hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Monday, 25 February 2013

How Much Does EU Solidarity Cost?

Alphen, Netherlands. 25 February.  Italy has gone to the polls and Greece and Spain are facing continuing anti-austerity demonstrations.  Here in the Netherlands EU Council President Herman van Rompuy yesterday appeared on Dutch TV to tell the ever more sceptical Dutch that the Netherlands could not survive without the EU.  Last week I highlighted the concerns of my Dutch neighbours that ‘Brussels’ does nothing for them and they are tired of being lectured by Eurocrats and southern and eastern European politicians about the need for ‘solidarity’.  Since that blog I have been inundated with comments from varying degrees of Europhilia and fanaticism berating my neighbours for their lack of aforesaid ‘solidarity’.   So, how much does EU ‘solidarity’ cost? 
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated the size of the EU economy (gross domestic product or GDP) in 2012 at €12,629 trillion ($17,578 trillion).  The 8 February agreement by EU heads of state and government set the budget limit at 1% of the EU's GDP for the 2014-2020 EU Budget or €1.26 trillion ($1.76 trillion). According to Open Europe this year the biggest net contributors to the EU Budget will be Germany €14 billion ($18.6 billion), France €9 billion ($12 billion), UK €9 billion ($12 billion), Italy €6 billion ($8 billion) and the Netherlands €5 billion ($6.6 billion). 
Official Dutch figures set the size of the Dutch population in 2011 at 16,696,000.  Therefore, the cost of the EU Budget to each Dutch citizen is roughly €299 ($396) this year.  The cost of the EU Budget per annum to my Dutch neighbour’s family of five is thus around €1500 ($1988) per year IF the Budget is confirmed.  However, if the EU Parliament carries out its threat to veto the Budget then this year’s planned spending will be rolled over at 2% of Europe’s GDP, which will cost my by no means wealthy, ordinary Dutch neighbours about €3000 per annum.  There is a lot they could do with €3000 ($3977) to ease their very real worries.  No wonder EU Parliament leader Martin Schulz wants a secret vote so he can again hide the truth from my Dutch neighbours.  So much for democratic transparency!
However, that is not the true cost of solidarity.  One must also add the cost of the various bail outs to southern European countries and the debasing of the Euro due to the printing of money by the European Central Bank (ECB).  It is hard to get accurate figures for this mainly because governments, the European Commission and the ECB are determined to keep the true cost of the Eurozone crisis from my Dutch neighbours.  However, estimates vary between €10,000 ($13,200) and €15,000 ($20,000) per annum, per head (and possibly as high as €20,000 ($26,500)).
There are also additional hidden costs.  The Dutch Vice-President of the European Commission Neelie Kroes said yesterday that as much as 4% of the so-called Cohesion and Structural Fund is lost to national corruption or “silly projects”   She highlighted a new EU-funded (i.e. funded by my Dutch neighbour) Polish highway between Warsaw and Poznan that is sound-proofed even though it passes through empty fields.   Therefore, my Dutch neighbours and their fellows are seeing €13 billion ($17.2 billion) of their money effectively stolen or misappropriated each year.
The madness does not stop there.  Some hailed the EU Budget as a victory because for the first time it was cut.  However, what the Budget also reveals is that far from trying to invest out of the crisis by modernising Europe’s economy most member-states and the European Commission simply want to preserve vested interests.  In other words the EU is investing in the past. 
According to the BBC the snappily-named Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MAFF) or EU Budget is to be spent in 2013 as follows: Cohesion and Structural Funds €325 billion ($450 billion), Competition and Growth €125.6 billion ($166.5 billion), the Common Agricultural Fund €278 billion ($368.6 billion) (even though agriculture represents only 2% of the EU GDP), “EU as a Global Player” (aid) €59 billion ($78.2 billion), Security and Citizenship €15.7 billion ($20.7 billion), Rural Development €95 billion ($126 billion) and the worryingly entitled “off-budget spending” €37 billion ($49 billion). 
In other words only 13% of the EU Budget is being invested on preparing European for the hyper-competitive twenty-first century global economy.  The rest is being spent on propping up failure.  It also means that when Italians, Greeks and Spaniards protest about austerity they are really asking my modest Dutch neighbours to go on indefinitely funding a way of life they cannot afford.   In effect, they want the EU to become a mutual impoverishment pact.
Now, like me my Dutch neighbours are prepared to pay so much for ‘solidarity’ as they genuinely feel for the suffering of their fellow Europeans.  However, what they want to see above all is an end to this crisis.  For them that means modernising southern European economies (and others) in return for their ‘aid’.  However, there seems to be little appetite for that in Athens, Madrid, Rome or Brussels.  And they certainly do not want more ‘government’ by a remote Euro-Aristocracy in Brussels Centre in the name of 'stability' to fix a crisis they in fact caused. 
Therefore, Mr van Rompuy, unless you and your elite colleagues understand my Dutch neighbours and quickly the question for them will not be whether or not the Dutch can survive without the EU, but whether or not the Dutch can survive with the EU. The cost of ‘solidarity’ is fast becoming far too high to bear for the relatively few who have to pay for a crisis that is by no means over.
Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 22 February 2013

