Does the whole world hate Liz Truss? – POLITICS

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LONDON – Around the world, governments are slowly waking up to a new reality: Liz Truss is about to become British Prime Minister.

London-based diplomats are scrambling to report back to their capitals with intelligence on the Tory leadership’s frontrunner, as each new poll offers further evidence that – barring last-minute disaster – Truss is headed for 10 Downing Street.

In truth, few foreign powers like what they have seen.

More than a dozen conversations with high-ranking diplomats and power center insiders around the world suggest that Truss isn’t exactly a popular choice on the world stage. It will be met with deep skepticism across much of Western Europe and within Biden’s White House. There are questions about relations with the new Australian government. She is despised in Moscow and Beijing.

On the other hand, Truss is very popular in Eastern European states and parts of the Indo-Pacific. So it’s not all bad.

Supporters say Truss’ expected emergence on the world stage is simply mistimed, with potential conservative allies in the United States, Germany and Australia all ousted in national elections over the past two years.

But its relationship with EU countries is undoubtedly clouded by the bitter dispute over how to trade across the Irish Sea after Brexit while keeping Unionists and Republicans in Northern Ireland happy.

Hopes in Brussels and other EU capitals that Britain’s new foreign secretary would prove an amicable interlocutor evaporated last spring when she unveiled controversial legislation allowing UK ministers to disable parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, a key part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, leading to accusations Britain is preparing to breach international law.

“We have a negative impression, not based on his intentions but on his actions,” said a London-based diplomat from a major EU country. « A new leader is always a new opportunity for a reset, but we’ll have to see if she takes steps to restore trust, which is badly needed. »

A Brussels-based diplomat gave an even more disparaging assessment: “Liz Truss would seem really, really poor to us from a European perspective. What she has shown since taking over as Foreign Secretary and since resuming Brexit negotiations has been very negative.

Hardly any politician in Dublin has a good word to say about Truss, given his close association with the Protocol Bill. « We have been burned by six years of Tory prime ministers, » said Neale Richmond, European affairs spokesman for Fine Gael, the most pro-EU of the three parties in Ireland’s coalition government. « I have little confidence that the next one will be better. »

Dublin’s leading newspaper, the Irish Times, called her « an ineffectual foreign minister who campaigned against Brexit and then applauded it ».

Some politicians hope talks with the EU could be easier if Truss becomes Prime Minister – simply because she is not outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson | Chris J. Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Two senior diplomats from different southern European countries have raised concerns about Truss’ « impulsiveness » on foreign affairs, warning it could further stoke tensions.

Confidential DC

Truss’s sponsorship of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill has certainly frustrated the Biden administration and members of the US Congress, as POLITICO reported last week.

Powerful Democrats, including US President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, have repeatedly expressed concern that Brexit policies could undermine the hard-won peace in Ireland. They want the Good Friday Agreement to be preserved at all costs, and for Brussels and London to stop wasting their energy on avoidable disputes.

Pelosi in May called efforts to rewrite the protocol « deeply concerning. »

Truss hit back last week, telling a campaign audience in Northern Ireland that she would not be swayed by the Speaker of the House. « I’ve been very clear with people like Nancy Pelosi exactly how I feel about this, » she said. A member of Truss’s campaign insisted she had a « good relationship with her American counterparts. »

Some politicians are hoping talks with the EU might actually be easier if she becomes prime minister – simply because she’s not incumbent Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and looks more like a ‘negotiator and partner’ reliable, » said Bernd Lange, a German member. of the European Parliament, which sits on the EU-UK contact group.

But even if Truss wanted a reset with the EU, others doubt his fellow Tory MPs would allow it. “The big question is how well she will deal with Brexiteers in the party,” said a Nordic envoy in London.

From Australia with love

Officials and foreign policy experts in Brussels, Berlin and Paris also lament Truss’s reluctance so far to cultivate close ties with major European capitals as she has with one of the most geographically distant in the world. Great Britain – Canberra.

UK security co-operation with Australia has intensified since Brexit through the Five Eyes alliance and the AUKUS defense partnership, while Truss has also sought Canberra’s approval of the Britain’s membership of the 11-nation Pacific trading club known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific. Partnership (CPTPP). His regular speeches to Australia-based think tanks have been noted on both sides of the globe.

