hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Friday, 28 February 2014

Queen Angela of Europe Visits Little Britain

Alphen, Netherlands.  28 February.  Cameron, Clegg and Miliband sat there like naughty schoolboys hauled in front of a stern headmistress.  Yesterday, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Parliament not to expect too much from Germany Britain's leaders extended more than the proper courtesies to a friend and powerful political leader.  In the servile nature of their expectations and body language they tipped over into subservience.  Watching them scrape and bow before her was not what the British people expect from their leaders. Nor was it something Chancellor Merkel wanted.  Yesterday, Little Britain and its little leaders were at their very worst.
In her speech Merkel called for a strong UK in a strong Europe.  And there is the problem.  What she witnessed is a weak Britain in a weak Europe. Or, to be more precise weak leaders who in the narrowness of their vision, their endemic short-termism and their lack of belief in both country and people render Britain far weaker than she actually is.  It is hard to believe these days but the Britain that is 'led' by these political pygmies remains a top six world economy and a top four military actor and yet Chancellor Merkel could well have been addressing the leaders of Iceland (with all due respect).
The whole event oozed with the declinism and defeatism which has infected the British political class from top to bottom and which so bemuses so many Germans.  "What does Cameron actually want?", they ask in Berlin?  He keeps talking about repatriating powers from Brussels and negotiating a new relationship for Britain in the EU before his fabled 2017 in-out referendum.  And yet he never actually spells out either his vision or his demands.  It is as though Cameron is on some political yellow brick road.
Berlin need not worry.  What Cameron actually wants is easy - to maintain the pretence of renegotiating Britain's EU membership just long enough to hold the Conservative Party sufficiently together until the 2015 General Elections.
Labour leader Ed Miliband and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg?  Ed would quite happily hand yet more power to an unaccountable Brussels and Nick already sees his country as 'Europe'.  Indeed, Clegg said recently it was 'patriotic' to support the EU.  There was a certain irony that Merkel's call for Britain to love the EU came the same day figures were announced showing a massive surge in immigration from the EU over the past year.  The figures simply reinforced the sense of British leaders that can no longer even protect their own borders, let alone their people.
The sad consequence of yesterday's little bit of Gilbert and Sullivan operetta was that Merkel must have left British shores reinforced in the belief that Germany need offer London nothing. The Anglo-German relationship is becoming fast like the US-UK Special Relationship in which American leaders need but say a few nice words and British leaders fawn like star-struck groupies.  It is pathetic.
Sadly, such fawning treatment would also have confirmed to Chancellor Merkel that she is indeed Queen Angela of Europe.  Thankfully, Chancellor Merkel is a sensible women and knows the reality of Germany's position in Europe - ultra primus inter pares.  But really...
Equally, her speech revealed Berlin's conceits about the German-benefiting EU which Britain really ought to be challenging.  She said that Europe was no longer run by a few people with decisions made in secret meetings.  Excuse me but the way the European Commission makes its decisions is so opaque and so lacking in transparency that a Byzantine emperor would feel at home.  She also said the EU operated under the rule of law.  Whose law?
In essence, Chancellor Merkel's message to Cameron, Clegg and Miliband was clear.  "Look, the EU works fine for Germany and I may be prepared to offer you the odd irrelevant little morsel for you to exaggerate.  However, expect no more. Take Germany's EU as I want it or go". 
It is hard to imagine a time when Britain has been led by such political pygmies.  The only parallel I can think of is the 1920s when Messrs Bonar Law, Baldwin and MacDonald cut a similarly unimpressive and shallow swathe on the international stage.
Queen Angela of Europe visited Little Britain yesterday.  For once it was at least good to see a real leader in London.
Julian Lindley-French  

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Little Britain? ( Book Extract 7: Britain and International Institutions

