We all need friends right? Well, when it comes to American allies, we have got quite a few. With Russia waging an unprovoked war in Ukraine and China looking to replace the United States as the world’s foremost superpower and greatest economy, our reliance on strong relationships with allies and partners that deliver is needed more than ever.
Since the birth of our nation, we have forged some long-lasting relationships with other nations, with some being turned from enemies to a friend. We may be the most powerful nation on the planet, but it is undeniable that international cooperation with our allies is vital to America’s security.
But which nations have really been there for America when we needed them most? Who are our oldest or closest allies? Here we take a look at some of the nations America can call true friends, especially when some countries are turning increasingly more aggressive and looking to expand their influence at the tip of a spear instead of the diplomatic table.
When it comes to thinking of France as an ally of America, most people’s minds would be cast back to the Second World War, where we stood shoulder-to-shoulder with France to fight the spread of Nazism and fascism. However, America’s history with France goes back much further, and are considered our oldest ally.
After being named an agent of a diplomatic commission by the Continental Congress, one month later, Benjamin Franklin sets sail from Philadelphia for France on October 26, 1776, to secure an alliance with France against the British. Between 1778 and 1782, they provided us with supplies, arms and ammunition, troops and naval support, transported reinforcements, helped fight off a British fleet, and protected General Washington’s forces in Virginia.
In the modern age France has again proved what a valuable ally they are as when ISIS swept into Iraq and Syria, they were one of only a few countries that conducted airstrikes with the US and deployed their commandos on the ground. They even allowed their aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to serve as the flagship for the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command operational task force. Marking the first time France has allowed any foreign nation to take operational command.
As well as aiding us in curbing the rise of Islamic extremists, the French navy has also helped the US in policing the South China Sea in order to allow ships to safely navigate through those waters without fear of Chinese intervention. They made their position extremely clear in 2019 when France sent warships through the Taiwan Strait, signaling to China that they would stand with the US in keeping international waterways free from Chinese interference.
We didn’t exactly get off to the best start with this ally as Britain was an enemy and then a long-standing rival for many years. However, since the Second World War, the relationship with Britain has become closer than with any other nation. The Anglo-American alliance has grown into what Winston Churchill famously described as a ‘special relationship.’ A relationship solidified in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s close bond, both personally, and politically.
Through our working together, the US and Britain have saved West Berlin from the evils of communism, forged NATO to deter Russia from expanding over Europe again as they did in the Cold War, liberated Kuwait, and toppled Saddam Hussein’s blood-soaked regime and decimated ISIS across the Middle East. When it comes to manufacturing effective military hardware, few do it better than Britain.
By 2020, Britain’s newest aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, deployed both British and American F-35s. A symbolic sign of just how close we are as nations when it comes to defending democracy across the globe. Whenever American troops are deployed, whether that be in Iraq and Syria, the Baltics and Balkans, Afghanistan and Africa, the Brits deploy their troops there too.
Ever since the War on Terror began in the aftermath of the tragic events of 9/11, Britain was with the US from the very beginning, they conducted the second-largest share of airstrikes against ISIS. And today, regardless of who is President and Prime Minister, this alliance holds firm as we continue to push back against Russian aggression, Chinese expansion, and the continued threat of Iranian saber rattling.
Another nation we don’t exactly have the best history with, but can now call a reliable ally in Japan. As the world’s third-largest economy, Japan is America’s richest ally and has used some of its wealth to purchase Mageshima Island in the East China Sea from a private seller. In an effort to bolster the shield that protects the area from Chinese aggression and expansionism, the Japanese have also invested in constructing military-grade runways for both Japanese and American warplanes to use as a base of operations in the region.
Japan’s growing importance to Indo-Pacific security can not be understated as they have also increased its defense spending nine years in a row and is currently expanding its suite of missile defenses with the US and Japan co-developing the SM-3 Block 2A interceptor missile and hosting two powerful AN/TPY-2 missile-defense radars that network with other U.S. missile defense assets.
They have further committed themselves to helping the US (and other international partners) police the South and East China Seas by expanding its naval activity in the region by conducting joint patrols with the U.S. Navy. Much of this modern cooperation is largely due to the assassinated former prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who helped lay the foundation of the Quad security partnership with the US, Australia, and India.
When it comes to our closest ally, geographically speaking, our Canadian friends to the north have long shared a peaceful, open border stretching 5,525 miles (including the Canada-Alaska border) and have close ties to the US in many forms ranging from trade and culture to defense and intelligence. They stand as our largest export market and second-largest trading partner overall with them being the largest importer of American oil.
Canada also plays a massive part in protecting the airspace of not only the US but the North American airspace as a whole as they jointly operate NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) with a U.S. commander and Canadian deputy commander. Canada and the US have shared these responsibilities since its creation on May 12, 1958. With its vast network of sensors, radars, and satellites, Canada has helped monitor the skies for Soviet bombers and missile launches during the Cold War.
Today, 1,000 Canadian military personnel continue to protect American airspace, homeland security, and missile defense, and aid in the event of a natural disaster. As Americans, we have a long history of supporting our troops and thanking them for their service, but we should also thank Canadians for their service as, just in the war in Afghanistan alone, 155 Canadian troops have given their lives to help us fight a common enemy.
As with the French navy, Canadian warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait as a way to warn China that they stand side by side with the US in challenging Chinese expansion in the region. Before the current conflict in Ukraine, Canada also helped America in rebuilding the Ukrainian army.
Photo by lunopark from Shutterstock
The Australians have not only been a long-serving, reliable ally in the Oceanic and Asian fields but were one of the first nations to join the U.S. military from the very beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The exact same can be said about their involvement in Operation Iraqi Freedom as they were one of only three nations that joined the US in the initial invasion. They were also among a small handful of nations that conducted airstrikes against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria as well as committed troops on the ground.
Closer to home, Australia, along with Japan and India, have helped the US as part of the Quad security partnership to deter Chinese expansion in the area in and above the South China Sea. And their commitment to helping the US is only increasing as Australia is committed to increasing its defense spending by 40 percent in the next decade. Back in October 2020, they also announced that it will, after a 13-year hiatus, rejoin naval exercises with the Quad security partnership.
One of our newest allies is India. As one of the members of the Quad security partnership, the world’s largest democracy is continuing to expand its security connections with the US. Ever since the President George W. Bush administration, India has worked alongside the US in bolstering its partnership as being a bulwark to Chinese expansion in the region. And by the time Obama sat in the Oval Office, India signed agreements on defense logistics and technology, making them a major defense partner.
In 2002, the US and India started doing joint land-warfare maneuvers in an effort to grow defense and security cooperation between our two nations to protect our strategic interests in the region. Our joint cooperation with India only grew from there. From zero in 2008, their total defense trade with the US has grown to more than $20 billion by purchasing U.S. attack helicopters, transport helicopters, UAVs, cargo planes, anti-submarine aircraft, and howitzers to bolster their modernizing military.
In 2012, India participated for the first time in RIMPAC, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise administered by the United States Navy’s Indo-Pacific Command and headquartered at Pearl Harbor. By 2019, the US Marines deployed to India for Exercise Tiger Triumph, working alongside all three branches of the Indian military. The following year, the Nimitz carrier strike group took part in exercises with Indian warships for large-scale maneuvers in the Indian Ocean.
The last military cooperation with India’s military took place that same year when our two nations signed an agreement to share sensitive satellite intelligence. Our relationship with India is only going to grow from strength to strength as we look to partner with this ever-expanding democracy.
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