hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Friday, 22 June 2018

The Transatlantic Bond: Choices, Promises and Trust

“An Alliance that has kept us safe and secure for almost seven decades. And has helped to provide the foundation of our growth and our prosperity.  Our bond is strong. But today, some are doubting the strength of that bond. And yet we see differences between the United States and other Allies. Over issues such as trade, climate and the Iran nuclear deal. And there are disagreements within Europe too. Over the future direction of the European Union. Over values and populism. These disagreements are real. It is not written in stone that the transatlantic bond will survive forever. But I believe we will preserve it”.

NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, London, 21 June 2018

The Transatlantic Bond

Berlin, Germany.  22 June 2018. The transatlantic bond: choices, promises and trust. As Secretary-General Stoltenberg was making his speech in London I was here in Berlin at a meeting of the excellent Munich Security Conference-George C. Marshall Center organised Loisach Group. As the meeting progressed President Trump announced plans to meet President Putin in Europe either before or after the Brussels NATO Summit and Prime Minister May announced plans to hike funding in the National Health Service at the expense of Britain’s ‘Tier One’ military status. So, where does all of that leave the Alliance? 


As I leave Berlin I am re-confirmed in my belief that the twenty-first century transatlantic relationship will be very different to its twentieth century forebear. It will also be very much more conditional. At the meeting, German colleagues danced on the head of a Defence Investment Pledge pin.  Back in 2014, Germany had signed up to 2% GDP on defence by 2024, of which 20% per annum would be spent on new equipment per.  Yes, the specific language of the NATO Wales Summit Declaration states members would only “aim at” 2% by 2024.  Political semantics to spare German and other Allied blushes. The simple but hard strategic reality is that if a state like modern Germany, a model democracy, and a very rich one at that cannot devote a historically low 2% GDP to defence then NATO is in real trouble and so if Stoltenberg’s transatlantic bond.  Berlin’s argument is that German domestic public opinion would not accept an investment that would take Berlin’s defence budget above some $70 bn.  It would not worry me.  In any case, we all have domesticated publics. Sadly, like all ‘imperial’ powers German domestic opinion does matter more than that of other allies, precisely because Germany has the power to impose it on others…for a bit and to an extent. 


Secretary-General Stoltenberg suggests that differences between the United States and other Allies are real. They are. One German colleague suggested that President Trump and the United States is now a threat to the rules-based order that the Americans (not Germans) guarantee.  One can understand the angst. President Trump certainly gives the impression at times of being (perhaps) the first-ever illiberal leader of a real and very powerful liberal democracy. He also seems far more comfortable in the company of President Putin and President Xi with a world-view that seems to divide the world into power-predators and power-prey with his European allies now the latter. 

Still, the logic of the German critique of Trump would also suggest that Berlin believes Washington can no longer be trusted with the defence of Europe and that Europeans should do far more and spend far more.  And yet, Berlin rarely moves beyond the blah, blah rhetorical, and the EU rhetorical at that – PESCO, European Security and Defence Union.  Germans are seemingly happy to claim the right to criticise an America to the point of giving offence even while it still expects the American taxpayer to defend them.  The able British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson hinted at the same in an excellent piece in The Times this morning.

Stoltenberg also said there were disagreements in Europe over Europe.  There are. The self-satisfied and frankly conceited German view of Britain and Brexit can be thus described: “Those poor, dumb Brits. They have brought on their own calamity by voting legitimately to leave the fantastic European Union, that by the way, we lead, and we are going to give them one hell of a kicking for it. By the way, we also expect Britain and its citizens to spend more on the defence of Germany and the rest of Europe than we do”. Frankly, it is becoming ever harder by the day for me to defend my position as a Big Picture, geopolitical Remainer. Germany and the Commission are systematically seeking to damage my country for Brexit and force Britain into a corner seemingly in the hope London will capitulate and Brexit will be reversed on German terms. Britain’s incompetent elite might be happy with that, but it is hard for me to believe the majority of the British people will put up with it. The implications for NATO? They were apparent this week.  May’s questioning of Britain’s status as a Tier One power is code for a Britain that is already retreating behind its nuclear shield. Just look at how tiny the British Army has become. As for the European Union, I thought it was a free association of free peoples for which leaving would incur a cost but not a form of cold war. Silly me.


