President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak held extensive talks at the White House on Thursday.
The world leaders emphasizes their commitment to collaborating more closely amidst complex shared challenges in the international environment.
One historic leader who dealt with a monumental challenge facing the British people in World War II, former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, eluded Biden’s recall during the meeting.
It provided for an awkward occasion for the British prime minister to fill in the gaps in Biden’s fading memory.
Biden tells UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak a rambling story about the Truman Balcony, then forgets Winston Churchill's name pic.twitter.com/npnPMBvQmF
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“If we had time, I’d take you over to the residence where I live,” Biden said. “And when you were over in Blair House, the president Truman was there because they were redoing the White House. He put a hole in the Truman Balcony, exists now because of Blair House Ville that, of that second balcony, you see the first balcony you see going up.”
“So at any rate and there’s an awful lot of stories that are told with… probably a bunch apocryphal… about former Prime Minister like you take bass of the, anyway…”
“Wandering round at three in the morning,” Sunak helpfully chimed in. “Yeah. Winston Church will bothering bothering Mrs. Roosevelt. Yes. So you won’t, don’t worry, you won’t see me there.”
The leaders’ meeting in the Oval Office covered various topics, including the war in Ukraine, China, economic security, international cooperation on regulating artificial intelligence, and more. While Biden and Sunak have already had four face-to-face meetings since Sunak assumed office in October, this Washington summit provided them with an opportunity for their most substantial interaction to date.
“We will put our values front and center,” stated Biden.
During previous encounters, there were some awkward moments between the two leaders. Biden mispronounced Sunak’s name during a celebration of the Hindu holiday of Diwali, and at a meeting in March, Biden made a casual remark about being invited to Sunak’s home in California, unintentionally reviving previous political controversies surrounding Sunak’s possession of a U.S. green card while serving as chancellor of the exchequer.
This visit to Washington marked Sunak’s first since becoming Britain’s prime minister.
“Our economies are experiencing perhaps the most significant transformation since the Industrial Revolution, as new technologies provide incredible opportunities but also give our adversaries more tools,” Sunak commented on Thursday.
Additionally, Sunak sought to make the case to Biden for U.K. Defense Minister Ben Wallace to succeed outgoing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Stoltenberg is set to conclude his term leading the 31-member alliance in September. The NATO leaders are scheduled to convene in Lithuania on July 11-12 for their annual summit.
Sunak aimed to position the U.K. as a key player in artificial intelligence and announced that his government would host a summit on AI safety in the fall, gathering politicians, scientists, and tech executives. He stressed the importance of harnessing “paradigm-shifting new technologies” for the benefit of humanity and emphasized that this endeavor would require a global effort.
As U.S. and British intelligence officials continue to investigate the breach of a major dam in southern Ukraine, Sunak condemned the act, describing it as “an appalling barbarism on Russia’s part” if proven intentional. He noted that throughout the war, Russia has deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure, and U.K. intelligence services are still assessing the evidence.
Despite recent political and economic upheaval in the U.K., both sides aimed to demonstrate the enduring strength of the U.S.-U.K. relationship. Biden has now dealt with three British prime ministers since taking office.