Germany at its core. Europe is to a large extent whole and free. What happens within it will not determine the arc of the 21st century.
Europe’s loss of centrality also reflects its failings. The European project is foundering. Greece is the most pronounced problem, one brought about by its own profligacy and a weak EU leadership that permitted it to live beyond its means and violate the terms under which the euro was established. But the crisis was made worse by German dithering, and initially timid responses from European institutions and governments. The euro could be one of the casualties.
Already there are signs the crisis is spreading to other countries that, having also lived beyond their means, are suffering from insolvency but are unable to do much about it given their domestic politics and membership of the euro. This week’s €750bn rescue package will buy time, but will not address the insolvency at the core of the problem. Europe’s recovery will be anaemic in absolute and relative terms. Europe is now the world’s largest economy, slightly larger than the US, but will not be for long.
Even before this economic crisis, Europe was weakened by a political crisis. Many Europeans have been preoccupied with revising European institutions, but repeated rejections of the Lisbon treaty demonstrate that a united Europe no longer captures the imagination of many of its residents. Lacklustre leadership of European organisations is both a cause and a result of this loss of momentum....
Europe’s drift also manifests itself militarily. Few European states are willing to devote even 2 per cent of their budgets to defence; and what they spend their money on makes little sense. National politics and economics dictate expenditures, so there is much replication of what is not relevant and little investment in what is needed. The whole is less than the sum of its parts.
Afghanistan is a case in point. The European contribution there is substantial, with more than 30,000 soldiers from EU countries. But the involvement is uneven, with nearly a third of the troops coming from the UK. In many cases the roles are diluted by governmental “caveats” that limit missions, a lack of equipment and commitments of uncertain duration. European political culture has evolved in ways that make it harder to field militaries willing to bear the cost in blood; the US secretary of defence describes this as “the demilitarisation of Europe – where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it”. All this limits Nato’s future role, as Nato mostly makes sense as an expeditionary force in an unstable world, not as a standing army on a stable continent....
The combination of structural economic flaws, political parochialism and military limits will accelerate this transatlantic drift. A weaker Europe will possess a smaller voice and role. Nato will no longer be the default partner for American foreign policy. Instead, the US will forge coalitions of the willing to deal with specific challenges. These clusters will sometimes include European countries, but rarely, if ever, will the US look to either Nato or the EU as a whole. Even before it began, Europe’s moment as a major world power in the 21st century looks to be over".
Richard Haas, "Goodbye to Europe as a high-ranking Power", 12 May 2010, in www.ft.com
"We can no longer operate from the position of overwhelming strength - military, political and economic - which we enjoyed in the heyday of our Imperial power. But, although we no longer have superiority in material strength, we can still exercise a substantial influence in world affairs - partly in our own right and because of our position in Europe [sic!], and partly as the leader of the independent Commonwealth we must now bring that influence to bear, in support of the superior material strength of the United States, in the world struggle between forces of freedom and
those of tyranny.
We could not hope to exercise that influence - or to put to their best use the advantage of our special position, either as a link between Europe, the Commonwealth and the United States, or as the guardian and trustee of dependent peoples - if we took refuge in the neutrality and comparative isolation of the purely commercial Powers such as Sweden or Switzerland....These political and economic aims are inter-dependent. To achieve them maximum Anglo-American co-operation is indispensible".
"The position of the UK in world affairs", 9 June 1958, marked as 'CAB 130/153, GEN 624/10. Published in British Documents and the End of Empire, Series A, Volume 4, part one, edited, Ronald Hyam & William Roger Louis, (2000), pp. 43-44.
Regardless it would seem of the financial crisis which has hit the UK, and, which its new Tory-Liberal government has made tackling its number one priority, the fact of the matter is, that faute de mieux, there is no other power on the face of the planet which is willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the USA. A fact, which contra to Robin Niblett, was to an extent proven by Foreign Secretary William Hague's first trip being to Washington (see: "UK-US partnership deepens," [official Foreign Office Statement], 14 May 2010, in www.fco.gov.uk. See also: Daniel Korski, "Building on the coalition's good start," 15 May 2010, in www.spectator.co.uk). All one need do is go down the list: China? Nyet, rien plus. As its ostrich-like policy in dealing with North Korea clearly shows this week (on which see: John Delury,"The Chinese road to Pyongyang," 19 May 2010 in www.nautilus.org). India? Brazil? Russia? Turkey? The questions answer themselves. The only other powers who would intervene along side the USA are Australia and New Zealand. It was the UK, which notwithstanding its relatively weakness in troop numbers which has supplied the largest numbers of non-American troops in every conflict that the USA has been in, since the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991. There does not appear to be any other middle to large power which is willing to put aside issues of amour propre to go to war alongside the USA. Obviously, as the always intelligent Richard Haas, accurately states, in a lot of ways, the both the UK and Europe as a whole, are a somewhat outmoded diplomatic and military asset to the USA. However, regardless of this fact, I for one do not see any competition to fill the roles that are currently occupied by these powers. As the recent pourparlers between Brazil, Turkey and Persia clearly show, the 'rising' powers of the G-20, are unwilling to support in any way, even diplomatically, the Americans in an issue which on the whole is rather clear-cut. And, nota bene: we are speaking here of diplomatic support only. No mention of military support. To use the terminology of Robert Zoellick, the new 'stake holders' in International Affairs, such as the PRC, Brazil, et cetera, are rather parasitical in their position: wanting to use the existing diplomatic order for their own good, but, not in any way lend support for the same. Even diplomatically. In short, however much weaker the United Kingdom is in power political terms, today as compared to say in 1980, not to speak about say 1958, the fact of the matter is, that it is the only country which is willing to assist the USA, gratis, in various parts of the world. Pace, Martin Wolf, perhaps it is indeed, 'absurd' for the UK to retain 'pretensions to great power status.' However, sans such pretensions the UK will be little more than another Netherlands (Wolf's point of comparison, see: Martin Wolf, "Britain's historic general election," 29 April 2010, in www.ft.com). Or as the Cabinet paper referenced above expressed it: 'purely commercial Powers such as Sweden and Switzerland.' A fate which apparently the new UK government no more than its predecessors wishes to embrace just yet.