Europe is in a dangerous place that is getting more dangerous by the day.  Threats to Europeans now range from fake news and war at the seams of our societies to possible invasion of countries at the margins of our Alliance and the Union.  Disinformation, disruption, de-stabilisation and destruction are merging to such an extent that credible defence and deterrence will demand entirely new thinking. First, far better collective understanding of the nature and scope of the threats Europeans face and who is behind them. Second, acceptance that if Americans are to maintain the credible defence of Europe, Europeans with Germans to the fore are going to have to break the addiction to free-riding. Third, Germans need to treat Americans with far more respect than they do at present if, as one German participant at the Loisach Group meeting suggested, the credible defence of Europe to continue to rely primarily on the willingness of Americans to die for it.


The reason I bother to invest time and energy in the Loisach Group is because it is important and because its members are good people willing to face hard realities. We ALL need that right now. For all that there is still a big power picture that Germany as Europe’s big power simply refuses to think big about which limits the ambition of the US-German strategic partnership.  Indeed, if I was to paraphrase the American view of the Loisach Group it is as a mechanism to get the Germans to think big so about big threats so that whilst they might not agree with Americans about every danger to be faced Berlin and Washington can at least think big about the partnership and their disagreements.  What I see is an over-stretched global America locked in a debate with a parochial, very European Germany which at times sounds to me – a now irrelevant Brit – as two countries separated by two completely different ‘strategic’ languages.

Promises, Trust and Choices

If Stoltenberg’s NATO is to do its job as defined by Secretary-General Stoltenberg it will not be achieved by command structure reform or new cyber operations centres et al important though these ‘adaptations’ are to the working effectiveness and efficiency of the contemporary Alliance. No, trust in each other is the essential strategic ingredient in alliance. And, if trust is to be re-discovered, for it is a rare commodity these days in this Alliance, it will first and foremost be achieved by the re-building of strategic partnerships founded on and in political and strategic realism.  Without that realism, Trump’s America with its new penchant for conditions will drift away from Europe and a Britain that Stoltenberg seems to suggest still matters to the defence of Europe will withdraw into itself. This is in spite of what the strategically incapable Prime Minister May says, as she moves to further deplete the toolbox that still affords both Britain influence and Europe defence.

The Loisach Group is an important initiative that considers the vital US-German essential relationship. If Secretary-General Stoltenberg’s faith in the enduring nature of the transatlantic bond is to be realised it is the US-German relationship that will be the core of Alliance strategic credibility. This is particularly so as Britain’s elite establishment condemns Britain and its people to an exaggerated and accelerated decline. Lions led by donkeys?  Therefore, I will continue to offer my blunt Yorkshire analysis and advice if Germans and Americans want me to.  Why? Call me old-fashioned but I actually believe in the United States and in modern Germany, and I still believe there is a place for Britain in a reformed EU built on the Gaullist principle of a Europe of nations.  As for NATO it is the most important defence alliance then, now and in the future.  And, strange though some Germans seem to find it, I actually believe in my country and will defend it when attacked, even if those charged with leading Britain clearly neither believe in it nor are they willing to defend it or its interests.

It will take years for the relationships damaged by transatlantic tensions and Brexit to recover. However, if the defence that NATO affords its members is to be credible those same relationships form the hard core of political solidarity that is the true foundation of deterrence. THAT is why the transatlantic bond matters.

Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 18 June 2018

Europe’s Leadership Vacuum and the Need for Collective European Defence

“Nature abhors a vacuum”

Europe’s Waterloo and the Fearsome Threesome?

Alphen, Netherlands 18 June. It seems somewhat appropriate to be writing this on the 203rd anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo as I feel close to having met mine. Waterloo, that is. What a week – Amsterdam, Stockholm, Rome and Portsmouth. I am knackered. ‘Knackered’ is a colloquial English term that has two meanings. Very tired, as in my case, or completely failed, as is the case of most of Europe’s leaders for that is the conclusion I have drawn from my rapid Grand European Tour.  Nowhere on my travels did I meet anyone happy with the situation in Europe, or happy with the way Europeans are NOT being led.  There is a leadership vacuum in Europe that is undermining the defence of Europeans. Contrast Europe’s ‘leaders’ with the fearsome threesome who currently hold the whip-hand of power in the world: Putin, Trump and Xi.

Julian’s Grand Tour

My week started in Stockholm watching President Trump shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.  The Singapore meeting may have been light on substance but it was heavy on symbolism and in international relations such things matter, so long as they are backed up by power. Indeed, one may not like the leadership on offer from these three paragons of power modesty but it is they who now get to decide what Europeans must endure. Europe? Long on symbolism, short on influence, endlessly talking values, but no power to defend interests.

