Newly appointed Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was hosting his US counterpart in London for a bilateral meeting where they discussed the relationship between the two countries on defence.

Williamson said:

“Well, it’s an enormous privilege to welcome you here to the Ministry of Defence.  In a few days’ time, both our nations will mark Remembrance Sunday.  The UK has been the United States’ closest partner for a century now, from fighting in the trenches in the First World War to tackling Daesh today.

So, my first bilateral meeting with Secretary Mattis is a chance to continue strengthening our special relationship. So, we’ve got a pretty busy agenda, I think, ahead of us, but making sure that we’re actually being able to not just back up our relationship with words, but also in actions and deeds. 

And we face some major threats, going forward.  We have to be constantly vigilant to defeat the Daesh death cult. This year, they’ve murdered citizens in New York, Manchester and London.  We must continue to confront increased Russian aggression, and deal with the disruptive and dangerous behavior of North Korea.  We must never, ever flinch in the face of aggression.

Second, we need to sharpen our future capability.  We’re proud that the United Kingdom is one of only six NATO countries hitting the 2 percent defence spending target, and today, we’re using our budget to spend 178 billion pounds on everything from F-35 fighters to some of the greatest aircraft carriers in the world.  As we look to the future, we want to turn shared challenges into greater opportunities to work together.

Finally, we will be bolstering our shared prosperity.  We’re proud that the U.S. and U.K.’s defence trading relationship is worth 3 billion pounds a year, and we want to build on that as part of our relationship as a global Britain.

The United Kingdom and the United States, when we are united, quite simply, the world is a safer and better place. And let us make sure that unity continues going forward.”

The following is a transcript of the speech given by Secretary of Defense Mattis:

“Secretary of State for Defense, I would just tell you, Secretary Williamson, that we are committed to everything that you just said; specifically, to strengthening what you and I have inherited here in our respective jobs.

I appreciate you hosting me on my third visit to London as secretary of defense.  And I congratulate you on the appointment, the confidence that your country, your prime minister, your queen have placed in you, because your forces are a treasure — a national treasure to the U.K., but one we respect greatly.

And it’s good to continue a conversation after being together for the last two days as well in Brussels.  And thank you for the U.K.’s efforts to strengthen deterrence in the North Atlantic, modernize NATO, and increase contributions to defeat ISIS, which I saw in action the last two days at the ministerial.

As Churchill said in 1946, “Should our two nations join forces and convictions in what is called fraternal association, the high road to the future will be clear, not only for us, but for all; and not only for our time, but for a century to come.”  And that is the responsibility, I think, that you and I now must demonstrate in how we carry out these jobs.

And in that spirit, the U.K. and U.S. maintain an unmatched, enduring special relationship that is not an artificial or historical artifact.  In fact, it’s a pathway for our future.  Its exemplified common values and democratic ideals, which I look forward to reinforcing alongside you.

Our countries have more than 200 years of shared history, over a century of shared battlefield experiences, and a robust record of diplomatic cooperation in support of our security interests.  And from the Marne in World War I, to the beaches of Normandy in World War II, to the Chosin Reservoir in the Korea campaign, to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria today, our forces are proud to stand alongside yours to face down any enemy.

Today, we face what you just described as a volatile and dynamic security environment, and we stand united in condemning North Korea’s aggressive provocation and violation of international law, the Russian Federation’s violation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, and Iran’s destabilizing influence across the Middle East.  Together, we send a message of trans-Atlantic resolve.

In the face of today’s challenges, we value the U.K.’s leadership on the European and global stages.  For many years, Britain has galvanized the international community through the power of its moral voice, and today, I look forward to strengthening that special relationship in defense of our way of life.”


  1. Excellent. Now all we need, Mr Williamson is a defence budget that properly provides the means to back the words so that we can continue with what is a very special relationship.

    No more cuts, no more reductions, no more crazy, albeit speculative ideas about destroying our amphibious capability and in particular an absolute commitment to keeping our Royal Marines at their current strength.

    If we have to prove our willingness to any other country in this troubled world it is surely the United States. I am sure they will not take kindly to another round of penny pinching.