There are three questions Britain must consider concerning international institutions given their centrality to British strategy. What does Britain want institutions to do?  What will be the future strategic and future operating environment (FOE) in which institutions will function?  What must Britain bring to the institutions to ensure their effectiveness and London’s influence over them?  The three questions underpin two strategic truisms; Britain’s influence over international institutions will be directly proportionate to the political and intellectual capital Britain invests in them, and Britain’s political capital will only be realised if supported by hard power.
If Britain stays in the EU, its first aim must be to keep security and defence firmly under national control, even if limited defence integration takes place between smaller EU member-states.  However, to achieve such a goal when non-Eurozone Britain is so marginal to EU politics will demand of the British a military force that is unequivocally Europe’s leader and thus most powerful.  Moreover, only by confirming Britain’s position as Europe’s strongest military power will London confirm NATO as the central institution for the security and defence of Europe, preserve American commitment to Europe and ensure British influence in and over Europe is commensurate with the national interest.
It is hard to over-state the damage Britain’s 2010 defence cuts did to the international institutions Britain holds dear.  Indeed, British strategy will only leverage influence through international institutions if institutions are not seen as mechanisms to compensate for cuts, particularly defence cuts.  Indeed, to generate such influence at this critical juncture, London must invest institutions with real power.  The need is pressing, as the three most important institutions for Britain – EU, NATO and the UN are all in deep trouble in one way or another. 
There are three axes of influence that British strategy must pursue.  First, Britain must remind European partners that there are others with whom Britain can act.  Second, the British must remind allies and partners that membership of either the EU or NATO is a contract in which British support for the security of allies and partners must be matched in return by the real support of allies and partners for Britain’s security needs and responsibilities.  Third, Britain must actively seek to influence new partners by using its institutions as frameworks for strategic relationships that possess a clear commitment to the just and effective application of both coercive and non-coercive security policy when needs be. 
Central to British strategy must be the maintenance of Britain’s status as a Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).  Indeed, even though the UN itself is dysfunctional, it remains the world’s supreme international political authority.  The UNSC is not an executive committee but rather a security council upon which only the world’s most capable military powers hold permanent seats.  For the foreseeable future Britain will remain one of the world’s top five military powers and Britain’s armed forces must be consciously and purposively maintained as such.  Permanent membership of the UNSC also places Britain at the heart of influence networks such as the G8, G20 and G all-the-rest and is thus critical to British influence. 
NATO is in deep crisis and in need of radical overhaul.  The Alliance is still configured for a past world which has been masked by over a decade of operations in Afghanistan that will soon come to an end.  The agenda of the September 2014 NATO Summit, due to take place in Britain, will consider the Alliance beyond Afghanistan and little less than a NATO 3.0 will suffice to re-establish a link between the strategic political and military mechanism that is the purpose of the Alliance and the future operating environment.  However, before any such radical overhaul of the Alliance can take place, Britain must finally abandon the idea that NATO means one for all and all for one.  Different member nations need different things from NATO and in future will offer different things.
Three topics will dominate the summit – the need for military capabilities, the need for connected forces that can think, talk and act together and co-operative security with partners, most notably the EU, but also with partners the world over.  The one thing that will not be discussed at the summit will be the radical re-structuring of the European military effort to provide credible hard power influence at affordable cost, towards which Britain should be leading Europeans.  For Britain this is critical as NATO provides invaluable structures and military standards and will remain the most likely enabler and force generator of credible military coalitions.   
Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

