Truss Was a Good Partner, Biden Says on British PM Resignation

21/10/2022

U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday called British Prime Minister Liz Truss, who is stepping down from office after just six weeks of her turbulent tenure, a “good partner” in supporting Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aggression.

Biden declined to weigh in on her resignation.

“That’s for her to decide,” he told reporters at the White House moments before he boarded presidential helicopter Marine One on his way to Pennsylvania. “But look, she was a good partner on Russia and Ukraine, and the British are going to solve their problem.”

Biden dismissed any potential spillover effects from the political turmoil of the United States’ oldest ally.

“I don’t think they’re that consequential,” he said.

Truss stepped down after her unfunded tax-cutting agenda crashed the British pound, raised borrowing costs and triggered financial market turmoil.

Strong allies

Biden, who had spoken by phone with Truss to discuss Ukraine and met with her in person on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September, had made clear he opposed Truss’s economic plans to cut taxes on the “super wealthy.”

“I disagreed with the policy, but that’s up to Great Britain to make that judgment, not me,” he told reporters last week.

Earlier Thursday, the White House released a statement expressing Biden’s support for the British government and his appreciation for Truss.

“The United States and the United Kingdom are strong allies and enduring friends — and that fact will never change,” the statement said.

Observers agree. Of all the issues that divide the British Conservative Party, they all agree on the centrality of the U.K.’s relationship with the U.S., said David H. Dunn, chair of the department of political science and international studies at the University of Birmingham.

Following Brexit, the Conservative Party became more right wing, with more libertarian members among its ranks, Dunn told VOA.

“This, together with an antipathy towards the EU, makes them even more predisposed to look across the Atlantic for their natural ally rather than across the Channel to Europe,” Dunn said.

The Conservative Party holds a big majority in parliament and need not call a nationwide election for another two years. They are scheduled to elect a new leader by October 28; former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak is set to compete for the post against ex-Defense Minister Penny Mordaunt.

Boris Johnson, who was ousted as prime minister in July following mass resignations by his ministers, is also reportedly weighing a comeback.

Whoever emerges as the next prime minister will carry the burden of Britain’s weakness at home, said Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the U.S. and Americas program at Chatham House.

“This inevitably means that the new PM will be far more inclined to align itself closely with the U.S., and I would guess, also to sort out a good relationship with Europe,” Vinjamuri told VOA.

Support for Ukraine

Despite the change in leadership, the U.K. will remain a steadfast supporter of Ukraine in its fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Jason Moyer, program associate for the global Europe program at the Wilson Center.

“The U.K. is the third-largest provider of military and financial support to Ukraine, behind only the United States and the European Union, and is hosting a training program for up to 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers,” Moyer told VOA.

On Tuesday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Ben Wallace, the U.K.’s secretary of state for defense. The two underscored their commitment to continue providing Ukraine with security assistance.

Observers say that Britain’s next leadership will likely adhere to a more mainstream conservative foreign policy — tough on Russia and China and recognizing that Europe is essential to Britain’s economic success.

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