Is US-UK special relationship under threat under Trump presidency?
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Like US-Russia relations, the bilateral ties between USA and UK also play important role in stabilizing international relations.
UN veto members America and Great Britain have maintained special relationship for decades, notwithstanding changing governments in both western capitalist nations. Arrival of ultra nationalist Donald trump on US political arena directly as US presidency candidate with his ideas of greatness for USA alone has sent cold waves even in UK which is known to toe the US line of thinking on all aspects- even on Palestine issue well where both opposed Palestine and supported Israel for ages since the Jewish state was impose on Mideast by both in 1948 and quickly made a full-fledged UN member- but now both indirectly support the idea of establishment of Palestine state and condemn the illegal Jewish settlement proliferation in Palestine.
However, the British doubts over Trump approach towards its closest ally looks untenable as President decided to receive at White House British premier as his first foreign guest. Thus the British PM Theresa May has won the race to be the first foreign leader to meet President Donald Trump in Washington. But her trip to the US capital is anything but a victory lap.
Theresa May gets a warm welcome at the Republican retreat and in the White House. Trump has already pronounced Britain “very special!” in one of his tweets. He has also has restored to the Oval Office a bust of Britain’s World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill that was removed while Barack Obama was president, to the chagrin of some patriotically minded Britons. May’s office says she intends to admire the bust when she visits the White House. She’ll also give Trump, whose mother was born in Scotland, a Quaich, a traditional Scottish cup of friendship.
Of course, history has proved that political positions are not always a guide to personal relationships, however. Former PM Tony Blair and Republican President George W. Bush formed a friendship that surprised many — and led Britain into the divisive, costly War on Iraq. May and Trump could hardly be more different. He is a brash, spotlight-loving businessman whose closest British ally to date has been the bantering former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage. She is a small-town vicar’s daughter who has risen to the top of politics through prudence and by avoiding personal ostentation or controversy. Her most flamboyant feature is a fondness for leopard-print shoes.
Apparently, Theresa May’s staff worked feverishly to secure the two-day trip, which includes a meeting with the president on Friday at the White House. British officials hope it will help cement the UK’s place as a pre-eminent American ally and provide proof of what Britons — more often than Americans — call the trans-Atlantic “special relationship.”
Trump has also been generally cool on trade agreements. He is pulling the USA out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a deal Obama worked hard on — and has promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. In other challenges for May, Trump has called NATO “obsolete” and called the EU “basically a vehicle for Germany” that Britain was “smart” to leave.
Excerpts from the speech were released in advance by PM May’s office. May’s seeming embrace of Trump — in the wake of his commitment to building a Mexico border wall and other recent edicts — drew criticism from her domestic opponents. UK PM Theresa May insists she’s up to the task of being America’s steadfast but plain-speaking friend, telling British lawmakers that “I am not afraid to speak frankly to a president of the United States.” Her message in the USA will include elements of gentle history lesson, as she urges the two nations to “lead together.” In a speech to Republican legislators in Philadelphia, May plans to say that the trans-Atlantic relationship “made the modern world” and built the institutions that have underpinned the global order since the end of World War II.
Donald Trump welcomed the UK decision to leave the EU and even asked other European nations also to follow suit. Linking Britain’s vote to leave the 28-nation European Union with the win of political outsider Trump, she’ll say that “as you renew your nation just as we renew ours, we have the opportunity — indeed the responsibility — to renew the special relationship for this new age.” Former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband tweeted: “Today he starts on wall, praises waterboarding, bullies climate scientists. She says they can lead together. Surely decent Tories feel queasy?”
The effusive tone coming from Trump’s White House marked a change from the Obama years. “Obama has been a more Asia-Pacific-focused president (with his Asia pivot theme) so this is a return — at least in rhetoric — to the good old days of the USA-UK special relationship,” she said. “But it’s very difficult to know exactly what Theresa May is going to get out of this other than warm words.”
While former President Obama warned that Britain outside the EU would go to the “back of the queue” for a US trade deal, Trump told the Times of London newspaper that a trade deal could be done quickly and he backs it. Experts argue that any talks in Washington this week would be preliminary, since Britain is barred by EU rules from substantial negotiations on new trade agreements until it actually leaves the bloc — which is likely to be in 2019 at the earliest. And May will face strong domestic opposition to any deal that forces Britain to bring its standards into line with the USA on things like genetically modified food — currently banned under EU rules — or the private sector’s role in health care.
May told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week that although the UK is leaving the EU, “it remains overwhelmingly and compellingly in Britain’s national interest” that the bloc still succeed. And while Trump said in his inauguration speech that “from this day forward, it’s going to be only America first,” May vowed in Davos to stand up for free markets, free trade and globalization.
Britain needs more than words from the USA as it prepares to start divorce talks with the European Union. May has said the UK will be leaving both the bloc and its single market in goods and services, which now stretches over 28 countries including Britain and involves half a billion people. By leaving, the UK is gaining the opportunity to strike new trade deals around the globe, and the USA, as the top destination for British exports, is one of the biggest prizes around.
Obviously, there is big queue of foreign signatories, especially presidents and premiers, seeking through their diplomatic channels, an appointment with president Trump and he would go in his own way in picking his guests. In fact many leaders are in waiting list to receive a presidential call form Washington. Many leaders around the world — who will make their own visits to Washington in the coming months — will be watching closely to see if they do.
The US-UK leaders try to create the chemistry that they need to create. When leaders of governments really want to make it work, they can make it work, anyway.
PM May faces the challenge of persuading a president who has vowed to put “America first” of the benefits of free trade with Britain and the vital role of the 28-nation NATO military alliance. And she must build a working relationship with a populist president whose protectionist outlook and loose way with facts have alarmed many European politicians, including some of May’s own allies.
As it stands, the top English allies do not face any real threat to their historic ties. Meanwhile, as President Donald Trump is gaining diplomatic niceties in office, the US-British relations have no reason to stumble even during the Trump era.
A businessman is always a business man and business cannot thrive without essential diplomatic skills-
And President Trump knows that.