On the Wrong Side of Democracy

Alphen, Netherlands. 26 February.  The other day a senior European Commission official asked me if my concerns about the growing democratic illegitimacy of the EU were some form of psychological instability.  With elections to the European Parliament due in May at a time when liberal democracy is being steadily replaced by the EU’s liberal bureaucracy the need for citizens to engage with today’s uber-elite is more important than ever.  However, the very process of ‘Europe’ has created a culture that places those on the right side of power on the wrong side of democracy. 
On three occasions in the past couple of weeks I have witnessed the arrogance of power which sustains such élites and which is so damaging democracy and respect for politicians. 
My first brush with self-serving power was to be told by the self-same Commission official that I was utterly wrong about the EU.  No, the European Commission had not become more powerful since the 2007 Lisbon Treaty.  Far from it, powers had been handed back to the member-states.  Moreover, the very idea of an EU elite was absurd.  Commission officials were just ordinary people doing their damnedest on behalf of the humble European citizen.  On the defensive he deployed the now time-honoured nonsense of Europe’s elite; if ever closer political union was not driven forward one could not rule out the prospect of a future pan-European war.
My second brush with power came the same day courtesy of his boss.  Fully paid-up member of the Euro-Aristocracy Deputy Commission President Viviane Reding demonstrated all too clearly the gulf between power and people in Europe.  She also demonstrated the extent to which the Commission has become a political force rather than the impartial enabler of European law. 
In a 10th February meeting of ‘citizens’ in London she told the British it was too late for them to be debating sovereignty.  Seventy percent of Britain’s laws, she said, were now co-decided by the European Parliament and European Commission.  For Reding the whole debate in Britain over sovereignty was irrelevant and pointless.  That bird had flown and resistance was futile.  She then went onto infer the British people were too ignorant to vote in an in-out referendum because their view of the EU was “distorted”. 
As Open Europe director Pavel Sidlicki put it succinctly. “Mrs Reding epitomises the EU elites’ approach to dealing with the public – superficially embracing debate with citizens while dismissing substantive criticism”. 
However, perhaps the most egregious example of political arrogance came not from a member of the EU’s uber-élite but a current British minister very close to the Prime Minister – David Cameron’s cabal.  In a conversation said minister had with a very senior friend of mine about the need for Britain to re-discover strategy he dismissed “not particularly courteously” the very concept.  Indeed, a national vision was “a very silly idea” and quite pointless.  Events should be dealt with as they arose, he asserted. 
When challenged with the suggestion that the ability to respond to said events requires planning, choices, investments and thus strategy he simply dismissed the whole concept.
According to my friend he had, “…no grasp of, nor wish to grasp history and historical perspectives and displayed a level of arrogance, ignorance, complacency and disdain which were striking”.  No wonder Britain is in such a mess.  This explains why so much national sovereignty has been handed over to Brussels with little or no understanding of the consequences for Britain as a self-governing state.
Cameron’s friend left the best bit to last and remember this is an elected politician.   There was no point in debating publicly such issues because the public were too thick to understand.  In other words the very people who elected this serving minister are to his mind too stupid to be engaged on the huge issues of the day which affect Britain, Europe and them.  It is as though the people have become an inconvenience to those in power.  As my friend said such a point of view, “…demonstrates an unsuitability to be a leader in a democracy ( if he knows and accepts the concepts of democracy)”. 
It is the assumption of power and the intolerance of the ‘other’ that is the essential problem of many of today’s political élites.  In 1952 US diplomat Adlai Stevenson standing up to Senator McCarthy and his awful Un-American Activities Committee said, “The tragedy of our day is the climate of fear in which we live, and fear breeds repression.  Too often sinister threats to the bill of rights, to freedom of the mind, are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-communism”.  Anti-Europeanism?
When will Europe’s political élites realise they are the problem, not we the ‘stupid’ or mad citizens who pay for their many privileges.  European democracy is tipping into crisis and it is about time people realise that.
Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 24 February 2014

Ukraine: A Europe Whole and Broke?

