hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Friday, 29 April 2016

Brexit: Dear Christopher...

Dear Christopher,

As a Europhile, EU-sceptic the decision I have made that Britain remain within the EU is an on balance decision to do with all the issues I laid out in my blogs; the survival of a politically-fragile UK, British influence over the big change that is coming in Europe, Britain's need to lead the anti-federalists within the EU (there are many), the existence of the constitutional lock that prevents further transfers of sovereignty, Britain's history as Europe's common-sense power balancer, the nature of the threats we all face from the likes of Russian and IS/Daesh and the vital need for strategic unity of effort and purpose to confront them, and the coming battle over the new Treaty on European Union. 

Democracy: if we cede the field to the Euro-federalists at this critical moment in Europe's history they will win. This is why many of them want us to depart. We can only stop what I believe to be an historic mistake if we remain within the EU and do what England/Britain has done since the 16th century - stop misguided, self-interested, far-distant uber-elites from imposing a grand dessin which shields them from the 'inconvenience' of democracy. Yes, Cameron achieved little in his efforts to achieve EU reform, primarily because he sought a poliical fix to a political problem of his own making. However, the issue of, and need for, EU reform is very real. Moreover, the reform process is only just beginning and Britain must help lead the fight to return the EU to the nation-states which remain the foundation of political legitimacy in Europe, and by so doing honuor the mass of people who regard the nation-state as THE focus of power, identity and representation. 

Governance; Again, Cameron's sadly typically smoke and mirrors 'reform' effort masked another struggle; the coming fight between those of us who believe that most European nation-states have matured and no longer pose a threat to themselves and others (my view), and those who believe Europe can only be saved from itself if the state is scrapped (the Obama view). Europe is on the verge of a new political struggle over governance, legitimacy and efficiency that Britain cannot and must not turn from. 

Sovereignty: We will not protect our sovereignty by turning away from the EU because left unchecked the euro-federalists would impose another form of 'sovereignty' upon us. No, to protect our sovereignty Britain must remain within the EU to fight for the principle of shared as opposed to transferred sovereignty by fighting to ensure the European Council remains the pre-eminent and only truly legitimate body of the EU. To that end, Britain needs to be engaged to prevent the ubercrats of the Commission, the European Court of Justice and their fellow travellers from wilfully misinterpreting the treaties for federalist convenience and then using the legitimacy-lite, rubber-stamp European Parliament to provide a fig-leaf of faux legitimacy.

Power: Given Britain's slow relative re-emergence as an and possibly in time THE economic and military power within Europe the way politics works is such that whether Britain votes to stay or go Britain will end up to my mind in pretty much the same place - the leader of the non-Euro Europeans. This power role will be vital for Britain to play in the coming intergovernmental conference about the new political settlement without which the EU will be unable to function and which will be the best guarantee of both political accountability and return to political balance.  Indeed, it is the absence of that balance in the EU between the Eurozone and non-Eurozone which has led to the Brexit referendum and of which it is a symptom. 

Leadership: Too often Britain's incompetent political and bureaucratic elite blame the EU for their own failings, and indeed their own lack of belief in Britain. The Scottish question became a crisis not because of the EU but because successive British governments withdrew from the world role a top five world power should play and eroded the institutions that forge British national identity, most notably our armed forces. Critically, locked into the short-termism of London they failed to understand that the very idea of Britain is based on the world role Britain has and must play. This monumental failure of political leadership has been further compounded by a Whitehall bureaucratic elite who routinely seek to gold plate EU legislation to prevent proper parliamentary oversight and scrutiny. The result is a country that far from punching above its weight in the world, in a tired and utterly misplaced mantra, actually punches beneath it, be it in Brussels, Washington or elsewhere. This weakness was apparent again last week in the needy, fawning body language evinced by Cameron during the Obama visit.  Indeed, these are the people who pose the real danger to Britain precisely because of their lack of belief in Britain, their lack of ambition, and the lack of strategic imagination from which the Westminster/Whitehall bubble suffers. 