From Stockholm, I moved onto Rome where I addressed NATO senior officers.  In Rome, some form of experiment in government is underway led by a new coalition between academics and populists that will no doubt lead to a lot of erudite papers about complete nonsense. One only has to suffer the state of Rome’s roads and see the impact of mass unregulated immigration on the ‘eternal city’ to see the dangerous reality of modern Italy, a country that I genuinely love. It is clear to me that Italy will in effect cease to be a strategic actor of any weight for the foreseeable future.  Italy’s armed forces are already under intense pressure from a lack of investment. It is a situation likely only to get worse.

Having left Rome I made my increasingly knackered way to Portsmouth via Amsterdam and Southampton. My purpose was to give a talk at a conference to mark fifty years since the first patrol by a British ballistic missile submarine, HMS Resolution. Sadly, the only thing I could see afloat in the dockyard of any real capability was good old HMS Metaphor.  As this week’s new report by the House of Commons Defence Committee entitled Beyond 2 Percent states, “the Government must break out of the pattern, observable in past reviews, of strategic direction being lost because the conclusions of the review are inadequately funded and ultimately unsustainable…” Amen to that!

The May Government lacks ambition, imagination or creativity and has become dangerously risk averse.  For example, I had suggested to both the White House and London that President Trump be invited to give a speech on burden-sharing on board the brand new 70,000 ton aircraft-carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. My idea was initially very well-received on both sides of the Atlantic and as far as I know is still welcome in the White House. My reasoning was simple: if President Trump is to berate Europeans about a lack of burden-sharing at or around the July Brussels NATO Summit then at least put him on the deck of high-end European ‘asset’ so that he could put some positive spin on it.  By giving such a speech on ‘Big Lizzie’ the Trump message could then be hard and fair at the same time: “with the right political will America’s allies can invest in the kind of high-end military capability that will help share America’s great burden etc. etc.”  Europeans need to realise and fast that America’s legitimate grievance over burden-sharing goes far beyond, and far deeper than President Trump. 

The symbolism of such a speech on that ship at this time would have sent a powerful message about Britain, the Special Relationship and future European capabilities.  Sadly, over the weekend I learnt that the idea has been scrapped because it might be humiliating for Britain if there are no F-35Bs on board HMS Queen Elizabeth as yet.  First, the reason for any such ‘humiliation’ could only be the strategic illiteracy of Britain’s leaders and the lack of imagination it engenders. Second, four new British F-35Bs flew across the Atlantic and arrived in the UK this month.  If they cannot yet land on the deck of ‘Big Lizzie’ at least get them to do a fly past as President Trump concludes his remarks. Such spinelessness simply reveals a Government and an elite that lack ambition, lack imagination and lack creativity.  It also explains why Little Britain is declining fast - the little people who govern it.

In Europe, only President Macron has the vision needed to prepare Europeans for a challenging twenty-first century world, but without Germany’s support (which he lacks) Macron’s ambitions are far bigger than his country. And ‘bigness’ is the nub of Europe’s problem. None of Europe’s leaders have the vision or the courage to confront the big problems Europeans must collectively face. Europe faces immense challenges that for too long have been ducked and which range from the modernisation and digitisation of the European economy to cope with twenty-first century globalism, the consequences of mass flows of unregulated migrants into Europe, Europe’s new and rapidly worsening threat agenda to the urgent need to modernise Europe’s security and defence architectures.    
Berlin and the Loisach Group

This week, somewhat re-fortified, I will travel to Berlin to attend the high-level US-German Loisach Group of which I am a proud member. Organised by the Munich Security Conference and the George C. Marshall Center the work of the Group is vital, not least because of London’s refusal to invest strategic ambition or political commitment in the UK-US Special Relationship. Indeed, if London does not break out of its strategic and political torpor the US-German Essential Relationship offers the best hope for a renewed transatlantic relationship that organises democratic power to good security and defence effect. However, whilst the US-German relationship may be essential, it is by no means ‘special’, particularly at the moment. 

For this vital relationship to flourish Americans and Germans will need to agree that the dangers that face both North Americans and Europeans are roughly the same and that the policy and strategy solutions they seek are compatible.  That will mean modesty in leadership from the Americans and leadership in leadership from the Germans neither of which seem particularly likely.  Worse, in Europe’s strongest power, ‘leadership’ is conspicuous by its absence.  From being Queen Angela of Europe a couple of years ago Chancellor Merkel is now in open conflict with her interior minister Horst Seehofer over migration. She wants a ‘European solution’, which means no solution, whilst he wants Germany to close its borders to migrant flows. President Trump, on the other hand, seems more at home and more comfortable dealing with the likes of Putin, Xi, and dare I say it, Kim. That Hieronymus Bosch-style photograph of Merkel trying to face down Trump at the G7 was a picture that spoke far more than a thousand political words.