"Let Freedom Live!"

Alphen, Netherlands.  22 February.  Seventy years ago today three young German students were led to a guillotine by the Gestapo in Stadelheim Prison and brutally executed.  Siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst faced death with immense courage, something even the Gestapo acknowledged.  As the blade began its death fall Hans Scholl shouted out “Let Freedom Live!”  With that single act of defiance Hans Scholl created modern, democratic Germany.  
The White Rose movement offered peaceful resistance against the Nazis at the height of World War Two.  Centred on the students of Munich University the group’s members understood full well that if caught they would face certain torture and death at the bloody hands of the Gestapo.  And yet between June 1942 and February 1943 they bravely distributed six leaflets and scrawled defiant graffiti denouncing the Nazis.  One of my heroes Helmuth James Graf von Moltke managed to smuggle the sixth and final leaflet out of Germany and in July 1943 the Royal Air Force dropped thousands of them over Germany retitled, “The Manifesto of the Students of Munich”.

One of the leaflets was sadly prophetic, “Isn't it true that every honest German is ashamed of his government these days? Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes– crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure– reach the light of day?”  The White Rose movement clearly knew of the Holocaust and the crimes being committed in the name of Germany at Dachau on Munich’s outskirts.

Germany and its people bear a heavy burden of history.  Clearly the crimes of Nazism must never be forgotten.  Last year I visited Auschwitz and Auschwitz II Birkenau and its evil mark will be with me for the rest of my days.  However, there is also much said and written about modern Germany that not only misses the point but is plainly wrong.  Sadly, that is often the case in Britain my own country which still counts the cost of its heroic defiance of the Nazis in the name of Europe’s freedom (something too often other Europeans seem to forget).

Modern Germany is not the heir of Nazi criminals but the heir of Liselotte Bendl, Harold Dohrn, Manfred Eickemeyer, Wilhelm Geyer, Willi Graf, Eugen Grimminger, Falk Harnack, Kurt Huber, Marie-Luis Jahn, Trante Lafranz, Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Katharina Schueddekopf,  Helmut and Sophie Scholl, Josef Soehngen, and Jurgen Wittenstein.  They are heroes of Europe one and all.

It is their Germany from which Chancellor Angela Merkel takes her inspiration.  It is an inspiration that the rest of Europe would do well to understand and respect as she grapples with the Eurozone crisis.  Yes, Germany can be heavy-handed from time to time.  That is partly a function of a modern Germany that is simply powerful, although that is not something most modern Germans feel.  It is also a function of Abraham Lincoln’s famous dictum that one can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but one can never please all of the people all of the time.  This is especially so in a place as diverse and complex as modern Europe.

Germany’s war history will always be told and rightly so.  One only has to zap television channels to find some documentary or film telling the story of Nazi atrocities and the eventual victory of the Allies over Nazism.  Indeed, I am intensely proud of my own country’s role in that victory.  However, it is now time to tell the story of Germany’s heroes for they are also OUR heroes and one is far more likely to understand and appreciate modern Germany if one understands their struggle and sacrifice.  

As Scholl uttered his famous cry not only modern Germany was born, but modern Europe.  The American, British and Canadian armies in the vanguard of democracy came to liberate the ideas they stood for.  White Rose Freedom called for “…freedom of speech, freedom of religion and protection of the individual citizen from the arbitrary actions of criminal-dictator states”.  They are the very principles of modern Europe. 

