The war in Ukraine topped Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's agenda on Wednesday as he began a two-day trip to Washington with the message that post-Brexit Britain remains an essential American ally in a world of emboldened authoritarian states.
The United States and the United Kingdom are Ukraine's two largest military donors, and war will be the central theme of the sunak meeting on thursday at the White House with President Joe Biden.
The rupture of a major dam in southern Ukraine, which caused floodwaters to wash away villages and farmland, has given the issue greater urgency. Neither Washington nor London have officially accused Russia of blowing up the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam, but Sunak told reporters during his flight to Washington that he would "demonstrate the new lows that we would have seen from Russian aggression."
Britain and the US are major players in an international effort to give Ukraine F-16 fighter jets, and the talks are also likely to include additional air defense measures against Russian bombing as Ukraine launches a counteroffensive. for recover the occupied territory.
The trip is Sunak's first to the US capital since he took office. the charge in October, but his fourth meeting with Biden in as many months. The two leaders' paths crossed at a Group of Seven summit in Japan, in Northern Ireland and at a tripartite advocacy meeting with Australia in San Diego.
Sunak, 43, and Biden, 80, are very different politicians. Sunak is the heir to free-market advocate Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and is wary of big government interventions in the economy, such as Biden's Cut Inflation Act, a huge package of tax breaks and subsidies aimed at boosting industries. green.
But he is also a pragmatist, having restored stability to the British government after the turbulent tenures of his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.
Johnson championed the populist Brexit movement and took Britain out of the European Union, a decision Biden has made clear he believes hurt Britain. Truss was in office for less than two months, resigning after his hasty tax cut plans led to a financial crisis.
Sunak, who was chosen by the conservatives in government to replace Truss, has reassured Washington by softening relations with the EU, going so far as to an agreement with Brussels to settle a long-simmering dispute over Northern Ireland trade.
In his meeting with Biden, Sunak will push for closer US-UK economic ties, arguing that economic cooperation is as crucial to security as defense alliances.
“Just as interoperability between our militaries has given us a battlefield advantage over our adversaries, greater economic interoperability will give us a crucial advantage for decades to come,” Sunak said ahead of the talks.
A British government official who anticipated Sunak's agenda on condition of anonymity said Sunak wants to discuss ways to protect supply chains from hostile players and how to ensure China does not corner the market in the production of semiconductors and other key parts.
However, he will not push for a free trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States. UK officials accept that the cherished goal of Brexiteers is currently frozen.
Sunak, a Stanford University MBA graduate who dreams of creating a British Silicon Valley, also wants to talk about the promise and dangers of artificial intelligence. He is keen to make sure the UK is not left out of US-EU talks on the issue.
Sunak has floated the idea that the UK could be a hub for regulating fast-moving technology, though no major news on that front is expected during his trip.
The Prime Minister's spokesman, Max Blain, said Britain's approach to regulation, "agile and able to adapt to the fast pace of this technology, puts the UK in a good position to take a leadership role here."
Sunak is also likely to push for the UK Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, become the next head of NATO after the secretary general Jens Stoltenberg resign in september. The prime minister is expected to emphasize that the next secretary general should be someone who "keeps up Stoltenberg's good modernization work but also understands the importance of defense spending at this critical time."
The comment could be seen as a subtle hint at another possible contender for the job, the Danish prime minister. mette frederiksen , who met with Biden in Washington earlier this week. Denmark has fallen behind the NATO goal of members spending 2% of gross domestic product on military budgets by 2030.
Sunak will also meet with US business executives and hold talks with congressional leaders, including President Kevin McCarthy, on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday night he will attend a Washington Nationals baseball game, although he will not throw out the first pitch, much to the disappointment of the British media.
Sunak stressed that he never intended to dump the pitch at the game, which includes military bands and a flyover to celebrate US-UK ties.
"My sport is more cricket than baseball, in any case," he said.