Alphen, Netherlands. 24 February.  It is rare to witness history as it happens.  Sweden’s outstanding, people-open foreign minister Carl Bildt this weekend reminded all and sundry of just that when he tweeted about the importance of the moment after a revolution.  Listening from afar to Russia’s Chekovian silence in the wake of former President Yanukovitch’s ouster it was hard not to cast one’s mind back to 1989.  Then one by one Soviet satellites broke free from Moscow’s yoke and declared themselves for ‘Europe’.  However, the danger of such nostalgia is that ‘freedom’ is cast in terms of Russia's humiliation.  
The popular break-out culminated in November 1989 when slab by wretched concrete slab the Berlin Wall was torn down.  The small door a few brave people opened offered a vision of a Europe whole and free.  All but the most die-hard of die-hards simply assumed that 1989 marked the dawn of a new age of liberal democracy.  2014 is both more and less complicated.
Interim President Olexander Turchynov says he wants to set Ukraine back on the path to ‘European integration’.  In response Moscow has withdrawn its ambassador to Kiev “for consultations”.  In spite of an agreement between Germany’s Chancellor Merkel and President Putin that Ukraine’s territorial integrity is to be maintained with the Sochi Olympics out of the way battle-lines are being drawn.  
To reinforce Merkel’s good cop bad cops US and UK (yawn) have warned Russia not to even think about the use of force.  All this is eerily reminiscent of 1989.  Indeed, even the nature of Janukovich’s flight from Kiev had just a hint of the desperate departure of Romania’s Caucescus from power…and eventually life itself.
And yet 1989 was also very different to 2014.  The US was the dominant European power and that is clearly not the case today as Germany assumes an ever-stronger leadership role.  Today, the ideal of liberal democracy back in 1989 has been eclipsed by the liberal bureaucracy the EU is inflicting on Europe; the harsh day-to-day reality of ever close political union.  And, far from being the rich West versus the poor East, ‘Europe’ today is almost whole but by and large broke. 
And that is the irony of 2014.  If Brussels, or whomsoever is in charge of ‘Europe’ these days, does not handle this moment carefully the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution could forge an implicit partnership between Western European citizens and the Kremlin.  This is because for Turchynov ‘European integration’ is actually a metaphor for access to huge amounts of taxpayer cash belonging to those relatively few Western Europeans who pay for this kind of thing and who are still reeling from the impact of successive Eurozone bail-outs. 
Even the still-broke British are offering “large amounts of cash” via the IMF according to Foreign Secretary Hague.  This may be to offset London’s ritual humiliation last week at the hands of the French, Germans and Poles who went to Kiev to broker a deal that collapsed almost as soon as it was signed.  It may also be due to German pressure at last week’s talks between London and Berlin to provide funds precisely because the British taxpayer has been shielded from the Eurozone crisis.  As an aside it was interesting to see Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski being showcased by France and Germany as the new EU ‘Foreign Minister’ when Cathy Ashton steps down in November.
And Ukraine will need to be many large buckets of cash.  Ukraine is bankrupt.  Or, at least it will be when Moscow later this week withdraws the c€12bn/$16.5bn it has pumped into Ukraine’s ailing finances of late to keep Kiev close, allied to a 30% drop in available gas supplies if Russia cuts the pipeline.  According to the CIA GDP per capita is $7500 per annum which ranks Ukraine 140th of some 220 states in the world, with 24.1% of the population below the poverty line.  Public debt has also of late spiralled.  In other words Ukraine could be a very big Greece.  Ukraine’s economy is totally ill-equipped for a sudden opening to Western markets, particularly in the heavy-industry sodden and Russian-speaking east of the country.  Therefore, it is vital that all of Europe’s leaders enter this crisis with eyes wide open. 
First, there can be no solution to Ukraine’s turmoil without the support of Russia.  Of a population of 45.5 million people some 17.3% are ethnic Russian concentrated in the east of the country and most notably in Crimea, the home of the Russian Black Seas Fleet.  
Second, a new constitution must be drawn up as soon as possible that clearly and openly protects the rights of the Russian minority in keeping with European law.
Third, the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) should be given the lead to ensure that Ukraine’s future does not become a zero sum game between a German-led EU and Russia.
Fourth, the new leadership in Kiev must be disabused of any romantic notions they may have that following elections an EU-friendly Kiev could be fast-tracked into the Union. After all, European Commission President Barosso has just told secessionist Scots that any such deals would be “difficult, almost impossible”. 
Fifth, offering Ukraine an EU rather than a Russian future will cost billions of euros and Europeans must recognise that.  Belarus will be next. 
Sixth, Moscow must be made to fully understand that there can be no military adventurism in Ukraine.  Ukraine’s security is intrinsically linked to the EU and NATO members around it.
For all that Ukraine must be supported.  2014 is not 1989.  However, like it or not the key to Ukraine’s future still lies in Moscow.  At the very least Moscow must be invited to host a conference on the new European order and told Russia is central to Europe’s future, not simply Europe's past.  Then just then Ukraine may finds its way to peace and stability.
Over to you, Carl!
Julian Lindley-French  

