hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Mattis, Trump and Complex Strategic Coercion

“…we [the United States] must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances’.

The resignation letter of General James N. Mattis as US Secretary of Defense, 20 December 2018   

Transactionalism ain’t grand strategy

Alphen, Netherlands. 22 December 2018. The resignation of General Mattis as Secretary of Defense on Thursday was because he understands the nature of the complex strategic coercion in which both China, Russia and others are engaged and President Trump does not.  Worse, President Trump has become a useful idiot for the likes of Presidents Putin and Xi. He thinks that statecraft can be reduced to doing transactional deals with fellow leaders, ‘mano a mano’. Statecraft simply does not work like that. His decision to declare a premature victory over IS in Syria reveals the extent of President Trump’s grand strategic illiteracy. Mission accomplished? Such a decision might motivate his domestic political base, the sons and daughters of whom in many ways provide the spine of the American military. It also reveals a complete lack of understanding on the part of President Trump about the existential nature of the twenty-first century Great Power struggle between democracy and autocracy, the vital need for the intelligent use of American power, and the place of Syria in the wider struggle underway between democracy and autocracy.

It’s the grand strategy stupid!

In his resignation letter he wrote: “It is clear that China and Russia…want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions – to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors”. In other words, the relevance and cost of the power projection armed forces both China and Russia are constructing can only be understood in the context of the complex strategic coercion they seek. Many Western political leaders and commentators fixate simply on the fast improving capabilities and capacities of the two country’s respective armed forces. They are, of course, right to be concerned.  However, it is the strategy – the ends and means – that should be the real concern. General Mattis understands this.

Grand strategy is the systematic application of immense means in pursuit of world-changing ends. Beijing and Moscow are applying a range of coercive and inductive tools to force other states to align their critical choices with Chinese and Russian interests. Such strategy was implicit in President Xi Jinping’s ‘China Dream’ speech of 17 December 2018, Russia’s use of force in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait in November and the tone of much of President Putin’s annual 'end of year' press conference on 20 December.

Belatedly, Britain seems to have woken up to this dangerous reality, even if the response only reveals the large gap between the ends, ways and means in the policy of America’s apparently most capable ally. This morning HMS Echo will arrive in Ukraine to demonstrate British resolve in the face of Putin’s once again increasing threat to south-eastern Ukraine, with the port of Mariupol in particular danger. In fact, HMS Echo is a lightly-armed survey vessel and to the Russians her deployment will look more like echo of empire Gilbert and Sullivan than sophisticated Bismarckian message-sending. Unfortunately, self-obsessed western Europeans are as strategically-illiterate as President Trump given their belief that covenants can replace swords when dealing with the likes of President Putin and President Xi.        

Fighting Complex Strategic Coercion

So what is the complex strategic coercion that General Mattis gets and President Trump does not? It is what I call 5D warfare; a complex tool of coercion that stretches across and ‘weaponises’ five new domains of coercion: disinformation, destabilisation, disruption, destruction and deception. The aim is to destroy the ability of powerful Western states to act decisively and effectively in their own defence by conducting an unrelenting war at the seams of their complex, diverse societies. It is a form of coercive grand strategy purposely designed as war at the margins of the Alliance and the Union with the specific objective of forcing small vulnerable allies and partners to begin accepting the implicit power writ of both Russia and China over their affairs, and in so doing undermine the alliances that they have chosen to join.

Moscow is seeking is to create the conditions that, if Moscow so chose, would afford Russia the opportunity to exert decisive pressure, by force if needs be, at a place and location of its choice. For Russia complex strategic coercion is thus designed to achieve a decisive local-strategic comparative advantage across an arc of Russian-generated instability that stretches from Norway’s North Cape, through Northern Sweden and Finland to the Baltic States, the Black Sea region, the Levant, the Western Balkans and beyond, i.e. Syria. It is within that strategic context that Russian force modernisation must be seen.

China is undertaking a similar campaign in Asia-Pacific. Beijing’s approach, replete as it is with a massive cyber-hacking campaign, is far more sophisticated than that of Moscow, not least because Beijing has the means to foster debt-dependency in target states. It is just as coercive. Again, this is something General Mattis understands and why he was calling for the ‘comprehensive’ application of American power. President Trump clearly does not.   

