hello and welcome to Dateline London house special is Britain's so-called special relationship with the United States and how wise is it for a British Prime Minister to try to get close to an American president and end up with a picture showing them holding hands I guess they are Alex Dean who's a conservative commentator and yes pareo Francis Marianne Mustafa Kikuchi of Gulf News and Jeff McAllister who's an American writer and broadcaster well a British ambassador to Washington once told me as we awaited the first meeting between the then British Prime Minister and a new American president that they were fated to get on wonderfully well he meant that whatever the personal chemistry or lack of it the totality of the relationship between the UK and us was so important it had to work out but how well does that work with Theresa May and Donald Trump I mean it seems to me the most interesting thing about the visit actually is it took place yeah within a few days I think it's good that we have the first foreign head of government in to see the president after his inauguration I think the quote from your and former ambassador real friend is right that these are two countries that need to work hard at getting on and I don't think it's any secret actually that we struggled somewhat under President Obama who is not as well disposed to the British in the British interest as the now president seems to be I suppose becoming my point is this that whether you agreed with brexit or not that is now the direction of travel that our country is on President Obama and his preferred successor Hillary Clinton set themselves Foursquare against that so even if you voted against brexit even if you were an ardent remainer you should now be happy that we have a president who looks optimistically and positively at the path that our countries set on and you may dislike Donald Trump for many other reasons and those reasons may be valid but on this it is good for our country that this visit happened and that it went the way it did and it is there do you see as some of the British press reflect this a danger that a prime minister gets too close to American president just to take another example it was said that Tony Blair got too close to George Bush and that happened to lead us into the myth of Iraq when I watched the press conference I thought that our Prime Minister came out of that exceptionally well and if you think about anyone whose policy positions have changed they were Trump's not amazed a week ago his last extant statement on NATO was that it was obsolete with encouragement from Therese in May in her passing his words it's now 100% relevant he 100% supports in every general matters – actually yes won't that well of course what he did was to say that he would step back and support matters his position with encouragement countries are made in the same way that he seemed to be rowing back on torture as well the point being that he does seem to be biddable in conversation and Therese in May I think that about visit went well the other one is of course Ukraine where to resume demonstrated that our country and theirs has a significant position of difference she didn't back down one bit what did you make it a visit well I wish I could share your enthusiasm of course he's the president of the United States new news you know denying it we have to work with the with the Matt on the other hand as a friend of Britain I felt I was shivering just seeing them of course holding hands which the British media made so much of it is every one of the front pages writes on every single news downstairs and there was a temporary safety measure it was being polite but why I mean I don't know I I just don't see anger the murk or being led the way she she was I don't know I thought it was a bit embarrassing for Britain but and also that press conference the FT said there was considerable warmth between the two but what I saw was considerable openness you know she was walking on eggshells of course and she managed to get him to say at least not on camera but that he was backing mater 100% that's a victory in itself but otherwise I mean she was going there for a few words from the prison about the trade deal but the article 50 hasn't been triggered yet so she's not actually capable of starting entering negotiations and it looked to me you can have talks of course but it didn't say anything on that trade deal apart that at brexit was the most wonderful thing but to pick up just on Alex's point look at it a slightly different way wasn't the most interesting thing about yesterday but whatever one may say about Donald Trump and a lot has been said all over the place about him he appears to be pragmatic enough to listen to people who actually know what they're talking about if he listened to matters for example who is somebody with a long career in defense who is very clear he doesn't think that torture is a good idea I know but we have I'll see I mean you can't you can't actually ignore the fact that an American president says that personally if things torture works the fact that he said but even if I think that I'm gonna defer to somebody else that's known to me was quite an interesting point wasn't it you mean it's yeah well I'd still democracy until it becomes a dictatorship what did you make of it what do you think you think I think to resume lessons Washington I think saying to herself I cannot trust this man I don't think she will trust this man because he's a man who changed changes in mind every every day and he is a loner in a way when he stands up in the press conference and say well look I'm a rich I'm very very rich as if he's saying I don't need the job I don't need this money so I'm doing you a favor to be here and this position you know he you cannot trust this man anyway yes of course he said I'm with you 100% of a NATO but given two or three months is he gonna stick to his due to this position I doubt it and I'm sure terrorism a doubts that as well you've seen lots of presidents coming down when you were the White House is on it has been quite an extraordinary week isn't it for Donald Trump it's such a blizzard of things you can hardly even remember how it began I mean the the speech at the CIA we're standing in front of the wall of the fallen and uses it as a long talk about his own wonderfulness