Rishi Sunak heads to Washington with Ukraine, economy and AI on Biden’s meeting agenda

WASHINGTON (AP) — The war in Ukraine topped Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s agenda Wednesday as he kicked off a two-day trip to Washington delivering the message that post-Brexit Britain remains an American ally. essential in a world of emboldened authoritarian states.

The United States and the United Kingdom are the two largest military donors to Ukraine, and the war will be the focus of Sunak’s meeting Thursday at the White House with President Joe Biden.

The failure of a major dam in southern Ukraine, which caused flooding in cities and on farmland, has made the subject even more urgent. Neither Washington nor London has officially accused Russia of blowing up the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam, but Sunak told reporters on his flight to Washington that it would “demonstrate the new lows we would have seen in Russian aggression “.

Britain and the United States are the main players in an international effort to equip Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, and the talks are also expected to include additional air defense measures against Russian bombings then for Ukraine to launch a counter-offensive to retake the occupied territory.

The trip is Sunak’s first to the US capital since taking office in October, but his fourth meeting with Biden in as many months. The two leaders crossed paths at a Group of Seven summit in Japan, Northern Ireland and a three-way defense meeting with Australia in San Diego.

Sunak, 43, and Biden, 80, are very different politicians. Sunak is an heir to free-trade prime minister Margaret Thatcher and is wary of major government interventions in the economy such as Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, a huge package of tax breaks and subsidies aimed at stimulate green industries.

But he is also pragmatic and has restored stability to the British government after the turbulent terms of his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

Johnson championed the populist Brexit movement and drove Britain out of the European Union, a move Biden has made clear he believes has hurt Britain. Truss had been in office for less than two months, stepping down after his rash plans to cut taxes sparked a financial crisis.

Sunak, who was chosen by the ruling Tories to replace Truss, reassured Washington of smoothing relations with the EU, striking a deal with Brussels to resolve a long-running dispute over Northern Ireland trade.

During his meeting with Biden, Sunak will push for closer economic ties between the United States and the United Kingdom, arguing that economic cooperation is as crucial for security as defense alliances.

“Just as interoperability between our armies has given us a battlefield advantage over our adversaries, greater economic interoperability will give us a crucial advantage in the decades to come,” Sunak said ahead of the talks.

A UK government official who presented Sunak’s program on condition of anonymity said Sunak wanted to discuss ways to protect supply chains from hostile actors and ensure China does not corner the production market. semiconductors and other key components,

He will not, however, push for a UK-US free trade deal. British officials admit that the long-cherished goal of Brexit supporters is currently frozen.

Sunak, a Stanford University MBA graduate who dreams of creating Britain’s Silicon Valley, also wants to discuss the promises and dangers of artificial intelligence. He is eager to make sure the UK is not left out of US-EU talks on the subject.

Sunak floated the idea that the UK could be a fast-moving technology regulatory hub, although no major news on this is expected during his trip.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman, Max Blain, said the UK’s approach to regulation, “agile and able to adapt to the rapid pace of this technology, makes the UK well placed to play a leading role plan here”.

Sunak is also likely to push for British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace to become NATO’s next chief following the departure of Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in September. The prime minister is expected to stress that the next secretary general should be someone who “continues the good work of modernizing Stoltenberg but also understands the importance of defense spending at this critical time.”

The comment could be seen as a subtle dig at another possible candidate for the job, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who met with Biden in Washington earlier this week. Denmark is lagging behind the NATO target for members to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on military budgets by 2030.

Sunak is also scheduled to meet with US business leaders and speak with congressional leaders, including President Kevin McCarthy, on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday night, he will attend a Washington Nationals baseball game – although he won’t throw the first pitch, to the disappointment of the British media.

Sunak stressed he was never supposed to throw the pitch at the game, which features military bands and a flyover to celebrate US-UK ties.

“My sport is more cricket than baseball, anyway,” he said.

___

Lawless reported from London.

Leave a Comment