A West in Crisis or a Europe in Crisis?

What that photo revealed was a West that is now mired in deep crisis, or rather a Europe that is in deep crisis.  European leaders like to blame President Trump for a lot and at times he almost revels in the role of being European Scapegoat-in-Chief. However, the crisis Europeans face is entirely of European leader’s own making. Years of refusing to face new power-realities in the world, years of uttering empty slogans about ‘Europe’ (and much else), years of talking too much and doing too little have reduced Europe to the dangerous situation in which it now finds itself.

Against that backdrop, there are eight lessons that I draw from my grand tour of Europe over the past week:

1. Europeans must stop talking about some future common defence. The defence of Europe will be conducted by European states working together.  Collective defence is what Europeans should aspire to and President Macron is right to call for a European (not EU) Intervention Force. 
2. There will be no common defence until there is a European Government and by the time there might be a European Government parts of Europe could be speaking Russian…again.
3. Keep all serious defence away from the European Union.  Brussels is too focused on using ‘defence’ to undermine the European nation-state so that it can centralise ever more power on its illegitimate self.
4. A European defence that is a consequence of yet more defence cuts will afford no defence at all. All defence cuts are matched by a similar loss of strategic ambition.
5. The future defence of Europe needs real political leadership.  At times of weak government, political bureaucrats take-over power and they are instinctively risk-averse. Just look at Britain.
6.  Given the growing pressure US armed forces face to maintain their world-wide, high-end defence and deterrence posture Washington will only be able to afford Europeans a defence guarantee that is credible if Europeans do far more for their own defence and for the Americans and focus such an effort on NATO.
7. Before significant increases in European defence expenditure can take place Europeans need to collectively agree the capabilities and capacities European future forces need and begin a sustained programme of reform and re-structuring.
8. If the European Commission succeeds in its efforts to damage Britain for Brexit there is a real risk that London will retreat behind its nuclear shield and effectively abandon its role in the defence of Europe.  Worse, London might abandon once and for all any pretence at being a major power, when in fact it still is.

Which brings me back to Stockholm where I started my week.  Of all the countries I visited the Swedes were the most clear-headed about the challenges Europeans face because they understood one thing very clearly: Europeans will not be more secure by trying to hide from threat and danger. If Europe is to be defended its leaders must collectively climb down off the vacuous Euro-cloud upon which they have for too long been perched and start properly dealing with the real problems ordinary Europeans face and meet the real strategic challenges Europe and the wider West must confront together. Read between the lines of a good speech by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte last week to the European Parliament and at least one leader seems to understand that European leaders need to do less talking to each other and more talking to their peoples. If not, ‘Europe’ will continue its precipitous and dangerous decline into strategic irrelevance and in the process make not only Europe but the wider world a much more dangerous place than it need be.

As Aristotle (and Rabelais) once said, “Nature abhors a vacuum”, but so does power.  And, if Europeans do not re-learn ‘power’ and fast someone else will impose it upon them. Then, like Napoleon, Europe will at some point face its own Waterloo…which, for the record, was won by Wellington!

Julian Lindley-French  

Friday, 8 June 2018

Ready to Go? The 4:30(s) from Brussels (NATO)

“Today, Allies committed, by 2020, to having 30 mechanised battalions, 30 air squadrons, four combat vessels, ready to use within 30 days or less”.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, 7 June 2018

NATO’s New Realism?

Alphen, Netherlands. 8 June. NATO took some important steps yesterday to modernising Article 5 collective defence.  NATO also enjoyed a ‘first’ – the first ‘Defence Ministerial’ in its shiny new railway terminus, sorry, headquarters.  At American bidding, the ministers agreed a NATO Readiness Initiative. The so-called ‘Four Thirties’ will be central to reinforcing deterrence in an emergency by enabling rapid reinforcement of forward deployed forces. The proposed force is a kind of beefed-up version of the old Allied Command Europe Mobile Force which was disbanded in 2002 (due to British defence cuts) and was designed to act as a strategic reserve able to move quickly to any NATO hot-spot.  Critically, the new force will plug a dangerous gap between spearhead forces, immediate follow-on forces (NATO Response Force), and the bulk of NATO forces which would take up to 120 days to mobilise in an emergency. If, that is, the nations keep their word and fulfil the commitments to the Alliance which they sign up to.

