Special to WorldTribune , March 2, 2020
Commentary By Lee Cohen
While Joe Biden staved off the reaper in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, Bernie Sanders seems well-positioned to outpace him to become the Democrat nominee to challenge President Donald Trump.
This causes great consternation to many Democrats, who look to the thrashing that the British Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a Sanders twin in many respects, received in the December landslide election that landed Boris Johnson in Downing Street and left the left-wing Labour Party dazed and rudderless.
While it is very likely that Democrats will be unable to unseat Trump in November, even the slim chance of a Sanders victory should make the blood run cold of our closest ally, the UK.
Similarities between extreme left-wing politicians, Sanders and Corbyn are numerous. Both men’s fanciful economic proposals and international policy principles are strikingly similar. A Corbyn premiership would have tested the bonds of the Special Relationship in never before imagined ways. Happily, it never happened. However, in the same way, a Sanders presidency could devastate our UK relationship — a relationship critical to global stability and prosperity.
With two notable exceptions, Trump’s UK relationship has been one the strongest since the Reagan-Thatcher years. In his first term, Trump has enjoyed an unprecedented three official visits to the UK, one of which was a full-blown state-visit accorded by Her Majesty the Queen, complete with all the trimmings.
Additionally, Trump has been fully supportive of the democratically-expressed will of the British electorate in its Brexit quest to disengage from the EU. Moreover, Trump has forecast a “massive” U.S.-UK trade deal with “potential to be far bigger and more lucrative than any deal that could be made with the EU.”
Two points of friction have occurred, namely, the leaked indiscreet remarks of the former UK Ambassador, Sir Kim Darroch resulting in his dismissal, and a far more high-stakes disagreement over the Johnson government’s commitment to using China’s Huawei technology in building the UK’s 5G network.
Regarding the former, Sir Kim’s unfortunate words of criticism prompted the President to indicate we could not work with such a representative of the UK and resulted in his recall. Problem solved.
The Huawei issue is a bit more complex as PM Johnson has held firm to keep Huawei in place for cost and performance issues notwithstanding security concerns raised not only by the White House and other U.S. officials, but also by high-level parliamentarians and others in the UK.
As our own Ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson has noted, our relationship with the UK is “like a family. You can have squabbles here and there, but then at the end of the day you’re all family — you come back and you agree on the important things.”
This is certainly true with Trump at the helm. If Sanders were ever elected, a nightmare scenario could occur that would put us at odds with our greatest ally.
Sanders’ trade policy would likely extinguish the great hopes of the Johnson government to forge a robust post-Brexit U.S. trade agreement. On his campaign website, Sanders spells out: “I believe in fair trade which works for the middle class and working families, not just large multinational corporations. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad.”
It is clear that Sanders’ vision of foreign and defense policy would radically disrupt the critical U.S.-UK intelligence sharing that among other things, prompted Churchill to baptize the alliance a “Special Relationship” back in 1946. Sanders’ campaign website repeats a strong chorus that the U.S. military budget is far too large and that defense funds could be better spent on domestic projects rather than “maintaining unnecessary overseas military bases and not meddling in the affairs of other sovereign nations.” Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign told The UK Telegraph: “Bernie Sanders will ‘absolutely’ change U.S.-UK defense relationship if elected president”
It is difficult to conceive that America, a nation that prizes freedom and self-determination could ever promote the rise to power of a Bernie Sanders. Likewise, it is hard to imagine that our mother country, Great Britain, which gave us those noble foundations, had a brush with socialist Jeremy Corbyn. Both left-wing politicians have cozied up to some of liberty’s most hated dictators. Neither man has much time for the values that underpin the U.S.-UK alliance. Let’s hope that Sanders, like comrade Corbyn, never gets to the corridors of higher office.
Lee Cohen is a fellow of the Danube Institute. He was an adviser on Europe to the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and founded the Congressional United Kingdom Caucus.