In an op-ed published on June 10 on the website of British daily newspaper The Daily Telegraph, Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., slams Biden and his administration for their very undiplomatic manners towards one of America’s closest allies.
“The revelation that the Biden administration issued a ‘démarche’ or diplomatic dressing down to the British government last week over its handling of the Northern Ireland border should cause outrage in Britain. This is the kind of treatment that is normally dished out to enemies of the United States, such as Russia, and hardly ever issued against a close ally,” Gardener wrote, calling for the US president, before he insults the British prime minister, to “remember that people in the UK voted to leave the EU and take back control”.
“Barack Obama’s now infamous anti-Brexit intervention didn’t go down well back in 2016, and threats like this will always backfire with the British people, who don’t appreciate being lectured to by US presidents, not least one who displays his anti-British sentiments on his sleeve. Unlike Obama, however, who was encouraged to intervene ahead of the Brexit referendum by then Prime Minister David Cameron, Biden didn’t act at the prodding of Downing Street. Biden’s Northern Ireland warning was a political cruise missile strike aimed directly at Boris Johnson and his Conservative government, with the intention of forcing a change in British policy.”
As a matter of fact, a week before Joe Biden’s visit to the UK for the G7 summit, his administration seemed to have sided with Brussels in its dispute with London over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol — a protocol negotiated as part of the UK’s exit from the EU to avoid the introduction of customs controls between the two Irelands, in order to respect the Good Friday Agreement which ended decades of “Troubles” between the Catholic population, supporting Republicans favorable to the reunification of Ireland, and the Protestant population, supporting unionists favorable to remaining part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The problem is that the planned controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom are not to the liking of the Northern Irish unionists. Boris Johnson’s government is therefore seeking to negotiate with the EU-27 some way out of its commitment to introduce physical checks at Northern Ireland ports for goods traveling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
“Joe Biden — who has Irish blood in his family — has been warning Boris Johnson for a long time, even before he was elected, not to play any dangerous games with the Northern Ireland peace process. He has repeatedly warned that any hiccups in the Good Friday Agreement would jeopardize a trade deal so desired by London,” the French daily Le Figaro reported on June 10. “But this time, the US president seemed to go further by blaming Boris Johnson for the conflict between him and the European Union.”
And the French newspaper further notes: “While both sides accuse each other of ill will, the Americans are taking sides — at least privately — and thus see London as putting itself at fault by reneging on its Brexit commitments. Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin welcomed a ‘significant’ intervention by the White House. No doubt Europeans are delighted.”
But this is not the only point of tension between Washington and London.
According to Nile Gardiner, the Biden administration “also intensely dislike Brexit and Johnson’s formerly close partnership with the Trump presidency. In addition, they have been angered by the strong stance of the British government in the culture wars, with its firm rejection of the kind of ‘woke’ liberal agenda that is now central to the thinking of the Biden operation. Indeed, on many issues, the US and British governments are worlds apart, and Johnson has been forced to work with the most left-wing US presidency in American history.”
After he met with Biden on Thursday, Johnson played down differences saying, “There’s no question that under President Biden there is a massive amount that the new US administration wants to do together with the UK, on everything from security working together, protecting our values around the world together, but also on climate change.”
However, it is with the Berlin-Brussels-Paris axis that the Democratic president seeks closer relations when boasting that “America is back”, and this is done at the expense of the relationship with the most Atlanticist allies of the United States in Europe: the United Kingdom and Poland.
The arrogance and disdain of Biden’s America for the most important ally on the eastern flank found its full expression in the way the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline issue was handled.
In an interview with the daily Rzeczpospolita, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau complains that he learned in the media of the US decision to drop sanctions against companies involved in the German-Russian gas pipeline.
“Our American allies have not found the time to consult the most exposed region of the world,” says Zbigniew Rau. He continued:
“In January, I had my first talks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He assured me that ‘nothing will be decided about you without you’. We agreed that it was urgent to resume the Polish-American strategic dialog.
In February and March, when rumors surfaced of confidential discussions between the US and Germany on NS2, we were assured that no such discussions were taking place. We took these statements at face value, even though they contradicted what we knew from other sources. And now I read in news agencies’ reports that discussions are taking place this week in Washington between close associates of Chancellor Merkel and advisers to President Biden on the completion of Nord Stream 2.
This formula for dialog between the United States, Russia, and Germany cannot replace discussions between America and NATO’s eastern flank allies, who will be particularly affected by these decisions. After all, this pipeline will radically strengthen the common interests of Germany and Russia and will pose a direct threat to peace in Europe. It will increase the military threat to Ukraine, as well as to Poland and other Central European NATO countries. ”
Le Figaro raves about the symbolism of choosing Europe as the destination for Donald Trump’s successor’s first foreign trip (as opposed to Donald Trump’s choice of Saudi Arabia, Barack Obama’s and Bill Clinton’s choice of Canada, and George W. Bush’s choice of Mexico), and assures that “after the four years of Donald Trump, who did not hide his little interest in America’s traditional partners and willingly showed his aversion to the European Union and NATO, but also after the polite distance of Barack Obama, Biden intends to reconstitute an alliance of democracies, on which he intends to base his diplomacy.”
However, complains the Polish Foreign Minister, “the American delegation visiting Europe, headed by President Joe Biden, is so busy preparing the meeting with President Putin [which will be the last stop on Biden’s European tour, on June 16 in Geneva] that they have not found time to organize meetings with the allies of the eastern flank.”
Here is a comment from another French daily, Libération, which summarizes well the attitude of the Biden Administration: “Expected to arrive in the UK tonight, the US president has chosen Europe for his first overseas tour. But behind the symbol, the new administration shows arrogance towards their allies and an obsession with China.”
Is it not what Donald Trump was himself accused of? There is a big difference, however. As Nile Gardiner put it in The Telegraph, talking of the attitude of the American Administration towards Britain: “Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, was outspoken in his criticism of then Prime Minister Theresa May for what he saw as her weak handling of the Brexit negotiations. But he never made threats against Britain and always championed a free trade deal with the United Kingdom. Trump respected the democratic will of the British people to leave the European Union.”