Guide Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan: A Very Political Special Relationship

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  4. Evoking Reagan and Thatcher, May hails new UK-U.S. 'special relationship' - Reuters

At crucial moments in the late s, her influence was considerable in shifting perceptions in President Reagan's Washington about the credibility of Mr Gorbachev when he repeatedly asserted his intention to end the Cold War. That mercurial, much-discussed phenomenon, 'the special relationship,' enjoyed an extraordinary revival during the s, with 'slips' like the US invasion of Grenada in apart, the Thatcher-Reagan partnership outstripping all but the prototype Roosevelt-Churchill duo in its warmth and importance.


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In his personal diary, George H. Bush wrote that his first impression of Thatcher was she was principled but very difficult. Bush also wrote that Thatcher, "talks all the time when you're in a conversation. It's a one-way street. Despite having developed a warm relation with Reagan, whom Bush had served under as vice president, Thatcher never developed a similar sense of camaraderie with Bush.

At the time that Bush took office in , Thatcher was politically under siege by both political opposition, as well as from forces within her own party. Bush was anxious to manage the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in a manner that would produce order and stability. Bush therefore used a trip to Brussels to demonstrate the heightened attention that his administration planned to allocate towards US-German relations.

Thus, rather than giving Thatcher the precedence which Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom were accustomed to receiving from US Presidents, he met with the president of the European Commission first, leaving Thatcher, "cooling her heels". This irritated Thatcher.

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In , after Bush proposed a reduction in US troops stationed in Europe, Thatcher lectured Bush on the importance of freedom. Bush came out of this encounter asking, "Why does she have any doubt that we feel this way on this issue? In the midst of the invasion of Kuwait , Thatcher advised Bush that, "this is no time to go wobbly. Thatcher lost her premiership in November However, to Bush's displeasure, she continued attempting to involve herself in diplomacy between the West and the Soviet Union.

Bush took particular offence to a speech Thatcher gave after leaving office in which she claimed that she and Ronald Reagan were responsible for ending the Cold War. In reaction to this speech, Helmut Kohl sent Bush a note proclaiming that Thatcher was crazy.

As had started becoming apparent in Thatcher's last few years of premiership, the Special Relationship had begun to wane for a time with the passing of the Cold War , despite intensive co-operation in the Gulf War. Thus, while it remained the case that "On almost all issues, Britain and the US are on the same side of the table. You cannot say that for other important allies such as France, Germany or Japan", [] it was also acknowledged that "The disappearance of a powerful common threat, the Soviet Union , has allowed narrower disputes to emerge and given them greater weight.

Republican administrations had typically worked well with Conservative governments, and the new Democratic President Bill Clinton intended to maintain the Special Relationship. But he and Major did not prove compatible. A genuine crisis in transatlantic relations blew up over Bosnia. By October , Warren Christopher was bristling that Washington policy makers had been too " Eurocentric ", and declared that Western Europe was "no longer the dominant area of the world". Seitz , demurred, insisting it was far too early to put a "tombstone" over the Special Relationship.

State Department official described Bosnia in the spring of as the worst crisis with the British and French since Suez. The nadir had now been reached, and, along with NATO enlargement and the Croatian offensive in that opened the way for NATO bombing , the strengthening Clinton-Major relationship was later credited as one of three developments that saved the Western alliance. John Major carried a lot of water for me and for the alliance over Bosnia. I know he was under a lot of political pressure at home, but he never wavered.

He was a truly decent guy who never let me down. We worked really well together, and I got to like him a lot.

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A rift opened in a further area. Justice Department and the FBI all opposed the move on the grounds that it made the United States look "soft on terrorism" and "could do irreparable damage to the special relationship". Patrick's Day , despite the fact the paramilitaries had not agreed to disarm. In November , Clinton became only the second US president ever to address both Houses of Parliament , [] but, by the end of Major's premiership, disenchantment with the Special Relationship had deepened to the point where the incoming British ambassador Christopher Meyer banned the "hackneyed phrase" from the embassy.

The election of British prime minister Tony Blair in brought an opportunity to revive what Clinton called the two nations' "unique partnership". At his first meeting with his new partner, the president said: "Over the last fifty years our unbreakable alliance has helped to bring unparalleled peace and prosperity and security.


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  5. It's an alliance based on shared values and common aspirations. Co-operation in defence and communications still had the potential to embarrass Blair, however, as he strove to balance it with his own leadership role in the European Union EU. Bush in , further served to highlight the Special Relationship. Despite their political differences on non-strategic matters, their shared beliefs and responses to the international situation formed a commonality of purpose following the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.

    Blair, like Bush, was convinced of the importance of moving against the perceived threat to world peace and international order, famously pledging to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with Bush:. This is not a battle between the United States of America and terrorism, but between the free and democratic world and terrorism.

    We therefore here in Britain stand shoulder to shoulder with our American friends in this hour of tragedy, and we, like them, will not rest until this evil is driven from our world. In a speech to the United States Congress , nine days after the attacks, Bush declared "America has no truer friend than Great Britain. Blair's presence at the presidential speech remains the only time in U. Congress, a testimony to the strength of the U.

