From Meloni to Putin, Rishi Sunak’s global BFFs ranked – POLITICO
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LONDON — Fancy joining a festival of right-wingers with Italy’s Giorgia Meloni?
Rishi Sunak certainly does. The British Conservative PM will gather with fellow right-wing figures from across Europe at the four-day Atreju festival in Rome this weekend, where he’ll enjoy a bilateral with his Italian counterpart Meloni.
Meloni, leader of the hard right Brothers of Italy Party, has become one of Sunak’s closest allies on the world stage. “They obviously get on, I think they came in at a similar time,” Sunak’s spokesperson told journalists Thursday.
But not all of Sunak’s working relationships are quite so peachy. POLITICO ranked, entirely scientifically, his friendships with other world leaders.
Few world leaders appear as pally as Meloni and Sunak, whose catch-up at this weekend’s festival in Italy will be far from their first.
The pair have also written a rare joint op-ed on tackling illegal migration — and are often pictured laughing or smiling together. Their relationship is particularly striking given Meloni’s hard-right political heritage, while Sunak is seen as more of a centrist in U.K. Tory terms.
Meloni tried to calm fears about her own rise by saying her grouping in the European Parliament “shares values and experiences with the British Tories, the U.S. Republicans and the Israeli Likud.” One British commentator even labelled her “Italy’s answer to Margaret Thatcher.”
BFF rating: 11/10. A real love-in.
British and French leaders in not-hating-each-other shocker!
Sunak’s predecessors Liz Truss and Boris Johnson had a … troubled relationship with France’s Emmanuel Macron. But Sunak, like Macron, models himself as a trainer-wearing banker-turned-technocrat on the world stage. The pair sought a reset — and Sunak has enjoyed a blossoming bromance with his new mon ami ever since.
Earlier this year, Downing Street presented the first Anglo-French summit in half a decade as the start of a new Entente Cordiale between the countries, and can hold up the Northern Ireland Brexit deal — known as the Windsor Framework — plus some progress on cross-Channel teamwork as signs of success.
BFF rating: 8/10. U.K.-France ties can always go south, but the bros will hug it out.
Australia’s Anthony Albanese might be Labor and Sunak a Tory, but who cares? They both like cricket.
An apparent public row earlier this year over some cricketing controversy was clearly just fun and games, resulting in the kind of cringe banter that only real pals can conjur when they met at NATO a few days later.
Otherwise, Australia and the U.K. get on pretty well and can even boast the fruits of the AUKUS nuclear sub pact which Sunak helped seal earlier this year.
BFF rating: 7/10. Nuclear subs and cricket — it’s what friendships are made of.
Sunak’s Windsor Framework deal also helped Sunak’s case with Joe Biden, who had been vocally concerned about post-Brexit drama in Northern Ireland under Boris Johnson. The U.S. president was also not fond of Johnson’s endless wisecracks, according to those around him.
BFF rating: 6/10. The special relationship is alive and well. Expect a Christmas card for Biden’s dear pal Rashee Sanook.
Sunak hailed a “warm and productive” discussion with India’s Narendra Modi at the G20 back in the September, as the pair chase a long-sought trade deal between the two countries. Sunak’s in-laws are huge names in India too, which can’t hurt.
But there hasn’t quite been the same Modi-at-Wembley moment the Indian leader saw under David Cameron’s premiership. And Sunak has avoided, at least publicly, making things awkward by bringing up India’s continuing imports of oil and weapons from Russia.
BFF rating: 5/10. “Please please please give us a trade deal,” Sunak nearly said in their last bilateral.
Speaking of Cameron, the former PM-turned-current foreign secretary was famously chummy with China’s Xi Jinping — something successive British PMs have criticized.
But while Sunak has refused to bow to China hawks in his party and declare China a “threat,” he has definitely consigned Cameron’s “golden era” of relations to the history books. Sunak is yet to meet with Xi despite trying to earlier this year — and a planned meeting was canceled last year.
Sunak’s also definitely not been for an actual pint with the Chinese strongman, something Cameron enjoyed in what now seems like a parallel universe.
BFF rating: 3/10. China’s not exactly flavor-of-the-month in the Tory party, but maybe things would be entirely sorted if the two just met.
Sunak and Russia’s Vladimir Putin still haven’t met — and given how Sunak has followed Boris Johnson’s lead of hugging Ukraine as closely as possible, it’s unlikely they’d have much to make small talk about.
The British PM has directly warned Putin that western allies are “not going away” in their support for Ukraine, while a ranting Putin appeared to directly threaten Sunak back in September as he accused the British secret services of being behind a failed sabotage plot.
But the Kremlin has never held quite the same level of hatred for Sunak as it did for Johnson. “He doesn’t like us, we don’t like him either,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said shortly after the ex-PM’s defenestration.
BFF rating: 1/10. It couldn’t get much worse … unless some ancient marbles are involved.
Diplomacy isn’t easy. But if you want to get on with someone, it’s probably best you don’t … abruptly cancel a meeting with them when they’re in town.
Sunak and the Greek PM’s administration got into a major diplomatic spat last month over the future custody of the Parthenon Marbles.
Sunak yanked a meeting with Mitsotakis at the last second. And then No. 10 Downing Street claimed Mitsotakis went back on a promise not to raise the long-running issue, something the Greek side fiercely contested.
Either way, the pair aren’t on great terms — despite an effort from Mitsotakis to smooth the row over a few days later.
BFF rating: 0/10. A week-long briefing war doesn’t really scream best buds. King Charles is clearly up for hanging out though, Kyriakos.