- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2018

“Baby Trump,” Russian villainy, Brexit and an audience with Queen Elizabeth II will complete President Trump’s whirlwind visit this week to the United Kingdom.

The president will be dogged by protesters and a 20-foot tall “Baby Trump” balloon floating over London on his first official visit to America’s closest ally, but U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Robert “Woody” Johnson said Mr. Trump won’t be bowed.

“The president is not avoiding anything,” Mr. Johnson said of the 50,000 protesters expected to flood London to demonstrate against Mr. Trump.

“He appreciates free speech both in this country and in our country. It’s one of the things that bond us together is the freedoms that we share,” he said from London in call with reporters.

Mr. Trump’s visit will focus on strengthening the two countries’ bonds in military, intelligence, business and scientific research.

Mr. Johnson said the president also is eager to make a bilateral trade deal with the U.K., which currently is maneuvering its exit, or Brexit, from the European Union.

Mr. Trump’s get-tough trade policies have clashed with Europe. Britain, with its historic reshaping of economic ties, provides a potential bright spot on trade for the administration.

Officials in both countries have been preparing for a U.S.-U.K. trade deal.

“The president is ready, willing and able to do that as soon as possible,” said Mr. Johnson.

The protesters, led by British activist Leo Murray, hope to anger the president with the “Baby Trump” balloon, which is described as an “angry baby with a fragile ego and tiny hands.”

The balloon was approved to fly during the visit by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim to hold the job, who has an ongoing feud with Mr. Trump over the president’s so-called Muslim travel ban.

The protesters are organized under the umbrella group “Stop Trump.” They run the gamut from antiwar activists to environmentalists to Britain’s left-wing, grass-roots group Momentum, and they plan to raise a ruckus near every stop on Mr. Trump’s tour.

His two-day visit begins Thursday and includes a black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace, meetings with British Prime Minister Theresa May at her official country estate Chequers Court and a reception with Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle.

The stop in the U.K. is sandwiched between Mr. Trump’s participation in a NATO summit in Brussels and his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

The question of how to deal with Russia’s malign actions will loom over the entire trip, topping the agenda for the NATO alliance and discussions between Mr. Trump and Mrs. May at Chequers.

Mr. Trump is expected to confront Mr. Putin in Helsinki over Moscow’s hostile moves, from the wars in Ukraine and Syria to the annexation of Crimea and meddling in elections, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Mr. Putin, a former KBG colonel, is not expected to budge on any area of conflict. But Mr. Trump insists that it is worth starting a dialogue in person and seek better cooperation between the two countries.

Russia’s malign actions are front and center in the U.K.: Britain has accused Moscow in the March nerve-agent assassination attempt on a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England.

A British couple — 45-year-old Charlie Rowley and 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess — were poisoned last week with the same Soviet-era nerve agent, Novichok, in the same area.

Russia has denied involvement in the nerve agent exposures. It remains unclear how Mr. Rowley and Ms. Sturgess were exposed.

Mr. Johnson said the president and the prime minister are “on the same page” when it comes to Russia.

“They will be discussing that issue — the relationship with Russia — at the meeting at Chequers,” Mr. Johnson said.

Chequers Court is located in Ellesborough, about 45 miles northwest of London.

The first night of his visit, Mr. Trump will attend a black-tie dinner with business leaders and diplomats at Blenheim Palace, which is the birthplace of Winston Churchill in Woodstock, about 60 miles west of London.

Mr. Trump, whose mother was born in Scotland, will wrap up his visit in that part of the U.K. He will spend his time there preparing for the summit with Mr. Putin.


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