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Starmer travels to Washington on his first foreign trip as British Prime Minister

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer is flying to Washington this week to take his first steps on the world stage, just days after taking office following a landslide election victory.

Starmer, 61, will attend NATO’s 75th anniversary summit in the US capital, his first overseas trip since taking office as British leader last Friday.

He will reaffirm Britain’s continued support for the Western military alliance and Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression.

The visit is the start of a flurry of international diplomacy in Starmer’s first two weeks in power; next week the UK will also host a conference of European heads of state and government.

“It will be an opportunity for him to meet other heads of state and government while communicating concrete messages,” foreign policy expert James Strong told AFP.

Britain’s previous Conservative government was one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies, supporting the country with money, weapons and troop training to repel the Russian invasion.

Starmer has pledged to continue supporting Kyiv under Labour and is expected to reiterate that message personally to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the NATO meeting.

Starmer’s Defence Secretary John Healey has already visited Ukraine since last Thursday’s election, and Foreign Secretary David Lammy has visited European NATO members.

Labour is committed to the alliance and wants to fulfil the Conservatives’ promise to increase defence spending to 2.5 percent of GDP, above the NATO target of two percent.

“We can expect a lot of talk about ‘business as usual,'” added Strong, a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London.

Starmer will focus on continuity on the most important foreign policy issues, but at the same time will also signal a restart of relations with his allies, which have been strained by Brexit.

Labour has promised closer cooperation with its European neighbours, including on bilateral deals with France and Germany, but also on agreements with the entire EU bloc.

– “Special Relationship” –

“We can expect to talk a lot about improving relations, about being a more reliable partner and, above all, about being more stable and predictable,” Strong said.

The trip also offers Starmer a first opportunity to build a relationship with US President Joe Biden and to strengthen the so-called special relationship between Britain and the USA.

Starmer’s centre-left Labour party is closer to Biden’s Democratic Party than the Conservatives, which could be helpful, but the trip comes at a sensitive time for the US president.

Biden, 81, is under pressure to make way and allow another Democrat to run against his Republican rival Donald Trump in November’s presidential election.

Starmer will be aware that he may have to deal with the isolationist Trump from January next year.

“(He) will want to demonstrate his rock-solid commitment to Britain’s alliance with America and send a strong signal about the resilience of the ‘special relationship’ whatever lies ahead,” Sophia Gaston, director of foreign policy at the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange, told AFP.

One point of contention between Starmer and Biden could be the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, with Labour seen as more pro-Palestinian than Washington.

The leaders are also expected to discuss policy towards China, including in the areas of trade, commerce and technology.

Starmer will then host the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace near Oxford in central England on July 18, which will also be attended by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Labour wants an “ambitious” security pact with the European Union.

Olivia O’Sullivan, director of the Britain in the World programme at international affairs think tank Chatham House, told AFP the two summits “provide an opportunity to give more substance to this proposal”.

After his first appearance on the world stage in Washington, Starmer may also want to specify the form of a post-Brexit trade agreement.


FOX28 Spokane©