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Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


Liz Truss had all of two days as Britain's new prime minister before she was thrust into the international spotlight after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

While the global glare was undoubtedly challenging in its own right, now comes the really hard part: governing a country buffeted by economic and geopolitical challenges.

Truss convinced Conservative Party members she was the best candidate for Britain's top job. British citizens may be more circumspect, mainly due to Truss' policy shifts during her meteoric rise.

Some of the evolutions Truss herself has chalked up to youth, including her college days as an anti-monarchist member of the Liberal Democratic Party (which is more centrist than the name would imply in the U.S.), a position she no longer holds.

Other shifts, however, are more recent — and revealing. "I think the British people are sensible people," Truss said as Britons considered the 2016 Brexit referendum. "They understand fundamentally that economically, Britain will be better off staying in a reformed [European Union]."

Unfortunately, not enough voters were sensible, and Truss pivoted from her principles to become a committed, and convenient, Brexiteer.

On some other fundamental issues, Truss is a sharp departure from her Tory predecessors and her political model, if not idol: Margaret Thatcher. For instance, the "Iron Lady" would not have unnecessarily undermined Western unity by answering that "the jury is still out" when asked during a debate whether France was a friend or foe.

"If we aren't able to tell between the French and the British if we are friends or foes — the term is not neutral — then we are headed for serious problems," French President Emmanuel Macron bluntly and rightly stated after Truss' remark.

There are already serious problems confronting the West, and Truss' unforced error came even though allied resolve is essential in responding to Russian revanchism.

Fortunately, Truss is at her best on Russia, channeling Thatcher's unflinching opposition to Soviet aggression. Tellingly, her first official call as prime minister was to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to reassure him of Britain's unwavering support — a gesture likely as welcome in Washington as it was in Kyiv.

The U.S.-U.K. "special relationship transcends individual leaders," Livia Godaert, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council's Europe Center, told an editorial writer in an email interview. "But it does tend to ebb and flow in its strength based on personalities and the issues at hand."

Among those issues is the status of Northern Ireland within the Brexit framework. Any unilateral changes could erode or even upend the Good Friday Agreement, the 1998 pact negotiated in part by the U.S. that helped end the sectarian strife known as the "Troubles."

"The U.S. and the U.K. have been closely aligned on Ukraine, which we can expect to continue, but there are concerns that the Northern Ireland Protocol and its implications for the Good Friday Agreement could sour relations from the beginning," Godaert said.

Such a souring could also impact any hope for a U.S.-U.K. free-trade agreement, a top priority for a post-Brexit Britain. And yet, Godaert added, on issues ranging from Ukraine, China, climate change and Big Tech regulation, "there is the potential for a great deal of Anglo-American collaboration ahead."

Truss is considered a "foreign policy hawk" who has spoken with "moral clarity" on Ukraine, Russia, China and the need for more defense spending, Max Bergmann, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told an editorial writer via email.

"I think it is clear that while Truss is a hardliner, she is not an ideologue," Bergmann said. "She will want to win an [eventual] election, so I think we can expect her to try to do popular things, but she will struggle to keep her divided party behind her."

One of those popular things may be Truss' recent announcement that the British government will cap domestic energy prices for two years to respond to the crisis sparked largely by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The cost has yet to be determined but will depend on borrowed money — yet another contradiction from a campaign centered around market mechanisms to make the U.K. an "aspiration nation."

Truss "is the fourth prime minister in six years, and the death of the queen has thrown the chaos of recent years into even sharper relief," Godaert said. Her plans and agenda "have been overshadowed and delayed by this period of national mourning, but the problems she needs to solve have not gone away, and voters won't take kindly to her hiding behind the issue or ringing a nationalist bell in a few weeks."

Indeed, Britain's problems are so profound that there can be no hiding. It is in Britain's — and the West's — best interest that the new prime minister succeeds.