Don’t make America alone again   

Putting aside the meltdown of strategic responsibility in Britain’s political class the importance of allies to the United States has never been greater. In his letter of resignation General Mattis wrote: “Our core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships”. The very real danger now is that with General Mattis gone President Trump’s obsession with the political short-term, which is the true cause of his strategic illiteracy, will now run roughshod and untrammelled over America’s strategic interests and its allies.  That President Trump will become ever more like a latter-day version of the isolationist Senator Arthur Vandenburg who supported the Neutrality Act that undoubtedly hastened World War Two. At least Vandenburg had the bigness of mind to reverse course when Pearl Harbor was attacked on 7 December 1941. President Trump?

It is that failure of vision, of understanding and of the nature of American power itself that, I suspect, ultimately forced a much-decorated, serving US Marine general who is deeply imbued with an immense sense of duty to the people he served to finally abandon his post in quiet, dignified despair.

Thursday was a good day for autocrats. It was a bad day for the free world.

 Julian Lindley-French 

Friday, 21 December 2018

In the Dutch Gulag!

Alphen, Netherlands. 21 December. With a ‘no deal’ hard Brexit imminent it has been announced by the Dutch Government (fake news alert!!!) that come 29 March 2019 all we Brits resident in the Netherlands will be interned.  The letter summoning me will arrive any day. With typical Dutch cunning, they have located it in s-Gravenhage (un-pronounced schschschhhgrraavenhaghghgh-u) to ensure none of we Brits can pronounce it so that any possible rescue mission is thwarted at source. They had thought about putting the camp in s-Hertogenbosch (pronounced schschsch-hair-to-gone-boschshch), which even most of the Dutch cannot pronounce, but then realised that we Brits shorten everything and that, consequently, Den Bosch was far too easy.

Apparently, the Dutch are planning for a tough regime at the Gulag (pronounced schschsch-ula-schschsch) with three tough levels of ‘aan de wet houden’ (wet compliance or torture) to force we British to capitulate. Level one torture, or ‘Oliebollen’ (oil balls), will involve the enforced feeding of incarcerated British with large balls of fat coated in castor sugar and impregnated with offensive raisins.  At the same time we will be forced to sing the Dutch national anthem the ‘Wilhelmus’ which, strangely, will also require us to swear allegiance to the Germans (ben ik van Duitsen bloed), to the King of Spain (de koning van Hispanje heb ik altijd geeerd) and to a particular Dutch fetish, all and anything orange.

Level two torture, or ‘Bitterballen’, will involve the enforced swallowing of an unmentionable animal paste of some unknown (and frankly no-one wants to know) provenance surrounded by a crusty batter and served at an unimaginably hot temperature so that the subsequent burns render all communication impossible. Level three torture, or ‘Poffertjes’, will involve the application via mouth of multiple ‘sugar bombs’ even three of which leave the victim shaking uncontrollably and wanting to swim the North Sea.

However, in the event the victim still fails to swear allegiance to either the Germans, the King of Spain or orange there will be an exceptional fourth level of torture called ‘verse haring’ or ‘fresh herring’. This cruel and exceptional punishment will involve the victim being forced to consume large amounts of a very smelly dead fish which only the Dutch have the stomach for whilst having to watch Dutch TV.

What the Dutch have not as yet realised is that all we Yorkshire folk will be utterly immune to their post-Brexit torture regime. There is NOTHING the Dutch could force us to swallow that would come close to the battle-hardening we all receive as children. The full-cooked Yorkshire breakfast is a crime on a plate that only the most hardened artery can endure. As for their TV they fail to realise that the BBC’s annual Christmas repeats are torture enough.

Merry Christmas or should that be prettige kerstdag!

Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 14 December 2018

A Brexit Briefing Note

To:      A Senior Italian

From: Professor Dr Julian Lindley-French

Date:   14 December 2018


In the wake of last night’s dinner at the European Council and the suspension by Her Majesty’s Government of the Parliamentary vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Britain’s exiting of the European Union is at an impasse.

·       If permitted to endure this impasse will further damage relations between the United Kingdom (UK), the European Union (EU) and its member states, and threaten to impact upon NATO.

·       The specific cause of friction is the so-called Irish Backstop which will be triggered in the event of no agreement on the future political and trading relationship between the EU and the UK.

