LONDON – As French-US relations slumped to their lowest level in decades, Britain emerged victorious from the Maritime Security Alliance, which has sown the seeds of anger and discrimination on three continents.
According to officials in London and Washington, the British government played an early role in brokering a tripartite alliance with the United States and Australia to deploy nuclear submarines in the Pacific. The historic deal prompted Australia to pull out of a $66 billion deal with France for diesel-electric submarines, sparking anger in Paris and tacit complacency in London.
For Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will meet President Biden at the White House next week and address the United Nations, it was the first convincing victory in his campaign to put Britain on the world stage since Brexit.
After leaving the European Union 18 months ago, Britain is trying to find its place in the world. Brexiters have adopted the term “Global Britain”, which has always looked more like a marketing slogan than a coherent foreign policy.
However, Wednesday’s agreement that the United States and Britain would send submarines to Australia underscores Britain’s status as a nuclear-powered military power and a trusted ally of the United States. There’s also Johnson’s attempt to build a British presence in Asia, credibility, a strategy that at first seems like a nostalgic return to his royal past.
Britain has now negotiated trade deals with Australia, Japan and South Korea and has deployed an aircraft carrier to help the US keep an eye on China in the South China Sea, where Beijing is building a military chain. to defend his royal ambitions. Make.
“This is the first time the UK has left globally,” said former British Ambassador to Washington, Kim Daroch. “We are starting to have a real presence in this part of the world in the defense and commercial sectors.”
Mr Darroch warned that the economic benefits of the deal – how many jobs and how much money would go to British factories – had not worked with the United States. Joining a right-wing security coalition also carries costs and hopes for Britain to reduce its troop numbers and, as in many countries, its public finances shattered by the pandemic.
However, for a country for which President Biden’s latest withdrawal from Afghanistan was more than a plan, it was welcome news. British officials cited the deal as proof of their ability to move effectively around the world after Brexit – in this case at the expense of their European neighbors.
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- According to British officials, Australia was the first to offer Britain and the United States to assist in the use of nuclear submarines. Australia has come to the conclusion that the diesel models considered in the deal with France will not be sufficient for a future where China is a bigger threat than ever.
Britain’s nuclear technology relationship with the United States predates the 1958 Defense Treaty, so the concept of cooperation between the two allies is not only natural but inevitable. The United States will provide highly enriched uranium to power the submarine’s reactor.
Officials say Britain and Australia are making aggressive sales to Washington, including swaps between Johnson and Biden at the Group 7 meeting in Cornwall, England, in June. He said Britain should stop US officials from doubting why Australia could not buy submarines directly from the United States.
On the British argument, its military protocols are more closely linked to Australian Army protocols, making it easier for Australians to operate ships with British technology. A spokesman for the Biden administration said the White House had never thought of pulling Britain out of the coalition.
“It’s mostly a technical solution,” said Bates Gill, senior fellow at the Royal Institute of Integrated Services in Sydney, Australia. “But it can also be a partial solution to reliability.”
For Johnson, who makes his “special relationship” with the United States a cornerstone of his foreign policy, the submarine deal is compensation for Biden’s rejection of his views on Afghanistan.
According to dr. Johnson, the rate of return depends on soil conditions. Despite the flapping of his wings, the Prime Minister has made clear that Britain will support Biden in his top priority: competing with China.
“You make decisions and decisions have consequences,” said Thomas Wright, director of the Center for the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, who praised the UK’s approach.
For some in the UK, these results may not be worth the benefits. Theresa May, Johnson’s predecessor as Prime Minister, warned Britain could engage in war with China over Taiwan.
In 2016, Johnson argued that Britain’s exit would allow Britain to work more freely with China. Beijing previously dealt with Hong Kong, a former British colony. Britain’s China policy now looks very different from that of the United States.
Johnson hopes to build on Britain’s profile by hosting a successful UN climate change conference in Glasgow in November. But it’s unclear how much Biden will help him. Britain is urging the United States to double its contribution to a $100 billion annual fund to help countries curb the effects of climate change. This still has to be done.
Analysts say Britain could benefit from new Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who has received much acclaim for her previous work negotiating trade deals in Asia. Johnson has ousted his predecessor Dominic Raab after he was heavily criticized for vacationing in Crete last month after the Taliban overran the Afghan capital, Kabul.
“Liz Truss has her opponent,” said Peter Westmacott, a former British ambassador to Washington. But he said he was “in a good position to try and add content” to Britain’s global slogan.
For all the satisfaction in London, Great Britain still faces difficult geopolitical realities. The submarine deal is likely to strain relations with France, already strained by the Brexit dispute over fishing and migrant rights across the English Channel.
The French government’s contempt for Britain was evident in the coalition’s response to the news: they withdrew their ambassadors to the United States and Australia, but left their envoys in Britain on cue, French media said. Another analyst said France was furious because it believed the United States would reward Britain if it faced punishment for leaving the European Union.
Still, Mr Johnson shouldn’t count on a smooth ride with Washington. The UK may still be at odds with Northern Ireland, where the Prime Minister is pushing for changes to the post-Brexit trade regime.
On Friday, while visiting London, President Nancy Pelosi repeated her warning that Congress would not approve a trade deal between Britain and the United States if Britain threatened peace in Northern Ireland.
In addition, analysts said Biden’s abuse of Britain, coupled with the White House’s brief message to France before the Alliance’s security announcement, showed the United States was interested in the sensitivity of the transatlantic region. without pursuing your own interests. Connection.
“The most remarkable thing is how many young Americans are talking about it and how many British people are,” said Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the Americas and Americas program at Chatham House, a British research institute. “This fundamental fact speaks volumes about a special relationship. Special does not mean the same. ”