Truss made first call to Zelensky, as if fanning war flame is top duty
Published: Sep 07, 2022 11:09 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

On the desk of 10 Downing Street, there is a pile of challenges waiting for new British Prime Minister Liz Truss, including the pressing energy crisis and skyrocketing inflation. And Truss, on her first day in office as the UK's new leader, made her first call to a foreign leader to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

During the call, Truss pledged her full backing of Ukraine and accepted the invitation to visit Kiev. The move has made quite a few observers puzzled, as if supporting Ukraine and prolonging the war is British prime minister's main duty. As for whether British people can afford gas in the coming winter, it can wait.

Generally speaking, top Western politicians' first call with a foreign leader has often been reserved for their closest allies. In the case of the UK, the object is often the US president, followed by leaders of the EU. When analysts try to explain why Truss made her first call with Zelensky, they tend to believe the UK has no better leverage than Ukraine when it comes to foreign policy. 

From the perspective of security and geopolitics, the most crucial challenge that stares at Europe, including the UK, is the Russia-Ukraine conflict. After Brexit, the UK has always wanted to maintain its global status and role as a major power, and the most convenient way is engaging in, in a high-profile manner, the Ukraine crisis. 

On the one hand, the UK could strike a balance in the continent by containing Western European countries, while drawing closer to Central and Eastern Europe, including the Baltic countries and Ukraine. On the other hand, like Washington, London wants to make the conflict last longer, in order to gain more bargaining chips against Russia, or more, to further weaken Russia.

That being said, London may be the one that wishes to prolong the war the most, apart from Washington. This can be verified since Boris Johnson's administration, which not only made loud statements to back Ukraine, but also provided significant military aid. In a show in late August, Truss even said she was "ready" to hit the nuclear button if necessary, which was either ignorant or reckless.

Unfortunately, at the moment, the UK's battlefield is not in Ukraine, but on its own soil. Dealing with domestic difficulties should be Truss' top priority. Winter is coming. This won't be simply seasonal winter, but an economic winter, a winter without sufficient heat, a winter shadowed by more COVID cases. Reports show that the British economy is on the brink of a recession. The common people are confronting sharply rising figures on their bills. Protests and demonstrations are spreading across Europe. 

George Galloway, a six-term British parliamentarian, told the Global Times that amid protests in Europe, "The Italian government has already gone. The Bulgarian government has already gone," and of the big EU countries, Germany may be the first and most important domino to fall. He added that the US is willing to fight to the last drop of Ukrainian blood and ready to fight to the last European, to the last European economy, to the last European government. 

When touching upon the possible way out of the energy crisis, Galloway gave his prescription - end the arms trafficking to Ukraine, allow the Ukrainian government to negotiate with Russia, offer a political settlement to the world, and lift all sanctions against Russia. "If they are not done, we are in for the mother of all winters."

All European sanctions against Russia have already backfired, and people are beginning to wake up to it. Nevertheless, Truss does not seem ready to fix it - instead of promoting peace, she seems to intend to put more fuel on war flames. The only problem is, the UK is not the US, which has sufficient resources on its own. How much longer can the UK withstand in the looming bitter period? 

The post-Johnson Britain is now on the shoulders of Truss. Where is the UK headed under her leadership? Not many observers are optimistic. Some even say it would be an overestimation of Truss if viewing her moves from the perspective of political calculations. 

She has no political strategy, no serious thoughts on British national interests. The call was made for a political show. Truss is like a sleepwalker, living in her own dreamland, where the world is centered on Western countries with so-called freedom and democracy, and where leaders from the US and the UK can willfully do whatever they want regardless of reality, Shen Yi, a professor at Fudan University, told the Global Times.