  2. Cringe inducing Load of shite.

    This ‘special relationship’ is a work of fiction that the post WWII political class in the UK cling to for reasons best known to themselves.

    The Americans would cut us loose in a heart beat if it suited their strategic interests.

    As the old saying went, ‘No allies, just interests’.

    • If you were involved with military or intelligence communities you would not say such rubbish.

      It’s a free country so troll away.

    • Thank you for such a meaningful and coherent contribution. Political classes? you mean the people who post here? Give me a break.

      • Mike Saul I agree with most of what I read from you but the US has only one special relationship and that’s Israel. I’ll ask a question to all of you that I hope you think about. How did the special relationship work in Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, Suez, Aden, Borneo, Belize and the Falklands ? When in all of history has the US fought alongside the UK because of the ‘Special Relationship’ If you want to judge the true value of it I would suggest you read up on Suez and the Falklands.

        • I think things have moved on in recent times, given the threat from global terrorism and the UKs excellent intelligence services the US now recognises us as an important partner in the fight against terrorism.

          The US and Israeli partnership is also one for them but for different reasons.

        • David Steeper – Nail on the head over Israel (and Suez was a related matter as well). It is an interesting relationship where the nation being aided comprehensively by $ Bns in cash every January actually dictates US Middle East policy. It is a hard political fact that no Candidate criticising Israel will ever become a President. I wouldn’t call it a ‘Special Relationship’ it is more a ‘Curious and Incestuous Relationship’

          It was right you listed Palestine first in your observation of how little the USA turns out for us in OUR need contrary to how we turn out EVERY time for their needs. This conflict started within hours of the end of WWII. The two key Allies then became enemies thanks to the US funding of Stern and other Zionist gangs who murdered and terrorised the resident Palestinian Arab population. (they of course never touched Palestinian Jewish citizens). The UK of course being the Mandated Protecting Power was caught in the middle trying to defend those Palestinians from the terrorists. A task it had carried out successfully for some 30 years and it wasn’t called ‘The Palestinian Protectorate’ for nothing. That protection cost the best part of 740 UK service lives (including a Cousin I never knew being born in 1947 the month after he was murdered in Jerusalem). Lives lost to the interference of the USA in its first act as a Superpower in its first of many failed Foreign Policy Initiatives. I once asked an American colleague (when in the USA) to name one successful US Foreign Policy. He couldn’t.

          As an aside it always makes me puke when Israelis throw the word ‘terrorist’ about when referring to people trying to stop their land being stolen and yet their state was born out of a vicious terrorist campaign.

          Each item on the rest of your list each has a damning story to tell about how the USA can and will turn away when it suits them. I relate this as fact not as criticism as they are free to do as they please. But I would prefer for them to be honest and say so rather than spout glossy superlatives and then stab us in the back.

        • Steeper if you want debate the Special Relationship. Do not bring up the Falklands. America’s relationship with the UK gave Britain weapons and intel. While insuring America’s nonintervention, when traditional policy (Monroe Doctrine) would have been to side with the country in America’s hemisphere in all things.

          Palestine well when the US Army rolled into the death camps in Germany how do you think think the American public to, “Displaced Persons Camps,” on Cyprus. Plus you would have to add for Israel’s favor in America one value is treasured above all else Loyalty.

          In addition Malaya, Kenya and Aden right or wrong Americans would always have viewed those as colonial matters and not their affair at best.

          • Elliott – regarding the Falklands the US gave us diddley squat Intelligence as they had no satellite capability (of the required type) over the South Atlantic in 1982. The Norwegians apparently did have access and they gave us key intelligence. We also got direct Intell. from friendly South American countries.

            As regards weapons yes the USA allowed us to re-supply Sidewinders direct from US stocks rather than wait for the longer UK purchase / supply chain. But we got nothing else. And please don’t mention the Iwo Jima.

            And shall we discuss the way Haig and Kirkpatrick were busy doing all they could to help the Argies achieve their goals? Or how Reagan asked Thatcher to stop winning the ground war so Argentina could ‘save face’? After making sure the USA was officially ‘neutral’.