Finally, I like your optimistic belief in our great country which is one I share. However, I believe we must fight with others to reform the EU AND fight our elite to re-establish a belief in Britain that will once again forge a sense of national pride, confound the secessionists, and with partners and friends enable us to carry the principled fight for a democratic Europe.  Britain can lead that fight and win it if we the British, together with our many admirers desperate for us to again lead, have the courage and the determination to engage in it. 

Therefore, right now, given the issues, given the moment in British and European history, given the dangers we face, given our history, and given who we are, I am committed to remaining within the EU to change it. to reform it, and to give the Euro-federalists hell in the coming fight for Europe. Indeed, my mission is a simple one; to return the very idea of 'Europe' back to the people where it rightly belongs. 

I hope that explains my position and thank you for a clarification of your own Eurosceptic position.

All best,

Julian     

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

NATO: End Europe’s Ten Year Rule!

“Great empires are not maintained by timidity”
Tacitus

Rome, Italy. 27 April. History does not repeat itself, but patterns of power certainly do. The classical Roman Republic prior to the first century BC was absolutely no democracy in the contemporary European sense. However, compared with the subsequent Roman Imperium the Republic enshrined at its core a system for limiting power; both of those who were ‘elected’ to lead it, and more particularly the power and rights of the Roman legions that served it. On Tuesday I had the honour of giving a speech at NATO HQ in Brussels about my latest and of course utterly brilliant book – NATO: The Enduring Alliance 2015. In fact, it was less a speech than an appalling two-footed tackle with studs showing on self-deluded Alliance leaders for which I should, and probably have, received an immediate red card.

As I spoke I was struck by a profound sense of Yogi Berra-ness – déjà vu all over again. Many years ago at Oxford I wrote a thesis about British policy and the coming of World War Two. As part of my research I was given access to all the Downing Street Cabinet minutes covering every day for a decade or so prior to and during the war. What struck me yesterday was this; the response of the British Government to the rise of Nazi Germany bears a striking similarity to the response of contemporary European democracies to what Winston Churchill would no doubt have called the latest World Crisis.

When Adolf Hitler became German Chancellor in January 1933 the attitude of London was one of indifference. The British were far too busy trying to fix their broken economy mired as it was in the Great Depression. Indeed, the government of Ramsay MacDonald was simply too focused on the economic crisis to properly consider a possible new threat to the European and world order. After all, the League of Nations existed to prevent such a challenge, didn’t it?

However, within ten months, and the failure of the Disarmament Conference, the British began to realise they had no choice but to consider the possibility of another major European war. In October 1933 the Committee of the Imperial General Staff finally laid to rest the so-called Ten Year Rule, whereby British policy stated that there was no need to plan to fight another major war for at least a decade.  

Furthermore, in February 1934 Britain launched the Rearmament Programme. This initiative would lead in relatively quick order to the warfighting force that prevented Hitler from winning World War Two. Spitfire and Hurricane fighters eventually emerged from the ‘Programme’, as did a re-equipped Royal Navy, and a war-proofed industrial base. However, it was RAF Bomber Command which would become the focus for much of the Rearmament Programme. One obsession of the 1930s was the widely held elite belief that the bomber would “always get through”. On the night of November 14th, 1940 515 ‘light’ Luftwaffe bombers attacked the British city of Coventry. On the night of May 31st, 1942 1000 RAF ‘heavies’ blitzed Cologne. The creation of that massive British force dated back to a decision taken in 1934.   
     
Which brings me back to NATO today. Much of my presentation concerned NATO’s forthcoming Warsaw Summit in July.  Ahead of the Summit there is apparently some ‘good’ news – NATO Europeans have stopped cutting their defence budgets. First, if that is all there is to celebrate the Alliance is in real trouble. Second, be it Britain playing fast and loose with defence accounting rules to maintain the appearance of 2% GDP expenditure on defence, or the disarming Dutch and others presenting small investments below the level of defence cost inflation as ‘increases’, NATO Europeans are clearly not as yet prepared to scrap the current implicit Ten Year Rule that drives most defence planning in Europe.