My hope is that the June 2018 Defence Ministerial will also come to be seen as the prelude to a July 2018 NATO Summit at heads of state and government level at which realism finally broke out amongst the Allies. And, that the prospect of real war might just make those discussing a trade war at today’s G7 meeting in Canada pause for thought.  My other hope is that Secretary-General Stoltenberg will be given the credit for his quiet professionalism and his determined focus on returning the Alliance to the fundamentals of an innovative, modernised Article 5 collective defence.  If, that is, the nations keep their word and fulfil the commitments to the Alliance which they sign up to.

Adaptation in Action

Some very good people have been working for a long-time to realise the agreements at this week’s ministerial. The adaptation of the NATO Command Structure is a vital step towards an Alliance that will be able to respond quickly to crises across both the conflict spectrum and the Euro-Atlantic theatre, a vital component of a credible deterrent. The new Joint Force Command in Norfolk, Virginia will be a vital partner for Allied Command Transformation and re-establish a relationship between new thinking, new doctrine and new ‘doing’ that was broken when the US scrapped its own Joint Force Command.  Critically the new command will also help preserve all-important interoperability with US forces. If, that is, the nations keep their word and fulfil the commitments to the Alliance which they sign up to.

The new Enabling Command based in Ulm, Germany is a contemporary realisation of Omar Bradley’s famous dictum that ‘amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics’. The Alliance must be able to generate high-end military force quickly or move the right for force to the right place rapidly and then sustain such a force for the entirety of an emergency. If not, the very foundation of military power projection (there is no such thing as a static defence these days) upon which twenty-first century Article 5 defence and deterrence stands will be critically undermined. Readiness of force and rotation through an emergency are the twin components upon which the Alliance conventional deterrent relies. Too weak or too slow and the threshold to possible nuclear force is lowered. Of course, to realise such a force the nations must keep their word and fulfil the commitments to the Alliance which they sign up to.

The Defence Ministerial also confirmed a new Cyber Operations Centre, evidence that NATO is truly beginning to adapt to the new warfare that stretches across hybrid, cyber and hyper domains and which was the centre-piece of the GLOBSEC NATO Adaptation Initiative ( which was led by General John Allen and for which I had the honour to be lead writer.  If NATO is to meet the challenge of twenty-first century ‘war at our seams’ deterrence and defence will need to stretch across resiliency, protection and projection. Indeed, if NATO is to maintain all-important military comparative advantage its forces will also need to be empowered with a new form of mission command flexibility at all levels that will need to reach across the seven domains of twenty-first century warfare: air, sea, land, cyber, space, information and knowledge.  But, only if the nations keep their word and fulfil the commitments to the Alliance which they sign up to.

Secretary-General Stoltenberg also pointed out the, “four consecutive years of real increases in defence spending”. He went further, “All allies are increasing defence spending. More allies are spending 2% GDP on defence and the majority of Allies now have plans to do so by 2024”. Stoltenberg highlighted the $87 billion more that Canada and the European allies have spent on defence since 2014. And, that, “When it comes to capabilities, Allies have committed to investing 20% of their defence spending on major equipment”. One does not have to read deep down between Stoltenberg’s lines to see NATO’s boss endeavouring to forestall a Trump-bashing over equitable burden-sharing at the forthcoming Summit. Burden-sharing will be the elephant in the elegant conference room and if Canada and the European allies want the Alliance to survive, and to be more than a force generator for coalitions led elsewhere, they will all need this time to keep their word and fulfil the commitments to the Alliance which they sign up to.

Trump-Proofing the Alliance

This is precisely why recently I proposed to both the White House and London that when President Trump make’s his big ‘you bloody Europeans start pulling your military weight or else’ speech during his July visit to NATO and the UK he might want to do it on the deck of Britain’s brand new 72,500 ton heavy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. By the way, the first of ‘Big Lizzie’s’ teeth arrived yesterday at RAF Marham in Norfolk, England in the form of four F-35B strike fighters.  For once, well done Britain! Good timing. In other words, President Trump needs to avoid making a, ‘you Europeans are a bunch of free-loading, appeasing, weak and pathetic wasters who for too long have sponged off the American taxpayer and I am going to put a stop to it’ type of speech.  Why? Because America needs allies.

