MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Vladimir Simonov) - Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, is surely a lovely place in summer. Gordon Brown, however, will not be in a position to enjoy the scenery.
Brown, on his first visit to the United States since becoming British prime minister, will meet with President George W. Bush as part of a three-day trip that is sure to be something of a political tightrope.
Britain's new leader has two opposing duties. First, he must reassure the Bush administration that the new Labor government will remain dedicated to the Atlantic partnership. Second, he must show his own nation that he is not another Tony Blair and will not be "America's poodle."
As if that weren't enough, his situation became even more awkward after some members of his government told the White House about how they would like to see relations between the U.K. and the U.S.
In an address in Washington two weeks ago, Douglas Alexander, the new Secretary of State for International Development and Brown's protege, called on the United States to "recognize the importance of a rules-based international system," which he believes should be multilateral and rest on fundamental values, not fleeting interests.
The address stunned many American news analysts, who saw it as an echo of Vladimir Putin's criticism of U.S. foreign policy in Munich.
No less indicatively, Mark Malloch Brown, the new minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations and former deputy to Kofi Annan, is known for his harsh criticism of U.S. policy in Iraq. Lord Malloch-Brown proudly says he is against the neoconservatives in the Bush administration, who cling to the idea of Pax Americana. He says Britain and the U.S. are not Siamese twins, and they must be allies but "not joined at the hip."
These words are hardly what Washington wants to hear, but they may be no more than grandiose statements from a new broom. I believe, however, that Britain is setting a different tone for its dialogue with the United States, if not changing its content. It wants to cast off its perceived meekness and be seen as an equal partner.
Brown and Bush will discuss a wide range of problems-in particular, Iraq, Iran, Kosovo, Darfur, the deployment of a missile shield in Eastern Europe and, last but not least, a response to the foreign policy of a resurgent Russia which is becoming more independent and trying to find its bearings in the new world order. The latter issue appears to matter more than any other, even though it is not on the official agenda.
There are many reasons to believe that Britain will not quit Iraq in a hurry under Gordon Brown. The visitor will, however, surely make it understood that British troops will pull out as soon as possible if the Iraqi government makes any progress.
It came as a big surprise when Brown said he did not rule out the use of force in Iran. Many wonder if his stance will undermine consistent U.N. resolutions calling for the international community to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on Tehran. At any rate, pundits in London do not think Britain will approve of the Bush administration launching military action during the president's last 18 months in office.
Indicatively, Brown met French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel before visiting the United States. This scheduling matter does not, however, necessarily presage a British rapprochement with the European Union. To all appearances, Her Majesty's Government will continue to strike a balance between its new, more reserved contacts with the United States and similarly reserved relations with the Continent. That, too, will involve walking a political tightrope.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.