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UK-USA Special Relationship

First proclaimed by Winston Churchill in his Fulton speech of 1946, during the Cold War the special relationship was pronounced dead as often as Martin Bormann had been reported alive. Indeed, perhaps the best evidence that it is still alive is the fact that that its detractors felt obliged to re-announce its death every few months. The alliance of what Winston Churchill memorably called the "English-speaking peoples" in World War II was still fresh in many memories. In the more than two centuries since the American Revolution, the United States and Great Britain have moved from enmity to a firm alliance often spoken of as the "special relationship." The United Kingdom and the United States share a commitment to free speech, democracy, and the rule of law based on the rich history of a longstanding friendship and shared ideals.

It is no longer a wartime alliance or even a peacetime alliance of leaders whose personal friendship and trust were forged in wartime. Nor can one deny that its vitality has been waning for some time. A skeptic has said that there is so little of the old relationship left that if it were examined too closely it would be found to be only a Cheshire cat’s grin. Another critic has asserted that the relationship is special only in the sense that the relationship between a master and an old family retainer is special – with all this implies about inequality, loyalty, permanence, and toleration of eccentricities.

Some observers, pointing out that the most inflated claims about the special relationship come from London, contend that it is no more than the high-toned name given to conventional practices of cooperation and consultation which Britons ballyhoo in order to compensate for the steady decline of their country’s status in the world. Others maintain that it is the sentimental refuge of Americans who are generally uncomfortable with foreigners except the Canadians. Still others hold that it is a unique arrangement between favored partners. It is true that the special relationship today is far less a relationship of interdependence, as the British once liked to advertise it, than one of UK dependence and clientage. It is apparent that it is considered more special by London than it is by Washington. Furthermore, it is undeniable that it carries certain disadvantages for both partners.

The special relationship is a relationship of unique intimacy between the governments of two peoples of common language, common tradition, frequently parallel institutions, linked histories, and broadly common interests and outlooks. Britons consider the US to be their country’s best friend by a wide margin. By and large, Americans return the compliment. It is all too easy to take these familiar considerations for granted and to deprecate their value, but few would deny that they make US and UK officials feel more comfortable and cooperative with each other, more respectful and more trusting of each other. They make business – in diplomatic and defense matters – easier to conduct.

The hostility aroused in the United States by the American Revolution was inflamed by various disputes that arose between the two nations during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815). In the following decades, the two nations quarreled about the Canadian boundary but settled the disputes by negotiation. The American Civil War brought Britain and the United States to the edge of hostilities because of attacks against Union commerce by Southern ships fitted out in British ports.

In the In the war between the Northern and Southern States of America (1860-66) the temper of the British people was sorely tried by the serious difficulties which could not but affect them. The "Trent affair" fell like a fiery spark upon inflammable matter; but Palmerston, by his prompt action, accompanied by a conciliatory treatment of the question, in which the Queen and Prince Consort took a decisive part, brought out the good sense and statesmanship of both Governments. War was happily averted, and the hard-won triumph of the Northern States renewed the cordial relations of the kindred peoples on either side of the Atlantic.

The United States emerged from the war as a powerful nation whose good will Britain now wished to secure. The last significant foreign-policy dispute between the United States and Britain occurred in 1895 over an American demand that Britain submit to international arbitration its dispute with Venezuela about the western boundary of British Guiana.

During the early 1950s Anglo-American relations over the Middle and Far East were strong. But the 1956 Suez Crisis brought Anglo-American relations to a low point when Dwight D. Eisenhower opposed the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt. American diplomatic and financial pressure helped to bring about the end of the Suez operation and the end of Anthony Eden's leadership. To make matters worse, Britain was unsupportive of aggressive American policies in Indochina (modern Vietnam). In the 1960s Anglo-American co-operation in the Middle and Far East come under considerable strain. No British troops were committed to the Vietnam War and Britain only gave limited diplomatic support. In 1966 Britain considered a change in defence spending. However, in the financial crisis of 1967, the Wilson government withdrew from defence commitments 'East of Suez'. Britain became less important for American strategy in the Middle and Far East.

Today the USA and UK share an unprecedented relationship that has helped secure shared interests and values since the World Wars of the last century. The two countries have developed unparalleled military interoperability and interconnectedness, working together to meet the challenges of the Cold War, leading in NATO, and fighting side-by-side in defence of global interests. At every level the British and American defense establishments service men and women train together, learn together, develop capability together and, when called upon, fight together.

British and American forces routinely operate side-by-side across a wide range of operations. A century of shared battlefield experience has led to a level of interoperability and familiarity that is unique in its breadth. This was exemplified in Iraq Afghanistan where the US and UK were the two largest contributors of forces, and thei Armed Forces worked together to degrade the insurgencies and to train and mentor the local forces to provide security.

British and American exchange personnel routinely deploy on operations with their host units. For example British air transport pilots flew with the U.S .Air Force in Haiti earthquake relief operations, and British F-18 pilots are currently flying operational missions from the USS Stennis. U.S. Marine Corp exchange officers have deployed on operational tours to Afghanistan with their host British units, in some cases in a command position, and the U.S. Air Force has a long tradition of exchanging pilots on transport, aerial refueling, and combat aircraft with Royal Air Force units.

The ability of American and British forces to operate on the battlefield effectively is due in large part to the close-knit and constant training and exchange opportunities undertaken together. As close Allies the US and UK host each other’s forces in order to conduct training, be prepared to forward-deploy when necessary, and in many cases conduct current operations. As of 2012 the US had over 9,000 personnel permanently stationed in the UK, primarily on shared Royal Air Force (RAF) bases such as RAF Lakenheath and Mildenhall, where US units conduct fighter, transport, and aerial refueling operations.

