The special relationship is the phrase often used to characterize the warm political, diplomatic, historical, and cultural relations between the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Although the United States also maintains close relationships with Canada, Israel, Japan and Mexico, the level of cooperation in military planning, execution of military operations, nuclear weapon technology sharing and intelligence sharing between the U.S. and UK is unparalleled.
The origin of the term may be Winston Churchill's "Sinews of Peace Address" in Fulton, Missouri, better known for addressing the rise of communism and the Iron Curtain.
- Neither the sure prevention of war, nor the continuous rise of world organization will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples ...a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States. Fraternal association requires not only the growing friendship and mutual understanding between our two vast but kindred systems of society, but the continuance of the intimate relationship between our military advisers, leading to common study of potential dangers, the similarity of weapons and manuals of instructions, and to the interchange of officers and cadets at technical colleges. It should carry with it the continuance of the present facilities for mutual security by the joint use of all Naval and Air Force bases in the possession of either country all over the world.There is however an important question we must ask ourselves. Would a special relationship between the United States and the British Commonwealth be inconsistent with our over-riding loyalties to the World Organization? I reply that, on the contrary, it is probably the only means by which that organization will achieve its full stature and strength.
The relationship is supposedly based on cultural and historical ties but is usually evoked in times of difficulty for either party. Built on the principle of interdependence it serves as a polite mask to the fact that Britain relies heavily on the United States to punch above its weight in international relations. That the United States does sometimes need Britain - albeit principally for the purposes of publicity - has been demonstrated neatly by the circumstances surrounding Operation Iraqi Freedom.
During the worst periods of the cold war the United Kingdom was jokingly referred to as the "biggest US aircraft carrier in the world". During certain periods of the 1970s and 1980s there were more US military aircraft based in the UK than the complete strength of the Royal Air Force.
This interweaving of the combined US and UK military forces (as well as shared intelligence detailed below) is an indication that the 'special relationship' is likely to continue for some time.
- June 2002, Policy Review, The State of the Special Relationship
- State Department Official disparages the relationship