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Friday, 2 March, 2001, 11:55 GMT
UK/US: A special relationship?
Tony Blair met George W Bush for the first time this weekend. They shook hands and smiled for the cameras, but will it be a "special relationship"?Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan forged a close personal relationship in the 1980s, based on their shared views on government and freedom. Blair and Bill Clinton were also ideologically close.
The UK has always thought of the US as its oldest and closest ally. Yet many believe that Britain needs the help and support of the US more than America needs the UK.
Simon, UK/ Naturalized US citizen
I'm a middle-aged mom, living in New England. I had the pleasure of living in England for two years in my youth and certainly feel a "special relationship" on a personal level, as well as appreciating the larger historical commonalties. I hope my son, and British children, will also explore their common heritage. I'm saddened by the negative tone of so many of the comments. Over the next decades I think it will be all the more important to genuinely try to understand people from other parts of the world. If the British and Americans can't try to do a good job of it and are so quick to feel aggrieved, heaven help us all.
Someone once said, "Nations don't have friends, only interests" and I think both the Americans and British need to take this to heart.
To the extent that our interests coincide we should strive to be effective partners. But to the extent that they don't I don't think either nation should be influenced by emotional ties to the past or sentimentalism. Both the US and the UK have an obligation to their citizens to advance their own best interests regardless of whether those coincide with the interests of the other country.
As for economics - yes, there is business innovation still to be learned from America.
But Americans should look hard at their own country before they trumpet its riches. I travel extensively throughout Europe and the US on business. In Europe I see beautiful, well-preserved cities, cool places to eat, drink and dance, great shopping and tidy, well looked after homes. America, however, features bitterly divided, poor, ghettoised cities, sky-high crime rates, racism and something called trailer-parks full of poor people who live in caravans because they can't afford a real home! America boasts some very successful corporations, but these seem to put nothing back into America and benefit a few stockholders only.
Why do people feel the need to make a choice between the USA and Europe? Surely it is in our interests to nurture our relationships with both. Let us use our common language and shared history to maintain strong links with the US. Let us also make the most of our common culture and heritage to strengthen bonds with our partners in Europe. And let us not forget the other countries of the Commonwealth, with whom we also have "special" relationships of various kinds. The modern era of globalisation demands a new approach to foreign policy - we must learn to truly co-operate with other countries on equal terms, neither submitting to their dictates nor seeking to control their policies. Let us be friends to all the nations of the world and servants to none.
The special relationship between the UK and the US has nothing to do with our being their lap dogs, and indeed we are nothing of the sort. What cynical, snide and ridiculous accusations such opinions are. We do not always agree with the US and neither do we always follow their lead politically or economically. For example, our environmental policies are quite different. The fact is that the USA and the UK are old friends and have maintained an alliance that has stood the test of time. It is based on mutual trust, cultural similarities and ideologies. We act in concert when it serves the interests of both nations, and abstain when it does not. Frankly, closer ties with the most powerful economy on the planet can only be a good thing.
Friend, Brazil (living in UK)
I believe there is a "special relationship" between the people of the US and UK. I am a naturalised US citizen and for 20 years have been constantly impressed by the average American's desire to know more about my former country and her people. There is a genuine desire to learn more. Many Americans want to travel to the UK as many have family ties going back several generations and I think it is wrong to try and push an Us vs Them mentality.
Everyone has summed up our minor partner role in this "special relationship" very well. The reason is that it appears to suit the Foreign Office and panders to the UK faction that loathes and detests Europe on principle.
The US and UK are inter-dependent like no other large countries.
But - Britain's independence as a powerful nation has been repressed by its giant friend, and the US is fundamentally an exploitative money-based culture. Post-WWII the US stole from Europe rocket, nuclear, jet, electronic computer and other technology. They waited for Europe to self-destroy before getting involved and did not share the technology. Thus, they are our friends, but we need to be independent and strong by co-operating more closely with our equally important friends in Europe.
