It seemed so logical: once the “Brexit” from the European Union finally concluded, the special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States would strengthen. This appeared even more likely in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party’s electoral landslide.
But never underestimate the power of European “nuanced” diplomacy to make the wrong decision.
Despite the piratical trade practices and patent intentions of Communist China that spurred the United States to sound the espionage alarm, Britain hit the national security snooze button. The British government this week it would collaborate with Huawei Communications on its 5G mobile network.
The U.K. government said Huawei will have access to “non-core” parts of the country’s network but will be banned from “sensitive locations” such as military or nuclear sites. Huawei’s overall share of U.K.’s 5G market will be capped at 35%. The cap will also “be kept under review to determine whether it should be further reduced as the market diversifies.”
That Huawei might be more technologically advanced and adaptive in its potentially malicious use of technologies than the maladroit British bureaucracy seems to be is ironically inconceivable to its nominally pro-business conservative government. Hence, an unworried Boris Johnson promised Britain’s allies, notably the United States, that his country’s collaboration with Huawei would not endanger its security relationships.
This could well prove the least reassuring promise from a British prime minister since “peace in our time.”
Why did Johnson wave off the espionage concerns of the United States—and members of his own Conservative Party, for that matter—regarding the security risks of collaborating with Huawei?
The American and international Left carp that it is the fault of—you guessed it—the Bad Orange Man currently occupying the White House. Almost gleefully, they insist that the U.S. campaign to prevent Huawei collaborating on our allies’ emerging 5G networks is failing for no other reason than that some Europeans hold Donald Trump in such low regard.
These Trump Derangement Syndrome sufferers actually believe the British government’s own security establishment would forsake their sworn duty and imperil their nation because they may dislike Trump personally. Talk about insulting!
It’s insulting, too, to America’s intelligence establishment. Whatever President Trump may think about parts of the intelligence community in relation to himself, its assessments in some areas remain credible and its relationships remain solid across the pond. Clearly, the warnings about Huawei have not fallen completely on deaf ears. Hence, Boris Johnson’s hedge that Huawei will be barred from sensitive locations and have its market share capped at 35 percent with the prospect it could be ratcheted down lower.
Blaming Trump for the Brits’ decision once more shows the TDS Left being disingenuous, naïve, or both. As for the Brits, no one has ever called “Perfidious Albion” naïve.
As at so many other times in our nations’ “special relationship,” American common sense has run headlong into British nuanced diplomacy. Trump and Johnson aren’t some new version of the Reagan and Thatcher trans-Atlantic dynamic duo, viewing China in the same way the earlier pair viewed the Soviet Union—as an evil empire. This is not to say that Trump and Johnson don’t share a similar view of Communist China and, thus, grasp the potential threat of Huawei’s espionage.
When it comes to Communist China, Trump and Johnson have distinguished security concerns from economic concerns, and in practice subordinated the former to the latter. Both leaders prefer to deal with Beijing in the sphere of economics. The big difference is that Trump views Communist China as America’s economic competitor while Johnson views Communist China as Britain’s economic partner. Our interests differ.
In this, Johnson is perfectly in line with other European leaders. Consequently, not only with England but with the entire European Union, the United States faces an uphill challenge to get them to share our concerns about Huawei.
As the Trump administration has witnessed, Huawei holds a special relationship of its own with the Beijing regime. Like his European peers, Johnson is willing to chance “managing” the national and international security risk of Huawei, given the certainty that boycotting Huawei would be met with swift economic retaliation by Communist China.
In the post-Brexit United Kingdom, this is something Johnson believes his island nation can ill-afford.
The economic consequence of a Huawei boycott would be particularly acute for the British. For Johnson, then, the equation is elementary: he needs (at minimum) to offset any losses to the British economy (and honor his party’s promises for increased domestic expenditures) that will be brought about by the loss of E.U. trade by increasing trade with the United States and Communist China.
As a result, the U.K. is going to walk the Huawei tightrope between national security and economic growth.
Domestically, this does have a further advantage for Johnson, as he can point to this decision to refute Labour’s claims he is Trump’s lackey. (Of course, he may wind up Xi Jinping’s lackey, but it’s early days.)
Doubtless, Johnson is aware this Huawei decision harms the U.K.-U.S. special relationship. But he considers the damage reparable—nothing a good trade deal with the former colonies couldn’t fix.
Likely, Johnson also believed the Trump Administration would complain about the Huawei decision, though perhaps less strenuously than many would expect.
If the initial American statement about the U.K.’s Huawei decision is any indication, Johnson is correct not to fret. According to Axios, a senior Trump Administration official explained:
The United States is disappointed by the U.K.’s decision. There is no safe option for untrusted vendors to control any part of a 5G network. [But] we look forward to working with the U.K. on a way forward that results in the exclusion of untrusted vendor components from 5G networks. We continue to urge all countries to carefully assess the long-term national security and economic impacts of allowing untrusted vendors access to important 5G network infrastructure.
This administration official’s statement is less a complaint than a concession speech. But, after all, it is in keeping with the administration’s helter-skelter approach to sanctioning Huawei out of security concerns, then backing off due to economic concerns.
A better approach would be to alert the British that our special relationship isn’t a one-way street, regardless of whichever side of it one drives. The first step would be to put the U.K. on notice that we are going to severely restrict intelligence gathering and sharing with them. And maybe Trump should pump the brakes on discussions of a free-trade agreement with Johnson.
But the truth is, the United States is neither well positioned nor disposed to do so, as it would be a clear case of expecting more from our allies than we are prepared to do for ourselves. Through several administrations, the United States has bent at the knee to Communist China. We should not be surprised when the United Kingdom kowtows to them.