Friday, 21 February 2014

Little Britain? ( Book Extract 6 - Competing in the Global Race

Alphen, Netherlands.  21 February.  A brief survey of Britain’s world reinforces the challenges the country faces and the need for effective national strategy.  Be it the threat posed by terrorism or states, the relatively benign world-view in the 2010 National Security Strategy seems already out-dated.  There is clearly a growing need to compete effectively in the global race with states, which, in turn, suggests a new strategic mind-set is needed, together with a re-organisation of state tools and the commitment of appropriate resources.  

Furthermore, the fusion of terrorism, global flows of illegal funding in support of such groups also raises the spectre of terrorists armed with mass-destructive power.  Such a threat is not immediate but cannot be discounted and would act as an asymmetric leveller, forcing states such as Britain to seek a balance between a credible defence against such groups, and sufficient expeditionary military power to deter, disrupt and, if necessary, reach out and destroy.  If that happens, then counter-proliferation, counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency and counter-intelligence would then need to merge and Britain’s security effort organised accordingly.

At the inter-state level, effective non-proliferation regimes enshrined in international organisations such as the UN, will, and must, remain central to British strategy and yet they are fraying and could fail.  At the very least, Britain must work to continue to ensure the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other multilateral arms control regimes and slow the spread of nuclear weapons, but what if a state breaks out?  If that happens, which frankly seems only a matter of time, the need for effective nuclear deterrence could well again become pressing, however ghastly that sounds. 

Facing up to the challenges in Britain’s world will be challenging, but it is a challenge British strategy must grip.  The problem is that Britain suffers from an overly one-dimensional view of threat – terrorism – important though that threat is.  Not only is Britain in danger of ceding the strategic space in Afghanistan to the enemy, it has become overly focused on that enemy.  As a result, Britain is failing to properly consider the large ends of grand strategy in the round and the large means that could need to be devoted to them in the coming years, given the growing pressures in the international system are not just about failed states and failed ideas.  Power is back.  Only if Britain’s leaders have the political courage to scan Britain’s strategic landscape and see it for what it could be, rather than what they hope, will the country begin to place security and defence in its proper context.

Indeed, the list of risks and threats discussed herein is by no means complete.  There are also tensions in the Arctic High North, concerns over the security of the Gulf States, Baltic insecurity, conflict in the Horn of Africa, piracy, human and drug trafficking, trade insecurity, organised crime, the frictions caused by a rapidly growing world population - the list goes on.  The challenge for Britain and its allies and partners will be to see these challenges in the strategic round, not as a series of iterative one-offs, which is, of course, the political temptation.

Clearly, the scope, extent and nature of change is challenging traditional British concepts of security and defence and demanding creative approaches to conflict prevention, response and consequence management.  It is change that will also demand of leaders a determination to influence events not merely to react to them, and it is this challenge that British leaders schooled in politics rather than strategy will face in the coming years.  However, to meet that challenge, London must think anew about British power and influence and to what ends they are applied and how.   

Partnership will, of course, be central to British strategy.  However, such method will only be achieved if Britain has the power to be an attractive partner and sufficient societal and governmental cohesion to act as a leader.  Therefore, to compete effectively in the global race, the British must first have a sound grasp of the scope and extent of change and a clear understanding about where best to focus the British strategic effort.  At the very least, Britain must re-develop a sound capacity to scan the strategic horizon, rather than merely react to the headlines of the moment. 

