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By Ian Foulks

How the U.S. and Britain have gone from arch enemies to the greatest of allies

The history between the United States and England goes back to well before the United States was actually a reality. America began its existence as a colony of Great Britain. Though these two countries have a long history together, that does not mean that their shared history has not been rocky at times, and downright vicious at other times. Through all of this, however, the U.S. and England have come to forge one of the strongest alliances that the world has ever known.

In the year 1776, America, which was a colony at the time, decided that they were going to separate from Great Britain and forge a new nation in the west. This would lead to the fighting of the American Revolutionary War, which in time rendered the U.S. independent of England. For a very long time afterward, the two countries were by no means allies, though they did allow for trade between nations. Following the nineteenth century, which did include an invasion by the British through Canada in 1812, the balance of power changed drastically and the two countries were set on course to become necessary allies.

One of the earliest signs that this alliance was beginning to take shape was the sharing of the Zimmerman Telegram, a message from Germany to Mexico offering American territory to Mexico in exchange for assistance in defeating the Americans, which was intercepted by the British[1]. This encouraged Woodrow Wilson to commit U.S. troops to the war effort in Europe and laid the foundation for a great friendship.

This relationship would continue to grow as the two countries endured the Great Depression together, but before they could get too comfortable, Germany invaded Poland again. The Nazis, through their horrible acts, would bring the U.S. and England ever closer. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill are two of the greatest leaders the world will ever know, and WWII enabled them to become a most formidable pair. Through their strategizing, they were able to guide the Allied Forces to victory in the second war for Europe.

Not long after the end of WWII the U.S.S.R. was on the rise, and when they went nuclear in 1949, the alliance between England and America only grew stronger. In 1958 the U.S. and British governments entered into a US-UK Mutual Defense Agreement, which allowed for the sharing of weapons, nuclear technology, and bases to defend the West against the spread of communism[2]. This alliance would continue to grow stronger and would end up being the central reason for the fall of the Soviet Union.

Since the end of the Cold War, the relationship between the United States and Britain has been tested. There are different challenges in the world, and how these two powers should cooperate to deal with them is yet to be determined. We see that the relationship between the two remained strong when Tony Blair stood by his American counterpart, George W. Bush, when much of the world did not agree with military intervention in Iraq in 2003. There are questions as to how this alliance will proceed, but the “special relationship” that Winston Churchill spoke about when referring to the relationship between these two powers certainly still endures[3].

[1] Alexander, Mary and Marilyn Childress. “The Zimmerman Telegram.” Social Education 45, 4 (April 1981): 266.

[2] Mix, Derek E. “The United Kingdom: Background and Relations with the United States”. Congressional Research Service. PDF. (Apr. 29, 2015):14.

[3] Knigge, Michael. “‘Special relationship’ between Britain and US turns normal”. DW. (8 Mar, 2016).

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