Britain’s stunning election result

As the White House has been at pains to emphasize, the U.S. government does not take sides in foreign elections. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t care.

Under Prime Minister David Cameron, Britain has been consciously reducing its influence in global affairs — slashing defense spending, cutting back on its diplomatic corps and basically standing aside as the United States launched an air war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. For his second act, Cameron has promised a referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union that will preoccupy political Britain for the next two years and risk seriously weakening the EU.

How is the White House likely to respond to all this? Well, we can expect U.S. officials to declare that they can work with whoever wins, although the exit polls and early results suggest that Cameron’s Conservative Party is going to be returned to power. And the two countries will certainly continue to work effectively on many important issues. Indeed, the truth is that a Labour government undoubtedly would have presented its own difficulties for the United States.

But U.S. officials also understand that a second Cameron government means a continued loss of U.K. influence in the world and an even rockier ride for the already shaky European Union. This suggests that, regardless of the happy faces, the continued loss of strength in the U.K. and EU implied by the conservative victory will be viewed as far from good news for the United States.

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