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9 Apr, 2017 11:26

Boris Johnson can’t go to Moscow until Washington’s instructions are clear 

Boris Johnson can’t go to Moscow until Washington’s instructions are clear 

The UK Foreign Secretary is spoofing again. His excuse for cancelling a second proposed excursion to Russia inside a month is about as credible as his reasons for supporting Brexit were last year.   

Spare us the amateur theatricals, Boris.

If the USSR was once considered “Upper Volta with rockets,” then it’s fair to say the United Kingdom is now little more than “Puerto Rico with nukes.” Because the unincorporated archipelago territory of the United States has about as much independence from Washington these days as Britain. But at least they’ve a Caribbean climate to bask in and an absence of ‘Little Englanders’ to ruin the pleasant vibes. And, unlike Brits, locals will still have the option of working elsewhere visa-free if things ever go belly up. 

Every smart analyst has long known that the UK is becoming irrelevant geopolitically. The German-French alliance squeezed it out of any continental European influence long before it voted itself into triviality via Brexit. Meanwhile, its former colonies increasingly see other powers as a priority. Because, despite British media rhetoric, anybody who believes Canada or Australia would ever see London as a more important partner than the US needs their head read. Even India arguably feels cosier with Russia than its former master and 70 percent of its defense imports alone come from its northern ally.  

If you want further proof of Britain’s diminished status, witness Johnson’s bizarre behavior over the past month. Back in early March, the Foreign Secretary announced, to great Fleet Street fanfare, how he was venturing to Moscow imminently in an attempt to patch up relations with the Kremlin. Then a couple of weeks later, he backed out, ostensibly to attend a NATO meeting where his American boss - sorry, counterpart - Rex Tillerson was on hand for a bit of ear-bending.  No doubt assuming whatever he garnered there would suffice, his trek was re-scheduled for next week. 

Fleeing the Altar 

However, he’s now backed out again. And this time the excuse is Syria, which anyone with an iota of cop on knows is cow excrement. Because the real reason is rather more mundane, humdrum and trite. Not to mention shameful, humiliating and ignominious. You see, Boris can’t go to Moscow because he simply wouldn’t know what to say or do once he arrives. By virtue of the fact that this week’s American air-strike on the Syrian government means it’s impossible to read Washington’s current intentions towards Russia. Assuming Donald Trump even knows himself. And Johnson is aware he can’t allow his mouth to write cheques Britain will never be able to cash should White House actions fail to match his promises. 

Thus, Boris and his cabinet colleagues have clearly decided to wait until after Tillerson himself stumps up in Moscow next weekend. Which simply serves to underscore what Russian diplomats have long whispered privately. Dialog with London is a waste of time, and it’s better to go directly to the people really calling the shots. And they all live in Washington. 

Even Tim Farron, who as long as Jeremy Corbyn remains at the Labour helm, can be called the real leader of Westminster’s opposition, agrees that Britain is under America’s thumb. He told state broadcaster BBC the cancellation meant Mr Johnson had "revealed himself to be a poodle of Washington, having his diary managed from across the pond.” He continued: "It is pretty shameful when even Trump judges you to be a buffoon.” And lamented how the the government was "quick to blindly follow every order from the Trump White House.”

Planning in vacuum 

Johnson’s labelled his views a “shame,” saying the “Lib Dems would rather snipe and be silly when the US and UK are trying to work on a plan to help the innocent people of Syria and stop a devastating civil war”. However, experts following trans-Atlantic interaction note how US officials never seem to speak of working on anything with London these days. Suggesting this cooperation exists only in Boris’ noggin. 

In reality, what the episode teaches us is how Trump has shown himself to be so completely unpredictable that America’s most loyal lapdogs, or allies as they preferred to be called, don’t know what he will do next. And they are absolutely bricking it. Because Johnson seems to have been as surprised as Bashar Assad at the President’s sudden volte-face last week. Further exposing how London no longer has the privileged access to Washington’s thought processes it undoubtedly enjoyed during the Reagan/Thatcher years. A period now so long ago that both principals have been pushing up daisies for a considerable length of time. 

The fact is Britain outsourced its foreign policy to Washington ages ago. And this was relatively hassle-free during the Obama years. But now the chickens have come home to roost. Barely a fortnight since Article 50 was triggered, we've the unedifying sight of the Foreign Secretary running scared from a trip to Moscow. And this is the same Boris Johnson who, only 17 months ago, called for the United Kingdom to “join Assad and Russia against Isis.”

Which only serves to unmask how British politicians and diplomats are completely powerless to implement their own foreign policy ideas. Leaving them to be perceived as jabbering charlatans, shameless opportunists and sinister trolls even if their own convictions run contrary to the programs they are forced to endorse. 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.