Liz Truss
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
Liz Truss delivers her first speech as the UK’s new prime minister outside 10 Downing Street in London. Photo: Bloomberg

First world leader to speak with Britain’s new PM Truss was Ukraine’s Zelensky, then Biden

  • US President Joe Biden and new UK Prime Minister Liz Truss spoke on phone with ‘special relationship’ at stake
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was the first foreign leader who spoke with Truss, invited her to Ukraine
Liz Truss

With Liz Truss as the new British prime minister, the “special relationship” with the United States is potentially on course for redefinition with a conservative leader who is much more of a hardliner than her predecessor.

US President Joe Biden spoke to his counterpart Tuesday afternoon, following Truss’ call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was the first foreign leader to do so.

The conversation between Biden and Truss set the tone for the future working relationship of two allies that have been historically close but do not always see eye-to-eye.

Truss, who replaces Boris Johnson, told Biden that she also looked forward to “working closely” with Washington “as leaders of free democracies to tackle shared challenges,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said.

They include “the extreme economic problems unleashed by (Russian President) Putin’s war,” she added in a readout of their call.

It comes amid reported concerns in the United States over Truss, after her one-year tenure as foreign secretary saw post-Brexit tensions in Northern Ireland surface and strain Britain’s ties with Brussels, Dublin and Washington.


In that previous role, Truss spearheaded legislation in Britain’s parliament that would unilaterally override parts of a UK-EU trade pact for Northern Ireland, which the bloc and Irish government vehemently oppose.

Is Liz Truss’ Thatcher reawakening what UK-China relations need?

Biden, who has Irish roots, has been critical of the Brexit policy pursued by Britain under Johnson, and was seen to share a lukewarm relationship with the former British leader.

Biden had warned ahead of his 2020 election that if Brexit damaged the 1998 Good Friday Agreement he would not consent to a UK-US trade deal. That agreement ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.

A trade agreement between London and Washington is currently seen as a distant prospect.


However, defence ties between the two transatlantic allies have strengthened in recent years, with a new partnership involving Australia – dubbed Aukus – agreed last year.

In their phone call Tuesday, Truss and Biden “agreed to build on those links, including by furthering our deep defence alliance through Nato and Aukus”.

US President Joe Biden. Photo: AFP

“The leaders reinforced their commitment to strengthening global liberty, tackling the risks posed by autocracies and ensuring Putin fails in Ukraine,” the Downing Street spokeswoman added.


The White House for its part said the two leaders discussed their “shared commitment” to Belfast agreement, as well as “the importance of reaching a negotiated agreement with the European Union on the Northern Ireland Protocol”.

In its readout of the call, the White House also said Truss and Biden addressed “the challenges posed by China (and) preventing Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

New PM Liz Truss’ cabinet is Britain’s first without white man in top jobs

They also reaffirmed “the special relationship” between Britain and the United States and expressed their readiness to further deepen the ties, according to the readout.


Truss is seeking to meet Biden when she makes her international debut at the United Nations General Assembly later in September, according to a person familiar with her thinking.

Most pointedly though, Truss is less keen on the “special relationship”, a term fetishised by the Tory press to describe the personal affinity between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Liz Truss’ predecessor Boris Johnson were firm allies throughout the conflict. Photo: dpa

Last year, on the fringes of the annual Tory party conference, she said she sees the relationship with the US as “special but not exclusive”, comparing the jostling of nations positioning to be close to the US as a “beauty contest”.


The UK, she told the audience, shouldn’t be “worried like some teenage girl at a party if we’re not considered to be good enough. I just don’t see it like that”.

Truss earlier on Tuesday spoke with Ukraine’s president, who invited Britain’s new leader to Ukraine.

Zelensky tweeted: “I became the 1st foreign leader to have a conversation with the newly elected British Prime Minister Liz Truss. Invited her to Ukraine. Thanked British people for the major defence & economic aid for Ukraine. It’s important that Britain is ready to further strengthen it. Attention was paid to security guarantees.

Who is Liz Truss?

“We discussed the participation of Britain in the recovery of Ukraine. Coordinated further pressure on the Russian Federation. The goal is to stop the aggression & bring the perpetrators to justice. It’s important to designate the RF a terrorist state. We’ll continue active interaction in all formats.”

Biden’s administration on Tuesday said it would be counterproductive to brand Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism”, rejecting calls from Ukraine and lawmakers to take the far-reaching action.

Latvia’s parliament in August declared Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism”, saying it was carrying out “genocide” against Ukrainians, but French President Emmanuel Macron in June also explicitly ruled out the label.

Zelensky and Truss’ predecessor Johnson were firm allies throughout the conflict waged by Russia on its neighbour.

Johnson had made several visits to the Ukrainian capital. Britain sent almost 7,000 anti-tank weapons, hundreds of missiles and armoured fighting vehicles. It is also training Ukrainian soldiers.

Bloomberg, Reuters and Agence France-Presse