            And as for Hemisphere the USA is in two: Northern and Western – To which are you referring? Forgetting its traditional historic ties with the UK or its NATO ties

          • The traditional foreign policy of the United States is NO intervention by any Foreign power against ANY country in the Americas. First espoused in the Monroe Doctrine and Roosevelt Corollary then set into treaty by the Rio Pact. All of those are far older than NATO and required the US government to engage in VERY creative interpretations.

            The Western Hemisphere, the United States until relatively recently has seen itself as being a creature of the New World not the Old. A sentiment that since 03 is enjoying a bit of a Renaissance.

            As for Reagan asking Thatcher to lay off. The Falklands resulted in a weakening of the Junta, it was his view a continuing of hostilities would galvanize the Argentine population and escalate the war. Under those circumstances there were several outcomes 1: Argentine dictatorship being reinforced by an outside threat/wave the bloody shirt. 2: New government in Argentina becomes embittered continues war anyway. 3: Argentina collapses in civil war. In scenarios 1&2 the US would no longer be able to remain neutral in anyone’s favor long. A side would have to be picked. In scenario 3 someone would have to intervene, three guesses as to who.

    • mac – well thanks for a contribution of precisely nothing. But oddly enough you point out the reality that keeps us close to the USA – It is in their interest to have access to our world beating intelligence on the widest aspects of security. We are not a key player in ‘5 Eyes’ for nothing. I dare say like all our relationships with the USA they get more out of it than we get from them but such is the way of the world. We don’t kid ourselves.

  3. So, Williamson trotting out same old boilerplate nonsense as Farron, hiding behind a frigged and discredited 2% without discussing capability.

    For military & security ties its true, the UK is the US special partner – but that lasts for as long as our defence spending allows us to do that.

    Otherwise there’s no such thing as the special relationship. Whatever pernicious nonsense Trump spouts, America has always been ruthless in pursuing its own interests first. Israel, Saudi, China, Germany to name a few are all far more important than UK.

    UK relationship with US suffers from Stockholm syndrome and we should grow out of it.

      • @Mike I understand your rejection of this, but when you spend time in Washington you pretty soon realise the truth of it. Yes the UK is important to the US, we provide added muscle and helpful international cover at times of crisis. But it doesn’t go any further than that inside the Beltway among the political class. We are politically important – up to a point. (Never mind the close personal ties our militaries have – that is not the issue.
        Remember, it’s explicitly ‘America First’.
        Best wishes Tim

          • Your views are your views but to describe the UK as a hostage to the US suffering Stockholm syndrome is complete and utter bollox.

            Both militaries and intelligence services work more closely together than ever before and that will continue.

            The US realised it cannot make the world secure by itself it needs reliable partners and the UK has global reach in many areas.

          • Mike,

            Are you deliberately ignoring my words?

            ‘For military & security ties its true, the UK is the US special partner’

            Seems to me exactly what you were saying – no?

            My point about Stockholm syndrome was not a military point but a wider political one because anytime in the business or geopolitical sphere will quickly disabuse you of any ‘special relationship’

  4. Cringe.

    In reality the UK’s dwindling defence capability is a laughing stock globally.

    If Britain didn’t have nukes, it would have nothing.

    • “Laughing Stock”

      Dear oh dear.

      “It would have nothing”

      You clearly know bugger all about high tech military and intelligence capabilities do you?

      • I know that 5 functioning “high tech” destroyers means nothing globally.
        I know that the couple of SSNs that are deployable on any given day does not shake the world.
        I know that a couple of squadrons worth of aging interceptors doesn’t make Russia or China quake.
        I know that 76,000 troops, a vastly disproportionate number of which being non-combat and/or the brass terrifies no one.
        I know that having fewer tanks than Switzerland has those of us not in the UK laughing our asses of.

        Come outside the Brit-bubble.

        Is Britain’s military feared?

        Is Britain’s military admired?
        Increasingly less so.

        Does anyone sane think the UK’s military is getting stronger?
        Lol…. absolutely not, it’s practically weakening by the day.

