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On the 9th of November 2016 the world was shocked to realise that businessman and television personality Donald Trump was to be the President of the United States of America.

What are some of the longer term considerations countries like the United Kingdom have to make on the planning of events such as the election of Donald Trump to the White House, and what is to emerge for the UK over the longer term as a result from one of the most historically significant political events in history? Here I present some brief considerations as a result of the 2016 US presidency election with focus upon the three areas which are at the core of the UK / US ‘special relationship’; namely that of foreign policy, security and defence.

Donald Trump is known to be a controversial character. He’s unpredictable, outspoken and often comes across as uncontrollable to many including those within his very own Republican party. For Britain this could potentially present issues with the potential alignment with US foreign policy due to the difficulty such traits present for the planning and execution of a foreign policy stance.

The question is: how great is Downing Street’s appetite for giving up its relatively ‘stiff upper lip’ and approach to align with the potentially difficult stance the US may take to certain world events going forwards?

How would scenarios such as those we’ve seen with Russian military operations in Syria, the testing of nuclear weapons by North Korea and the willingness to continue developing a nuclear weapons arsenal by Iran play out with Donald Trump in the Oval Office?

Therefore, the ultimate question for Britain is how Downing Street and Whitehall capitalise on future developments? In relation to security policy Britain can shape its position around its capabilities as opposed to primarily examine likely outcomes to world events, as described above.

This is largely due to the British intelligence services being highly valued by allies and respected amongst non-allies around the world for its capabilities. Intelligence around the 9/11 terrorist attacks demonstrated an issue the US and many other agencies faced which due to the growth of social media and internet usage is continued to be faced today: that many intelligence services actually possess too much information to analyse and assess what information is ‘intelligent’ and what is not. So a key competence which gives Britain a leading intelligence role is the ability of our agencies to analyse information and separate the gold from the dross which subsequently enables the effective planning for intelligence operations. As a result of this many nations highly value a relationship with British intelligence agencies on the basis of sharing such abilities and information in order to gain their own upper hand.

A key consideration for the White House is how much value does it place on maintaining what is a good information flow between the British and American intelligence agencies? The answer is likely that this will continue to be strong between the US and UK.

But the future utilisation of Britain’s armed forces as a result of Downing Street’s decision whether to align with President-elect  Trump’s foreign policy pursuits warrants further consideration. As mentioned, but worth reiterating: Britain has to consider the position it wishes to adopt in a world outside the European Union, and also now with Donald Trump as US President-elect . However, the good relationships which Britain is building, and will continue to develop, with countries such as China, India, Brazil (largely based upon trade) could potentially be jeopardised with Britain taking a foreign policy position to align with the US in a direction that any of our trading partner countries could oppose. Therefore, Britain has to now more than ever be able to rationalise its contributions to international defence operations for this very reason and will have to carefully articulate the reasons behind any decision over what position it will take with regards to the use of its armed forces in any future conflict.

So, what of NATO? The question remains as to whether the US will place further pressure on member countries to meet the target of spending 2% of their GDP on defence, which Britain has committed to. However, with the US taking a prominent role in NATO exercises and combat operations; will President-elect Trump place greater emphasis on its NATO allies to take up a fairer share of the work involved with sustaining the credibility of the NATO alliance?

Many questions are to be asked as a result of the many considerations resulting from the election of President-elect Trump, however what is almost certain is that Britain and American will continue to maintain its ‘special relationship’ going forwards and perhaps it may even be enhanced.

9 COMMENTS

  1. For all Trump’s faults and there are many the man is an Anglophile, has maternal ties with the UK and has invested large sums of his own money here. Again whether you like the man or not Nigel Farage is very highly valued by the Trump people and can make the UK a positive influence on the new Administration. Trump greatly admires us for our Brexit vote. Given the very pro-UK attitudes of Trump & Co, as opposed to the negativity showed by Obama, we can certainly look to strike a good Trade Deal with the USA before too long. And more importantly with a Trump led USA standing beside us (behind us?) the EU will need to negotiate with the UK on a very constructive basis. The chances of the EU trying to ‘teach the UK a lesson’ are greatly diminished.

    And finally the USA respects people who are their allies but who have a different point of view on certain matters. Yes they will always look at what is in the best interests of the USA but when we said ‘No thanks’ to lobbing Tomahawks at Assad the USA followed our lead…

    • @chish

      I agree with you – I also like what DT is saying about NATO as the reality is that the US has been supporting Europe for far too long and the Germans in particular have taken the piss.