Therefore, if Warsaw does nothing else it must move to scrap NATO’s implicit Ten Year Rule. If Europeans do not they will soon be in for a shock. At the 2014 NATO Wales Summit NATO nations agreed in principle to move towards 2% GDP defence expenditure “within a decade” of which 20% should be spent on new equipment. Indeed, that IS the implicit Ten Year Rule under which the Alliance now labours. However, my bet is that within a year Washington will demand that the 2%/20% ‘guideline’ becomes the absolute minimum European commitment to burden-sharing if the US security guarantee to Europe is to be maintained. And, that the guideline becomes a commitment that will need to be met well before 2024.

Europeans might dream of a world of latter day Roman republics. In fact, the world is brim full of the putative wannabe ‘sons’ of Caesar, Caesar Augustus, Trajan, and not a few Caligulas and Neros. Therefore, no more NATO summits for nothing in which success is measured purely by the fact that ‘language’ was agreed for a Declaration, even if said declaration bears little or no relation to, or has little positive impact upon, strategic reality.

Europe is again at the centre of big, bad horrible history-making. And, whilst the history that is today being made will by definition be no repeat of the past, the power pattern that is driving dangerous change is all too familiar. End Europe’s Ten Year Rule now!


Julian Lindley-French       

Monday, 25 April 2016

America Needs a Unity Europe, Mr President

Alphen, Netherlands. 24 April. To save the EU on Friday last President Obama finally ended what Winston Churchill first dubbed the Special Relationship (big ‘S’, big ‘R’).  And yet the president offered no American view of the future of Europe. Indeed, what was striking about Friday’s carefully-staged Obama-Cameron (in that order) press conference in the utterly inappropriate Locarno Room of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was just how ‘unspecial’ the Special Relationship has become. Rather, the world witnessed a lame duck president telling the facts of power life to (and for) a lame duck prime minister about the future of what Washington clearly regards as a lame duck power in what has become a dangerously lame duck institution. Why?

First, President Obama repeated the enduring American misunderstanding about European history. For many in the Washington elite there were no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Europeans in the past. Neither World War One nor World War Two were struggles between good and evil, democracy and totalitarianism. They were European ‘civil’ wars for which and in which all Europeans were responsible for the price America had to pay to ‘save’ said Europeans from themselves.

Second, President Obama repeated the enduring American elite obsession with a united states of Europe. Ever since Jean Monnet seduced US Secretary of State and uber-grandee John Foster Dulles the Washington elite, both left and right, have by and large bought into the silly notion that a US of E would one day emerge in the image of the US of A. Moreover, many still believe a federal Europe would share the American world view and be supportive of it. Wrong on both counts.

Third, President Obama reflected Washington’s dislike of anyone challenging the mistaken American view of ‘Europe’. Far from being America’s closest ally in Europe Britain has become one of its biggest irritants. This is why the president so belittled Britain, its people and its role in the world. It is also why the Americans last week compared Britain’s relationship with Brussels with that of North Dakota to Washington. The simple fact that Britain is the world’s fifth largest economy and a top five world military power was simply brushed aside. The only special relationship (small ‘s’, small ‘r’) that exists is between America and Germany precisely because it is founded on power.  

At the beginning of this blog I referred to the inappropriateness of holding the Obama-Cameron press conference in the FCO’s Locarno Room. The 1925 Treaty of Locarno allowed Germany to join the League of Nations as part of the then hope that laws and institutions could replace power and force in the affairs of Europe. President Obama and the fawning David Cameron hoped this would send a signal about the continued need for such institutions and the ‘laws’ they spawn in Europe.

The political sentiment is of course right. However, law without power are, as Hobbes had it, “covenants without the sword” and doomed to fail. In 1936 Adolf Hitler destroyed that hope when he marched German forces into the Rhineland. The Obama administration seems like many on this side of the pond to also believe that if ‘laws’ are just and institutions effective then there will be little need for power and force. Sadly, law must be reinforced by sanction and institutions can only be effective if they are seen by the people as legitimate. At no point during his visit did President Obama address the crucial dilemmas of power, legitimacy and efficiency facing contemporary Europe.