Tom O'D, UK
You scornfully bash the USA who saved you in two world wars and without whom you could not have succeeded in the Falklands, and somehow imagine that your friends are the French who won't even import your beef, and the Germans from whom we had to rescue you twice! The only real friends you might have in Europe are the Dutch and the Danes, but they won't be of much help militarily.
Yes, there is a special relationship, rooted in language, history, law and values. In contrast, you have nothing in common with Europe. They disdain you for not being European, or haven't you noticed?
Though no one believes that any nation acts with complete altruism, at least Britain and America try to make the world a better place, even if it is from our western-centric view of civilisation. People accuse the USA of being overly patriotic, capitalistic and arrogant; of course, Europe, with its unelected executive body and "nanny-state" laws is the epitome of altruism and self sacrifice!
Every nation in the western hemisphere is capitalistic and self-serving, Europeans are simply miffed because the USA does it better than we do. We are not lap dogs to the Americans, we are partners in a long and very close friendship based on common culture, language and interests. The advent of the internet and satellite communications makes geographical distances irrelevant and we have as much right to be allied with the USA - which has consistently stood by and supported the UK in the past - than we do with Europe, which has never, ever served the interests of the British people.
Here's how "special" the relationship is. The American public thinks quite highly of the British people and reminisces with pride at how the two countries worked together to solve common problems. On the other hand, many of the UK citizenry (at least the contributors to this board) analyse their problems by stating either "at least we're not as bad as the States" or "just another example of us being too much like the States". It is really quite sad that important issues have to be discussed relative to the US. Such impotent thinking won't solve any British problems and will most surely add more hate to an increasingly one-sided love-hate relationship.
I believe the US and the UK are the only reliable guardians of Western values in the world today. How dreadful for such a great nation such as the United Kingdom to surrender its magnificent sovereignty and unique liberties to a historically corrupt Europe. The "natural alliance" is between the US and the UK (and the Commonwealth nations). We share a common respect for the law and fairness. The historic duplicity and barbarism of France and Germany, respectively, is beneath the UK.
Toby Jones, UK
The American people have been paying dearly to provide all of Europe with the freedoms they so rightly cherish. We ask for little in return except a little support when the rest of the world scorns us because we have the audacity to support the rights of individuals wherever they live. Most thinking Brits understand that the future lies across the Atlantic and refuse to get on board the tired train of Europe's decaying nations.
The special relationship between Great Britain and the United States certainly does exist and, without doubt, is worth cultivating as it is beneficial to both countries.
The common bond of language binds our countries together as does a shared history and each country brings complimentary strengths to the relationship. How much better that relationship than the never ending squabbling of our European neighbours.
The English speaking countries of the world mostly share a heritage that could at this time of world political re-alignment be used as the foundation of a grouping which could take a lead in world affairs.
The US and Britain has a "special" relationship because it has stood the test of time. Unfortunately, Britain is caught between a rock and a hard place, not knowing whether to move more towards the US or European spheres of influence. If Britain leans towards America, Europe accuses us of being America's "servant". Yet if we lean towards Europe, America accuses us of deserting them and running the risk of destroying Nato. We can't afford to loose either relationship, but each must be equally strong. At the moment, I think the Government is doing a pretty good job of keeping each side as happy as possible.
Why do we strive towards the American way of life. The US is the most disgraceful nation when it comes to patriotism, capitalism and the nanny state. All our close relationship with them has done is made us the second worst. Deplorable.
Special relationship? Yes of course there is, USA says "jump", UK government says "how high".
We are the puppet, and the US pulls the strings, that's how special it is.
Of course there is a special relationship between Britain and America. Militarily, we needed the USA in 1939 just as much as they needed us in Vietnam. As for economic issues, both countries share a lack of common values, like commitment to social justice, ecological responsibility, and sense of humility towards our neighbours. Long live the special relationship, and let the barely adequate times roll!
We should give the so called "special relationship" the "benefit of the doubt"; we are a shadow of our former selves, but we do serve the purpose of being USA's biggest "aircraft carrier" (strategically valuable for Europe and the Middle East), and we do help each other out when the chips are really down.
