If British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt could offer some advice to Donald Trump — advice he knew the U.S. president would actually take — he’d tell him to take advantage of international alliances, because “America has a lot of friends all over the world that share American values.”
It’s advice that comes as Britain, on the verge of leaving the European Union, hopes to maintain the critical security and economic partnership it has long had with the United States.
Trump “should always think that there is opportunity in building alliances with America’s friends across the world, because we are, like he is, committed to open societies, rule of law, free trade, the values that have created the most successful international order since, in the history of humanity,” Hunt told POLITICO in a brief interview in Washington on Thursday.
Hunt was in the United States visiting with top officials in the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence.
The meetings touched on a range of topics, including policy toward Iran and the conflict in Yemen. The meetings also came as U.S. allies are still trying to nail down exactly what America plans to do with its troops in Syria; Trump has said he wants to withdraw them.
Hunt had many kind words for the U.S. president. For one thing, he repeatedly stressed that he believes that Trump does value alliances. It’s an optimistic, and diplomatic, take, given reports that Trump has even spoken of pulling the United States out of NATO.
“In all my interactions with him I’ve found someone who is very keen to do things with his allies,” Hunt said, adding, “I don’t think this is an isolationist president. He wants America to have a huge presence in every corner of the globe.”
The difference is that Trump may not always want to take the same approach as his predecessors, especially when it comes to deploying U.S. troops, Hunt said.
“He understands the power of money and the force of economic pressure, and he’s more willing to use that as a tool of diplomacy than boots on the ground. And I think that is a big and profound change,” Hunt said.
Those economic tools have included reimposing sanctions on Iran after pulling the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal. The British opposed Trump’s decision to abandon the agreement. But Hunt acknowledged Friday that the U.S. sanctions on Iran are having an effect.
“I think Iran is under a lot of pressure from the sanctions, that’s the impression I get. It is causing a lot of difficulties in Iran,” Hunt said.
Britain’s efforts to leave the European Union have hit several hurdles in recent months. But Hunt expressed hope that British lawmakers could find a way through after having overwhelmingly rejected the Brexit deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May.
“I hope over the next few weeks people will realize that the deal that we have on the table is by no means perfect, but it is Brexit, is what most people consider to be Brexit,” he said.
Hunt insisted that even after the U.K. leaves the European Union, which is supposed to happen on March 29, many things will stay the same.
“Economically, Europe is currently our biggest trading partner and will remain so and will be incredibly important, our relationship with them,” he said.
On the security front, however, he said, “our strongest and most important strategic partner is the United States and has always been the United States.”
“I am a very strong believer in the transatlantic relationship,” he said, “and I continue to think that will be central to U.K. foreign policy.”
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