The paradox of contemporary US policy is that the blind commitment of the White House and much of Washington to the failed Monnet-Dulles ‘vision’ of Europe is also preventing Europe recover from its strategic slough. If Europe is to recover from the self-engineered Eurozone crisis and the Schengen-exaggerated migration crisis, and if Europeans are to again reinvest in the defence of their own continent, what is needed is not more fantasy federal Europe, but a realist Europe built on a close super-alliance of Europe’s nation-states.  In other words, Europeans need a unity Europe, not a united Europe.

The clear failure of President Obama to understand that simple distinction was perhaps for me the most striking failure of his London remarks. It also reinforced the paradox of this most paradoxical of Obama’s visits to Britain. Yes, there are unthinking Brexiteers who can be described as parochial, nostalgic little Englanders. Indeed, Cameron is trying to paint all Brexiteers as such. However, there are also serious, heavyweight thinking Brexiteers who like me understand the real problem; this ‘Europe’, i.e. this EU, simply does not work. It is not democratic enough, and will never generate either sufficient wealth or sufficient security precisely because of its very self. Critically, unless the link between people and governance is restored by putting the member-states firmly back at the centre of the European Project the EU will never become a power partner of the United States in the world.

My view is not peculiar to Britain or indeed myself. Indeed, it is a view now held by millions of Europeans. Therefore, the strategic task now at hand is to step back from the dead-end of a united Europe and to create in its stead a functioning unity Europe, without as the Americans fear the collapse of the whole edifice of ‘Europe’. However, the failure of President Obama to a) recognise Europe’s contemporary reality; and b) commit to helping Britain achieve such a realist reality was perhaps the greatest failure of vision in Obama’s London remarks. Certainly, the implicit suggestion by President Obama that the EU represents the status quo will soon prove to be utterly misplaced.
    
My on balance judgement is that Britain should remain within the EU at this tipping point in its affairs and help fix it. However, it will be very hard to ‘fix’ the EU if Washington remains fixated on a fantasy federal Europe. The future of Europe is a unity Europe, not a united states of Europe and both America and Britain must help create it. However, to succeed Washington must first understand the limits of ‘Europe’, and London must relearn how to wield power.

You insulted me last week, Mr President. Not because you insulted my country because on the issue of British weakness I think you have a point. No, Mr President, you insulted my intelligence by trying to reduce all the fundamental issues of democracy and governance implicit in the Brexit debate down to a simple issue of trade. Somehow I thought you were bigger than that. Silly me. No matter, Mr President. After all, I am a mere European citizen and my views count for nothing.

Julian Lindley-French    

                      

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Brexit: Do No Harm Mr President!

“The State, in choosing men to serve it, takes no notice of their opinions. If they be willing faithfully to serve it, that satisfies”.
Oliver Cromwell

Devon, England. 20 April, 2016

Dear President Obama,

Like you, Sir, I have accepted that Britain should on balance remain a member of the European Union. My reasons for so doing I suspect reflect pretty much the same strategic rationale as your own; at a moment when the West stands on the precipice of a potentially deep abyss of risk, threat and danger it is vital the West preserves unity and unity of purpose. This week you will arrive here in my native England to engage in the Brexit debate. You must be careful and respect the issues of history, power, liberty, governance and identity driving the debate over Britain’s membership of the EU. You are also entering the fray in what is the most fractious British electoral contest I can recall in my now long history. Therefore, sir, it is vital you get the tone, the content, and indeed the respect right if you are to avoid being told in no uncertain terms where interfering ‘Yanks’ might go. 

First, you ARE interfering in the internal affairs of a foreign democracy. However, if there is one foreign head of state who has the right to intervene it is the President of the United States. Our two countries share a unique bond. Moreover, you have the right to state the American national interest. Indeed, it is stated American policy to support the EU as such a US interest, even if some of the more misguided members of your Administration mistakenly confuse the political fantasy of a United States of Europe with your own United States of America. However, do not presume, Mr President, to lecture us about our own British national interest.
  
Second, the special strategic relationship between American and Britain is built first and foremost on power and operates at several often below the radar levels of influence. However, Britain is not a strategic convenience for the United States, and you must understand that Mr President. You must respect the fact that Britain is the world’s fifth largest economy and a top five military actor. Some analyses (Goldman Sachs) suggests that by 2030 Britain might well be Europe’s biggest economy. Moreover, given the £178bn (c$250bn) being invested in new military equipment Britain will be Europe’s strongest military power by far and again your main military ally. You must recognise the importance of the relationship to your own hard-pressed country, Mr President.