There's no doubt that a special relationship does exist, and it should be fostered. In the event of a conflict, I'm sure Britons would sooner trust the US as an ally rather than any European country. Few countries in the northern hemisphere would share Britain's sense of fair play as much as the US and Canada.
Gavin Elliott, UK
How special will the relation be when the Americans obtain from the World Trade Organisation the right to tax European (including British) products in retaliation for Europe (and I think British) refusal to import American hormone-grown beef?
A good relationship is great (especially for trade) as long as the two countries don't turn into the bullies that make life hell for everyone else in the class. What we need is a teacher to instil discipline, but I don't see the UN moving to discipline immoral acts by the UK and US anytime soon. Blair should put his foot down. I'm sure our European neighbours would back him up.
A. Young, UK
We share a common language, a common culture and political values. As a consequence, we have similar national interests. All this adds up to a special relationship. Clearly, our people have not always agreed and our alliance has often been difficult but these problems pale to insignificance when one considers the areas in which we are in general agreement (security and trade for example).
Like many Americans, I have a great admiration, respect and affection for the UK and her people. I place great value in the views and advice of our English cousins.
Get over it people! This is the 21st century - not imperial Britain!
Michael Gahan, Ireland
The only relationships which America regards as "special" are those which benefit America. Nothing wrong with that, but it would be foolish to pretend otherwise. The day we try to stop American companies shipping GM produce here, for example, is the day we find out just how special the relationship is.
At least the shop assistants don't look the other way when you speak English in America as once happened to me in Germany. What could define a special relationship better than a common language and cultural values?
Paul R, Wales
Will the media please stop fawning over America! We have a lot more in common with Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Don't let us forget that the Americans need us for their early warning radar stations. As NMD comes on line, they will be needing us more.
There is indeed a special relationship between the US and the UK. In addition to the political and military ties, there are shared cultural and historical bonds as well. Most intelligent Americans view the UK as our nation's chief partner in the world. I for one would love to see more economic ties and shared interests between us.
There will always be a special relationship between the UK and the US based on a commonality in language, history and culture. I've travelled a great deal throughout Europe and Asia, and I automatically feel more at ease with someone from Peterborough or Pwllheli than I do with someone from Paris or Prague. What does tend to get under my skin is my fellow-countrymen's ongoing hubris in all things political, military or cultural. We have a lot to learn from Britain (and the world), if we would only stop and listen.
Mike Hodges, England
I am an American from Ohio, and I place a great value upon the Anglo-American alliance. Both the UK and the US need one another. The UK is our only ally with any considerable military powers; HMS's Illustrious, Invincible, and ARK Royal are the only aircraft carriers possessed by European allies. Let me assure our British cousins that Americans value your friendship and well wishes far more than anyone else in Europe, and we look eagerly forward to making the world a safer and better place through continued Anglo-American endeavours.
Having lived in the UK for ten years, I know that many Brits feel pretty cheesed off about how long it took the Americans to enter the war, and how they let nearly the entire continent get taken over by the Nazis before they intervened.
Regardless of who is in charge we are linked by history. If we choose to ignore our past then we are only inclined to repeat the mistakes of our past.
Michael Thomas, UK
What does America do for Britain?
There is no argument for America staying in Europe or NATO continuing to exist. The Cold War is over and it's high time Europe defended itself.
I think some of the commentators on this page have been watching too many Hollywood movies.
The US exploited us during the Second World War by asset stripping us and double crossed us by refusing to share the bomb.
We owe the US nothing.
The UK and the US are cultural kin. We share a bond that is undermined with this stupid obsession with joining Europe when in reality we should be ditching the monarchy and joining the U.S.
We have no cultural bond with Germany or France save years of antagonism and mistrust often justified in both directions. Better to ally with your true friends that try to trust your old enemies.