Only then will the British establish a proper appreciation of the extent and nature of the power shifts taking place in the world.  Only then can the fashioning of British security policy, from which national strategy flows, be properly made with any confidence.  Such a response will need to be radical, rather than incremental.  Such an appreciation will also necessarily lead to a range of assumptions and policy choices that will fashion Britain’s political, security, diplomatic and military effort into the future. 

Given the nature of power in today’s world, how it is measured and quantified, both as an absolute commodity and relative capability, statecraft will be critical.  Ultimately, soft power is nought without credible hard power.  Therefore, how Britain conceives, makes and exercises strategy in the coming years will be critical.  In the twenty-first century, only a clear-headed view of Britain’s place and power in the world will enable Britain to compete effectively in the global race and secure its interests, values and people.
Julian Lindley-French 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Ukraine, Oligocracy, Power and Europe

Alphen, Netherlands.  20 February.  Look at a map of Europe’s political economy and Ukraine sits at the centre.  To the north, west and south are member-states of the European Union.  To the east lies Russia.  Kiev is at the very epicentre of Europe’s shifting political plate tectonics.  The violent protests in Independence Square are thus about so much more than the future of Ukraine.  They are about past versus future, the struggle between democracy and oligarchy, between Russia and the West, between the US and Europe, between the EU and its member-states and between political establishments and networked activists.
In spite of the 2004 Orange Revolution President Yanukovych’s regime still looks too often more like that of Lukashenko’s Belarus than the liberal democracies to Ukraine’s West.  Indeed, Europe’s political divide between the EU’s liberal bureaucracy and Putin’s Russian ‘oligocracy’ runs not just through the centre of Ukraine but right through the centre of the regime.
Many Ukrainians in the west of the country see a future firmly embedded in the European Union with all that implies for free movement of Ukrainian peoples, goods and services.  In the east old ties to Russia are strong with the struggle in Kiev cast in the context of some old Cold War power movie that has no place in the twenty-first century.  For Russians and Russian speakers the place of Ukraine in their history and identity is powerful.  For the Kremlin to ‘lose’ Ukraine would be the final retreat in a series of retreats since 1989.  Indeed, whilst President Putin will not act during the Sochi Olympics, he will almost certainly apply economic levers and other means thereafter.  He will not give up on Ukraine lightly.
Putin’s mind is no doubt eased by the disarray of the ‘West’.  The recent Russian revelation of the contemptuous attitude towards the EU of Victoria Nuland, the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, demonstrates all too clearly the tensions in a relationship that is no longer cast in Washington.  For a diplomat Ms Nuland has rarely hidden her dislike for people or institutions (me included).  However, the current spat demonstrates the extent to which the Obama Administration believes the EU is failing to complete the job of making “a Europe Whole and Free” in the stirring May 1989 words of President George H. W. Bush.
Ukraine’s pain is also revealing the tensions between the EU and its member-states over just who or what should lead ‘Europe’s’ foreign policy.  Indeed, is Ukraine even an issue of foreign policy?  Under the European Neighbourhood Policy the implication is that Ukraine is already part of the EU’s disparate family.  In that light political contentions should be seen as an internal matter as though Ukraine was already a member-state with the EU clearly in the lead.  And yet today the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland are visiting Kiev ahead of a meeting of all EU foreign ministers in Brussels. 
Did Messrs Fabius, Steinmeier and Sikorski go with the support of their 25 other colleagues?  What is the role of EU foreign policy supremo Cathy Ashton?  Or, is this a power play by Germany, France and Poland to put both the EU and the other member-states into a subordinate role?  The truth is I am getting conflicting messages about the legitimacy of this visit and if it is simply a power play it will only serve to pollute the search for a political solution with the EU’s Byzantine power politics.
There is however a potentially much deeper struggle being played out in Independence Square and across Ukraine.  It is a struggle one also sees on the streets of Cairo, across the Middle East and critically across much of Europe.  It is the battle between political establishments and networked activists.  For some of the activists the very idea of consensus and power-sharing and with it the almost glacial nature of political change is unthinkable.  They want direct action and view all political establishments as anathema; be they incumbents or loyal oppositions.  Some on the streets of Kiev clearly do want to see the replacement of oligocracy with liberal democracy.  However, there are others who clearly reject the whole notion of representative government and prefer instead direct action for whatever particular mantra they hang their political/anarchical hats upon. 
As Syria has so tragically demonstrated the West in particular must be very careful not to characterise all such activists as anti-regime and therefore good.  Any political settlement that offers Ukraine a future beyond civil strife must be constitutional; i.e. one in which the sensible people of the sensible middle of politics work out their differences.
Therefore, for the sake of the Ukrainian people it is vital that all the actors engaged in this struggle understand that the solution lies with the people of Ukraine.  By all means support them to find a peaceful, democratic solution but in so doing remember the Hippocratic Oath – do no harm.
Julian Lindley-French

