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UK-US: An alliance for the future

The UK-US alliance has the strength of ideas and values to thrive in the 21st century, Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald said today in Fulton, Missouri while marking the 65th anniversary of Winston Churchill's seminal address at Westminster College.

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The world has changed greatly since Churchill’s famous speech in 1946 – widely remembered for his reference to the “Iron Curtain” – but the Ambassador paid tribute to “certain constants” of international relations which Churchill would recognise and embrace today: ideas, values and alliances.

The rise of emerging powers is one such transformation of international relations that Churchill wouldn’t recognise. But while it may be tempting to assume that the ideas Churchill articulated ended with the Cold War, the Ambassador argued that now more than ever we need to assume his passion for the values that unite the UK and US:

“We must be as energetic as Churchill was in making the case for shared rules and liberal principles. That does not mean expecting the emerging powers simply to cleave to our ways of doing things. That would be naive. But neither does it mean resiling from the idea that free and open markets, the rule of law, the respect of private property and indeed, representative government are good for nations and good for the world.”

In addition to espousing the ideas that bond the UK and US, Churchill also believed deeply in the values that the two countries share. Again, the global context has changed since Churchill’s time. However, the Ambassador said the shared UK-US values of 1946 are still essential guides to forming a global outlook today:

“The most significant lesson we should draw from recent events in the Middle East is the importance of values. Protesters across the region are united in one thing - their aspiration for the rights and freedoms that we take for granted in the West, and their hope that we will help them to achieve them. These events have reinforced our conviction that those values are universal, and not limited by history, nation or creed.”

And while the foundation of the UK-US alliance remains, the depth and range of British and American cooperation has intensified significantly since Churchill’s time. From investment in each other’s economies, to collaborating on research and fighting a new kind of enemy in Afghanistan, the Ambassador set out how the UK-US partnership has evolved to provide shared prosperity and security in the 21st century:

  • “We are each other’s largest investors, with a million jobs in each country depending on that investment. Indeed UK investment here in the US is 570 times the level of China’s.”
  • “Between us, the US and the UK represent 50% of all citations in global science. We have won half of all the Nobel prizes ever awarded. We have between us all of the world’s top ten universities.”
  • “We are the top two troop contributors in Afghanistan, as we were in Iraq; and close allies in dealing with the threats of terrorism and proliferation, including in Iran.”

The Ambassador closed by stressing that the roots of the UK-US relationship don’t confine its relevance to Churchill’s era. Instead, they prove that the alliance is ready to meet the demands of a changing world:

“Let us also not forget the strength of our ideas; of our values; and of our alliance. They are not the stuff of yesterday, or a relic of the past. They are the tools we have to meet the challenges of the future.”

The speech concludes the Ambassador’s five day visit to Illinois and Missouri. Earlier in the week he addressed the Chicago Council on World Affairs and Washington University in St. Louis on the strength of the UK-US economic partnership.

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Published 6 March 2011