·       In such circumstances, a part of the UK, Northern Ireland, would remain effectively part of the EU single market and customs union to prevent a so-called hard border on the island of Ireland. The fear is that a hard border could threaten the standing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended twenty-five years of armed struggle between Irish Nationalist and Republican groups and Loyalist and Protestant groups.

·       The failure to reach an agreement over the future political and trading relationship would see a de facto customs ‘border’ established in the Irish Sea between two parts of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

·       A significant section of the ruling Conservative and Unionist Party see such an infringement of national sovereignty as too high a price for an agreement with the EU and thus seek what they term a ‘clean Brexit’, i.e. no deal.

·       Last night the French and Irish governments respectively took a very hard line over any possible adjustment to, or indeed possible reassurances over, the temporary nature of the Backstop. This markedly increased the likelihood that on 29 March 2019 Britain will leave the EU without a deal, immediately become a so-called Third Country, and thus be excluded from both the single market and the customs union with profound implications for trade and the wider British and European economies.       


There are several background and more immediate political factors that have led to this situation. It is also fair to say that the seeds of Brexit were set back in 1972 when then Prime Minister Edward Heath suppressed the legal advice that confirmed the then European Economic Community had ambitions for political integration that went far beyond what was called by the British the ‘Common Market’. The causes of the current crisis can be thus summarised: 

·       The British Parliament formally, and overwhelmingly, contracted out the decision on Britain’s future membership of the EU to the British people in the form of the June 2016 referendum. However, much of Parliament and their Remainer followers in the country have refused to accept the result.    

·       In March 2017 the British Parliament also overwhelmingly agreed to invoke Article 50 and formally set in motion the formal two-year process of withdrawal from the treaties of the European Union.

·       In June 2017 Prime Minister May called a snap general election in an attempt to increase her majority in the House of Commons and thus strengthen her Brexit Parliamentary and negotiating positions. She achieved neither and since that failure has been forced to backtrack on the firm statements of British policy objectives she made in her January 2017 Lancaster House speech.

·       As her position became progressively weaker Prime Minister May side-lined her pro-Brexit ministers in the Cabinet and handed over the detailed negotiation of both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration on a Future Partnership to senior civil servants. Whilst professional the civil service has seen the negotiations as an exercise in damage limitation and thus further reduced Britain’s negotiating ambition.

·       The political weakness of Prime Minister May and the lack of certainty over Britain’s negotiating objectives enabled the European Commission to adopt a very hard-line negotiating position which has prevailed.

·       The forced disclosure last week to Parliament of the legal advice to the Prime Minister made it clear that the Withdrawal Agreement as envisaged would force Britain into a form of legal subservience to the EU and possibly in perpetuity. This led, in turn, this week to a triggering of a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister May. She won that vote but her political position has been further weakened.                    


Britain is suffering a humiliation at the hands of the EU and its member-states that is akin to a strategic defeat. If forced into a form of subservience to Brussels by becoming a so-called ‘rule-taker’ rather than a ‘rule-maker’ the implications for the EU, UK and possibly NATO are profound and can be thus summarised:

·       Possible break-up of the UK: with the humbling of London by Brussels Scottish Nationalists will increase efforts to secure Scottish independence. They will claim the real power in Scotland is Brussels, not London and that after some 415 years since the Union of Crowns in 1603 England and Scotland should separate.

·       Hatred of the EU: Across large swathes of so-called Middle England, the most powerful political constituency in the UK, the EU has traditionally been seen as an irritant. In the wake of such a defeat, the EU could well come to be hated and seen as a coercive power imposing a form of virtual occupation upon the UK.  

·       De facto loss of the UK to NATO: In such circumstances, the UK could well finally lose any will to play the role it has traditionally played as Europe’s strongest military power. Worse, a growing constituency in England is likely to question Britain’s security and defence commitment to Europe.

Possible ways forward:

·       No deal: under the terms of Article 50 this is the default position if the current situation pertains unless either A50 is suspended under the terms of this week’s European Court of Justice ruling, or extended in agreement with the EU in an attempt to find and/or finesse a politically-acceptable solution. As of last night, the latter option is unlikely as the European Council is unwilling to either renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement or even offer meaningful assurances on the temporary nature of the Backstop.

