Fuad Alakbarov: How the 'special relationship' between the UK and US is evolving

Human rights activist Fuad Alakbarov examines the modern relationship between the United Kingdom and United States of America

AS the United States seizes with its place in the world, there are lessons to be drawn from the UK.

In foreign affairs, the UK is currently semi-detached from the EU but is no closer to the United States, or anywhere else, as a result. And Jeremy Corbyn, a few months ago, pulled off perhaps the biggest political coup in Europe : a lifelong republican and pacifist, Corbyn suddenly snatched the leadership of one of the two pillars of the British political system, the Labour party.

The same forces of revolt that have spurred the UK's political crisis have propelled socialist Bernie Sanders into striking distance of Hillary Clinton in the battle for the Democratic party's nomination.

The new challengers share a distrust of 'the establishment' and the belief that the outdated institutions of politics deserve to be stormed like the Bastille in the revolutionary Paris of 1789.

The new challengers share a distrust of 'the establishment' and the belief that the outdated institutions of politics deserve to be stormed like the Bastille in the revolutionary Paris of 1789.

Sanders is unlikely to follow in Corbyn's footsteps and capture control of a major political party. That's not just because of Sanders' recent underwhelming debate performance - it's because the UK's political malaise is in a more advanced stage than that of the US.

But the fact that Sanders and fellow political insurgent Donald Trump have done as well as they have is evidence that the once-venerated institutions of America, like those of Britain, are beginning to smell of mold.

The Sanders and Trump candidacies are electoral spasms of the American body politic as it adjusts to America's reduced power and respect in the world. The rebels do not have convincing answers to the challenges before their country.

Trump's slogan, 'Make America Great Again', should be read not as a jubilant declaration of the return of US prestige but as a sign of America's refusal to face the fact that its former place as the world's sole superpower is gone and isn't coming back.

The Berni Sanders and Donald Trump candidacies are electoral spasms of the American body politic as it adjusts to America's reduced power and respect in the world.

There are lessons for the US to draw from the UK, which has been adjusting to a similar fall from greatness over the past century. The UK used to think of itself as an indispensable country. The British classic '1066 and All That', a parody of a school textbook, mines a humorous seam from the idea that for the entire length of modern history the UK was 'top nation' fighting off efforts to wrest away that status by dastardly foreigners, from Philip II of Spain to Napoleon.

With the end of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles, the book ends because "America was thus clearly top nation, and history came to a ."

Britain has spent the last few generations working out the meaning of the residual truths of that cliche. That means we recognise the debates in the American media about whether the US is "losing its leadership in the world" or "in decline".

Of course, the "decline" debate is heavily oversimplified. Global politics is not a sporting competition, and being a citizen of a country that is objectively less "great" than it used to be, brings a certain useful humility. The UK has shed a lot of its pomposity, while America's ego remains overinflated.

Post-imperial Britain is also ahead of America on issues such as combating climate change, although living on a small crowded island may have a lot to do with that.

And yet, over the last couple of decades the UK's political class has ducked the big challenge of reconfiguring the country's role in international affairs and reinventing domestic political institutions - issues that the United States must face up to as well.

The paradox is that two countries, which are so inter-connected with the rest of the world through business, trade, science and technology, are at the same time so politically old fashioned.

The paradox is that two countries, which are so inter-connected with the rest of the world through business, trade, science and technology, are at the same time so politically old fashioned.

For too long, many on both sides of the Atlantic have shared the assumption that, just as surely as its clocks align themselves to Greenwich Mean Time, the world's default political system is Anglo-Saxon democracy.

Both countries have regarded themselves as 'leaders', not 'joiners'. But what happens when the rest of the global order no longer heeds your leadership?

Picture courtesy of NATO Summit Wales 2014