Speaker Johnson keeps ignoring top US allies

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has a tough job, a divided caucus, and a busy schedule. But Johnson should be able to make time to meet with the closest U.S. allies.

He is failing to do so.

Last month, Johnson failed to meet with Latvia’s visiting prime minister even though Latvia requested just such a meeting. Latvia is a highly reliable U.S. ally that spends more than the NATO 2%-of-gross domestic product defense target and has borne economic pain for its support of the U.S. on issues related to China.

On Tuesday, moreover, Johnson failed to meet with the foreign secretary of America’s closest ally, the United Kingdom. As Olivia Beavers reports, the U.K. had sought a meeting. Johnson’s neglect stands in contrast to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who met with David Cameron at the Capitol on Tuesday. It also stands in contrast to former President Donald Trump, who dined with the former British prime minister turned chief diplomat at Mar-a-Lago on Monday evening.

Again, no one questions the fact that the speaker has a very busy schedule. Johnson also deserves credit for his work on the key issue motivating Cameron’s latest visit to the United States: congressional passage of a new aid bill to support Ukraine’s defensive war effort against Russia. Showing a creativity apparently beyond the Biden administration, Johnson appears set to release a new aid plan that would involve using seized Russian assets to support Ukraine. Johnson may also tie passage of that aid to the Biden administration’s granting of expanded liquefied natural gas export licenses to any aid.

This is good stuff. Using the money of corrupt Russian oligarchs to pay for Ukraine’s defense is far better than simply using U.S. taxpayer money. The Biden administration shows its weakness by avoiding such a step in fear of Russian retaliation. Similarly, expanded LNG export licenses serve both U.S. economic interests and the needs of allies who would otherwise be forced to rely on Russian gas exports or far more expensive alternatives. Export licenses strengthen NATO, not weaken it. And European claims to the contrary, Johnson and other Republicans are correct to believe that Europe should be doing more for Ukraine than they are doing.

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Still, Johnson should have made time to meet with Cameron. The U.K. is America’s closest ally. America has great interest in consolidating that alliance on matters related to China. In turn, even if Johnson believed the practical benefits of any meeting would be limited, he should have recognized the symbolic importance of a meeting. While Johnson has previously met with Cameron as speaker, the best American allies need to know and deserve to know that America values them. American adversaries need to see unity rather than perceived American disinterest or allied division. This is especially important as the 2024 presidential election approaches. It is for these reasons that Trump deserves credit for his courteous hosting of Cameron on Monday.

Top line: Johnson might be busy, but he has to remember that he is America’s third-ranking political leader and the top Republican in elected office. He should put a greater priority on the conduct of foreign affairs.

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