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

NATO: Get a (Strategic) Grip Cameron

Alphen, Netherlands. 19 February.  One of David Cameron’s many failings is his total lack of strategic understanding and his tendency to see all and every big issue purely in terms of short-term domestic politicking.  He is at it again.  The NATO Summit in Wales on 4-5 September at Celtic Manor Golf Club will be one of the most important such gatherings of the past decade.  In December 2014 NATO will end major combat operations in Afghanistan.  It is time to properly consider the strategic future of the Alliance.  Given that context one would think that London in general and David Cameron in particular would be gripped by the need to establish a summit agenda early.  Not a bit of it.  For Cameron the Summit is not about NATO’s strategic future.  It is about the Scottish vote in the September 18 independence referendum and women’s votes in the 2015 General Election. 
Over the past fortnight three very senior insider sources have told me the same thing.  London has not even begun to think about either an agenda or desired outcomes for the summit.  Indeed, the only idea floated at the very highest level of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is a summit statement on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.  Yawn!
Do not get me wrong, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 is important but this NATO nonsense is all too indicative of the obsessive political correctness which is destroying Britain as a serious power.  The symbolic choice of ‘Celtic’ Manor is also simply too gauche for words.  Indeed, by placing 1325 and matters Celtic front and centre it is clear that all Cameron wants from the Summit is a photo-op which somehow implies a big leader of a big Britain on a big international stage.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 
In my latest book “Little Britain? Twenty-First Century Strategy for a Middling European Power” ( one of my arguments is that too often British leaders routinely confuse politics with strategy.  The Wales Summit is a classic example.  Wales should be the NATO Reinvigoration Summit.  There are four critical outcomes the British should be seeking in Wales.
First, the failing 2010 NATO Strategic Concept must be reinvigorated.  To that end the Alliance needs to undertake a proper scan of the changing strategic horizon.  NATO is a political-military alliance built on political realism.  Its job is to respond to the world as it is and in the worst case what the world could become, not as Alliance leaders would like it to be. Strategy needs big thinking and political courage from big leaders and now is the moment.
Second, a new transatlantic security contract must be established reflective of the many challenges the Alliance will face as the US pivots to Asia-Pacific and Europeans are forced to take on ever more responsibility for Europe’s rough neighbourhood.
Third, NATO’s collective defence must be brought into the twenty-first century.  Alliance missile defence, cyber-defence and the modernisation of NATO’s conventional and nuclear deterrent must be anchored in a reinvigorated Article 5.
Fourth, a new Alliance force concept is needed to underpin NATO defence planning firmly established on lessons from over a decade of operations.  This would include an Operational Capability Concept and reinforce the idea of clusters of Alliance nations modernising their deployable forces together built on lessons-learned and a well-established programme of exercising, training and, above all, experimentation.
NATO is today far from achieving any of these goals.  Indeed, my sources tell me that money is being actively diverted away from the vital Connected Forces Initiative to fund the rapidly-inflating €1 billion cost of NATO’s bloated new Brussels headquarters.  And, far from leading the charge towards strategy and efficiency the British are as usual being penny wise and pound foolish by reducing all and everything to an issue of short-term cost.
The only other thing that will happen at the Summit will be that NATO leaders will declare ritualistic ‘success’ in Afghanistan.  They will highlight the usual nonsense about the number of girls now attending schools compared with 2001 and the headline numbers of the Afghan National Security Forces.  They will ignore the huge gulf between the strategic ambition of 2001 to ensure Afghanistan is no longer a threat to its own peoples or anybody else and the 2014 reality.    
Naturally, no summit could solve all of these issues but with a modicum of British vision and a tad of British leadership the Wales Summit could help set the Alliance finally and firmly on the road to twenty-first century relevance.  Instead, London’s strategic myopia and endemic short-termism will ensure that the Wales Summit is backward and inward looking.
As a NATO taxpayer I really wonder why bother given the cost of this jamboree.  At least Alliance leaders can play a round of golf if they have nothing else worth discussing.
NATO: Get a (strategic) grip, Cameron!
Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 17 February 2014

