Commentary Magazine


Maybe It’s All Part of “Smart Statecraft”

Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation, notes it has now been three weeks since a State Department official insulted Britain, by justifying the shabby treatment of Prime Minister Gordon Brown on his U.S. visit with these words:

There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.

Gardiner suggests the White House should start rebuilding its tarnished image in the U.K. by disowning those words — before the president travels to Britain next week to attend the G-20 summit and meet the Queen.

Good luck with that.  The Queen will get a nicer gift, but not likely much more.  Perhaps Britain can console itself, however, that another special relationship appears on its way out.  At the State Department daily briefing yesterday, there was this exchange regarding Poland:

QUESTION: The Polish foreign minister was quoted recently as expressing some concern that his country had taken some significant political risk, as he put it, in cooperating – agreeing to cooperate with American missile defense plans. He was further quoted as saying, “We signed with the old administration, we patiently wait for the new Administration, and we hope we don’t regret our trust in the United States.”

Has the Polish Government conveyed to this Administration some anxiety about, to put it colloquially, being left high and dry?

MR. WOOD: No, no one has been left high and dry. We’ve had discussions with the Government of Poland with regard to missile defense over, you know, a number of months. The Polish Government is aware that we are taking a close look at this missile defense program. We want to make sure that it’s cost-effective and that it works. We will continue to have discussions with the Government of Poland on this. We look forward to cooperating with Poland on a wide range of issues, but I don’t have anything more than that for you, James.

We’ve had discussions, it may just be too expensive, and we’ll have more discussions later — not exactly a ringing endorsement of the relationship with Poland, or appreciation for its commitments, or concern for its security.  The reporter tried to follow-up:

QUESTION: The comments by the Polish foreign minister which I just read to you and the accuracy of which I trust you don’t challenge suggest that they are growing impatient, or that at least they feel that they are not being consulted fully on the plans of this Administration.

MR. WOOD: Well, I can’t speak for the Polish Government, but we certainly have been consulting with that government on the issue of missile defense. Again, we’re reviewing missile defense policy, and the Polish Government is aware of that. And you know, once we are able to complete our review, we will have further discussions with the Government of Poland. But I don’t have anything more than that to give you at this point, James.

That will be all, James.  Tell Poland it is just the same as the other 190 countries in the world and should not expect special treatment.

This is an administration that reaches out to adversaries, without preconditions, while making allies nervous about commitments already made.  The former receive a personal video or a button with a pleasing word on it.  The latter are gracelessly informed that their prior relationships are being reset.

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