In all seven members of the White Rose group were executed by January 1945 and as a Briton, European and a democrat I honour them all. 

“Let Freedom Live!”

Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

XBox Dreadnought?

Alphen, Netherlands.  20 February.  HMS Dreadnought at a stroke condemned every other battleship on the planet to the scrapyard.  Launched in 1906 she represented a revolutionary step change in ship design combining big guns and new Parsons steam turbines with heavy armour in such a way that she could out-gun, out-pace and out-protect any battleship afloat.  Is warfare about to encounter another Dreadnought moment – an XBox Dreadnought?
Two events in the past few weeks suggest for once that a real revolution in military affairs may be starting; a step change in the relationship between technology, force and effect that will profoundly impact strategy, tactics and doctrine.  Yesterday, American computer security firm Mandiant identified a building in Shanghai as the source of 147 cyber-attacks on the US as Unit 61398 of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.  Recent protests at the Senate confirmation hearings of CIA Director-elect John Brennan demonstrated the growing unease amongst human rights activists and legal scholars about the use of drones by US forces.  Both reports miss the essential point for taken together cyber and drones represent nothing less  than future war.
Drones first.  They offer a cheaper alternative to sending armies into difficult places during unpopular wars.  For hard-pressed political and military leaders exerting influence at low cost is an attractive option.  Ironically, the issue of actual comparative cost is not one that works today when compared to the use of manned aircraft.  It is a difficult comparison to make but several studies, including a 2007 study led your Blogonaut, suggest that drone costs per flight hour are not much cheaper than manned fighters or Apache attack helicopters.  The cost of the electronics is roughly similar and although there are savings in weight and there being no need to provide safety systems to support a pilot drones are not very effective in complex combat scenarios. 
However, whilst the operational flexibility they afford commanders may as yet be limited what matters is the ever growing distance between target and operator to the point where the latter is to all intents and purposes invulnerable.  And this is just the beginning.  Exactly the same can be said for cyber-attacks.  Clearly cyber and drones are here to stay as the market for the capability (both military and commercial) is booming and diversifying.  
Take cyber and drone technology together and the dawn of robot wars is a future that is not too hard to imagine.  This does not for a moment suggest that traditional platforms such as ships, aircraft and armoured vehicles will be rendered obsolete on the battlefield.  Rather, they will need to be seen as increasingly robotic (and upgradeable) platforms that are part of a battlefield so large and so remote that the distinction that Clausewitz made between strategy and tactics could become nigh on irrelevant. 
For the West it could be an opportunity to offset the high cost/low numbers problem all Western militaries face in which manoeuvre is only achieved at the expense of mass.  For Asian and other actors it could offer the chance to offset American technological advantage.  The ancient Chinese warrior-philosopher Sun Tzu said that “the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”. 
As yet no strategic concept worthy of the name has been crafted that incorporates concept, command, cyber, drones and platforms into a new way of warfare.  When that idea comes the XBox Dreadnought will be reality. 
The purpose of HMS Dreadnought was to make the cost for Germany of competing with the Royal Navy so high as to render a naval arms race impossible.  On the face of it the gamble failed.  In fact, Germany was never able to match the British given Berlin’s focus on land power.  Indeed, the thing about the Dreadnought was not the fact of new technology, but rather the way it was combined and the impact it had on naval strategy, tactics and doctrine.  This culminated in the May 1916 Battle of Jutland when the British and German battle-fleets clashed in the greatest sea battle in history in a way that would have been unimaginable even a decade prior.  And, whilst the tactical outcome of Jutland is contested the strategic victory it afforded the British is clear.  The naval blockade that did so much to force Germany’s 1918 submission was confirmed by Jutland.
Karl von Clausewitz said the overriding aim of war is to disarm the enemy.  Taken together cyber and drone technology suggest small beginnings for a very big and possibly dangerous future as the gap between action and effect is lengthened.  Given today’s strategic landscape historians may look back on this period as the true beginning of a form of robotic warfare.
One thing is clear – the eye in the sky and the ear in the ether is here to stay.  The race is now on for the XBox Dreadnought.
Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 18 February 2013

What has Brussels Ever Done for Us?

