by Ray Fleming

David Cameron's first engagement with President Obama today is at Dayton, Ohio, to watch a college basketball game. This somewhat inconsequential start to his visit will be balanced by the fact that the flight to Dayton is in Air Force One and Mr Cameron will be the first foreign leader to travel in the President's official aircraft. When it comes to business tomorrow and Thursday most of the topics will be in the areas of foreign and defence policy: Israel and Iran; Afghanistan and Pakistan; Libya and Syria; Egypt and Yemen; China and Russia; the European Union's recession. The Falklands, even?

Generally relations between Britain and the United States are in good order: Mr Cameron's willingness with President Sarkozy to take a lead in Libya last year suited Mr Obama's inclination to be less prominent in some cases. But the prime minister is certain to be asked about Britain's long-term foreign policy given the considerable reduction in its defence expenditure. The 2010 National Security Strategy said that Britain will see “no reduction in influence” over the next decade -- a statement that bears no relationship to reality. Of course, influence does not rely wholly on military might but until now America has been able to rely on Britain as an ally giving significant military support as well as excellent diplomatic and intelligence backup. For how long will that last?

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