Britain’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace has suggested that the US could no longer be considered a superpower. He gave this statement in an interview where he also contrasted his department’s handling of the Afghanistan crisis with that of the embattled Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
The pointed comments feature in an interview in the Spectator magazine given days after the final western forces evacuated from Kabul.
When questioned whether the exit from Afghanistan belittled the limits of British power on the world stage, Wallace started by saying, “It is obvious that Britain is not a superpower.” But he then quickly switched his focus to the US by saying “But a superpower that is also not prepared to stick at something isn’t probably a superpower either. It is certainly not a global force, it’s just a big power”.
Those close to the defence secretary acknowledged that his remarks could be read as being aimed at the US. However, this is not the first time that Wallace has publicly criticised the US.
In mid-August, when the Taliban was beginning to make sweeping gains in Afghanistan, the defence secretary described Donald Trump’s 2020 peace deal with the Taliban “a mistake” that “strategically … causes a lot of problems”.
The final withdrawal was authorised by Trump’s successor, Joe Biden in April. This came as a disappointment to the UK as it had wanted to remain. But without US forces Britain was forced to join the mass evacuation last month as it could not rally together a credible alternative defence force.
Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that the hastened withdrawal from Kabul has drawn a dangerous fault line in the US-UK special relationship, and described it as catastrophic and forced on the UK.
In his first remarks on the capture of Kabul by the Taliban, Hunt said allied troops left in such ignominious circumstances that it “was a sobering moment for anyone who cares about liberal values and open societies”.