Alphen, Netherlands. 18 February.  In Life of Brian, freedom fighter Reg, leader of the ramshackle People’s Front of Judea, rallies his incompetent followers with a seemingly rhetorical question, “What have the Romans ever done for us?”  The aqueduct”, suggests Xerxes.  “Oh yeah, yeah they gave us that. Yeah. That's true”.  “And the sanitation!” says Stan, “You remember what the city used to be like”.  “All right”, says Reg, “I'll grant you that; the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done...”  “And the roads...” suggests Matthias.  “Well yes obviously the roads... the roads go without saying. But apart from the aqueduct, the sanitation and the roads?”  “Irrigation, medicine, education, health”.  “Yes, all right, fair enough” says Reg. “And the wine...that's something we'd really miss if the Romans left, Reg” .  “What about Public baths?  And it's safe to walk the streets at night now”.  “Yes, they certainly know how to keep order.  Let's face it they're the only ones who could in a place like this”.  “All right... all right”, shouts an exasperated Reg, “...apart from better sanitation, medicine, education, irrigation, public health, roads, a freshwater system, baths and public order... what have the Romans ever done for us?”  “Brought peace?”  
On Saturday night over dinner with neighbours a similar sentiment was expressed; what has Brussels ever done for us?  The news was not good.  A neighbour from across the road has just lost his job because his trucking company had gone into liquidation undercut by competition from Eastern Europe.  A neighbour on the other side fears she will lose her job because of changes in European contract law that means her company must compete with cheaper labour from Eastern Europe.  A climate of fear now extends across the village and with it a growing sense of disenchantment with the EU in what had once been the political heartland of ‘Europe’. 
Today’s Europe is noticeable for a profound divide between those that are being paid for by the people of my village and the people of my village who are being rapidly impoverished by the euro crisis.  Indeed, ‘Europe’ is now seen as something bad that is being done to them, a sentiment one can trace across much of northern, western Europe. 
Thankfully politicians in the Netherlands are slowly beginning to wake up to the deep disenchantment felt in towns and villages like my own.  David Cameron’s seminal speech on Europe seems to have acted like a trigger with mainstream politicians much more willing to speak out against the centralizing ambitions of Brussels Centre.  Yesterday, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans warned EU pretend President Herman van Rompuy that he was going too fast with his plans for ever closer union.  Moreover, the recent Brussels budget summit suggested the emergence of a new alignment for a Europe that serves its nation-states, not a Europe built on their eventual demise. 
This balance of competences battle is the heart of the battle over the future Europe.  Iain Duncan Smith, the British Secretary for Secretary of State for Work and Pension, warned of the ever-expanding and creeping powers of a European Commission determined to interpret its treaty ‘competences’ in the most aggressive manner possible. He was particularly concerned by Commission efforts to interpret responsibilities to protect the free movement of peoples as a ruse to interfere in national social security legislation.
It is no longer clear to my neighbours who or what is responsible for the aqueducts, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine, education, health, wine and law and order.  European regulation they neither want nor voted for is ever more apparent in their lives.  Moreover, they believe it is that self-same regulation that is making them poor in the name of ‘Europe’.  Clearly, national politicians too often blame Brussels for their own failings but behind the crisis an almighty power struggle is underway between the northern, western European taxpayer and Brussels Centre and its powerful political allies.  Not surprisingly my Dutch neighbours feel powerless and intimidated in the face of such forces and are deeply mistrustful of the political class as a whole.       
Of course, the usual self-aggrandising suspects in Brussels Centre trot out the usual mantra about the need for European solidarity.  However, on hearing this most northern, western Europeans simply reach for their wallet to see if their money is still there.    
The sad truth is that the ordinary people of my village are being asked the impossible in the name of Europe; to bear the cost of an ill-conceived currency and the appallingly irresponsible borrowing it triggered elsewhere, whilst being impoverished by a ‘Europe’ that traps them in a spiral of over-regulation, economic sclerosis and beggar-thy-neighbour politics. 
The European Union will only survive if Brussels Centre can clearly demonstrate benefit to the people on my street.  If ‘benefit’ is only yet more theoretical or political rhetoric in the mind of a dangerously detached elite or the supine academics that afford them succour then political Europe will inevitably fail.
What has Brussels ever done for us?  Brought peace?
Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

When Will NATO Be Nobel-ed?