Third, democracy is in danger in Europe, Mr President, and you of all people must understand that. Specifically, you must avoid insisting the British people accept a form of governance that the United States and its people would never accept. The EU has become too distant and too remote from its citizens. It is run by a ‘we know best’ elite who interpret European treaties in a way that maximises their power at the expense of the legitimate member-states who signed them.  Indeed, in your intervention you must (and with respect, sir, I insist upon the use of ‘must’) state your determination to support the people of these strategic islands and all Europeans who want the return of real democracy in Europe.  

Fourth, remember who we are, Mr President. We English have fought tyrants for centuries. We created the modern world at least as much as you Americans. We paid with our blood in for liberty and democracy in Europe alongside a glorious generation of young Americans, Canadians and others. Through our language, our culture, and the institutions we gave the world, our soft power at least matches your own. Like many Britons I am willing to help lead Europe to better times as part of our transatlantic community. However, I will never be subject to an arbitrary EU and its Euro-Mandarins and you must not only accept that, but join me in my quest for EU reform.

So, Mr President, this week when you rise to speak honour who we are, respect us for what we have achieved, defend our liberty and our ancient freedoms, and acknowledge the concerns millions of us have about the EU. You may remind us of who we are and that we have never run away from a fight over Europe and that we cannot afford to do so now. Above all, Mr President, you must avoid the charge of ‘do as I say, not as I would do’ hypocrisy.

And one other thing, Mr President – understand the significance of this moment and your carefully-chosen words. You will arrive in a country torn asunder by the June 23rd referendum. In less civilised times it would not be not unreasonable to assume that this debate could have led to a second English (and I stress English) civil war. After all, many of the issues that led Oliver Cromwell and Parliament between 1642 and 1649 to fight to end the unelected and arbitrary power of King Charles I go to the very heart of how the English view power.

In 1776 your own people revolted against arbitrary imperial rule from England and created the United States of America. The American Revolution was in many ways the continuation of the English civil war and England’s Glorious Revolution of 1688. Your great President Lincoln once talked of power for the people, of the people, and by the people, the very principles at stake in the Brexit debate. Honour those principles and we will listen to you. Abandon those principles and we will wonder as a nation whatever happened to the principles your Founding Fathers enshrined in your magnificent Declaration of Independence.   

Do no harm Mr President!

With very sincere respect,


Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 15 April 2016

Talk Strategy, Affordability AND Technology


"To put it simply, our new missile defence architecture in Europe will provide stronger, smarter, and swifter defences of American forces and America's Allies. It is more comprehensive than the previous program; it deploys capabilities that are proven and cost-effective; and it sustains and builds upon our commitment to protect the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats; and it ensures and enhances the protection of all our NATO Allies."
President Barack Obama, 17 September 2009

Alphen, Netherlands. 15 April. The annual RUSI Ballistic Missile Defence Conference is an interesting event. Like all RUSI conferences it is good stuff and brings together the defence industry and decision-makers with policy wonks such as yours truly. This year was no different. However, I am always struck on such occasions by the way representatives from the defence industries, particularly US defence industry, talk technology firm in their belief that their latest whizz-bangs will sell themselves. That might work in the US but no longer works in Europe. However, as the US will soon pile enormous pressure on its European allies to spend more on armed forces the defence industry as a whole is going to have to talk strategy and affordability, as well as technology.

Let me turn first to the event itself. In some ways there was a mismatch between requirement and capability at this year’s conference. The focus was on the ongoing development of US-funded NATO missile defence. Now, I say missile defence because the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) is specifically designed and sufficiently limited not to bring into question the ‘credibility’ of Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

The existing NATO missile defence plan is in effect a stand-alone system that has little or nothing to do with Article 5 collective defence of the Alliance. Indeed, the current ‘architecture’ is only designed to ‘kill’ the missiles of some thirty non-Russian states to the south and east of Europe who might one day launch a very limited number of missiles against NATO populations and forces. For that reason the number of radars and planned interceptors is very limited.   