·       Another general election: this is the preferred option for the opposition Labour Party which if successful would see Jeremy Corbyn returned as Prime Minister. A Corbyn government, under pressure from its mainly young activists, would undoubtedly seek full membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union in what would in effect be a de facto renunciation of the Referendum. He would claim that his electoral mandate provided the legitimacy for such a reversal. However, Corbyn is to the far left of the political spectrum and holds life-long pacifist and Euro-sceptic views. He would likely move quickly to reduce defence expenditure and end Britain’s role as a strategic actor of any weight. He would also demand the EU suspend rules on state aid so he could begin a programme of renationalisation across swathes of British industry and transport. Corbyn is unlikely to get his way even if he triggers a vote of no confidence in the May government in the New Year (as he is threatening) because under the Fixed Term Parliament Act the next national vote is scheduled for no later than May 2022.  
·       Second referendum: There is a growing demand amongst Remainer campaign groups for a second referendum or ‘People’s Vote’ to reverse the June 2016 decision to leave.  Such a referendum is replete with dangers. It would be seen by many of the 17.4 million who voted to leave in 2016, in what was the biggest vote in British democratic history, as an attempt to simply deny them what they were promised when they voted – that Government would act on their decision. Such a vote would also be seen as the natural heir to the 2005 votes in Denmark, France and the Netherlands over the draft Constitutional Treaty and thus little more than an exercise in elite manipulation and betrayal. This would undoubtedly open the door to more populism and hatred of the EU. Such a vote would also take time to organise and hold. Finally, the incumbent Government would also need to legislate which Prime Minister May has said she will not do under any circumstances.

·       Adjusted Withdrawal Agreement: the most likely option at present is some adjustment to the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration to assuage the fears of those MPs who oppose the current deal. The so-called ‘meaningful vote’ must now take place prior to 21 January 2019. Downing Street is hoping that with 29 March fast approaching, and when faced with what hard-line Remainers call ‘crashing out’ of the EU, MPs will finally accept the current proposal. Without some adjustment, this hope is unlikely to be fulfilled unless there was a Damascene conversion on the part of large numbers of MPs publicly and implacably opposed to the Withdrawal Agreement.  Critically, the small Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (or DUP) currently props up May’s minority agreement and they are implacably opposed to any deal that treats Northern Ireland as separate from the rest of the UK. However, the French and Irish effectively blocked that possible route last night and in so doing tipped Anglo-Irish and Franco-British relations into crisis, thus confirming and reinforcing the impasse.

A Creative Way Forward?

One thing that has been apparent throughout this entire tragic process has been the lack of negotiating creativity on either side. All Europeans face emerging political and security challenges and to lose cohesion so profoundly at such a critical juncture is disastrous. That analysis was the main reason I actively campaigned to remain in the 2016 referendum. It may well be that the deadlock in Parliament will require some form of a referendum. However, such a vote could not, and should not, be seen as simply a ‘now get it right this time you morons’ vote for that would undoubtedly backfire. Therefore, any such vote would need to be the first vote on a new arrangement between the UK and the EU with the options on the voting slip leave or remain within the framework of the EU under new terms.

However, for such an idea to work the UK would need to accept that the writ of the European Court of Justice would endure across large swathes of British jurisprudence. Equally, for such an idea to have any chance of working the EU would also have to accept adjustments to the so-called four freedoms, most notably freedom of movement.  If successful Britain would become a Senior Associate Member of the EU and be exempted from further economic, monetary or political union unless it so chose. Such a status would befit Britain’s status as a top five world power and limit the reputational damage now being inflicted on the EU as the intransigent bureaucratic destroyer of democracy. A central concern of many Britons (this one included) is echoed across Europe – that the EU is morphing into some form of empire run by an unaccountable, distant elite with the gap between voting and power growing inexorably. The danger is that the EU is coming to be seen by millions as the Nemesis of democracy in Europe rather than its upholder.


My position is clear: I am an Englishman, a Briton and a European.  There is a danger now that those three identities will become mutually exclusive.  It has always been my belief that Europeans should seek to work ever closer together and that is still my position. However, that belief also contains within it implacable opposition to the gutting of the nation-state and the concentration of too much distant power in too few elite Brussels hands. Whilst I regret this situation profoundly my country is now under attack from hard-liners in Brussels and elsewhere and I will defend it whatever it takes, whether the attacks come from Dublin, Paris or wherever. 