Oslo, Norway. 13 February.  The certificate room of the Nobel Institute has the feel of the headmaster’s waiting room of an English school.  This is something your Blogonaut was very familiar with in his youth as he spent much time in such places awaiting punishment for having been creative with school rules.  Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela sits close by Kofi Annan, Aung San Suu Kyi jostles with Al Gore (?????) - the great, the good and a couple of American politicians.
The citation that announced the awarding of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union in October last year stated, “The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.  Walking through Rome’s Fiumicino Airport last week I espied a big sign emblazoned across a wall celebrating the award and trumpeting the message that the EU had kept the peace in Europe for sixty years. 
This week I attended the opening of the Norwegian Atlantic Council’s Leangkollen Conference in Oslo’s Nobel Institute.  Looking at the certificates awarded to Peace Prize recipients with NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow it struck me just how unfair it is that the Alliance has not been recognised as the true guardian of European peace during the past sixty years plus. 
The 2012 award to the EU was not as preposterous as some have suggested but it does point to the increasing politicisation of the Nobel Peace Prize.  Clearly, the role of ‘Europe’ in helping to institutionalise the post-1945 Franco-German rapprochement at the core of European Reconciliation Phase One was vitally important.  However, speaking to senior Norwegian politicians here it is also evident that the Nobel Peace Prize is indeed becoming politicised which is a shame.  In 2009 the Peace Prize was awarded to the then new President Barack H. Obama for simply not being George W. Bush (where do Americans get all these superfluous initials from?). 
In reality Franco-German reconciliation could not have taken place but for the security guarantee offered by NATO and by extension the taxpayers of America, Britain and Canada who bore much of the cost to keep the Red Army at bay during the deepest freezes of the Cold War.  And yet go to the European Parliament and the Euro-fanatics therein have completely air-brushed NATO out of Europe’s contemporary history.  It is as if the Americans, British and Canadians had nothing whatsoever to do with the European peace.  
NATO set out to achieve a Europe free and whole.  One only has to survey the map of Europe of today to see the incredible achievement of the Atlantic Alliance and its contribution to European peace and stability.  It is a peace and stability without which the European Union simply could not exist.  It is also a continuing mission.  The EU likes to present itself as the saviour of a Europe torn apart by war.  In fact it was the 1941 Atlantic Charter of the then two great democracies America and Britain that paved the way not only for victory in World War Two but eventually victory in the Cold War.  However, the difference between the EU and NATO is that the Alliance has had to take the hard, tough decisions over the use of force upon which sustainable peace in Europe has been built at the cost of both blood and geld.
In the Western Balkans, Afghanistan, Libya and a host of other challenging arenas NATO wrestles with the use of legitimate, proportionate force daily for the Alliance is no less a peace organisation than the EU.  However, NATO simply does not have the luxury of being able to eternally theorise about peace.  Crises happen and any visit to the Justus Lipsius building, home of the European Council and known as ‘Just Lips’, the European Commission or the European Parliament and it quickly becomes clear that the peace-building of the EU has NATO foundations.
In an ideal world/Europe the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize would have been awarded jointly to both the EU and NATO for they both played a crucial role in the European peace and they will both continue to do so.
Given that the Norwegian Nobel Committee needs to go back to first principles and ask itself a fundamental question: is the Nobel Peace Prize only for those who seek peace through non-violent means or is the Prize open to all those who have made a critical contribution to peace?  If it is the former then both Obama and the EU should be excluded.  If it is the latter then NATO must also be recognised.  
So, when is NATO going to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? 2013 would do nicely.
Julian Lindley-French

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Extremists Stay Away!