During his tenure as UK International Trade Secretary, Truss controversially hired former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the UK Board of Trade. In return, he called her a « worthy successor » to Johnson last week.

Truss controversially hired former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the UK Board of Trade | Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Yet Abbott’s Liberal Party is no longer in power and Truss faces the challenge of establishing such a close relationship with the new Labor Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese.

Albanese did not offer his views on the Tory leadership frontrunner, but his party colleagues were candid. In January, former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating called Truss’s remarks about possible Chinese activity in the Pacific « crazy ».

« Old-fashioned imperialism »

It’s certainly true that Truss hasn’t pulled any punches when it comes to China. During the election campaign, she repeatedly attacked rival Rishi Sunak’s willingness to hold talks with Beijing, and even suggested the UK should arm Taiwan against China.

The Foreign Secretary has promised to update the UK’s Integrated Security, Defense and Foreign Policy Review in 2021, with a focus on China and Russia, and to strengthen the economic and commercial ties with Commonwealth countries to counter the « growing harmful influence » of Beijing.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry makes little effort to hide its feelings about Truss’s remarks. “It fully exposes the hypocritical faces of old-school British imperialism,” ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said. « Imagine Scotland colluding with foreign forces to secede from the UK. Can the UK stay calm? »

« It looks like the UK was colonized by the US, » Wang Yiwei, a senior international relations scholar at Renmin University in Beijing, told the Global Times.

A “bloodthirsty” woman

On Russia, too, Truss’ rhetoric was harsh, and in early February she took her message directly to Moscow. Her hawkish stance has made her the target of vitriolic attacks from senior Russian government officials. Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, described her as « bloodthirsty and extremely destructive ».

The Kremlin particularly appreciated a geographical error apparently made by Truss on this trip in response to a shrewd question from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, which was quickly leaked to Russian journalists.

At the end of his visit, Lavrov said their conversation was « between dumb and deaf ». In April, Russia banned Truss, along with other members of the British government, from entering the country.

Igor Pshenichnikov, an expert at the state-funded Russian Institute for Strategic Studies in Moscow, called Truss a « Russophobe » who « starts only from the understanding that Russia must be destroyed. »

Truss’ unwavering support for Ukraine earned him praise in Kyiv | Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images

War chief

But Truss’ unwavering support for Ukraine has won him praise in Kyiv, elsewhere in Eastern Europe and in the Baltics, where concern over the Soviet invasion remains paramount.

Here, diplomats are confident she will continue Johnson’s policy of close defense cooperation.

« His leadership in standing up against Russian aggression towards Ukraine is something where we are like-minded, » a Baltic diplomat said. “Overall, the UK has stood out as a great leader when it comes to supporting Ukraine… She has been known as a leader in that regard.”

Dismissing Brexit and war, an EU diplomat admiringly noted that her ambition to become prime minister was already evident a year ago, and hailed her willingness to engage over an old-fashioned British gin and tonic .

freedom network

Truss’ focus on the Indo-Pacific during his tenure at the Foreign Office also won his friends there.

She defied naysayers by striking the first post-Brexit free trade deal with Japan, a government she has prioritized in her ministerial pledges.

Indeed, Truss’ main foreign policy argument has been the creation of what she calls a « freedom network », made up of « freedom-loving nations » establishing security, energy and trade links designed to end strategic dependencies on China and Russia.

The policy won mixed reviews. Some UK officials worry his approach is too polarizing in its framing of global geopolitics as democracy versus authoritarianism, said David Lawrence, a UK researcher with the World Initiative at think tank Chatham House.

Japan and Australia are natural partners for the UK, he said, but countries like Pakistan, India or Malaysia might not be as welcoming, thanks to a mix of grievances post -colonialists and trade links with China.

« A lot of countries don’t fit perfectly into either [category]he said, “and it’s almost like you’re forcing them to take sides. »

Zoya Sheftalovich, Ryan Heath, Shawn Pogatchnik and Stuart Lau contributed reporting.


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