The thinking is that by not challenging the ‘credibility’ of Russia’s nuclear deterrent European stability will be maintained. What stability? Indeed, I found it strange so many at the conference repeated the need to reassure Russia. Reassurance for what? It is a fair question given that Russia seems determined to unilaterally bust out of all existing European arms control treaties, most notably the Conventional Forces Europe Treaty and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces. Is not ‘reassuring’ Russia at this time a fool’s errand. After all, Russia is deploying a range of nuclear-tipped missile systems to places like Kaliningrad that are simply not treaty compliant, most notably Iskander M missiles with both a ballistic and flat trajectory.

What is needed instead is modernised Article 5 collective defence architecture of which missile defence is an important part. Such an architecture would need to include an enhanced NATO anti-access, area denial (A2/AD) capability, strengthened cyber defences, enhanced resiliency of European states, systems and societies, better intelligence and more shared intelligence, increased numbers of advanced deployable conventional forces, AND relevant missile defence.  Moreover, much of these enhancements will fall to the European taxpayer to fund because US forces are inevitably going to become ever more overstretched given global commitments which the Americans must bear.

To that end, defence industries must understand that NATO is fast approaching a strategy, affordability, responsibility tipping point at which all the old assumptions about who pays what for what will be tossed out. Therefore, to help European governments make the necessary informed choices about the balance to strike between strategy, affordability and capability it is critical now that the defence industry as a defence industry demonstrate they understand the challenges governments face. They must also offer the technological solutions not just to meet the worst-case threat, but also to bridge the gap between strategy, affordability and capability.

Now, I am no naïf about such matters. I have seen how defence contractors operate in Washington through K Street lobbyists. Moreover, I am fully aware of how in Europe, particularly in France, there is little distinction between the political, bureaucratic, and defence-industrial elite as they are pretty much one and the same. Still, the tendency to let the latest whizz-bang technology do the talking for itself and to compete with each other is self-defeating and reinforces the tendency to defence-cost inflation and unacceptably long delivery cycles.

Unsuspecting European governments are soon going to have to face a massive defence re-investment challenge if they are to a) maintain their defences; and b) maintain their defences through a modernised and re-balanced NATO. This will come a) as a shock; and b) sooner than any of them think. It is therefore vital that right now the defence industry as an industry considers not just their own bottom-lines, but how the defence of Europe could look in ten, fifteen, and twenty years’ time. They will as a group also need to consider how they can best help equip Europeans as part of the coming twenty-first century strategic transatlantic contract. This can be best described as the continued American-led defence of Europe in return for European support for America’s enduring global grand stability mission.

All of the above will not only require a new relationship in Europe between power, technology and money. It will require industry to talk strategy and affordability as well as technology. Things are about to change round here big time…or we Europeans simply give in and appease reality. 
                   
Julian Lindley-French

         

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Where to Sail the Mighty Queen

London, United Kingdom. 12 April. No, this is not a blog about a peripatetic, super-sized member of the gay community. In 2017 HMS Queen Elizabeth, ‘the mighty Queen’ will sail south from Rosyth in Scotland to HM Dockyard Portsmouth, the home of the fleet flagship, Nelson’s HMS Victory. At 72,500 ton (fully-loaded) and with her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales this ‘super’ aircraft carrier will be the largest ship ever commissioned into the Royal Navy. This past week saw the handover of command from First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas, who I have had the honour on occasions to support, to Admiral Sir Philip Jones. Therefore, it is a good moment to consider not just the military-operational role of these ships, but also the strategic–political role, which is at least as important.

The moment HMS Queen Elizabeth is commissioned she will have to play many roles. Her first strategic-political task will be to remind the British people that the UK remains a top five world power. As such both ships will rapidly become icons, part of Britain’s strategic influence brand, both abroad and to its own people.

She will also need to demonstrate Britain’s position at the heart of European defence, whatever the outcome of the June Brexit referendum. To that end, the ‘QE’ will need to be put front and centre of a coalition of allied and European navies. Whatever Europe’s institutional arrangements, and the obsession Germans and some smaller European powers have with institutions, it is still power which is the driving factor in influence. For Britain the ‘QE’ will be testament to that reality.

