Days after the shock of Pearl Harbour Winston Churchill journeyed across the Atlantic to meet with president Franklin D. Roosevelt, cementing one of the world’s most syncronious alliances.
The same impetus saw Theresa May rush to be the first world leader to meet Donald Trump a week after his presidential inauguration.
For make no mistake, while there is as yet no world war, both leaders know the planet is in the grip of a generational crisis: Terrorism, migration and economic chaos stalks the earth, and existing mechanisms have failed. If they had not failed, Britain would not have voted for Brexit and Americans, despairing of “regular” politicians, would not have gone for Trump.
May’s visit was heavy on window dressing, with much made of their holding hands, of the closeness of cultures, Trump’s distant roots to Scotland’s Stornaway, even the return of the Churchill bust to the Oval office. But the grit of their meetings was the shared realisation that the world is changing, and those nations free to elect their leaders are angry. Psychologically alone, that after PM May left the States, President Trump spoke by phone, within hours of her leaving US soil, to several world leaders including Putin, Merkel and Hollande speaks volumes of what now really can be said to be a true return of the UK/US Special Relationship.
In today’s inverted world, fears of job losses, terrorism and unregulated migration are understood by regular people, the millions who voted Trump and Brexit, in the way they are not understood by legions of “experts”.
And May’s message to Trump was simple: In this time of global unpheaval, Britain is America’s only real dependable European ally. For Trump, confronting a world of opponents at home and abroad, that is very welcome news.
Britain’s Brexit vote validates Trump’s own election victory, a victory PM May harped on, declaring: “The thing we have in common is we want to put the interests "of working people right up there.”
Trade between the two nations is a given, and May’s one desire was to ensure America gives Britain a trade deal, post Brexit, no worse, better even, than the one the US now gives it as part of the EU.
The signs are that she will get it, in part because changing the rules would disrupt the synconronicity of joined-at-the-hip financial markets in New York and London.
As in finance, so in security and military cooperation: US and British intelligence and signals intercepts are historically interconnected and besides Britain, only France among among the EU’s 27 member states has fully deployable armed forces.
Both leaders are also looking ahead at the turmoil gripping the European Union. French, Dutch and German elections this year are likely to see voter demands for economic reform and migration controls grow to a creschendo. France’s right wing presidential candidate Marie Le Pen has vowed to follow Britain in heading to the EU (and Euro) exit door if elected, and while she is an outsider, so was Trump a year ago. Meanwhile, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece struggle with bankrupcy status, while Hungary and Poland are veering right into semi-dictatorship. Give it months or even a year, and Britain will indeed seem like a rock of stability.
And then there is Russia.
The same day as Trump and May met, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev said it global tensions look "as if the world is preparing for war.”
Gorbachev, the man who brought Glasnost to the Soviet Union, and speeded its decline, urged Trump and Putin to work together to stem a new arms race: "The world today is overwhelmed with problems. Policymakers seem to be confused and at a loss.”
Trump and May would echo his sentiments; While they disagree on whether sanctions imposed on Russia for military action in Crimea and Ukraine should be lifted, with Trump seemingly enthusiastic, May more cautious, yet both agree Russia should be brought into the fold. The continued ' Russia bashing' by the US Congress and EU is no doubt disturbing as is the posturing against Iran.
British and American generals know that Putin has no intention to invade Estonia or any other country, because the economic effect would wreck Russia’s already troubled economy. They know also that what Moscow wants is a “place in the sun” and want to talk terms; they want to do business.
A settled relationship between America, the world’s supreme nuclear power, and Russia, second in line, has obvious huge dividends for all.
Those stretch to fixing a deal to end the Syrian conflict, combat terrorism and ensuring together Iran sticks to its commitments to rid itself of nuclear weapons development.
Above all, cooperation between Moscow and Washington gives Trump more leverage in dealing with China, and its ever more belligerant actions in the South China Sea. Its maritime deployments have got America’s allies, principally Japan, worried, and Russian support, together with Britain, will aid Trump in backing America’s allies in any tussle or conversely eventually a rapprochement with China.
Bringing both order to the world, and rebalancing it to, in Trump’s words, "make America great again", is a tall order, and the mission on which the new president is likely to be judged. To make it happen, he is going to need all the friends he can get, a point taken on board in both London and Moscow.