This is because the stakes are so high for the Britain that I love. Britain was born as a strategic project and it will die if it is humiliated. Intended or not that humiliation is now underway from institutions in which I have believed for much of my life and from people I have long regarded as friends. Please be aware that these are the stakes if we fail to find an amicable solution to the Brexit imbroglio as friends. If not, along with many of my fellow Britons, I will join the Resistance.

Julian Lindley-French,

14 December 2018

Thursday, 13 December 2018

The European Defence and Security Dimension in Northern Europe

Alphen, Netherlands. 13 December. Yesterday I returned from Stockholm where I gave a speech at a conference jointly organised by my friend Anna Wieslander, Director of the Atlantic Council, and Berlin’s Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. The conference was entitled The European Defence and Security Dimension in Northern Europe. The session was chaired by my great friend Kate Hansen Bundt, Director of the Norwegian Atlantic Committee, and the speech considered the internal and external challenges for Northern European security. As you will read, in a week when Britain’s humiliation and loss of influence have been all too apparent I do not pull my punches on the possible defence-strategic implications of Brexit for Northern Europe.
The European Defence and Security Dimension in Northern Europe

Thanks, Kate. There are three questions this session addresses: How is the deteriorating security situation in Northern Europe relevant to the future development of European defence? How should the transatlantic link develop in light of deepened European defence co-operation? How will European defence co-operation with the UK look post-Brexit?
My core message is this: be it Arctic resources, the Northern Sea Passage, China’s interest in the region with the Arctic Road Initiative or Russia’s determination to defend its nuclear bastions and extend its access to the North Atlantic, including Moscow’s growing A2/AD bubble, Northern Europe is for the first time on the global frontline of systemic competition – both economic and strategic. Consequently, the allegiances of the democracies in the region will become more not less important. But, will they be any good?

How is the deteriorating security situation in Northern Europe relevant to the future development of European defence?
Relevant Fact: Of 116 major cyber-attacks identified by Crowdstrike Foundation, cyber-security specialists, in the first half of 2018 the Chinese and Russian state together were responsible for well over 60% of the attacks with over 35% of such attacks targeted on technology firms.

All open democratic societies face 5D warfare by the strategic autocracies and this region is no exception. Disinformation, destabilisation, disruption, destruction and deception are and will be applied across a new spectrum of escalation from hybrid war to cyberwar to possible high-end hyper war.
The method of war is to undermine the margins of Alliance and Union and to engage in war at the seams of complex, diverse societies with the aim of coercing people and thus undermine NATO and the EU in the eyes of its citizens to foster more instability. Consequently, there are no distinct flanks in Europe just places and peoples to be manipulated. The strongest defence is thus strategic solidarity, political cohesion, hardened systems and more robust and resilient peoples as part of a new partnership between the state and the citizen.

The good news is that whilst Northern Europe might be on the front-line of such attacks the states herein are sufficiently cohesive with the appropriate historical experience of galvanising society in defence to lead by example in the striking of a new balance between people protection and the projection of deterrence and the necessary defence power that deterrence and defence in the twenty-first century demands.
How should the transatlantic link develop in light of deepened European defence co-operation? 

Relevant fact: According to General Mark Milley, the newly-appointed Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs, during his testimony to the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Defense, if one strips out the relatively high cost of US labour the combined defence outcomes China and Russia generate are dangerously close to that of the US, and far, far beyond any defence outcomes Europeans aspire to.
General Milley, went on. “I’ve seen comparative numbers of US defence budget versus China, US defence budget versus Russia. What is not often commented on is the cost of labour. We’re the best-paid military in the world by a long shot. The cost of Russian soldiers or Chinese soldiers is a tiny fraction”. In other words, US forces maybe over-paid, but they are also over-stretched, over here and pretty much everywhere which magnifies the military purchasing power parity of China and Russia which is already far closer to that of the US than a mere comparison of headline budgets would suggest.

