To make a success of President Trump's first visit to Britain, the White House and Downing Street should listen to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom and have the president visit in late February.
With the new U.S. embassy to London opening in late February, Ambassador Woody Johnson told the BBC this week that he hopes Trump will preside over the celebrations. There are five good reasons why Johnson is right to suggest the February date.
First off, Trump is a real estate guru who likes big statement buildings. And the new U.S. embassy certainly makes a big statement!
Lined by a partial moat on one side, the ultra-modern fixture looks like something out of a "Star Trek" movie. But its location on the south side of the River Thames is also notable. After all, the vast majority of embassies in London (including the current U.S. embassy) are located north of the river. By relocating south of the river, the U.S. will provide an economic catalyst to a long-impoverished area of Britain's capital city.
Second, making a specific effort to attend the opening of America's embassy to its closest ally, Trump will show the British people that he respects them and the special relationship. Moreover, seeing as the new embassy is less than half a mile from the headquarters of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (CIA equivalent) and in the line of sight from the Security Service (Britain's domestic espionage service), it will make national security cooperation easier than ever before. Trump might want to reference this intelligence relationship in his speech; it forms the foundation of strong U.S.-U.K. relations.
Third, late February will be the 74th anniversary of the joint U.S.-U.K. "Big Week" bombing campaign against Nazi Germany. Trump should use that anniversary to make a speech at the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command Memorial in London.
A joint action between the 8th and 15th U.S. Army-Air Forces and the British Royal Air Force's Bomber and Fighter commands, Operation Argument (as "Big Week" was officially known) involved thousands of sorties against German industrial targets. Fought over six days, Operation Argument cost the lives of over 1,500 courageous American and British air personnel but inflicted irreplaceable losses on German aircrews. Facing the Soviet onslaught from the East and the looming D-Day invasion, "Big Week" left Germany in a position of permanent air inferiority.
Yet because of the civilian casualties that allied bomber crews inflicted on Germany during World War II, their heroism is today sometimes disregarded. Trump's remembrance of them would earn him the gratitude of the British government, military families, and many others (including myself, the grandson of an RAF bomber command pilot).
Fourth, seeing as the month of February in London is notorious for its cold weather and abundant rain, Trump's visit will mitigate the potential for protests that might occur in the summer. Considering the scale of Trump's unpopularity in Britain, this is no small concern. From both the U.S. and British government perspectives, it would be far more preferable if Trump could see London without a sea of angry protesters following him.
Fifth, the new embassy is only a short journey from Downing Street and Buckingham Palace, and thus will mitigate any security concerns.
As I say, a February embassy opening trip is a good choice! Woody Johnson is turning out to be a much better choice than I anticipated.