Rather, and respectfully, the President’s speech should read something like this: “Today, I am standing on the deck of this beautiful, gorgeous ship (I am factoring in Trump-speak). This mighty brand new, multi-million dollar warship.  And, friends, you know what, she does NOT fly the Stars and Stripes but the White Ensign, the symbol of our Old Ally Britain and Britain’s mighty Royal Navy which has for centuries brought order to the world’s oceans.  HMS Queen Elizabeth, great name friends, is proof-positive that with the right will our European allies can step up to the plate. And, that our Europeans allies have finally come to realise that America can only defend them if they do more to defend themselves. Proof positive that when the Allies keep their word and fulfil the commitments to the Alliance which they sign up to NATO really is the shield which protects us all and a sword which together we can all wield in the name of righteous peace.  The good news?  Next year our British allies will launch another of these great ships”.  Cue Royal Navy F-35Bs flying over in salute. 

The Allies have committed, by 2020, to having 30 mechanised battalions, 30 air squadrons, four combat vessels, ready to use within 30 days or less”. But, only if the nations keep their word and fulfil the commitments to the Alliance which they sign up to. This train must leave the station. It cannot afford to be late!

Julian Lindley-French

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

A Europe of Nations. Why I am a Gaullist

“History does not teach fatalism. There are moments when a handful of free men break through determinism and opens up new roads”.

Charles de Gaulle

A Gaullist European Union?

Garmisch-Partenkirchen. 5 June.  Tomorrow is the anniversary of D-Day.  It is time for Europeans to save ‘Europe’...from themselves.  Specifically, it is time to abandon the idea of a federal Europe once and for all and return to de Gaulle’s realist idea of a true European union of nations in which Brussels is once again reduced to where it should always have remained: servant not master.  Europe will only survive if it is reformed and brought back closer to the people and that can only happen if the EU becomes a true union of states.

Charles de Gaulle was a great man, and although not always a friend of Britain he remains a hero of mine.  He led his country at a moment of abject weakness in the wake of France’s defeat in 1940 and with iron will defended both its honour and its interests.  Oh, for a British de Gaulle now!  Brexit is turning out to be the disaster I feared with Theresa May simply the wrong person in the wrong position at the wrong time.  Her lack of leadership has set Britain adrift whilst much of the government machine charged with negotiating Britain’s orderly departure from the EU is completely unsympathetic to the very idea of Brexit.  Add to that a Parliament determined to gut Brexit and my once great country – a top five world economic and military power - is heading into a self-imposed form of servitude.  The darkest hour?

What Brexit Really Reveals

My on-balance rejection of Brexit back in 2016 was for geopolitical reasons and out of solidarity with friends in Eastern Europe. However, I also foresaw this mess precisely because the British Establishment long ago abandoned all notions of power and influence (see my book Little Britain) that de Gaulle and, of course, Churchill understood.  If it were not for the fact that Britain’s revoking of Article 50 would only encourage an arrogant and increasingly autocratic and technocratic European Commission to seek more power, and the consequent further hollowing-out of democracy in Europe it it leading, I could envisage the abandoning of Brexit in spite of the political crisis it would cause in the UK.  What is now clear is that THIS Brexit will not be in the national interest.  

For all that, Brexit is also a symptom of a much deeper malaise that stretches across Europe. It is a malaise that results in a ‘Europe’ today far less than the sum of its parts. It is also a malaise caused primarily by a battle between ‘unionists’, such as me who believe in the EU as super-alliance, and power-centralising Brussels federalists. The extent of this malaise was evident last week when Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told Italians-in-crisis to work harder.  So much for solidarity.  What should be a set of European issues – the failure of the Euro and effective management of migration - was again dumped on a single member-state proving once again that ‘solidarity’ is the most over-worked word in the Brussels Lexicon.   

Union or Federation?

Any analysis of the EU’s current state demonstrates the over-arching contradiction at its elite core: for THIS EU and its institutions to work ‘Europe’ needs more and deeper state-shrivelling political integration. However, most Europeans refuse to accept the shrivelling of their respective states because it is the state, not Brussels, to which most Europeans remain loyal. 

Here in Germany that contradiction is particularly and peculiarly apparent. There is much nonsense talked about Europe as a German Empire implying Berlin’s power is cast in the image of Wilhelm or Adolf.  Yes, Berlin can be frustrating and at times seem to want the benefits of leadership without the cost. In reality Germany is strong enough to be called upon to lead, but insufficiently strong to lead without help.  Chancellor Merkel seems to have finally understood this even if her own political capital is declining fast. In a weekend interview in Der Spiegel she seemed to accept President Macron’s case for more ‘Europe’ but only via deeper co-operation between states, i.e. a Europe of nations.  Whilst she countenanced the idea of temporary loans to assist EU countries in financial distress she quite clearly ruled debt mutualisation or the financial federalisation which would transform the Euro into a wealth transfer-mechanism from north to south. Even President Macron’s ideas for a new European military intervention force seemed to de-federalise EU defence even as he presented the plan as ‘more Europe’.  For France keeping Britain somewhere between EU member and third country is clearly vital, especially for defence co-operation. Second country?   