The message is clear: if the US defence guarantee to Europeans is to be maintained given the global reach US forces must maintain in the face of an aggressive Russia and a strategically-insurgent China, not to mention the regionally-strategic challenge posed by the Middle East and North Africa, Europeans are going to have to become far more militarily capable and able in the worst-case to act as effective first responders. The question is how?
Neither PESCO nor the European Defence Fund suggests the EU, in terms of defence strategic ambition, envisages a European defence capability that will transform the European pillar of the transatlantic relationship. Creating ever more acronyms without ever more forces will not solve Europe’s defence gap.

Therefore, the transatlantic link is likely to become more transactional and more conditional even as it becomes more important with coalitions of the strategically-willing and really capable the future unless institutional European defence – NATO and/or the EU – finally gets its act together.  On that front, it is interesting that the British are now talking about a Five Eyes satellite positioning system now London has effectively been expelled from Galileo (for which Britain has paid a lot of its taxpayer’s money and invested much technology).
The bottom line is this: it is hard to imagine the US relying on neither NATO nor the EU in an emergency as they are currently resourced and postured.   

How will European Defence co-operation with the UK look post-Brexit?
Relevant fact: post-Brexit some 80% of European defence capacity will be outside the EU. The UK already represents 25% of European defence capacity.

European defence depends on a committed Britain. However, Britain is undergoing a national humiliation akin to a strategic defeat at the hands of its partners and allies that potentially has huge implications for the future defence of Europe. As a very sensible fellow Briton put it to me recently, “why should we defend those bastards when they are trying to force us into submission and subservience?”  Let me be blunt. Do not think for a moment that European defence can be separated from Brexit as the hard-line taken by the European Commission over Galileo has revealed. In the Brexit worst-case such defence-strategic co-operation could be deeply undermined if the political relationship becomes even more toxic. No Galileo, no access to British intelligence?
Yes, at one level we British are going nowhere. I fully acknowledge and support Britain’s defence-strategic engagement in Northern Europe with its focus on the Joint Expeditionary Force or JEF. And, it is good to see that two Royal Navy ships have visited Stockholm in the past six months.  The close co-operation between Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian and British forces during the recent NATO Exercise Trident Juncture was particularly important.

But, let me be equally clear about the Brexit danger we all face: I campaigned for Remain but like many British people I will never accept aspects of the current EU Withdrawal Agreement, specifically the so-called Irish backstop as currently envisaged. Worse, if Britain is manipulated back into the EU via some ‘now get it right this time you morons’ second referendum then, whilst the EU was seen as an irritant by many in the past, it could well come to be hated, a form of virtual occupation. It is utterly unacceptable for other Europeans to humiliate a top five world power, be it by design or by error, and expect that power to defend them at one and the same time.  
You do not want that and I do not want that, so let’s not go there. We need together to find a basis for a real, enduring and legitimate partnership between Britain and the EU that ensures our people can commit if needs be to the real price that credible defence demands – a willingness to put national treasure and British lives on the line in your defence.  If such a relationship is not forged then make no mistake popular support in Britain for defending other Europeans will plummet.  Of course, the Mediocracy who run Britain will not admit any of what I am telling you but this IS the reality you must all confront if you want Britain to engage fully in the future defence of Europe. In other words, you will need to consider burden-sharing not just with the Americans, but also the nature of the future strategic relationship between Britain and the EU which, like it or not, will have profound implications for NATO and thus the security of Northern Europe.

In fact, Britain’s strategic drift towards the mid-Atlantic is already underway.  You should examine the defence-strategic choices the British are making rather than the words London is using.  All the major defence investments are in areas where the British can rely upon and/or are dependent on US systems and defence-industrial capabilities – maritime/amphibious power projection built around new US Marine-friendly Queen Elizabeth class heavy aircraft carriers, data-linked F-35 Lightning II air assets, new Astute-class nuclear-powered attack submarines and new Dreadnought-class ballistic missile submarines.   In an emergency, the British Army is meant to generate two divisions under NATO command for the defence of Europe. Fat chance of that with the Army at its smallest since Napoleonic times.
The implicit strategic message? Britain is a nuclear-armed island and, in the worst case, if somewhere on Europe’s margins fell to a fait accompli Russian attack, and whilst London would see such an attack as disastrous, it is hard to see Britain going to war given the current configuration and capability of Britain’s armed forces, the state of British politics and the stretched relationships between Britain and its European partners.  Thankfully, having worked at both the EU and NATO I am still confident in the enduring nature of our friendships and the creativity we can all foster, and that given goodwill a solution to the Brexit imbroglio can be found with which we are all comfortable.