        So, if it makes you happy go to bed tonight stiff as a board at the thought of Blighty’s dozen or so “high tech intelligence” aircraft…. as if the rest of the world couldn’t match that.

        Be glad you have those nukes lads.
        Because remember, fewer tanks than Switzerland & a navy that the Russian Northern Fleet even today would annihilate with ease.

        You are very luck you have Daddy in Washington to help you.

        • Wow. Where to begin?

          195 countries in the world, and you’re talking like the UK is still a Superpower?

          Which country in South America is superior?
          With a wide range of capabilities, training, logistics, know how, technology?
          Name that nation please?

          Which in Africa?

          Which in Europe? France? Germany?

          Which in Asia excluding China and India? Japan possibly? South Korea
          possibly, with good reason with the threat on their doorstep.

          How many of them are superior to the British Armed Forces in equipment, training, experience, reputation? Not many.

          How many have the wide range of capabilities that the UK has?

          You cannot pick on individual things and bleat they have more. Switzerland has more tanks. Wow. Who cares?

          You seem to be comparing the UK to the Superpowers.
          When in fact you should be comparing to middle ranking powers – France / Germany / Japan / South Korea / Israel / etc.

          Lets take your comments in turn.

          “I know that 5 functioning “high tech” destroyers means nothing globally.”

          Compared to WHO? You cannot count Russia China USA India who are Superpowers. Why are you ignoring the rest of the RN?
          We could have more destroyers instead we have 2 Fleet Carriers. How many nations have carriers?
          Who has helicopters of the quality of Merlin?
          Who will have the F35?
          Who has the Light Infantry of the quality of our Royal Marines?
          Who has the equivalent of the Hydrographic Office?
          Who in Europe has a similar sized support arm as the RFA?
          How come nations send their ships to FOST?

          “I know that the couple of SSNs that are deployable on any given day does not shake the world.”

          I’d rather a couple than none at all, which is where most of the world is at regarding SSN’s, WHO has them? USA, Russia, China, France, India, UK.
          Perhaps you’d rather be amongst the rest of the world with none?
          With no more ability than an SSK?
          Would you prefer we had lots more SSK’s but no SSNs?
          Who has Spearfish?
          Who has TLAM?
          Who has Edy?

          “I know that a couple of squadrons worth of aging interceptors doesn’t make Russia or China quake.”

          5 Actually. And Typhoon is hardly ageing. Why do you think we should be worrying China or Russia ALONE? NATO would make mincemeat of Russia in a conventional war.
          You have not mentioned the rest of the RAF.
          Who has Strategic Lift like the UK?
          Who has a comprehensive suite of ISTAR assets like the UK?
          An article later on this site about 5 Eyes may help you. And it does not even scratch the surface of the UK’s capabilities in this field.

          “I know that 76,000 troops, a vastly disproportionate number of which being non-combat and/or the brass terrifies no one.”

          Why should we WANT to terrify anyone? Who you want us to invade?
          The UK is one of the few nations capable of deploying in Divisional size.
          Which should only happen in extremiss like WW3, with NATO.
          However the capability is there.

          “I know that having fewer tanks than Switzerland has those of us not in the UK laughing our asses of.”
          Not laughing at the UKSF Group though eh?
          And happy to be trained by British soldiers?
          Again why do we need 1000’s of Tanks?
          And who gives a monkeys if Switzerland has more than the UK? In THAT CASE why not list the things the UK has more of than Switzerland?

          “Is Britain’s military feared? No”

          Is ANYBODIES save the USA?

          “Is Britain’s military admired? Increasingly less so.”

          I guess all those dozens of nations sending people to be trained by the UK is imaginary then? Or the dozens of navies coming to Plymouth for FOST.
          I couldn’t give a toss if the UK is admired or not.
          Though strangely the world wants to come and live here….hmmm.

          “Does anyone sane think the UK’s military is getting stronger?
          Lol…. absolutely not, it’s practically weakening by the day.”

          Don’t think anyone has ever suggested that, so no, sadly.

          You seem fixated by numbers only, as if the UK should be a superpower going head to head with Russia.

