A close ally, but no influence (Richard Norton-Taylor, February 15, 2006, The Guardian)

The Pentagon review has significant political, military, financial and even legal implications for Britain, analysts have told the Guardian. It assumes Britain will be closely tied to the US without any influence on its military strategy, they say, while the UK and its European allies are left with the burden of peacekeeping.

The US could in future be a “more comfortable partner” for Britain, says Colonel Christopher Langton of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, if it means there will be greater emphasis on “preventive threats rather than a heavy footprint”. But this is only a part of the picture painted by the Pentagon. British military chiefs, MI5 and MI6 have never liked the idea of a war on terror. Now, they say, the concept of a long war gives a spurious legitimacy to international terrorists.

The Pentagon makes clear the US will rely less and less on “static” alliances such as Nato. “We would by implication be part of any coalition of the willing in any part of the world,” Col Langton says.

Amyas Godfrey of the Royal United Services Institute says Britain will be “the biggest partner” in this enterprise. “If we want a say in international affairs we need to be part of it.” He compares a close partnership with the US in the long war with Britain’s status as a nuclear power in the cold war.

But Britain would be an increasingly junior partner, analysts suggest. Col Langton says: “The UK has to assume it will be piggy backing.”

The relationship between America and Britain has never been closer, and George Bush demonstrated his regard for Tony Blair (and Colin Powell) by acceeding to their request to try to use the threat of WMD to get the UN to endorse regime change in Iraq, but when it looked like Mr. Blair might do himself real damage at home if he joined in the war, Mr. Bush told him to feel free to bail out because we were fine going without them. Mr. Blair was reportedly stunned not so much by the magnanimity of the gesture as by the recognition of Britain’s ultimate insignificance.

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