    Following that speech, Blair embarked on two months of diplomacy, rallying international support for military action. Blair's leadership role in the Iraq War helped him to sustain a strong relationship with Bush through to the end of his time as prime minister, but it was unpopular within his own party and lowered his public approval ratings. Some of the British Press called Blair "Bush's poodle. Russian popular artist Mikhail Nikolayevich Zadornov mused that "the position adopted by Britain towards America in the context of the Iraq War would be officially introduced into Kama Sutra.

    The Lebanon War also exposed some minor differences in attitudes over the Middle East. The strong support offered by Blair and the Bush administration to Israel was not wholeheartedly shared by the British cabinet or the British public. On 27 July, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett criticised the United States for "ignoring procedure" when using Prestwick Airport as a stop-off point for delivering laser-guided bombs to Israel.

    Although British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated his support for the United States on assuming office in , [] he appointed ministers to the Foreign Office who had been critical of aspects of the relationship or of recent US policy. Prior to his election as US president in , Barack Obama , suggesting that Blair and Britain had been let down by the Bush administration, declared: "We have a chance to recalibrate the relationship and for the United Kingdom to work with America as a full partner.

    On meeting Brown as president for the first time in March , Obama reaffirmed that "Great Britain is one of our closest and strongest allies and there is a link and bond there that will not break This notion that somehow there is any lessening of that special relationship is misguided The relationship is not only special and strong but will only get stronger as time goes on.

    The Special Relationship was also reported to be "strained" after a senior U. State Department official criticised a British decision to talk to the political wing of Hezbollah , complaining that the United States had not been properly informed. In June the special relationship was reported to have "taken another hit" [] after the British government was said to be "angry" [] [] over the failure of the US to seek its approval before negotiating with Bermuda over the resettlement to the British overseas territory [] of four ex- Guantanamo Bay inmates wanted by the People's Republic of China.

    In August , the Special Relationship was again reported to have "taken another blow" with the release on compassionate grounds of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi , the man convicted of the Lockerbie Bombing. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "it was absolutely wrong to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi", adding "We are still encouraging the Scottish authorities not to do so and hope they will not". Obama also commented that the release of al-Megrahi was a "mistake" and "highly objectionable".

    In March , Hillary Clinton's support for Argentina 's call for negotiations over the Falkland Islands triggered a series of diplomatic protests from Britain [] and renewed public scepticism about the value of the Special Relationship. British officials were therefore irritated by the implication that sovereignty was negotiable. Later that month, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons suggested that the British government should be "less deferential" towards the United States and focus relations more on British interests. But the use of the phrase 'the special relationship' in its historical sense, to describe the totality of the ever-evolving UK-US relationship, is potentially misleading, and we recommend that its use should be avoided.

    On David Cameron being appointed as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after coalition talks between his Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats concluded on 11 May , President Obama was the first foreign leader to offer his congratulations. Following the conversation Obama said:. As I told the prime minister, the United States has no closer friend and ally than the United Kingdom, and I reiterated my deep and personal commitment to the special relationship between our two countries — a bond that has endured for generations and across party lines.

    The Search for a Brexit-Era Margaret Thatcher

    Foreign Secretary William Hague responded to the President's overture by making Washington his first port of call, commenting: "We're very happy to accept that description and to agree with that description. The United States is without doubt the most important ally of the United Kingdom. It is one looking to the future from combating violent extremism to addressing poverty and conflict around the world. The Christian Science Monitor observed that a "rhetorical prickliness" had come about from escalating Obama administration criticism of BP—straining the Special Relationship—particularly the repeated use of the term "British Petroleum" even though the business no longer uses that name.

    The two expressed unity in a wide range of issues, including the war in Afghanistan. During the meeting, Obama stated, "We can never say it enough.

    Evoking Reagan and Thatcher, May hails new UK-U.S. 'special relationship' - Reuters

    The United States and the United Kingdom enjoy a truly special relationship," then going on to say, "We celebrate a common heritage. We cherish common values. And above all, our alliance thrives because it advances our common interests. Cameron further stated that, "from the times I've met Barack Obama before, we do have very, very close — allegiances and very close positions on all the key issues, whether that is Afghanistan or Middle East peace process or Iran.

    Reagan and Thatcher

    Our interests are aligned and we've got to make this partnership work. Cameron has tried to downplay the idealism of the Special Relationship and called for an end to the British fixation on the status of the relationship, stating that it's a natural and mutually beneficial relationship. He said, " I am unapologetically pro-America. But I am not some idealistic dreamer about the special relationship.

    I care about the depth of our partnership, not the length of our phone calls.

    I hope that in the coming years we can focus on the substance, not endlessly fret about the form. In January , during a White House meeting with the President of France , Nicolas Sarkozy , Obama declared: "We don't have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people", [] a statement which triggered outcry in the United Kingdom.