Theresa May was able to declare Donald Trump “100% behind NATO” during his first meeting with a foreign leader since becoming President last week, Sky News reports.
The Prime Minister’s team are delighted their decision to fully engage with the new President has led to concrete results, reining in some of his radical rhetoric that had troubled many Western allies.
In a White House news conference with the Prime Minister, the President also appeared to distance US policy from his own view that “torture works”, saying that he would be guided by his new defence secretary James Mattis.
The former General is against the reintroduction of torture.
President Trump did, however, leave open the possibility that he will imminently lift some sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine. He is due to have a call with President Vladimir Putin on Saturday.
“We will see what happens,” said Mr Trump. “We look to have a great relationship with all countries, ideally. That won’t necessarily happen, unfortunately – probably won’t happen with many countries.
“But if we could have a relationship (with Russia) as we do with Prime Minister May… if we can have a great relationship with Russia and with China and with all countries, I am all for that.”
Such a move on sanctions would end the international consensus behind the Minsk process to end conflict and return occupied and annexed Ukrainian territory. The former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said: “Unilaterally lifting Russia sanctions means torpedoing the Minsk agreement. It signals he (Mr Trump) is ready to hand Donbass to Russia.”
Britain has been the leading force – other than the former US government – behind Russian sanctions. The Prime Minister, standing by the US President, said they had to stay in place as Russia had failed to meet its commitments.
Mrs May said: “As far as the UK is concerned on sanctions for Russia in relations to their activities in the Ukraine, we have been very clear that we want to see the Minsk agreement fully implemented.
“We believe the sanctions should continue until we see the Minsk agreement fully implemented. And we’ve been continuing to argue that inside the European Union.”
Both the Prime Minister and the President poured praise on each other. The President predicted a “fantastic relationship”, and Mrs May described President’s Trump election in glowing terms.
“I congratulate you on a stunning election victory,” she said. Mrs May delivered an invitation from the Queen for a state visit to the UK later this year. Both leaders also posed with the returned bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval Office.
The US President offered unremitting praise for Brexit, saying: “I think Brexit is going to be a wonderful thing for your country.” At one point, walking along the White House colonnade from the Oval House, the two leaders held hands while descending some steps.
Mrs May will tonight fly direct to Ankara to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for another summit with a NATO leader.