The only real winner if this mess continues would be President Putin and others who wish none of us well. I want the JEF to be an exercise in real defence co-operation aimed at boosting deterrence rather than some Brexit political crisis management gambit that is little more than an exercise in damage limitation.  
Galileo anyone?

Thanks, Kate. 
Julian Lindley-French

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

St Malo: Defending Europe Twenty Years On

Last week some of you will have read (hopefully) my blog E.U.S.E.L.E.S.S? The blog questioned the practicality of President Macron’s plans for deeper European defence integration twenty years on from the St Malo Declaration. In the wake of the blog, a very senior French friend and colleague of many year’s standing challenged my thinking in his usual insightful and balanced way. I am not at liberty to publish his emails but below is an edited precis of the two responses I offered which expand on my thinking about the role of Europeans in their own defence and the future of a necessarily adapted post-Brexit transatlantic relationship.

Cher Ami,

Forgive my tardy response to your, as ever, considered reflections. Let me cut straight to the chase. You are right that Europeans have common interests as you are right that the UK has at times been a brake on French and other ambitions for deeper European defence integration. That said, St Malo was always an exercise in studied ambiguity. The British made it perfectly clear on HMS Birmingham twenty years ago that they did not share the political ambitions of President Chirac for the then European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). That France talked up St Malo was both France's right and responsibility at one and the same time. Moreover, I also accept that President Macron is seeking deeper European defence co-operation rather than integration per se, although the language he employs is the stuff of European integration. As for the stuff about President Trump and the US, I just ignored it.

Still, I stand by my realistic (as opposed to conservative) analysis; we have been here so many times before. Yes, France has ambitions for a European force but few others share that ambition. Critically, Germany does not which means that in spite of some soothing words from Berlin NOTHING much will happen...AGAIN!

At the same time, Paris seems to live in a strange fantasy that it can aggressively seek to damage Britain over Brexit but still preserve the substance rather than the appearance of the Franco-British strategic partnership. Dream on, my friend. Without France and Britain in the lead together there is no chance of a 'European defence' being generated that has more warriors than words. And, no chance whatsoever of President Macron's ambitions being realised, especially if such ambitions are presented as, or implied as being, an anti-British French démarche. For example, the Dutch have made that perfectly clear to me. 

There is also a chance that France will end up isolated by this game. Senior Americans have made it perfectly clear to me that Washington will back London. Unless Berlin backs Paris beyond soothing words the danger is that France will be left out of the power game that is always the real essence of European defence. With friendship and respect, I think the mistake you make is to see defence integration as a step on the road to political union. If it is EVER going to happen defence integration can only come as a consequence of political union and we are a very long way from that. 

What we need is a European military capability that can act as an effective first responder in and around Europe across a spectrum of threats. Indeed, the security and defence guarantee afforded by an over-stretched America can only be credibly afforded if we Europeans do far more JOINTLY together from tail to teeth. Unless PESCO, the European Intervention Initiative (EII) et al are going to make a real contribution to resolving that pressing conundrum they are little more than political distractions at a time of strategic danger if they offer no real, substantive increase in and improvement to European military capabilities. Worse, once again another bout of this endless and pointless 'European Army' debate enables free riders to free ride and the strategically-illiterate to hide behind false dreams. It is a merry-go-round of strategic irresponsibility at a time when Europeans can ill afford such petits fours luxuries that in reality keep the debate on the future of defending Europe frozen at the level of political inputs rather than the defence outcomes we Europeans desperately need to generate. 

So, my challenge to you as a Briton is thus: OK France if you believe you can deliver a European force sufficiently able, capable and usable in time then be my guest. Show us the way. After all, we have been here before and nothing much has happened, other than Britain has been blamed when it has not worked out. After all, Britain is leaving the EU and now is your chance. I am not holding my breath as I am fully aware the real reason why there has been so little progress towards deeper European defence integration is that there is no shared strategic culture upon which to base it.

