The Special Relationship between Britain and America has been one of the most important alliances in history. Together we defeated the Kaiser’s Germany. Together we defeated Adolf Hitler.
Together, under Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, we defeated the Soviet Union without having to fire a shot.
Let alone have a nuclear exchange.
Not many partnerships in history can claim such a list of successes.
But now that relationship looks very rocky indeed.
In recent decades, British Prime Ministers have known their principal job on the diplomatic stage is to stick close to America. For good or ill, Tony Blair did that, buddying up to Bill Clinton then George W. Bush.
His successor, David Cameron, likewise kept Britain as an indispensable ally of the US.
Under President Biden, this is looking very different.
He came into office claiming things would be different under him.
He pretended Donald Trump had abandoned America’s allies. A popular talking point among the international Left.
In fact, Trump had been a tough actor as well as a tough talker on the world stage.
For all his flaws, over four years he held to his election promise not to take America into any new wars. To the extent he was tough on his allies, it was by demanding America’s Nato partners pay their fair share for being part of the military alliance. Every recent US President had asked the same. Trump simply showed he meant it.
Still, Biden came into office insisting Trump had disrespected America’s allies. He claimed that under him America would be back on the world stage.
He could hardly have been more wrong. As the recent scenes from Afghanistan show, America has never looked weaker. The White House is reduced to relying on the Taliban’s good word to get the remaining US citizens out.
Though it is Afghanistan that has been abandoned first and foremost, America’s allies, including Britain, have been left in the cold too.
It is now clear Biden did not even seek Britain’s advice ahead of the pull-out. That is a disgrace.
We only went into Afghanistan to support our US allies after they had been attacked on 9/11.
Nato’s Article 5 has a “one for all, all for one” clause. We stuck to our word. We did more than our bit in standing beside America in its hour of need. Over 450 British servicemen and women paid for this alliance with their lives. Many hundreds more have been left with life-changing injuries.
It would have been good of Joe Biden to keep this sacrifice in mind. But he didn’t. At the end of the Afghan day, he forgot all about it. When he did finally speak to Britain, he made it worse by ignoring us still.
This week, the UK and EU leaders asked Biden to try to extend the date for the pull-out from Kabul airport. Britain and the EU cannot hold the airport alone if we still need more time to get people out after the end of this month. Biden ignored this.
It was bad enough that he spoke to his allies only after the decision had been taken. Even worse that he then ignored everything they had to say.
Now our Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, is desperate for other options. One idea, floated among EU leaders, is that Kabul airport could be transferred to Turkey to run as a civilian airport.
It is a disgrace that, after 20 years, America is leaving Afghanistan in this messy hurry. It is an additional disgrace that, in doing so, the US has decided to ignore Britain.
Earlier this week, Tony Blair intervened in the Afghan debate. He described the US withdrawal as “imbecilic”. Which the manner of it most certainly is.
Biden’s press secretary was asked about the Blair comment. And what did she have to say? “The President has been in touch directly with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is the current leader of the UK.”
I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies. Grateful this White House knows who is in No10. Grateful Biden should pick up the phone and speak to his country’s most loyal ally. After the fact.
We have been treated with the shabbiest indifference by the US.
We have stood along-side America for decades. In particular, we stood by them through the post-9/11 period. Whatever your view on those wars, it is beyond belief that, at the end of it, America is indifferent to our views.
This is the biggest test of US-UK relations for over 60 years. The Special Relationship may recover under another US president.
But under this one, it has never looked in worse shape.