          Yes the UK has a far smaller military than it should be.
          Yes HMG are starving the forces of cash.
          Yes we do not meet the 2%
          Yes we are hamstrung by the deterrent.

          But I’m not going to stand by while you slag off the armed forces of my country when they are a country mile better than the vast majority of the 195 nations of the world.

          • Daniele Mandelli – You just offered an utterly brilliant demolition of the usual naysayer negativity of which we see far too much on here and in commentary in general.
            I would love for this country to have 10% the pride and belief the Americans have in their country. Its especially sad when we have 100 times more reason to BE that proud than they do. As you so brilliantly expounded.

  5. An Even closer military relationship is the only rational way forward, as the political and military complexion begins to change in Europe. In terms of security, the formation of the EUDF will place great strains on NATO and how it will all integrate in the early years, is anyone’s bet? The US- British alliance needs to strengthen in order to offer a credible defence against an aggressive-minded Russia. A conglomerate of EU nations attempting to dilute its reliance on American might and influence, is to some extent understandable, especially under Trump’s management. Any active anti-US voices in Brussels will be very encouraged by the global concerns regarding Trump, and his antics, thus strengthening their aims.

    However, in historical terms, Trump is a passing tremor and the longterm European security is better served by the US & UK underwriting, any risks, with EU experimentation. Germany knows the lions share of the financial and manpower burden of the EUDF, will ultimately fall at the gates to Reichstag! I for one don’t understand why Germany appears to be so complicit in the creation of the new future force, when US /German bonds have been so strong for so many years? When the chips are down, I know who will answer the call.

    • The miscalculation there is Trump is a side effect not cause. Could he be a passing tremor? Possibly, but and this is a big one if Brussels continues on it’s path and it’s policy of whining then whoever succeeds Trump will be even more Anti-EU. Trump’s opinions come from a wave of resentment that has been growing in America since the 60s and especially since 2003. That the only beneficiary of American military commitment to Europe is Euro tax payers and welfare beneficiaries. All while EU governments engage in moral proselytizing to America on everything from Foreign Policy, Immigration, and Capital Punishment.

      Germany had a very damaged relationship with the US from the 60s to the early 80s. Helmut Kohl fixed it and made the US and Germany cooperate more than ever. Shcroeder and Merkel have pissed that away over Iraq and their petty EU dreams. Their is more apathy towards Europe right now than since 68-72.

      As to who will answer the call, America for the moment. Unless the Euro Federalists and socialists keep shooting their mouths off. In addition to refusing to go after terrorists.

  6. There is a”Special Relationship” between the US and the UK Military. We overly depend on the US for many things such as their weapon stockpiles, but most importantly it is there numbers or to put it bluntly boots on the ground that we rely on. On many major Operational Deployments we are generally subservient to their command structure, which brings in to conflict their much looser rules of engagement. We definitely punch above our weight with regard to the numbers we deploy or with the equipment we use, but this has always been the case.

    Successive UK Governments since the 1930’s have failed to invest in the military, unless we are going to war. Even then they have always left it to the last minute to sort – Korea being a fine example. We are an Island nation why do we need a large defensive force, ring any bells? It is not just a failing of the Tories or Labour, but the whole oversight and control system. Specifically, the lack of teeth that the Defence Committee or the Audit Office has when investigating decisions made by Whitehall or Ministers. There is a lack of culpability when poor decisions have been made by Ministers, Civil Servants or senior officers that have led to a capability loss or shortfall in procurement. Just don’t get me started on Chiefs of Staff who toe the party political line then decry it as soon as they leave! Each Government has a Defence Review, cancelling or watering down the previous Governments decisions then coming up with their own 5 year plan. The 5 year cycle does not work it has caused many of the issues we are facing today. No long term ship building policy, no long term aircraft development policy, no MBT development, the list goes on.

    There is a significant difference between the Military Special relationship and the Country to Country relationship. There is a very famous saying: “Business is War – you send out your soldiers every day and you want them to come home with prisoners. You want to salt the earth that your competitor is lurking on. You want to steal their market share. You want to destroy them and get their customers.” An example being Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Boeing, examine their market share within our military today. Closer to home, is BAE Systems, it has either bought out all the local competition or the competition has been subsumed due to Government policy. What happened to our Government run research labs, answer Qinetiq.

