The Phaserl


Brexit, the E.U. and the “Special Relationship” of the U.S./U.K.

by Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds:

Any clique in the E.U. that thinks the U.S. will sit idly by while they “punish” the U.K. had better recalibrate their core interests and the potential for blowback.

One constant in a fast-shifting global chess board is the special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. The term special relationship defines a close collaboration diplomatically, militarily and financially.

Some might go so far as to speak of an Anglo-American Empire in terms of finance.

Needless to say, this special relationship impacts the European Union and the longer term impacts of Brexit.

Alliances are as complex as marriages. Just as marriages unite families as well as individuals, so alliances and treaties bind various sectors and agencies of nations in different ways and with different degrees of bonding.

Ties between France and Britain, for example, go back to the Norman invasion of England in 1066. The two have been rivals, adversaries and allies.
Nations that share borders almost always have special relationships due to the histories that go with borders–trade, war, occupation, alliances, etc.

The U.S. also has special relationships with a variety of other nations, relationships that are not like the U.K./U.S. ties but unique and powerful nonetheless.

The U.S. and Russia go way back, to the era of Pacific imperial rivalries in the 19th century, U.S. backing of anti-Communist forces in Russia’s civil war, an alliance in World War II, the rivalries of the Cold War and a number of critical cooperative advances such as the SALT limitations on nuclear weapons and the International Space Station (Russia has done the heavy lifting of resupply and provided cosmonauts since the beginning).
China and the U.S. also have a special relationship due to the size and interconnectedness of their economies and their mutual need for cooperation despite the jostling for Great Power influence.

Japan and the U.S. also have a special relationship, from mortal enemies in World War II to the occupation of Japan and the strong economic and diplomatic ties of the postwar era.

France and the Etats-Unis (United States) have long, deep and often fractious ties, stretching back to the French fleet’s critical role in sealing the defeat of the British Army in the Revolutionary War (1781). Thousands of American soldiers killed defending France in World War I (“Lafayette, we are here!”) and World War II are buried in French soil.

Germany and the U.S. also have a unique relationship due to the long presence of American troops on German soil to make good the U.S. pledge to defend West Germany against Soviet invasion. United Germany and the U.S. remain allies with core interests in maintaining peace and prosperity throughout Europe.

Special relationships are not necessarily harmonious or trouble-free; what they provide is a history of communication and an overlay of self-interest that drives a search for common ground or a level of disagreement that doesn’t threaten the core interests of both nations.

Some observers have seen the U.K. as a broker between the E.U. and the U.S. Perhaps this was true in some cases, but I don’t think the complexities of the special relationship and the even greater complexities of the E.U. can be distilled down to such a simplistic dynamic.

I think the reality is nobody’s in a mood to take orders from anyone. The core interests of all players in the Brexit drama are being recalculated, and areas of common ground and regions of profound disagreement are being mapped out.

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