The Joint Analysis Center (JAC) at RAF Molesworth is a prime example of cooperation, where US and British analysts monitor the world’s trouble spots together. All four US services send exchange officers to work with the British services, and exchange both junior and senior military officers with British defence schools.

The UK tations over 800 British personnel in the US, conducting a wide variety of activities from conducting RPAS (Remotely Pilot Air Systems) operations in Afghanistan from Creech AFB, Nevada, to working side by side with American colleagues on major acquisition projects such as the Joint Strike Fighter and C-17 projects, to working with U.S. counterparts on cyber and space cooperation. Approximately 200 British officers are on exchange with the American services to develop joint approaches to develop capability and increase interoperability.

The US and UK routinely entrust their best and brightest NCO’s and officers to each other’s academies, military schools, and units to gain experience and insight into the other partner’s way of doing business. Exchanging military personnel ensures a cadre of individuals in each military that understands their counterparts and cross-fertilizes the best each nation has to offer in ideas and doctrine. The yearly Kermit Roosevelt Speaking seminar is a tradition between the British and American Armies that dates back to 1948.

The UK also has a wide range of senior personnel serving in advisory or command positions in US Headquarters, including the Deputy Commander of the 1st Infantry Division, senior planning staff at CENTCOM, senior liaison positions in NORTHCOM, CENTCOM, CYBERCOM, PACOM and STRATCOM. British officers also serve as faculty at West Point and the Naval War College. Similarly, U.S. officers serve with the British military in multiple advisory levels, attend British defence schools, and are integrated into British combat units, sometimes in command positions.

Trump took his first trip on Air Force 1 as he travelled 26 January 2017 to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May at a retreat for Republican members of Congress in Philadelphia. May called for a renewal of the "special relationship" with the United States, as Britain prepared to leave the European Union, and Trump began his term as the US leader.May highlighted the history of a relationship she said "made the modern world" at the retreat. May visited the White House the next day, the first foreign leader to meet with Trump in Washington since he took office. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence also will attend the retreat Thursday.

On 01 June 2019, Corbyn deemed as “unacceptable interference in our country’s democracy” U.S. President Donald Trump’s unsolicited opinion of a potential replacement for former PM Theresa May. Donald Trump arrived in the United Kingdom 03 June 2019 for a delayed state visit and even before landing, he insulted London Mayor Sadiq Khan by calling him “a stone cold loser" while misspelling his name. He also endorsed Boris Johnson for the position of the Prime Minister which did not sit well with many. “I think Boris would do a very good job. I think he would be excellent,” he said.

Mayor Sadiq Khan attracted the ire of the U.S. president for comparing himself to “the fascists of the 20th century” in an opinion piece. “President Donald Trump is just one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat. The far right is on the rise around the world, threatening our hard-won rights and freedoms and the values that have defined our liberal, democratic societies for more than 70 years,” Khan wrote. He compared Trump with Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Marine Le Pen in France and Nigel Farage in the U.K. who are “using the same divisive tropes of the fascists of the 20th century to garner support, but with new sinister methods to deliver their message.”

During a joint press conference with outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May in London on 04 June 2019, when asked about the possibility of the NHS being part of any negotiation with the U.K., Trump answered that “when dealing with trade, everything is on the table. So, NHS or anything else. There are a lot more than that. So everything will be on the table. Absolutely.” The British NHS was established in 1948 as one of the major social reforms following World War II, providing free healthcare for citizens, which many have pointed out is of the cornerstones of British society. This would explain the generalized uproar when the foreign president hinted at the possibility of privatizing the service and handing it to U.S. firms.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged, in a leaked conversation with British Jewish leaders, that his country will “push-back” against Labour’s party leader Jeremy Corbyn's bid to get elected as Prime Minister. “It could be that Mr. Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected,” Pompeo is heard saying. “It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.” The recording was leaked to The Washington Post on 09 June 2019.

“Inept, dysfunctional, insecure” are some of the words used by the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to the United States, Kim Darroch, to describe U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration, according to leaked diplomatic memos published by the Daily Mail on Sunday on 06 July 2019. “'We don't really believe this Administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction-riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept,” the U.K.’s diplomatic head in Washington told his country’s Foreign Office in the leaked documents obtained by the British newspaper. Darroch refereed to Trump as “insecure” and “incompetent” reportedly saying that his presidency could "crash and burn" and "end in disgrace", yet drew parallels that despite scandals involving the U.S. head of state, Trump “may emerge from the flames, battered but intact, like Schwarzenegger in the final scenes of The Terminator.”

In one account, in a letter to the U.K.’s National Security Adviser Mark Sedwill sent on June 22, 2017, the foreign official reports that “vicious infighting and chaos” inside the White House are not fake news, as they are “mostly true.” On the Iran conflict, Darroch reportedly said that Trump’s careless foreign policy on the Persian nation, which has prompted global fears of a large-scale war is “incoherent” and “chaotic”. And due to a “divided Administration..it's unlikely that U.S. policy on Iran is going to become more coherent anytime soon”. However, warned that the U.S. president is “surrounded by a more hawkish group of advisers”, thus the president could still start a war.

On another set of the leaked communications, the U.K. ambassador expressed his belief that Trump will most likely get elected for a second term but described the crowd backing as “almost exclusively white.” And referring to allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia – the memo says: 'The worst cannot be ruled out.'

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:04:34 ZULU