Britain No Longer Closest Ally?
The Bush Administration is distancing itself from the UK and sidling up to the new governments of Old Europe powers France and Germany, Toby Harnden reports for the Daily Telegraph.
The White House no longer views Britain as its most loyal ally in Europe since Gordon Brown took office and is instead increasingly turning towards France and Germany, according to Bush administration sources. “There’s concern about Brown,” a senior White House foreign policy official told The Daily Telegraph. “But this is compensated by the fact that Paris and Berlin are much less of a headache. The need to hinge everything on London as the guarantor of European security has gone.”
With Tony Blair departed, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, is seen by many as the man George W Bush can best do business with in Europe. Although Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has not lived up to initial expectations in Washington, she is still seen as far preferable to her predecessor Gerhard SchrÃ¶der.
The White House official added that Britain would always be “the cornerstone” of US policy towards Europe but there was “a lot of unhappiness” about how British forces had performed in Basra and an acceptance that Mr Brown would pull the remaining 4,500 troops out of Iraq next year. “Operationally, British forces have performed poorly in Basra,” said the official. “Maybe it’s best that they leave. Now we will have a clear field in southern Iraq.” Another White House official described Mr Brown as “challenging” and far less close to the US than Mr Blair.
I certainly hope that this is sensationalistic reporting or the out-of-context rantings of one not-so-senior official. Dishonoring the service of our must trustworthy NATO ally would be sheer madness. As Andrew Sullivan observes, it sends exactly the wrong message to those who have stood by us.
Unfortunately, I find this report quite believable. Bush has some paranoid tendencies and occasionally takes his glib “you’re either with us or you’re against us” line way too seriously. Except, oddly, when dealing with those who are actually against us rather than allies with disagreements in how to achieve mutual aims.