Monday, 17 April 2017

On British foreign policy

Of course there has been "too much optimism" that Russia could be easily "persuaded to ditch the Syrian president", and, clearly, there still is |(Trump`s unpredictability demands European steadiness, 12/04/17). Why else would Johnson reject the opportunity afforded by the first visit by a British foreign secretary in five years, if the British government, in its usual arrogant way, didn`t think, firstly that European countries would take Johnson`s advice, and, secondly that the threat of yet more sanctions would "shift Moscow"? What should be clear to May and Johnson, is that not only has British influence waned since Brexit, and that Johnson`s posturing has the look of desperation, but that Putin will not be bullied into changing policy.
         However, with presidential elections in Russia next year, protesters demonstrating in many Russian cities, and their economy struggling, now is the time for Britain and the rest of Europe to show some diplomatic skill, especially with so little of it evident  across the Atlantic. Trading deals with Russia, especially in energy provision, could provide a way forward, as could some obvious flattery. If Trump is worthy of some buttering-up with a state visit, Putin must be too! Johnson sees himself as a historian, so he should remember Bismarck`s role as the "honest broker" in 1878 in Berlin. Why not offer to hold a congress on Syria in London, invite all the main leaders, get Merkel to be the chair, and the royals to be the hosts, and organise the catering? The chances are that May and Johnson would "back the wrong horse", just as Disraeli did, but it would at least tick a few boxes, and, as it answers the "need for a non-military response", prevent further missile and air strikes.

It is ridiculous that, as Kim Sengupta states, Boris Johnson is being retained in his post as Foreign Secretary because "keeping a recent rival for the leadership...damaged but inside the tent" is the "best of all options for the prime minister" (A tale of two diplomats: UN envoy impresses while Johnson flounders, 13/04/17). Johnson is not simply making a fool of himself with his wrong-headed ideas about getting tough on Russia, he is displaying the same, extreme arrogance in foreign affairs which May herself shows in dealing with fellow European leaders.
    It cannot be correct, politically or morally, for the British foreign minister to be someone totally unsuited to the job, because his failures are likely to ruin his career, and end his leadership prospects. Anyway, if Sengupta is right, Johnson "can do little" without May`s permission, so let`s start putting the blame for the G7 summit fiasco where it belongs, Downing Street!

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