Which brings me to France and Britain. Given the threats that are emerging around us I have been pushing hard for the maintenance of post-Brexit vital relationships, with the Franco-British strategic partnership to fore. As you know, it is a partnership in which I profoundly believe with a France that I continue to see as a firm friend. Still, my expert perception is that France is seeking to exploit Britain's current difficulties with President Macron often taking the hardest of stances against Britain. Faced with such intransigence I will defend my country even though I am deeply saddened by what has happened. You and I are both historians and you know how ready we English are to respond to a French challenge, and vice versa. So, let's not go there. We are friends not enemies. 

My simple position (and I have stated this publicly to senior Americans) is that it is time for Europeans to become less dependent on the US and that it is also in the American interest that Europeans become more strategically autonomous. Here, I am in full agreement with President Macron. My frustration is I suspect shared by my many French friends and concerns the need to get on with the development of such a capability that by definition would need to include Britain. The hard truth is that the main cause of European dependence on the US is the inability of Europeans to defend themselves. End such dependence through the procurement of relevant capability at a sufficiency of capacity and strategic autonomy will be a natural by-product. 

It will not come cheap. Having looked into the nature, scope and cost of 'strategic autonomy' my assessment is that to replace the 'public good' implicitly and concretely provided by US, and to a far lesser extent by the UK, and without further weakening the current NATO-centric defence (key point), would require at least 3% GDP expenditure on defence per annum. France and Germany, as leaders, would quite possibly be required to spend up to 4% to set up a properly strategic and expensive European état-major (HQ). Now, that could be spent enhancing the EUMS (EU Military Staff) or jointly. My strong belief is that in the first instance such investments would need to be spent jointly as only over time could the invested structures evolve into a 'défense commune'.  

Which brings me to what might seem at present to be a paradoxical proposal for a deeper Franco-British strategic partnership. First, European 'strategic autonomy' of any credibility rests for the time being on the Franco-British strategic partnership holding firm in spite of Brexit. Second, France should now propose a deepening of that relationship (it was never an EU dependent relationship) the moment Britain formally withdraws on 29 March 2019. The Mediocracy who run Britain simply cannot afford to look anymore needy than they already are by approaching France with a defence begging bowl. Third, Britain should seek a formal and complete relationship as part of the above initiative with President Macron's EII with France’s strong backing.

In a sense, such an approach would re-create the St Malo, Cologne Summit, Helsinki Declaration dynamic of 1998-1999. Back then we collectively committed to the formation of a 60,000 strong European Rapid Reaction Force of sufficient mass and manoeuvre to give St Malo some defence weight. The creation of such a force as a concrete output of PESCO, EII and all the other acronyms with which European defence is so burdened would remind everyone involved in the sorry saga that is Brexit that we are friends, allies and partners. And, that Brexit is a second order issue when it comes to the very dangerous 'First Order World' into which we Europeans are headed, with many of the most dangerous ‘bits’ being in Europe's strategic neighbourhood.

To conclude, we need the pragmatic rebuilding of European military power under Franco-British leadership. If WE don't do it no-one else will. In time, the non-British bit that emerges might lead to some form of European defence integration that could in future form the European pillar of an adapted Alliance with the UK part of an Americo/Anglosphere within the framework of the Alliance. With ‘Five Eyes’ ever more important as a strategic coalition I would suggest to you that is already happening, at least in part.

Britain is already withdrawing from the defence of Europe, whatever the political rhetoric to the contrary. If one looks at where the bulk of Britain's capital defence investment is going it is not to build a continental army. Indeed, the British Army of today is smaller than the Old Contemptibles of 1914! The bulk of the investment is going in US-friendly maritime/amphibious/air power projection assets such as Queen Elizabeth class heavy aircraft carriers, F35 Lightning 2 aircraft, Astute class nuclear hunter-killers, Type 26 and 31 destroyers and frigates and Dreadnought class nuclear ballistic missile subs). This is not to mention Britain’s world-class intelligence assets which the rest of Europe cannot do without and which is an unspoken (and often typically unacknowledged) British contribution to European security. In other words, there is a real danger that France and the rest of the Continent will effectively lose Britain from its defence whatever the Mediocracy in London say. Do you want that?  If you do then so be it. The hard line taken against Britain’s access to Galileo is both a sign and legalistic nonsense for which you will pay a strategic price. 

I will, of course, let you know when I am next in Paris as dining together would be a delight!