    To try and say that businesses are going to solve all problems and provide our military with the capability that is required, means you don’t understand the idea of business. Business is about return of capital, return of your shareholders’ capital, and winning. It’s that simple. So yes, we have a “Special Relationship” with the US but it only goes up to a point.

  7. Dave

    I agree that businesses are broadly in it for themselves – it is their reason for existing and even that gets confusing as a lot of businesses don’t even treat their owners (shareholders) with respect.

    I do think that there is a very good argument to set up a £10bn pa R&D budget for the UK that gives a wide variety of universities and companies the ability to get funds to create new intellectual property. Some of this could be humanitarian (clean water for instance), ecological (cleaner fuels) or communications (perhaps starting with military comms).

    Post Brexit we will need some form of seeding of the economy and I agree with many on this forum that as much military equipment as possible should be manufactured in the UK, but long term we also need to be creating new cutting edge products that are built in autonomous factories as this is the only way we can match china and others in manufacturing cost.

    So short term we can seed parts of the economy with military contracts and longer term create an economy that is a powerhouse of R&D with the government a key stakeholder in the patents that will then generate additional income.

  8. I do believe that the UK and US are strong partners at present. However, I don’t disagree with people suggesting that when it comes down to it, the US would turn away if it suited them. I’m much happier being friends with them than the Russians, but I think it would be naive to assume that they would “have our back” regardless of the situation. Countries don’t survive if they care too much about others when it isn’t in their own best interests. History shows how strong a partner the US is to other countries when it doesn’t want to be…

  9. That 2% achievement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. We got there by creative accounting/spin, not by increasing either spending or capability. What we urgently need is a reversal of troop, equipment & capability cuts. We must be able to defend our nation & interests in the event we’re ever let down by allies.
    Perish the thought, but how cwuld we fare if faced with an all-out war from our current nadir?
    How quickly could we train & equip 1/2-1 million troops? Build ships, aircraft, artilliary & AFVs? So much of our equipment has systems from abroad-how could we protect supplies with so few capable ships?

  10. Full court press scenario? Ships 2-3yrs for a T26 sized unit 20 months if the yards hit their stride and have worked out the kinks. Attack subs the bottle neck is reactors and stealth materials so maybe 25-32 months unless the RN builds diesels again then 20-24 months. Carriers difficult to calculate with only 2 examples made in the UK recently and the construction times went down between them so I can’t account for war production, assume less than 4.
    Artillery is easier. BAE would just have to import some tooling from it’s American holdings.
    AFVs wheeled ones easy. Tracked 2yrs at best before you saw any APC/IFVs. Tanks it would take the better part of 2-3yrs to get the Chally2s out of storage and ready for war. Producing new ones, pray to God the war doesn’t last that long probably 5-6yrs.
    Aircraft as long as you can get the components or substitutes you can get more Typhoons. Weapons for them well at least the idiots in both parties haven’t that business (yet).
    Men easy full scale war means National Service. 6-8 months for most jobs a year for more specialized ones. The problem is getting them enough gear. Otherwise you have a uniformed mob.

  11. Morning all
    Lots of points of view above but one of the reasons that the special relationship exists is one of necessity. We need them as much as they need us. Politically it gives the US legitimacy and a sounding board, a friendly view from outside the US. Militarily it gives them flexibility. Whilst large in size they cannot be everywhere at the same time (7th fleet for example) so having that relationship with the U.K. helps the load get shared. From submarine patrols to air policing patrols in Southern Europe we share responsibility – soon to be enhanced even further when the carriers come on line.
    When it comes to trust, the two militaries are side by side. From amphibious operations to airborne assaults we train with each other for a reason, when it all goes Pete Tong we don’t need to worry about who is stood next to us on the front line, we know who it will be. We will look at them, they will look at us and then we will just get on with what we are there to do – be an instrument of policy. There beers need to improve though (Coors Light – really?)


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