Friday, January 27, 2017

Special Relationship?

I have to say I greatly appreciate the renewed interest, especially as it is coming from the US and France.  Every other month, I used to get a big uptick in Russian viewers.  Have no idea why that was.  But, readers are always welcome.  Comments are even more welcome!

Theresa May evoked the "special relationship" Margaret Thatcher had with Ronald Reagan in her speech before the Republicans gathered at a  "policy retreat" in Philadelphia.  It was really something to behold as she did her best to appeal to their conservative roots, calling Trump's election victory "a new era of American renewal."  The speech went on for an insufferable 35 minutes.    I thought much longer as no sooner did it appear she had reached an ending point than she started right back up on how much the US and UK have given to the world.

She came across as a schoolmarm trying to appeal to British and American egos at the expense of everyone else in the world.  At least she didn't try to lay claim to Britain creating the EU.  She did in regard to just about everything else.

She claims to be an internationalist, yet here she is presiding over the British withdrawal from the EU, a "hard exit" as she has called it, which would seem to indicate she is not looking for a "special relationship" with Europe.  She is having to deal with a lot of backlash in her own country, particularly from the north as Scotland has threatened to secede once again so that it can remain in the EU.  Hard to say what this will mean for Donald Trump's golf course.

Brits are decidedly cold on Trump.  Only 20 per cent have given him a favorable rating, unlike Russia where his popularity is almost as high as that of Vladimir Putin.  I simply can't understand why Britain is going through with this exit as it was a non-binding referendum, and many Brits have since expressed their remorse.  Americans had no choice in the outcome of the electoral college, which is binding.  Theresa May's political outlook seems to be: if life gives you lemons you make lemonade.  She was neither for Brexit nor do I think she has any special affinity for Donald Trump.

If the Labour Party wasn't so hopelessly in ruins, May might face a much harsher backlash in Britain, but one gets the sense she may come out of this maelstrom like Angela Merkel did the 2005 German elections.  No one gave Merkel any chance, but here she is nearly 12 years later still firmly ensconced in power.

The British PM made her digs at the Labour Party and even her former Tory leader, David Cameron, vowing a new constructive approach to foreign policy, as she decried the failed foreign wars of the recent past, namely Iraq and Libya.  She made it clear though that she strongly supported NATO, highlighting her resolve to protect the Eastern border against Russia.  Not sure how this will square with the "special relationship" Donald has cultivated with Vladimir Putin.

Mostly, it appeared she was just trying to get on Trump's good side, but it is hard to say what the Donald thinks.  He has developed a much warmer relationship with Nigel Farage, who heads the alt-right conservative party UKIP, making for a very odd menage-a-trois.  Add in "Pootie," and it looks like Theresa will be making the coffee.

It is hard to get any feeling of security out of all this.  Folks in Eastern Europe are notably worried and counting on Great Britain to at least hold NATO together.  There isn't much the US can gain from Britain than it already gets, so whatever trade deals emerge from this meeting will most likely be a reaffirmation of what already exists.  Theresa's role appears mostly to convince Donald of the importance of NATO and why the US should continue to supply the lion's share of resources to this alliance.  When it comes to costs, Trump looks at the bottom line.  Right now, only five countries are meeting the minimum requirement of 2 per cent of GDP spent on defense.

It really shouldn't matter to Trump, as the US will spend that amount of money anyway.  He seems to think our military is a "disaster" and badly in need of an overhaul.  I don't think this is a view shared by his generals.  The Donald has said repeatedly he will not honor any agreement unless other countries pay their dues, treating NATO like some kind of country club where you get booted if you don't pay your green fees.  One of the deadbeat countries is Canada, although it has nothing particularly to fear from Russia, unlike the Eastern European NATO members.

Pootie has long wanted NATO to cease and desist its training exercises in Eastern Europe.  He is most upset over the recent mobilization of tanks and troops in Poland and the Baltic countries.  He has repeatedly "buzzed" American warships in the Baltic Sea, claiming they were too close to Kaliningrad, where Russia's nuclear submarine fleet is parked.  He also continually encroaches on the airspace of Baltic countries in response to the NATO fighter jets deployed here.  All this feels ominously like the first stages of war.

One would feel a little more comfort if Donald carried out his foreign diplomacy in a normal manner, not announcing himself via twitter like he did to the President of Mexico.  In a span of 24 hours he had virtually undone a 20-year trade agreement between the two countries, walking it back only slightly.  Since Donald decided to go rogue on NAFTA, a number of top level state department officials have resigned, which doesn't bode well for a smooth transition of power.

You have to wonder what Barry is thinking as he relaxes with his family in the Caribbean.  His Foreign Policy legacy, which he is very proud of, is being shredded right before his eyes.  Even that secret little gift packet for Palestine has been held up by the Trump administration.  Nothing is escaping these guys' attention.

We can only hope that Theresa May provides some kind of calming influence on Donald, who right now feels publicly spurned by the media and seems to be lashing out at everyone.  He couldn't even get through a simple White House interview with ABC's David Muir without castigating the media.  If there is any special relationship between the UK and the US, now is the time to offer some much needed maternal guidance.

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