John B, UK
Having lived in both the UK and US recently it is interesting to compare the different perceptions. UK public opinion tends to see Britain as the lap-dog, falling in with US orders to legitimise US foreign policy. In the US, many people accuse Britain of being the international bully, forcing its big brother into scraps it would rather avoid. I can what the UK gains from the US view, but what does the UK gain from being a lap-dog apart from making itself a terrorist target? Didn't Blair ask for the raids on Iraq and help in Kosovo?
The US has a special relationship with the UK, like a child has to it's mother.
The US was a bit of a rebellious child in it's youth but still it feels most comfortable when it has it's mothers approval on the world stage.
The fact is, that we are, and always have been, much closer to the United States in terms of our aims and ideologies than Europe; both the US and UK need each other militarily, and in terms of trade and friendship. Long live their relationship.
Masood Soorie, UK
I agree that at this particular moment the US needs UK support more than we do American. As has already been stated we provide the US with much needed legitimacy. Why do all UK leaders believe the "special relationship is the cornerstone of UK foreign policy? There is nothing wrong in having divergent opinions we are as a member of the EU and a sovereign nation going to have different opinions and interests. We should realise the Cold War is over and stop incriminating ourselves in America's mistakes.
I'm a Brit working in the USA. There is no doubt that a special relationship exists between us and our cousins here in the States. The Presidential/ Prime Ministerial discussions are the overt, public manifestations of the relationship. On a day to day working basis, we Brits are treated with respect and trust. It's a fine place to work!
The UK should be aligning itself fully with Europe where it belongs. We should maintain a good relationship with the US but do not need to back it up in all the military nonsense it gets up to. Maybe we should get rid of their awful fast food and TV programmes while we are at it!
We'd like to have their money and they'd like to have our accent. That's about as far as the relationship really goes!
Given the choice Euro or US? I would far, far rather be aligned to the US. We have so much more in common with the them, language being the greatest. The only thing we have in common with Europe is that for the last 1000 years, on and off, we have been fighting them!
The US finds Britain useful but she doesn't need us. We're a useful bridgehead into Europe and that's it. The Special Relationship certainly does exist but only as long as the Prime Minister is at the President's beck and call. It would more in Britain's interests to get out of bed with the US elephant, and into alliance with a collection of countries more our equal - in other words the European Union.
Firstly, why would a big and powerful country like the US have any great need for Britain? Although I believe it is imperative to have a close ally in that part of the world, our necessity for alliance with Britain is more out of our military needs such as bases and reconnaissance. Britain on the other hand, also does not really need the US since it has its European neighbours. Yet, we must never forget our history which reflects the strong bond these 2 countries created during WW I and WWII. Britain needed our help desperately then, and the US was there to help. Not the other way around. The powerful British Empire has long since gone.
When I was living in the US nobody had heard of the so-called "special relationship" between the UK and the US. They saw us as one of several important close allies but nothing more "special" than Canada or Japan. Our relationship with the US is very important because of our joint involvement in many organisations as well as having a (vaguely) common language. However the UK should remember that it is has greater influence in Europe than it does in Washington.
The US needs us more than we need them. All the time we are prepared to send a couple of our fighter planes off on US bombing raids (of dubious morality) they can be considered to be acting as an "international" force, rather than the self-appointed world policemen (bullies?) that they are. What do we NEED them for?
Definitely. The sacrifice shown by the American people in both World Wars should be enough to make the whole of Europe eternally grateful. People often forget that we have the Americans to thank for our freedom.
I think the UK needs to be wary of aligning itself too closely with the US just now. Since Bush took office, it seems the US has taken an alarmingly arrogant, self-centred position on its interaction with the rest of the world. The Cold War is long past, and it's good that it is. I do not feel it is appropriate for the US to start adopting policies reminiscent of that era. As such, I think it would harm the UK to be too closely associated with them by 'virtue' of this special relationship of ours.
It is very easy to be a "fair weather friend", so we should look at the last time Britain really needed help. In the Falklands it was America who can to our aid and not our so-called European friends. Please let us not forget this lesson.
The US is always looking for someone to agree
with them on their foreign 'exploits' and Britain
fulfils that role. As China said, we are their
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