Malcolm Rifkind: A Kerry victory may not change US foreign policy

From a speech by the former Foreign Secretary, given at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London
Click to follow

Like many other people, I have been concerned about the way in which the current British and American governments' relationship appears to involve too much unconditional support on the United Kingdom's side. And that has not been true in the past. Harold Wilson famously refused LBJ's request for British troops to go into Vietnam. It did not destroy the relationship between Britain and the United States at that time. During the very height of the Bosnian conflict a few years ago, there were deep differences between Britain and the United States.

We have an American presidential election coming up. Don't assume that a Kerry victory is going to make a dramatic change to US foreign policy. The national interests of the US do not change simply because the President changes. There will be a change of style if Kerry was to win. There will be a change of rhetoric. I've no doubt that there will be a genuine attempt to reconnect with European allies. What I don't know is whether it will succeed, because it needs two to tango.

It needs not just goodwill, but needs substantial concessions on both sides. And not only am I unconvinced at this moment in time that Europeans are prepared to make any necessary concessions, I'm not sure that John Kerry would necessarily as President be prepared to make the sort of fundamental changes. But these are early days.

Frederick Grates' remark that diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments is still valid. You need to have a tough application of policy with a willingness to use military force. But you need also a political dimension and a diplomatic approach. And it's that balance that a revived and regenerated European-US relationship would be much more likely to produce.