The Trump Factor

Cue the Trump factor. The Sunday Times this week, as part of a series of interviews with respected German commentators, stated, “…for years Germany lived under the cosy assumption that America would underwrite its defence while running up a trade deficit buying its cars”.  In other words, Germany and other Europeans have for too long assumed that America would pay for the defence of Europe whilst Europeans argued endlessly over the shape of Europe.  With the world now pressing in on Europe, and America hard-pressed the world over, the need for Europeans to get serious about their place in the world is fast becoming more important than the place of Europeans in ‘Europe’. As de Gaulle once said, “It will not be any European statesman who will unite Europe: Europe will be united by the Chinese”.  Maybe, just maybe, Europeans will be forced into some form of meaningful unity by an America that forces Europeans to finally wake up to America’s twenty-first century reality.

Testing Times
How does Europe get out of this mess? Brexit is again illuminating. The same pressures that led to Brexit are apparent in Poland, Spain and whole host of EU countries, as is the hard-line taken against the British by a European Commission worried about the fate of Project Europe and interpreting to the limit both its mandate and the treaties, even if that sows mistrust amongst numbers of European citizens about distant, unaccountable power and the point of voting if Brussels effectively orders member-states to scrap outcomes it finds inconvenient. The Brussels federalists are deeply worried that Brexit marks not simply the quasi-departure of a turbulent anti-federalist ‘pest’, but rather the beginning of the real struggle between unionists and federalists.  When placed in that context the true reason for the struggle over Brexit becomes apparent. 

Which brings me to the central contention of this piece.  Like some enormous ice-berg that is breaking away from a continental ice-field Europe is creaking, cracking and groaning its way to a new shape for power on the Old Continent. My hope is that a new and legitimate political settlement can be forged before Europe itself melts.  However, for such a settlement to be seen to be legitimate by the people of Europe, it would once again have to be seen to put the European nation-state to the fore.    

The tests?  If Brexit actually happens (and anything more than a sham Brexit remains a big ‘if’) the Commission will propose that it is given tax-raising powers to offset the loss of Britain’s budget contribution.  If the Commission is given tax-raising powers Europeans will have crossed the Rubicon towards a European super-state.  Europeans must collectively resist these ambitions and convene, instead, an intergovernmental conference or IGC to prepare for new European treaties built on a simple set of principles that would realise de Gaulle’s vision of a Europe of nations – more European Council, a bit more European Parliament, and a lot less European Commission.

A Europe of Nations
It is time for a real European union of nations of which Britain and everyone else can feel a part.  A European union of nations that would enable European states to again make sovereign decisions in a world in which the logic of European co-operation is overwhelming.  Europeans need not fear such a future.  Europeans have come a long way since World War Two and few if any would seek to resolve differences on the battlefield.  As the great man once rightly said, “Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first: nationalism when hatred for other people comes first”.   

Maybe, not only would Europe be politically re-invigorated but a vital transatlantic relationship re-forged as a strategic Europe finally emerges with Britain at its core and a new US-German special relationship at its heart.
And no, objecting to giving ever more power to Brussels does not make me a populist. A realist yes, a populist no.

Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 1 June 2018

Broad Deterrence: We Need a Complete Re-think!

“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die”.
Mel Brooks

Transatlantic Foot Shooting

Alphen, Netherlands. 1 June.  On Wednesday I posed a question that was received a bit like a fart in a lift (elevator to the Yanks amongst you) – are we actually deterring any adversary anymore?  That said, today is not a good day to propose re-conceiving deterrence. The decision by President Trump to start a trade war is a Vladimir Putin wet dream.  The EU’s likely retaliation will almost certainly lead to both Americans and Europeans shooting each other in the foot.  Well, the Europeans would shoot themselves in the foot, but the gun was decommissioned some time ago due to lack of spares.  Either way, a transatlantic trade war endangers the central pillar upon which credible deterrence rests – political and strategic solidarity.  So, bear with me and let me assume for the moment that both Americans and Europeans miss their respective feet and that somehow, and in spite of the best efforts of our ‘leaders’, the transatlantic relationship stumbles on.  If so, Americans and Europeans together will need to completely re-think deterrence if NATO’s Article 5 collective defence is to remain credible in the face of twenty-first century challenges.

