UK Walks Back Defence Secretary’s America No Longer a ‘Superpower’ Remarks

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 01: U.S. President Joe Biden listens to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a press availability in the Oval Office at the White House on September 01, 2021 in Washington, DC. This was the two leaders' first face-to-face meeting and the first by a Ukrainian leader in …
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The British government has attempted to walk back an apparent attack on the world position of Joe Biden’s America in the wake of its Afghan debacle, with the British defence secretary claiming comments on a negligent ‘superpower’ were general, rather than specifically about the U.S.

Speaking to British conservative magazine The Spectator this week, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace reflected on the dying days of the West’s presence in Afghanistan, and what it meant for the future of British military strategy. Observing matter-of-factly that “Britain is not a superpower” — true since the Second World War, when Britain sacrificed its empire — Wallace appeared to broaden his observation to the United States as well.

“I think it really goes to what the definition of what a global power is… a superpower that is also not prepared to stick at something isn’t probably a superpower either,” the minister said.

The comments raised eyebrows, coming as allies of the United States re-evaluate its global leadership in the wake of the Kabul debacle. British newspaper the Daily Mail claimed on Thursday that unnamed British government defence figures had moved to deny that Wallace was talking about America, but was rather making broader remarks about the West.

Another anonymous individual cited by the paper insisted that Wallace did believe that the U.S. remains a superpower, despite the revelatory events of recent weeks.

Yet given most informed estimations would concur there is only one global superpower — the United States — it is not clear who else Secretary Wallace could possibly be referring to.

Whether Wallace’s comments let slip feelings closely held, or he was simply misinterpreted — as his anonymous supporters claim — it remains the case he would not be alone at top of British politics among those hastily re-assessing basic assumptions about the United States as an ally under President Biden.

So forthright have some remarks made about the fitness of Joe Biden to be President been that a minor war-of-words has broken out between Westminster and Washington, with supporters of the President warning Britain he “holds grudges”.

Brexit architect turned political commentator Nigel Farage, for his part, has suggested the level of disappointment and distrust is such that Britain, which has been America’s closest military ally for a century, would not follow the U.S. into another war for as long as Biden is President.

Others are noting the irony in how the cards have fallen, with America suffering humiliation at the hands of the Taliban in the era of Joe Biden’s “America is back” rhetoric, while its military alliances strengthened during the Trump era when the reeived wisdom was that his rhetoric would damage relationships.

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