Memo PM: Could you please stop proclaiming we have an "independent foreign policy". It's embarrassing. It makes us sound like an insecure adolescent who feels the need to constantly tell the family he or she can make their own decisions.
Last week New Zealand was represented at a summit meeting of the Nato Alliance in Madrid, one of four Asia-Pacific "partners" invited for the first time in response to the most powerful act of naked aggression against a European country since World War II.
Our Prime Minister arrived as bodies were being recovered from the rubble of an apartment building and a shopping centre in Ukraine's capital, hit by Russian missiles on successive nights. Vladimir Putin was sending a clear message to those gathering for the summit. His contempt for Western resolve – not without reason in recent years – remains undiminished.
Imagine, then, the surprise of European leaders who had agreed to meet New Zealand's Prime Minister in Madrid and found the subject she was most anxious to talk about at a time like this was trade. I prefer not to imagine, I don't think "surprise" would quite describe it.
If that was not embarrassing enough, there was worse to come when Jacinda Ardern addressed the summit. The doors were closed to media but afterwards she gave those covering her trip some of her speech.
In it she described New Zealand as "one of the oldest and most stable liberal democracies". It had a "fiercely independent foreign policy", she declared. This was not "based on ideology, but rather the simple concept that when our shared humanity is undermined, we all suffer".
What were Nato members to make of all of that? Is New Zealand with them or not? Is the freedom of Western democracies just an "ideology" to its Government, something different from "our shared humanity"? Is a "fiercely independent" foreign policy another way of saying it is non-aligned, or just a little country asserting itself?
The thing about independence, on a personal and national level, is that if you genuinely have it, you don't need to talk about it. The reason Nato's Pacific partners were invited to this summit was China, which wants to reclaim Taiwan and might, or might not, have greater geopolitical ambitions like those Putin has revived for Russia.
There is a case for giving China the benefit of the doubt, and New Zealand has previously stood apart from its Five Eyes partners when their suspicion of China is rampant. We are, of course, trying to balance trading and security interests carefully.
A truly fiercely independent foreign policy could have made itself evident at the Nato summit on the subject of China. But in the speech she released, the Herald reported, she "called out" China for challenging international norms. China was not pleased.
If our frequent declarations of foreign policy independence are made simply to placate our major trading partner, it didn't work this time.
In fact, China will have no illusions about where New Zealand's loyalty and security interest really lie - and nor does anyone else. Nor do we. Deep down we have always known, ever since the Labour Party used nuclear fear to undermine our participation in Anzus and all through the years we were not welcome in United States military circles, we knew if push ever came to shove, our old Anzus partners would save us.
So can we grow up now? We've had 35 years to enjoy feeling independent and morally superior to the countries that maintain the forces and bear the cost of the weapons that ultimately protect us.
According to the Herald's report from Madrid, Ardern "also urged Nato leaders not to let the current war in Ukraine turn into an arms race or to stall nuclear disarmament progress." This is a bad moment to be airing those sentiments again.
The day Putin attacked Ukraine he threatened that any other country minded to interfere would face consequences "such as you have never seen in your entire history". That, as The Economist has noted, is the first time we have heard someone invoke atomic threats to help his invading forces win a conventional war.
It changes things. Nato cannot allow Putin or anyone else to believe such a threat can deter Western countries from coming to the defence of an ally on Russia's border.
To lecture responsible leaders about arms races is insulting at the best of times, as indeed is the whole "independent foreign policy" shtick. Every free country makes its own foreign policy but few others feel the need to say so.
Those that do feel the need merely cause others to wonder why. It's immature and pathetic.