Dear All, I just noticed that amongst my followers a website of dubious standing.  Upon closer inspection I discovered this to be a bigoted and racist Islamophobic website.  Upon realising that I immediately blocked it.  Let me be clear; I am firm in my views about policy and I communicate those views robustly to get through to a political class that is increasingly distant from we the citizens and deaf to our concerns.  However, my firmest held belief is that all people are deserving of equal respect from whatever faith, creed, race or orientation they may hail.  My suspicion is that this unwarranted visit from an extremist may have been prompted by my use of the term 'Islamo-fascists' in a blog on Mali to describe the extremists of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. For the record I was quoting a leading analyst and director of one of London'd top think-tanks during an interview he gave to the BBC TV.  Again, for the record, I have the deepest respect for Islam and Muslims and that should be understood by all.

Extremists stay away! 

Julian Lindley-French

TAFTA: For the Love of Italy:

Rome, Italy. 7 February.  It is just a golden moment.  Above my Roman roof-top cappuccino a flash of dawn radiates across a golden city which for three thousand years has come to symbolise Europe. Every empire since from Charlemagne to the European Union claims in some way to be the political heir of either Roman Republic or Empire. I love this town, I love this country.  It is therefore sad to see my old Italian friend brought low, visibly fraying at the edges.  As February’s national elections beckon the discourse is about more Brussels not less, a metaphor for more of my Dutch taxpayer’s money so that Europe can prolong its agony in mutual impoverishment.  Italy does not need more Brussels.  Italy needs a real macro-economic game-changer.  Italy needs TAFTA, a transatlantic free-trade agreement.   

The plain truth is that I could no more abandon Italy to a debt-drenched future than I could my own Yorkshire kith and kin.  That would be unconscionable.  However, it is also clear that the partial and wrong-headed EU response to the Eurozone crisis will fail Italy (and Spain and others) in its hour of need.   The wrong-headedness will be evident today in Brussels as leaders wrestle over the EU budget. The agreement they reach will once again be to invest in Europe’s past rather than Europe’s competitive future.  TAFTA would force Europeans to again look outward and compete. 

However, for TAFTA to work Washington must also cure itself of the fantasy that a United States of Europe would look anything like the United States of America.  Left to its own devices the appallingly bureaucratic and hopelessly over-regulated, statist and uncompetitive European ‘USE’ would look far more like the sclerotic and ultimately doomed USSR – a Union of Soviet European Republics.

The sad truth is that the political unionists in Brussels Centre seek to use the crisis to extend their fiat at the expense of legitimacy, democracy, but above all competitiveness.  Indeed, by linking Europe’s political future to the current crisis Brussels Centre is critically preventing the establishment of a truly pan-European recovery programme.  Moreover, what will come out of Brussels today (if anything) will not help Italy.  The leaders will talk a lot about growth but in reality do nothing to promote Horizon 2020, the research and development fund, or help the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) vital if Italy is to compete in a global economy. 

My visit to Rome was to address the excellent 58th Assembly of the Atlantic Treaty Association.  There were two great elephants in a room full of defence wonks.  The first, naturally, was the Eurozone crisis which is the quintessential European security challenge of this age.  The other was TAFTA.  Indeed, I would go as far as to say the future of a credible NATO depends on TAFTA and a growth-driving transatlantic single market in goods and services it would create worth over 50% of global economic output.  

Rome is merely in the eye of the hurricane that is the Eurozone crisis.  The worst is yet to come.  The money and reforms Romans will need and have to go through before stability once again dawns is perhaps a decade away if there is no game-changer.  Therefore, the mantra of more Brussels must be pushed aside and a proper plan developed by ALL Europe’s nation-states within the wider macro-economic context that TAFTA would provide.

As I drove past Rome’s ancient forum below the Palatine hill where Republic and Empire tussled the ruins of a once great civilisation lay before me.  Decline and fall is now clear for all to see across Europe. Is that our shared European future?  As Brussels Centre edges forward with what one American friend calls a 'fascinating elite experiment' that she does not have to live with will the latter day republics and kingdoms that give Europe such cultural energy be replaced with a not so holy Brussels bureaucratic empire?  It is certainly a seductive ‘solution’ for many southern Europeans for like the Roman Empire of the first and second centuries this new statist Europe may offer temporary stability.  However, shorn of legitimacy, productivity and competitiveness it will ultimately fail mired in its own political decadence.    

The Obama administration says that TAFTA must be concluded quickly as the deal has to be done, “on one tank of gas”.  Sadly, the very people charged with promoting transatlantic “regulatory convergence” are the very Brussels Centre people who least want it.  For them TAFTA is a threat to their ‘competences’. 