Back in February I called for a new concept of deterrence by which new and emerging non-nuclear technologies could be 'bundled' and applied via new strategy and new thinking to generate deterrent effect across the conflict spectrum in conjunction with existing Alliance conventional and nuclear capabilities and postures.  My purpose was to close the dangerous deterrence gap that now exists between weak Allied conventional forces in Europe and last resort strategic nuclear deterrents. At the same time I posed a question: could the Alliance generate the same or similar deterrent effect as nuclear escalation across the low to high yield, short-range missiles to intercontinental ballistic missiles nuclear spectrum by matching new strategy with new non-nuclear technology, rather than return to a form of mutually assured nuclear destruction or MAD-ness?

On Wednesday, I gave a lecture at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London on the subject of Strategic Stability, Missile Defence and Nuclear Deterrence. Now, I say gave a lecture, having risen at 0230 in the morning and driven well over a 100 kilometres to Amsterdam Schiphol airport I found my flight to London City cancelled, and then the flight upon which I was re-booked also cancelled. Thanks, KLM…British Airways was flying.  So, I came home and gave my lecture via Skype. 

Broad Deterrence

My message was succinct; we need a new concept of Broad Deterrence that stretches across a new escalation spectrum from hybrid war to hyper war via cyber war. War at the seams of our governments and societies is already a fact with opportunistic Russia and long-game China already exploiting those seams to effect.  In that context, NATO’s very limited debate about the place of its hopelessly limited missile defence simply underlines much of the old-fashioned nature of the wider debate within the Alliance about who to deter and against what to defend. 

Therefore, new thinking is needed as a matter of urgency, hence my idea of Broad Deterrence.  However, such new thinking will only take place if there is a critical change of mind-set at a very high-level and in Europe.  One of my excellent interlocutors posed a question I found quite stunning (and my apologies if I got this wrong); do we want to admit we are in an arms race with the Russians?  My reply was blunt; if it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, it is an arms race!  Our choice is simple: we either convince the Russians to stop (not very likely given the current attitude of President Putin and the rest of the Siloviki who ARE the Russian Government), or we win the arms (relatively easy given Russia is an economic minnow if we turned our minds to it).  The most dangerous situation is the one in which we now find ourselves in which one side is arms racing and the other (us) is still pretending we are on a strategic picnic. As an Oxford historian let me tell you the thing about history: shock happens!

How Would Broad Deterrence Work?

So, what is Broad Deterrence and how would it work?  Broad deterrence would deter across hybrid, Artificial Intelligence (et al), cyber war, electronic warfare and hyper war domains, as well as across air, sea, land, cyber, space, nuclear, information and knowledge space to combine and enhance resiliency, strengthened protection and enhanced projection. The aim would be to build a new deterrence ladder to raise the threshold of 'success' for any adversary and to confound their own thinking by forcing them to onto the back foot to consider how they deter us.  NATO would be the guardian of Broad Deterrence with such new thinking central to NATO adaptation.

How do we begin? The other great deception used by those who simply do not want to face reality is that European public opinion would not understand.  Let me be utterly elitist by way of response.  Publics know squat about defence and deterrence and pay their leaders to handle such matters.  European leaders and thinkers really need to stop wearing this Emperor’s New Clothes argument about public opinion and start leading.

Another implied counter-argument to new thinking was that my concept of Broad Deterrence would be too complicated to turn into policy, strategy and architecture.  The simple answer to that is we do not know until we try.  In any case, that is precisely why people like myself occasionally get paid.  Therefore, having staged a conference last year on the future of European defence I am now proposing one of my Wilton Park conferences to now consider the future of European deterrence for which (naturally) I would write the report. He who holds the pen and all that…


One final thought, for all of the above to have any chance of working there has, of course, to be an ‘us’.  Here Europeans need to really get real.  America’s problem is not deterring Russia, the United States can do that quite comfortably. America’s critical twenty-first strategic problem is that its credible deterrent ‘reach’ will need to be global AND high-end all of the time, and all over the place. Which means even mighty America will need to make hard choice and tailor its deterrent posture.  For Europeans, America’s coming choices will be profound. If America cannot deter high-end adversaries the world-over. In other words, Alliance deterrence will equally depend on the ability of Europeans to deter Russia as Europeans. Indeed, if one separates the US from its European allies the deterrence gap in Europe between Europeans and Russia is enormous and mainly due to wilful European weakness.  And, for Broad Deterrence or any other form of deterrence to work there needs to be an ‘us’. Trade wars between allies are not particularly helpful on that front.

Peace through legitimate strength!

Julian Lindley-French