Cameron Arrives For Maiden U.S. Visit
MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News Mary Louise Kelly.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
The new prime minister of Britain, David Cameron, meets President Obama at the White House today. It will be Cameron's first visit to Washington since taking power as the head of a coalition government in May. The agenda will likely be dominated by discussions about Afghanistan and international economic conditions, and we will be talking to Mr. Cameron later this morning at the British Embassy.
For a preview of the meeting between the president and the prime minister, we called NPR's Rob Gifford in London.
ROB GIFFORD: Hi, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Hi. What is David Cameron likely to tell President Obama about, let's start with Afghanistan?
GIFFORD: Well, I think David Cameron is walking a very fine line here, just like President Obama is, in terms of wanting to continue to show support for the coalition troops in the job they're doing in Afghanistan, but also wanting to find an exit strategy. David Cameron has been less explicit about a timeframe than President Obama has been, but it's very much trying to balance these two issues.
And, of course, they will be talking - just as the conference in Kabul today with all the foreign ministers of the major countries involved - they will be talking about the issues that that conference will be discussing: how to better allocate aide and financial resources in Afghanistan, and also this issue of reintegration. How and who to reintegrate from Taliban lines? Which members of the Taliban, at what level, can be spoken to and reintegrated into Afghan society?
MONTAGNE: The president and the prime minister will also be talking about the economy. Talk to us about the British view on how it's tackling its economy in these tough tines.
GIFFORD: Yes. This will probably be a source of some disagreement between the two men. Britain, and in fact, the whole of Europe, has a very different viewpoint of how to tackle these very difficult financial times. What's happening here in Britain, since Mr. Cameron came to power, is that he has announced massive, massive cuts in government spending. And right across the board, that's also happening in the private sector, as well.
The feeling here in Europe is that those cuts are essential. And in some departments in this new coalition government, they're having to cut their budgets by 20 to 25 percent. In the United States, of course, the feeling is that that could really damage this very fragile recovery, and that spending should be continued. So I think this is an ongoing conversation over the next few years, as the global economy recovers, but I don't think either man is really going to be able to persuade the other of his point of view.
MONTAGNE: Now David Cameron wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this morning, that the so-called special relationship between Britain and the U.S., in his view, would be heretofore more realistic and hardheaded. What did he mean by that?
GIFFORD: Well, I think the special relationship is really only used over here in Britain. I'm not sure many Americans use the expression. I think it's sort of the British way of trying to retain its perception that it still has influence with the United States. And I think Mr. Cameron is clearly addressing the concerns here that arose during Tony Blair's prime ministership, that he was too close to George Bush and he did everything that George Bush told him. That's the perception here. And I think there is a feeling that he needs to reassert himself as his own man, that David Cameron is trying to stress that he's not going to just do what Washington tells him. It's a different world, a different financial reality, and that is what he's going to be addressing very much in his own way.
MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Rob Gifford in London, speaking to us about the visit to Washington, D.C., today, of the British Prime Minister David Cameron. We will be speaking to the prime minister later this morning at the British Embassy.