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Diplomats shaken by resignation of Britain’s United States ambassador

Published:Friday | July 12, 2019 | 12:00 AM
The British Embassy in Washington on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. British ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch, resigned Wednesday, just days after diplomatic cables criticising US President Donald Trump caused embarrassment to two countries that often celebrated having a ‘special relationship’.


The abrupt resignation of Britain’s ambassador to the United States (US) over leaked cables critical of the Trump administration may have jolted official Washington, but it’s unlikely to have a lasting impact on the US-British relationship or diplomatic practice.

Current and former diplomats say the leak of Ambassador Kim Darroch’s sensitive reports is unfortunate and alarming, particularly given the apparent political motive behind it. Yet, they believe any complications will be temporary even as they create short-term turbulence in relations.

“It’s a problem, but I don’t know that it has a chilling effect over time because in the end, people have jobs to do, and they do their jobs,” said Ronald Neumann, a retired three-time US ambassador who is the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy. “It’s wrong, and it’s too bad. Still, you move on because there’s work to be done.”

Darroch, a well-known figure in Washington, resigned on Wednesday amid uproar over the candid cables, saying “the current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like”. The resignation followed US President Donald Trump’s furious caustic response to the leaked cables, in which Darroch offered candid negative views of his administration.

In the cables, Darroch called the administration’s policy towards Iran “incoherent”, said the president might be indebted to “dodgy Russians”, and raised doubts about whether the White House “will ever look competent”.

Trump’s lambasting of Darroch on Twitter – he called the ambassador “a pompous fool” and “a very stupid guy” and criticised outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May – drew condemnation from both sides of the Atlantic.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is in the running to replace May, replied: “Allies need to treat each other with respect.”

Others suggested that Trump’s reaction proved Darroch’s point.

“Trump’s petty and vindictive over­reaction not only reinforces the accuracy of Darroch’s portrait of him in his leaked cables but further erodes an already complicated bilateral relationship,” said William Burns, a highly respected retired career diplomat who served as deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration and is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The State Department downplayed the fracas, saying: “The United States and the United Kingdom share a bond that is bigger than any individual, and we look forward to continuing that partnership. We remain committed to the US-UK Special Relationship and our shared global agenda.”