US President Barack Obama posted a News Release on January 10, 2015 4:19 pm - Its important for what it is not saying, and the rushed timing (in five days time) of a 2-day trip by David Cameron to the White House.
|Tabled for discussion: "Russia’s actions in Ukraine"|
Prime Minister Cameron’s visit highlights the breadth, depth and strength of our relationship with the United Kingdom, as well as the strong bonds of friendship between the American and British people.
The President and Prime Minister Cameron will have a working dinner at the White House on Thursday, January 15th and a meeting in the Oval Office on Friday, January 16th.
The two leaders will discuss a range of issues including economic growth, international trade, cybersecurity, Iran, ISIL, counterterrorism, Ebola, and Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
The United Kingdom is an uniquely close friend and steadfast ally, and the President looks forward to beginning the New Year by working with Prime Minister Cameron on these issues and reaffirming the enduring special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.
Julian Bray writes: Clearly with the tragic events of the last few days, and under normal circumstances a meeting between the two leaders is a good idea but with a UK General Election due in early May and the distinct possibility of yet another hung parliament or even the possibility of two General Elections this year; you really wonder why its been scheduled at all?
Is it just window dressing during the run up to the UK General Election in May, or did the White House staff 'goof up' and genuinely forget it was happening? I count eight major topics on the discussion list and effectively, if this is only part of the agenda, a good forty minutes for each topic. The supporting negotiating teams of course all likely to change post election. So why is it happening?
There is also the unfortunate decision to close down three long established large USAF airbases in the UK (just leaving one at Lakenheath) putting several thousand UK civilian employees and a host of small service industries built up over the fifty years the USAF has been in the UK out of business.
The move is part of a programme to save just £320m ($500m) a year right across across Europe. The USAF lease the RAF bases. Amounts like that are just petty cash in the great milspec scheme of things, so there has to be something deeper. The UK defence spending cuts perhaps, which would have impacted on the US defense industries, so why not return the favour, kick ass and close down a few bases?
Mr Hagel said he understood it would mean job losses, and thanked those who had supported the US Air Force. Thanks a lot Chuck! The kick in the head for the UK by Mr Hagel is however a massive gain for Germany who will be the new centre of European operations for the USAF in Europe, leaving what can only be considered a token force in the UK.
So how will the soon to be unemployed UK citizens react to the news? Clearly if the closures could be phased in over a number of years, say 30, it would soften the blow. As Germany is in the financially fragile Eurozone, and the UK remains firmly wedded to the Pound Sterling, the USA could do very well out of it financially by sticking with Sterling.
But it is a consideration Mr Hagel might not have considered and possibly didn't think to share with the White House Press team. If he did why on earth would the press release contain the following purple prose? Prime Minister Cameron’s visit highlights the breadth, depth and strength of our relationship with the United Kingdom, as well as the strong bonds of friendship between the American and British people.
Meanwhile Mr Hagel is busy sawing through the legs of the rocking chair said: "I know that this will result in a reduction of our local host nations workforces at some locations; I value the tremendous support they provided us for decades." A classic understatement, far be it for me to suggest the trip will provide a sheaf of new Election oven ready pictures and enhance the international top level political aura of the Conservative candidate for this May?
The USAF KC-135 tanker fleet currently based at Mildenhall will permanently relocate to Germany.
RAF Lakenheath, with two squadrons of some 48 F-35 jets but not arriving until 2020, will be the aircraft's only European base.
The Pentagon helpfully chipped in and suggested the loss of about 2,000 US military and civilian personnel due to relocation away from Mildenhall, but will be offset by the addition of about 1,200 people stationed permanently at Lakenheath.
The tumbleweed is therefore destined for Mildenhall. Hopefully David Camerons discussions will extend late into the evening, and he can pull a rabbit of the USAF hat and keep USAF Mildenhall as a viable centre of operations, as without it within a few years Mr Hagels successor might just pull the plug on the remaining air base, and leave this small overcrowded island all on its own. The Germans would be daft not to lobby for it to happen and sooner.
JULIAN BRAY 01733 345581, Journalist, Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Operations, Travel / Cruise Industry Expert, EQUITY, NUJ, Broadcast ISDN 01733 345020 SKYPE: JULIAN.BRAY.UK e&oe > Updates are on the Website