and where he says that the news media made up his differences with the intelligence agencies which was a lie to people for whom not lying actually matters because that's their job is to try to figure out complicated things and bring it to the president and to say that of course there was tremendous voter fraud and that's the only reason that I didn't get the popular vote which is also another line he said that to them and I mean you know that was that was seven days ago and there's a girl's week and the executive order that was in favor of torture but which has now been rescinded but there's a law against it anyway so the executive order is irrelevant and mattis was against it I think I mean Theresa May I think it's an important thing for the president and the prime minister get on if there's a little bit of the supplicants and trying to rush in there it's fine this is an important relationship this has been Britain's central strategic choice since the Second World War and if things go well with the u.s. it's a force multiplier for Britain I would point to the relationship that Blair and Bush had in the days after September 11th in which it actually worked really well where Blair would go to Washington he had the second highest approval rating of any public figure in the United States and he would come back to the Europe and all the European prime ministers would line up to have dinner with him because they wanted to understand what Bush was saying and he was kind of the ambassador all went wrong when he became to supplicant or over Iraq they didn't pull things back so that's the dangerous like being the Liberal Democrats of the coalition of the conservative you can do good work but you can get eaten the I think the more worrying thing about this visit is yes it sort of looks like a normal visit but Trump is not a normal president he does not believe in the liberal international order he believes in himself in getting attention for himself I mean if you look at all his biographers they say he's never had any friends he doesn't have any long-term friends he discards his vibes when they're not useful to him he doesn't believe kind of in alliances and long term building he believes in transactions in beating the other guy in a deal now here we have Britain that's given away its European home and is looking for deals and maybe you say these two so those two leaders have got no mates you know the British they're going with a European friend I don't film doesn't get old with anybody I mean not really anything but there's also a system in which they used to operate I mean I think if Putin now takes advantage of say lessening some sanctions and certainly not thinking the trunk is going to oppose him the way Obama did to meddle in European elections and do things that are strategically very concerning I think this desire for Britain now to be paying all of its attention to trade deals with individual countries and kind of this smallness of its ambitions is going to feel like it so the wrong choice but it's going to fit in with trumps there was haven't been a lot of what you said and I can agree of course that Trump decided to speak in front of the wall of the CIA about the things he spoke about was viewed by many people as crass but where where you start to lose me is the argument for exceptionalism in results and we saw the same with with brexit where and I'm not saying be you particularly but the left often says that the result we've just had is so bad that it transcends normal systems well in democracy sometimes you get results that you don't like and each side has to live with that result but but I'm so angry that this can't be normal and therefore the result whether it be leaving voting to leave the European Union or Donald Trump being president must somehow be invalid and so you find people in talent I think it's worrisome I mean I think it creates risks and the risks of the dissolution of the international order that has created peace and security in its way for many years but is arisen and they're both playing in the same kind of national it's not like salaciousness but it's a kind of retreat to I am best and most important kind of sandbox rocket it's Susan I think it's new new word or together in your environment political environment I think everybody is trying to find his or her place entities in to resume how to deal with this man it's it's it's a very worrying things to do because listening to her speech you know the day before and Philadelphia the mere fact that she was repeating the fact of the great the two great nations the historical background reminding that's what she should do yeah dancing they wanted to leave together which was the point I wanted to wanted to make that Jeff because I'm into it very interested in your country's politics that we all are but of course off in the end I'm British in therefore I'm most interested in in how Britain fares our prime minister didn't choose this hand she neither voted to leave the European Union nor did she have any say on Trump becoming president but she's dealing with the hand that she's been dealt and I'm very proud of the way that she's conducting herself action I thought she had a good visit one of the things I was gonna bring up was as many years since I've read the art of the deal but one of the things that sticks in my mind is he says basically Donald Trump's book he says or his ghostwriter says something like you make a better deal when the person you're dealing with is desperate to make a deal with you and I just wonder if that's the danger that you were talking about in other words yeah and you know Jeff was talking about Tony bland bush and you know Blair mr. historical opportunity at the time because he did have leopard Java Bush he was indeed very close to him he was listened to in Washington and he could have done something which he didn't do and that was a historical mistake even in many ways well it could have actually you know just before the invasion of eric worre he would I think would have been able to tell Bush look this is a mistake and he did crazy things that he and Colin Powell could have had a sea of conversation and because Britain is very important actually on you know on the chessboard and can have a real make a real difference but what I so you know yesterday in Washington was British