Political Anarchy in the UK, but First Sea Lord Welcomed in US

October 21, 2022Carl Prine
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday (left) and Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Sir Ben Key (center) meet with the Commandant of the US Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger, at the Pentagon on Oct. 20, 2022. US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Michael Zingaro.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday (left) and Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Sir Ben Key (center) meet with the Commandant of the US Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger, at the Pentagon on Oct. 20, 2022. US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Michael Zingaro.

Shrugging off political chaos at home, Britain’s First Sea Lord was warmly welcomed at the Pentagon by two of America’s top sea service leaders.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and Commandant of the US Marine Corps Gen. David Berger met with the Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Sir Ben Key for strategic talks on Thursday, Oct. 20.

“Our relationship with the Royal Navy is the bedrock of enduring maritime security, and a key enabler of integrated all-domain naval power,” Gilday said in a prepared release following the summit. “Nothing our armed forces accomplish day-in and day-out happens without working alongside close allies, and the US Navy has no closer ally than Adm. Key.”

On the same day in London, British Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned from office and the leadership of the Conservative Party after only 44 days in power. Her shocking downfall despite a 70-member majority in Parliament came after a string of similar defeats for Conservative leaders David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson over the past six years.

“It is a matter of enormous pride for me to visit the US and talk to my great friends and colleagues Adm. Mike Gilday and Gen. David Berger. Once again we have reaffirmed the very special relationship between our two nations and two navies and our Marines,” Key said in a prepared statement. 

first sea lord

Liz Truss speaks in London's Downing Street as she resigns as Prime Minister of The United Kingdom on Oct. 20, 2022. Truss has been the UK Prime Minister for just 44 days and has had a tumultuous time in office. Her mini-budget saw the British pound fall to its lowest-ever level against the dollar, increasing mortgage interest rates and deepening the cost-of-living crisis. She responded by sacking her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, whose replacement announced a near total reversal of the previous policies. Her Home Secretary Suella Braverman exited on Oct. 19, amid a chaotic vote in the House of Commons chamber. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Gilday last met with Key earlier this month at the Trans-Regional Seapower Symposium in Venice, Italy, but Pentagon officials pointed out that Thursday’s confab marked the first time a US Marine commandant has joined the bilateral dialogue, which is designed to hike the integration and interoperability of American and British naval and Marine forces.

“The Marine Corps always welcomes opportunities to partner with our allies in the naval forces,” Berger said in his prepared remarks. “I look forward to continued dialogue and collaboration with the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines as we explore the full potential of delivering combined seapower.”

It’s an ongoing conversation that’s straddled two US and a pair of UK administrations, telegraphing its larger importance to both nations in a world increasingly bedeviled by Russian misadventures in Ukraine and the rise of China as a naval power.

Over the past two years, London and Washington have sought to better align their growing fleets of drones and artificial intelligence systems while speeding the integration of legacy F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, anti-submarine warships, and aircraft carriers into war games and patrols.

first sea lord

An F/A-18E Super Hornet from the "Sidewinders" of Strike Fighter Squadron 86, sets on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush during NATO-led Neptune Strike 22.2 exercises in the Adriatic Sea, Oct. 18, 2022. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacqueline Pitts.

“We have refreshed our longstanding commitment for us to work collaboratively across the world, from the Euro-Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific Regions, and to stand together to safeguard the use of the global maritime commons upon which our combined security and prosperity depend,” Key said.

Warships from both US and UK navies are currently participating in NATO-led Neptune Strike exercises in the Adriatic Sea, but both forces routinely gather for war games, including Joint Warrior, Pacific Partnership, Rim of the Pacific, and Baltic Operations.

Gilday and Key are slated to meet again for bilateral talks during November’s Western Pacific Naval Symposium in Yokohama, Japan.

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Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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