However, the first mission of the ship must be to go west. Together with Type 45 destroyers and new Astute-class nuclear-attack submarines as soon as the ‘QE’ takes on her first F35B fast jets she must sail to Norfolk, Virginia, the east coast home of the United States Navy and thence to Halifax, in Canada.

The greatest threat to NATO is the coming reckoning with American politicians over burden—sharing. Yes, I know, the burden-sharing row has been going on for many years. However, in the past America could afford to pay for Europe’s defence. No longer. First, there will also soon be a reckoning for America’s enormous deficit that will impact on public services, including the US military. Second, the United States is now facing a zweifrontenskrieg, a two front war, of global proportions. Americans will simply not put up with a bunch of free-riding Europeans anymore. And, it is not just the strategically-illiterate Donald Trump who is saying that.

It is therefore vital that Britain sails the Mighty Queen into Norfolk as soon as possible together with a full British carrier strike group even if that stretches the Royal Navy to its operational limit. She should then conduct several days of ship visits for senior American politicians, commentators and military commanders. The message, apart from sticking two fingers up to John Paul Jones in his own backyard? There is at least one European ally willing to invest in the kind of high-end military kit that NATO desperately needs and that the United Kingdom will again be willing and able to ease the burden on the United States.

Having performed her first act of strategic diplomacy with Britain’s American ally the ‘QE’ should then sail north to Halifax. At some point on that voyage the United States Navy would hand over escort of the British carrier strike group to the Royal Canadian Navy. First, the appearance on the horizon of the strike group flying the White Ensign rather than the US Ensign will remind Canadians of the enduring link between Britain and Canada. Second, it will show Canadians that Britain is still a power to be reckoned with and that the Anglosphere floats and fires. Third, as the Canadian Government considers further cuts to its defence budget and another shift from hard to soft power the Mighty Queen will send an important message. That a Canada with three contested oceans to its east, north and west needs a powerful, modern navy, able to operate alongside powerful allies, such as America and Britain.

A century ago next month Britain’s mighty Grand Fleet engaged and defeated the German High Seas Fleet at the Battle of Jutland. In fact, the Germans sank more British ships than the Royal Navy sank German. However, such was the might of the Royal Navy and the enormous steel trap the Germans sailed into that the defeat was crushing. The defeat was not the result of inferior German materiel, far from it. It was primarily because the German commanders already suffered from an inferiority complex about the Royal Navy.

A century on the United States Navy still enjoys the mantle of absolute superiority it inherited from the Royal Navy. Today, American military superiority is frayed around the edges. For Britain and the Royal Navy to demonstrate now both the capability and will to help keep America strong will go a very long way to spiking the coming burden-sharing row. It will also demonstrate determination to maintain what is after all the key factor in deterrence; power.


Julian Lindley-French               

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Some Dutch say ‘nee’ to Ukraine…and the EU

Alphen, Netherlands. 7 April. On the face of it yesterday’s referendum here in the Netherlands involved a few people in a relatively small country voting against an arcane and complex EU agreement with Ukraine about which very few know very much. The result was clear; 61.1% voted ‘nee’, whilst only 38.2% voted ‘ja’, albeit on a turnout of just 32.2%, slightly above the 30% needed to make the vote valid under Dutch law. Dutch Premier Mark Rutte has acknowledged that the vote must “be taken into account”, and that ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement cannot take now place in its current form.  What are the implications of this vote?  

If one wants to understand the importance of Ukraine to the future stability of Europe then look at a map. ‘Free’ Europe is in competition with President Putin’s Russia over the future order of power and governance in Europe. This reality was brought home to me the other day when I addressed members of the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev. Moreover, it is also clear that Ukraine is the battleground in which this silent and no-so-silent battle is taking place.

It is a battle of ideas. The EU seeks an elite-led ‘community’ of European states and peoples as the defining organising principle of power in twenty-first century Europe. President Putin, rather, wants a good old-fashioned Russian sphere of influence in which ‘influence’ is simply defined by the reach of Moscow’s power in its many and too often nefarious ways.   