prime minister who of course needs to do what she she has to do but she also there was an element of desperation and she felt really sycophantic I love blaming Tony Blair one is the job of any British Prime Minister to ensure that our country is closed with our most important ally and if Ed Miliband point out that is some of the basis for the long-term cooperation of course it's intelligence and defense and there are many things that are part of this regardless of the president the Prime Minister arm but British spending on its own defence has considerably decreased the number of aircraft carriers the number of planes on aircraft carriers the number of submarines the size of the army actually it's getting to the point where Britain is not going to be able to make the kind of contribution should there be a kind of planes of them and and I think that's important for the future it's not the Patrice we make doesn't have as many cards okay anyway it's happened to your expertise by something because a lot has been made on this side of the Atlantic and actually in the American press about these executive orders the president has signed I'm tempted to ask you so what didn't Obama signed an executive order eight years ago this month whatever happened to that so in other word I'm trying to get at is the totality of the relationship between Britain and the United States also enforced Theresa mail whoever the British prime minister is talking to the Republican Party because they run Congress that went down very well it's not just about the president actually whatever you say about Donald Trump his freedom for manoeuvre is much more limited than British people or Europeans tend to think I think that's fair I think if you look at a lot of the executive orders this week there are mostly public relations statements they're intended to throw red meat to the base and signal a direction of travel but they're not legally valid because they contradict legislation or because they're easily revocable or because there are conditions that haven't come to pass or they say things that are already law which people don't remember that Obama is already done about immigration policy for instance so I think this is a common tactic of new presidents is to a flurry of executive orders and I think we have to get used to though that Trump actually doesn't care as much about the substance as Obama might have in the Obama constitutional law professor or cares about legislation and doing the right thing what Trump always cares about is being in the center of the news and getting a jewel ation for it and if it takes executive orders that don't add up or end up in a heap on the floor in a few years he doesn't care just in terms of how this is viewed in the Middle East particularly the Gulf which you know very well I was talking to his girl freshest this week who said do you know what actually there's a really fair wind behind Trump in many Gulf nations partly because he recognizes the threat as they see it from Iran and that is a big story in the god that's truth so I think it would please the Gulf people but even you know people in general of his stance on Iran and if he if he does what he says there will be certainly relief no doubt about that this is only one point but you you need to think of stability in the long term in the entire region not only in the in the assuming he launches a war if you like or attacks hitting their nuclear facilities whatever that's what he is talking about much very much will it be limited to that part only would would wouldn't it threaten the entire region itself they are worried lot more than Iran about extremism fundamentalism in the region itself this is in power probably the priority the first priority as far as politics is in the region and that that's where it was is from prepared to do anything about that he did he did say a few things about Muslim recent just you know yesterday and he also has his team started talking about building a database of Muslims inside the US empowering people from exactly that made person like Madeleine Albright Albright threatening to convert to Islam if he does what do you make of that I mean is that the sort of a bit of frost which Jeff was suggesting I don't think it's just froth we should listen to these things and the signal it sends to people around the world is important but nevertheless I think on the other hand the fact that he's indicated he's far less interested in intervening militarily in places around the world than his predecessors well that will be negatively heard by many liberal interventionists but will be music to the ears of thousands of people who dislike foreign aggression by by superpowers well on the one hand President Obama dropped hundreds of thousands of bombs over countries full of Muslims and is regarded met widely by the foreign policy community as a hero Donald Trump has said he wants to restrict travel ability for Muslims and is immediately called as ana phobic I mean there is a difference here between these two things and what would I rather would I rather find it more difficult to get a visa to go to the United States or have a bomb dropped on me but he's going to be unnecessary wait a minute Trump is not stopping the drone program and he's going to be doing the same thing that because it is it I would say I don't know he hasn't told me but it I mean it is essentially inevitable and is what the entire American defense establishment and intelligence establishment has been geared to doing and there aren't very many alternatives if you want to be a tough guy against terrorism if you're going to be doing things from Washington you know I think the danger is let's let's say he makes the deal with Russia that he everyone says I'm going to lift sanctions in return for cooperation against terrorism because obviously we can do it I mean the problem with Russia as your ally against terrorism is they've created a lot of people from Chechnya who go to Syria because of the tactics they use they kill eight times as many people in their bombing raids in Syria as American strikes of course and I mean if you look at Trump's executive order banning Muslims it's from countries none of which sent any of the 9/11 bombers and the most it effects is Iran which as one Iranian foreign policy official has said Americans have