Britain is set for a showdown with the UN over its next secretary-general, after sources in Washington indicated the US was preparing to back the candidate from Argentina.
Susana Malcorra, its foreign minister, is said to be supported by both the White House and Susan Rice, national security adviser to Barack Obama.
The prospect of an Argentine head of the UN puts Britain in a diplomatic dilemma, given the lengthy dispute over the Falklands which Argentina and the UN say must be “decolonised” and returned to Argentina.
President Obama is said to have been won over by arguments for Malcorra from Mauricio Macri, his Argentine counterpart, on a visit to Buenos Aires in March – widely seen as an attempt to re-set US-Argentine relations.
This may actually help Clark. If the US refuses to back a Russian backed Eastern European such as Irina Bokova, then Russia will probably not support the US’s first preference.
In this game it is not being the first preference of P5 members that counts, but being an acceptable second preference.
There is no doubt Clark is acceptable to China, France and the UK. She may even be the preferred candidate for the UK and China (but they would never say).
The big unknown is Russia. They have no reason to back her, but no particular reason to support her. But if the other candidates all face vetoes, she may get through.
Still well under a 50/50 chance but not insignificant.