It was interesting to observe President Obama’s recent visit to the UK and what this tells us about the UK-US alliance.

The US holds most of the bargaining aces in any dealings with the UK. It has greater scale, numbers, market power and network power. The UK potential aces are mainly available to the US as well (expertise, information and personal power). Oddly the UK probably has some imputed “authority” power from its history and its traditions (the Queen, Parliament, etc.). No surprise then to see the UK working that source of power jolly hard whilst Obama was here.

One problem in dealing with Obama though is that mainly he doesn’t seem to like striking deals. He makes engaging statements and exudes good will, but he seems to like keeping options open rather than making commitments. This may be why he was unwilling to be drawn on issues where the UK would have liked more commitment from him – for example Libya, and Budget deficit management. This may partly explain Obama’s popularity – he never disenfranchises anybody. It makes it harder though if, like the UK, you want to get deals out of him and you don’t hold many aces.

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