been created more people going to Isis than Iran has so that's a Hillary but often they have to create this notion that you're actually increasing radicalism if you team up the question was who are you know I understand these will go nuts your point about the about the orders and restricting travel is completely reasonable in Trump on the one hand a Venn diagram between countries that had sent citizens over behind 9/11 and countries the future bans do not overlap one bit there are two separate circles and Saudi Arabia is of course the law no single than that but I wanted to return to your Russia point because on the one hand as they showed in Syria the Russians brutal and effective it argued only on their narrow interpretation of what's think what should happen the Americans and indeed I'm afraid the rest of us well meant and well well-intentioned and utterly ineffectual so you've got to pick your pick your preferred option here and doing peace with Russia I think there are many people who look at that and say I would rather that Russia got on better with the United States than it did here the thing there's some people in Europe I mean you know if you listen to terrorism a the day before she met Trump she was already showing signs that you know we should have a different attitude to Russia perhaps we'll keep the sanctions or the Ukraine but there's room for improvement in our relationship I mean this is happening in France too if possible for you is elected French president is for the moment best place to become next French president there will be completely a complete overhaul of French foreign policy you know this this will be a new era of franco-russian friendship and indeed in other countries in Europe I think we're going there because we know a baa-baa didn't do much I mean in the sense that the US has retreated on the international scene and with trumpets going to continue being here is relation is so basically there's so much room in part of the world in the Middle East for Russia to play its garden nobody's going to stop put in so this is where we you know slowly we're slowly going there but just to return to the torture point which we came up you know this is now seems to have been shells but one of the fundamental worries about that part from the inhumanity of torture and the ineffectiveness of torture is if you torture one person you may create a thousand others who take the same view and that's that's part of the problem in other words it seemed to be a very headline-grabbing way of saying something to talk to his base but something which will offend not just offend many people but make many people much more likely to be anti-american I think that's right i mean i think that torture was always morally wrong and actually i the question of whether it's effective or not is secondary in my view to that but i also wonder about the extent to which these are deliberate ploys to demonstrate a a toughness that is meant for your political audience rather than for your rather than for your wider international audience i have no doubt that the signals from the Trump campaign on that front went down well with its domestic audience and in forgiving that your thought your primary aim is to get elected if you remove your morality from the question that's a sensible thing to do or relay election evil years a longer term it alienates people who are not American citizens outside your country one question I wondered about again again for you Jeff is the question of Congress and Republicans in Congress I mean the Democrats are in a mess in various ways but if you're a Republican in Congress who's facing re-election in two years which is the entire House of Representatives how close would you be to Donald Trump would you say I better get very close he's the president he's got mandate all those things that we don't talked about at the start of this conversation or would you say do you know what this could come seriously unstuck and I don't want to be too close to it I think so far all the indications that the Republicans have made their bed unhappily or not with Donald Trump and they're gonna stay in it they didn't fight him no matter almost what he did during the campaign however bizarre his pronouncements or offensive about grabbing the private parts of I mean they just basically rolled over and their base the people who vote for them the people that they're scared of if they're gonna be Republican primaries to unseat Republicans in a Republican congressman they just can't afford at this stage to get out of the way now and it foreign policy probably isn't going to matter an awful lot unless there's any more anyway it's Obamacare that's actually perhaps going to matter and that's obviously the Republican is now are showing concern they've decided we want to repeal it repealed repeal that so many times and now that they're actually responsible for it becoming truck care and a lot of the initial proposals would end up basically uninsurable who will vote didn't have terrible sob stories on television and ads against them in a very short time now they're starting to feel the pressure a little bit but truck to actually who's not really a Republican he's kind of a deal maker and wants to be popular we'll be glad to come up with some kind of compromise to and I think there's room for him to work with the Republicans and you know all the stuff about his conflict of interest and impeachment of all the horrible things he's doing and you know all the kind of impossible things he keeps doing they're not gonna get in his wife what it this fighter on the foreign policy it's really what's worrying as far as the middle east is concerned because foreign policy is obvious and the bottom of the list no doubt about that and that would give the Russian freedom to do whatever they want in the region and in fact they are they are now running the peace conference with all that and they are the arbiter but they are also the the attackers same times that's that's how they are perceived and in the region well we'll leave it there it's been a busy week that's it for Dateline London for this extremely busy week we're back next week at the same time you can of course comment on the program on Twitter at Gavin Nestle thanks for watching and bye-bye

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