In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

May and the eternal triangle

Posted by seumasach on January 28, 2017

Cailean Bochanan

28th January, 2017

If Theresa wants a special relationship with Donald  and Donald wants a “fantastic relationship” with Vladimir, what kind of relationship with does Theresa  want with Vladimir? She wants to “engage but beware”: beware, no doubt, that Vladimir’s relationship with Donald doesn’t get too fantastic.

All in all, May’s response seems to be in keeping with with Britain’s values of tolerance and laissez faire but the reality is that May used the Washington trip to mark a complete about turn in British foreign policy aligning it with that of Donald Trump. Indeed, her words are the surest confirmation yet of the winds of change blowing in Washington.
Quite simply May totally the contradicted the Fallon doctrine, an obvious shot across the bows of Trump, proposed by her defense secretary only last week that “The UK is sending a clear message that we are committed to defending democracy across the world and support Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.” According to May, however: “The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over.” The shift is confirmed by her foreign secretary’s statement on Syria in which, ever gracious in defeat, he concedes that Assad may be allowed to stay after all.
Of course, one could point to elements in May’ speech contradicting this interpretation, notably her claims that the UK and US will continue to lead the world in the face of rising challenge of Russia and China. I would respond that these contradictions stem from the hybrid nature of her speech: it is like an adaption of the speech she would have given had Clinton won the presidency to the emerging Trump doctrine. Indeed, she continues to sing the praises of doctrines which Trump has totally repudiated such free trade and adherence to the various “globalist” institutions. In an unfortunate lapse she said at the joint press conference that she “thinks” Trump has just given his 100% backing for NATO.
Most interestingly, May reaffirms that she doesn’t wish the EU to fail. I wouldn’t rule out that she is telling the truth on this. After all, she has only recently given a long speech focused on Britain’s need to make a trade deal with Europe post-Brexit. Is that really compatible with this new deal with the USA. Europe rejected TTIP: will they really accept it through the back door via a trade deal with Britain. May may be cognizant of Ukraine’s attempt to play both sides in trade deals with Russia and the EU: they ended up with nothing.
UK/US leadership in the world is bluff and bluster: trumpet the charge whilst stealthily retreating. But the West truly will be lost if we don’t begin constructive engagement with the rising stars of the East soon and May must already deep in anxious dreams be haunted by that smug grin of George Osborne standing triumphantly alongside President Xi.

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