All these years, Britain and the United States have gloried in a special relationship, with Britain often facing flak for blindly following the stronger ally. But with the advent of Donald Trump as President, overnight old friends became estranged, and long-time foes became ‘beautiful friends.’ Trump’s disrupted alliances with the world’s most powerful country had been built most painstakingly in the Cold War era, and then further built on them at its end. But no two allies were closer than the US and Britain followed by the US and Canada.
Trump, however, has gone out of his way to pick fights with both these countries. The latest spat he picked up with Britain has now led to the resignation of Britain’s ambassador to Washington. Kim Darroch, a professional diplomat with excellent credentials, felt obliged to quit months before his retirement when Boris Johnson, most likely the next prime minister, failed to back him on the leaked cables he had sent to London on the disarray in the Trump administration. Last week, a London newspaper leaked these cables which described Trump as ‘inept,’ ‘insecure’ and ‘incompetent’ and dubbed the administration under him as ‘dysfunctional.’ Diplomats routinely send dispatches back home, providing true impressions of the country they are accredited to, but these are meant to be top secret. Their leak to a pro-Brexit paper, it is suspected, was meant to get at the British ambassador who is a strong Remainer. However, that is besides the point.
For, the cables did not say anything original. Trump presidency is routinely described in far stronger terms by the American media and by the Democrats. Darroch calling Trump as ‘diplomatically clumsy and inept’ and taking note of reports of ‘vicious infighting and chaos’ inside the White House in mid-2017 ought not to have stirred such a furore. But then, Trump is anything if not thin-skinned. He immediately launched a fusillade of early-morning Tweets:
“The Ambassador has not served the UK well, I can tell you… We’re not big fans of that man… We will no longer deal with him… He is wacky and a pompous fool.” Also, he derided Prime Minister Theresa May: ‘what a mess she and her representatives have created… the good news is they will soon have a new prime minister… how foolishly May has handled Brexit, etc.’ Trump further humiliated the British ambassador, disinviting him at the last minute from an official dinner in honour of a visiting foreign dignitary. Yet, Prime Minister May stood by her ambassador, expressing full confidence in him the moment the cables were leaked. She indicated she had no desire to move him out of Washington.
However, in a TV debate between Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary who too is in the race to succeed May as the leader of the Conservative Party, Johnson refused to support the beleaguered ambassador. Within hours, Barroch resigned. In short, Trump not only plays a disruptive role at home but he tends to unsettle things in friendly countries as well. Never before, has the world’s most powerful nation, had the misfortune of being led by a half-wit who, nonetheless, is cocksure of his ‘beautiful intelligence and wonderful deal-making skills.’ The world at large is helpless —- it has to learn to live with him till January 20, 2021, or, God forbid, January 20, 2025.