After the US eliminates Qassem Soleimani, UK expresses doubt over its alliance with Washington
UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said signs of the US withdrawing from world leadership was giving him sleepless nights. He added that the UK is too dependent on US air cover and intelligence and it's time that they diversify their assets
It has been mocked as the "British poodle" in the past for following the United States' military adventures abroad. But not anymore.
In the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to eliminate Iranian major general Qassem Soleimani, the UK has refused to hide under history’s shadow.
On Sunday, January 12, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said that the American president's isolationist foreign-policy stance was pushing London to look for alternative allies around the globe.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Wallace said the prospect of the US withdrawing from world leadership keeps him "awake at night".
"I worry if the United States withdraws from its leadership around the world," he said, adding that the assumptions of 2010 that the UK was always going to be a part of a US coalition look increasingly fading a decade later.
He added: "The assumptions of 2010 that we were always going to be part of a US coalition is really just not where we are going to be."
The top official's remarks came after the Boris Johnson government distanced itself from the fatal attack on Soleimani. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the US' conflict with Iran is not in the UK's interests.
Even a spokesperson for PM Johnson condemned Trump’s threats to target Iranian cultural sites as a violation of international law and also a potential war crime.
The current stand of the UK in its relationship with its most tested ally from across the Atlantic is a shocker for many but one would hope this was always building up.
During his state visit to the UK in June last year, Trump hailed the Washington-London alliance as the "greatest alliance the world has ever seen". But weeks after that remark, it seemed the two allies were drifting apart at a pace faster than Trump tweets.
In July, the mercurial American president posted tweets that gave a body blow to the "greatest alliance" that saw Sir Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the US, losing his job.
In the series of posts, Trump denounced Sir Darroch after unencouraging descriptions of the former by the latter were leaked to the Mail. Trump called the former ambassador "pompous fool" and a "very stupid guy". The president even called the then UK premier Theresa May as "foolish".
Trump's foreign policy moves have soured things
If these bilateral issues were not creating enough irritants, Trump's adventurism abroad over the last few months has made things sourer. Washington's hasty moves to pull out troops from Syria or Trump’s statement that Nato should take over Iraq and do more in the Middle East have been less impressive for the observers in London. On top of it, came the elimination of Soleimani.
"The assumptions of 2010 that we were always going to be part of a US coalition is really just not where we are going to be," Wallace said, adding the UK needed to reduce its dependence on American military — a remark that has hardly been a reality since the US joined the Allied Powers to nail the Axis nations.
"We are very dependent on American air cover and American intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets. We need to diversify our assets," the defense secretary said. Among other allies that the UK could look up to include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other European nations.
The 49-year-old Wallace, also said that the Trump administration had threatened to end its intelligence-sharing partnership with the UK in case the Johnson government carried out its plan to allow Chinese telecom firms Huawei a role in Britain’s 5G network.
This is also something that doesn’t indicate a healthy status of the relationship. For the UK, however, dumping the US will not be an easy option, especially post Brexit.
For Johnson, one of the main advantages of leaving the European Union's single market is that it will not stop Britain from entering into new deals from around the world and that includes making new agreements with the US, the biggest economy.
Trump also spoke about the prospects of a new US-UK trade deal but now, his rash treatment of bilateral relations and hasty foreign-policy moves have brought up big challenges for the alliance.