      I would like to see DT require a 3% commitment from Nato countries with at least 1% of that on equipment (not support and maintenance, but equipment) for me that would split down for the UK as roughly 1% equipment 1% Personnel 1% all other items.

      Its a pity to be so prescriptive but when you hear stories of some of the nations in NATO budget essentially being a pension fund then that is really taking the piss and DT needs to lay down the law. Otherwise I think he should withdraw.

      Whilst Bill Clinton was a fan of the UK – I do not believe the same can be said of Hilary and Mr Obama has delivered very little in his time and was not a friend of the UK.

  2. Whatever one feels about Donald Trump and his policies in general, I have to agree with him wholeheartedly when he says the freeloading must stop! People in the UK who advocate us abandoning our Nuclear weapons-especially those in the SNP must now face the reality that the USA may no longer be our defender of last resort. The CND mob have always had the luxury of indulging their fantasies of worldwide nuclear disarmament knowing that if the proverbial hit the fan,the Americans would be there to come to the rescue. In a similar vein its about time countries such as Ireland and New Zealand invested in Air Forces and stopped relying on their neighbours the UK and Australia for their Air defence

    • I agree, but such things must be done with a subtlety that I fear that the Donald lacks.

      Otherwise infighting and threats might well weaken the alliance more than any shortfall in spending ever did.

  3. Many from the media are heralding his election win in a very negative light for NATO. I couldn’t agree less.
    Past presidents, including Obama, have become increasingly annoyed at the majority of NATO countries not even coming close to the 2% of GDP figure. (I think Spain, Belgium and Italy are under or around the 1% mark which is just crazy. ) None of them have put it in such strong terms though: “If other NATO countries do not meet the 2% then perhaps we will not come to their defence.” Why should they? What possible excuse do countries have for not spending a measly 2% of GDP on defence???? Especially countries in Europe who are becoming increasingly concerned with a re-emerging Russia.

    Perhaps the same argument America has been making for years, put in to stronger terms by Trump is exactly the kick up the arse European politicians need to pull their fingers out and actually splash some cash on our over stretched and under equipped forces.

  4. I think the question has to be put on whether the US really is defending Europe anymore. For sure they did during the cold war, but it appears not to much anymore.

    According to wikipedia the US army has around 30k troops now in Europe, ignoring Navy personal which is more for other purposes.

    The US is now more focused on China than Russia. Even the UK’s focus is going more that way in order to be seen to support the US.

    So the question is whether NATO countries are underspending because they overly on the USA or is it that they don’t see the threat and so don’t really see the need to spend the money.

    The US like to point the finger at the other NATO countries, but mainly beacuse they want to be able to justify their insane military expenditure.

    • Yeah Steve I would agree with you to a certain extent. The US’s “pivot to Asia” has been well documented. However that was before the events of the past few years in Crimea and eastern Ukraine which would have certainly made them re assess to an extent.

      That can be seen with the increased NATO troop numbers in the Baltics. Of course these numbers at present are nothing more that a show of solidarity.

      I think you are right up until a few years ago both the US and European powers probably thought there was nothing at all to worry about on Europe’s eastern border, deployed troops and spent on defence accordingly.

      The situation has changed a little.

  5. Trump may have a degree of affinity with the UK, but not a lot for Europe and seems to be setting his sights on a cosier relationship with Russia. This in itself might be no bad thing, but Russian intentions on Europe may be to disable it by more subtle means than armed aggression. The influx of large numbers of malcontents from the middle east could well bring Europe to it’s knees. A Russian /Turkish accord could well be the way to achieve the desired result.
    The UK may well be quite literally out on it’s own as Europe founders and no amount of demanding others pay their way in NATO will change that; too late. We may have a special relationship with America, but a wolf at the door.

  6. The “special relationship” it the most patronising piece of BS in the history of the UK. we, that is UK and Europe should see the winner of the USA’s biggest gobshite competition as a wake up. We should look to ourselfs to defend our own borders and interests abroard and do so without the assumption that “daddy” will always have our backs. much or at least some of the weakness of our defence assets is down to that thinking. if we want the respect of aur US allies . Trump or whoever Europe and the UK needs to put its defence house back in good order. the USA will line up for the most part our interests are pretty much the same.

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