TAFTA – for the love of Italy!

Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 4 February 2013

How Russia Won the War and is Still Losing the Peace

4 February.  Here in Verbier, Switzerland snow cascades from a grizzly grey slate sky in great dustings of caster white.  That is perhaps the only reality which a Swiss ski resort of today shares with frozen, broken Stalingrad a lifetime ago.  Russia’s President Putin said on the 2 February 70th anniversary of the surrender of General von Paulus’s German Sixth Army, “We are proud.  Russia is proud of the defenders of Stalingrad…The Red Army lived and fought in this hell”.  Rarely do I agree with President Putin but he is absolutely right about the two hundred day battle of Stalingrad.  Russia’s critical role in the defeat of Nazi Germany helped create the very conditions by which I can write in freedom, even if in victory Moscow tried so hard for so long to deny that very freedom to millions.  The danger for a Russia that lost perhaps as many as twenty seven million citizens fighting Nazi Germany is that again Russia could slide away from freedom and its rightful place in Europe. 
Soviet Russia eventually collapsed in 1991 because it came to represent an impossible contradiction: the centralisation by bureaucratisation of utterly disparate peoples.  It is a lesson Brussels might learn today.  However, the fact the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) stumbled on for so long after 1945 had much to do with the narrative Stalingrad established at the heart of Soviet politics.  The Great Patriotic War became an alibi for uncontested Kremlin power and locked Russia and its satellites into the political stasis that would in time consume it.
In spite of the immense sacrifice of the war generation the moment a leader emerged who did not and could not base his political legitimacy within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on his war service Soviet Russia was doomed.  In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev took power and immediately set out to modernise a Soviet Union that could honour Stalingrad but move beyond it.  It was simply too late and to this day Russia has grappled with the same dilemma.
The tragic irony for the heroes of Stalingrad is that they are still not allowed to rest in honoured peace in the Pantheon of Russia’s history.  With the announcement that Volgograd will resort to its wartime name Stalingrad, at least for the period of the anniversary, the danger is that contemporary Moscow will once again endeavour to ‘legitimise’ it power on the cult of the strong leader Stalin exploited and which Stalingrad came to represent. 
Joseph Stalin had no less blood on his hands than Hitler.  He penned an infamous pact with Hitler in August 1939 to keep Russia out of war.  Indeed, Stalin almost destroyed the very Red Army that would play such a crucial heroic role in defeating Hitler through brutal purges in the 1930s.
It is sometimes said of Britain (mainly in Germany for self-evident reasons) that until the British stop looking back to World War Two they can never take their place in the new Europe.  There is some truth to that, even if for those who make such a criticism new Europe is often a metaphor for a bureaucratic Europe that could bear striking similarities to the sclerotic USSR.  It is certainly true of Russia.
Lacking real political legitimacy Vladimir Putin could take Russia back into a sacrificial nostalgia and lock Russian society and his leadership in anachronistic aspic.  Such a political strategy may just last long enough to keep Putin and friends in power and wealth, but  it will do nothing to prepare Mother Russia for the twenty-first century.
Stalingrad was really the victory of ordinary Russia over a foreign, western criminal occupation.  It is a powerful story and utterly seductive to the Russian mind.  However, even the most cursory of glances at a map will demonstrate that the West is Russia’s one true friend.  Even the most cursory of glances at Russia’s economy demonstrates Moscow’s utter dependence on Europe for its fossil-fuelled wealth.
Every year Russia steps backward towards Stalingrad the longer and more painful the difficult journey will be for the Russian people to embrace political modernity.  And, the greater the unnecessary suffering and unwarranted poverty the Russian people will face.
Russia must honour the fallen of Stalingrad, as must we all.  However, it is time to let the dead rest and the memory of their suffering, sacrifice and immense achievement take its honoured place in Russia’s past not in Russia’s present.
At Stalingrad Russia won the war and then contrived to lose the peace. Here the snow continues to fall, each flake reflective of a lost Stalingrad soul.  For their sake the Russian people will always be welcome in freedom. 
One million people were killed during the battle of Stalingrad and I honour and respect every one of them.
Julian Lindley-French