Ukraine is a front-line state in this strategic contest. After all, it was the prospect of the Association Agreement that triggered the Maidan protests and which led President Putin to act to keep Ukraine within the Russian sphere of influence. Without the prospect of an EU-Ukraine Association Agreement the Russian ‘hybrid’ invasions of Crimea and the Donbass would not have taken place.  Nor would the criminal 2014 shooting down of Malaysian Airlines MH17 and with it the murder of almost 200 Dutch citizens.

Now, let me turn to democracy in the EU.  The other week I shared a platform with Thierry Baudet, the sponsor of yesterday’s referendum at a meeting of the Clingendael Institute in The Hague. Thierry is impressive and courageous, and not surprisingly despised by much of the rubber-stamp Dutch Establishment for what he has done. He also has a point. Too often we European citizens vote for politicians in our own countries who, because they have handed power and sovereignty to an unaccountable Brussels elite over and above our heads, have little meaningful influence. ‘Democracy’ in the EU is fast becoming a sham, a pretence in which unless people vote for ever more EU and thus ever less nation-state their voting slips might as well be cast straight into the garbage.

The resulting democratic deficit is leading to two developments. First, the rise of so-called ‘populist’ parties, i.e. political movements deemed ‘populist’ by the elite precisely because they reflect the legitimate concerns of huge numbers of disempowered citizens. Second, the growing use of referenda as a desperate attempt to hold said elite to account. Indeed, how to hold an ever-more distant EU elite to democratic account was the real reason for Thierry Baudet’s referendum. It is also the central issue in the coming Brexit referendum, which is really about traditional English concerns about who controls distant power that date back to at least 1215 and Magna Carta (or more accurately 1265 and Simon de Montfort’s ‘Parleymont’).

Therefore, on the face of it Thierry is absolutely right to demand a referendum on the issue of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. This is because the Agreement is already being implemented BEFORE it has been ratified by EU member-states. Again, on the face of it, such arrogance by the EU elite is outrageous and demonstrates all too clearly the contempt in which said elite hold democracy. However, the problem is that precisely because ‘free’ Europe is in strategic competition with Russia and the EU Association Agreement is the only tool available to prevent Ukraine becoming a slave to Russian interests then Brussels (with Berlin and Paris) on this occasion had to act quickly.  
        
So, what will now happen? Nothing, for the same reasons I reject Brexit. Right now, at this moment in European history, the need to counter Russian ambitions trumps my concerns about the autocratic tendencies of the EU elite. That the EU elite have such autocratic ‘we know best’ tendencies must not be doubted.  In 2005 the Dutch tried to stop ‘ever closer union’ by voting against the proposed EU Constitutional Treaty. The Brussels elite simply ignored the plebiscite, made a few minor cosmetic adjustments (à la Cameron), and re-issued the ‘Constitution’ as the 2007 Lisbon Treaty.  

The tragedy is that these two issues have become entwined and intertwined in Thierry Baudet’s referendum. Real democracy desperately needs re-invigorating within the EU. However, such re-invigoration can only take place at the national level. Unwelcome though it may be for the EU elite it is the nation-state with which the massive majority of ordinary Europeans identify and which for them provides the only really legitimate ‘polis’ and ‘demos’. That is why the EU elite is in conflict with Europe’s peoples. Equally, Ukraine desperately needs and deserves the Association Agreement. In other words, Thierry has made an important point AND President Putin will be happy.

There is one final irony about yesterday’s referendum – I could not vote in it. As a British citizen who has lived outside the UK for many years I have lost the right to vote in any British election, including the upcoming Brexit referendum. As a European citizen living in the Netherlands I am denied the right to vote in all Dutch elections, including elections for the European Parliament, save that of the most local of local elections. As a democrat to be so profoundly disenfranchised breaks my heart.

What Thierry’s referendum points to is the need for a new political settlement within the EU that returns power to the states and makes the European Council the true and only legitimate body of the EU. That means a new EU treaty. It also reinforces the need to give Ukraine a future for all our sakes.

Julian Lindley-French