Scotland and the Crisis of Big Power in Europe

Alphen, Netherlands. 17 February.  Rabbie Burns once wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”.  It is hard to see but Scotland and Switzerland are linked.  Both are small countries in which a significant part of the population is seeking self-determination in the face of big and ever more distant power.  In Switzerland’s case it is against the distant behemoth the EU has become.  In Scotland’s case it is against the British State.  What has happened over the past week has demonstrated just how nervous big power is about government for the people, by the people and of the people and on that issue alone I am a Scottish nationalist.
In a carefully co-ordinated attack Britain’s three main political parties said an independent Scotland would be denied the pound sterling.  Yesterday, the President of the European Commission said it would be “difficult, almost impossible” for Scotland to join the EU.  Now, I am no fan of the Scottish Nationalists and their efforts to destroy my country but I am a democrat who believes that power should remain as close to and as closely linked with the people as possible. 
That is why I like Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy Leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party. She is bright, articulate, personable and honest and a breath of fresh air compared to the many truth dodgers and weavers in the Westminster Village.  For Sturgeon Scottish independence is not some misty-eyed nationalist fantasy courtesy of Mel Gibson bouncing around the Scottish Highlands in a skirt trouncing historical fact as he goes.  Independence is about re-establishing the lost link between people and power destroyed by a Westminster Village indifferent to the needs of the people and a Brussels elite obsessed with the creation of a distant new country called ‘ Europe’ nobody wants.  Indeed, her emphasis on political principle distinguishes Sturgeon from her Little Scotlander boss Alex Salmond.
So, why does Scottish independence scare big power?  There are two essential reasons both of which reflect the growing power of distant executives over parliaments and peoples.  First, Scottish independence would not just wipe out a 300 year old country and a 400 year old union.  Separatism would also gravely undermine London’s authority over England, Wales and Northern Ireland and raise fundamental questions about the governance of the British peoples.  Second, Scottish independence would reinforce the wave of democratic nationalisms sweeping across Europe as a consequence of elite incompetence and the deepening democratic abyss.
Sturgeon’s demand that a democratic relationship between power and people be re-established is made more acute by the disrepute into which both the Westminster Village and Brussels has fallen. Only last week Westminster quietly dropped a provision to permit local constituencies to recall an MP if their behaviour was no longer deemed appropriate.  This was a clear commitment made in the wake of the MP expenses scandal. 
In presenting the British people with a fait accompli Deputy European Commission President Vivien Reding said in London last week that 70% of all Britain’s laws are now made in Brussels.  She also said the unloved and unvoted for European Parliament is now the strongest legislature in Europe.  No-one told the British people that a consequence of EU membership would be the utter emasculation of the Mother of Parliaments. 
Now, in a sense the Scottish Nationalists make it easy for big power by presenting an absurdly rosy picture of Scottish independence and nor should they be surprised the British State they are seeking to destroy is fighting back.  Take the proposed currency union.  It is totally unfair of the nationalists to expect the British taxpayer to underpin and guarantee the debts of an independent Scotland.  At the very least the British people should have a say over Scotland’s continued use of the pound sterling and the fiscal and other liabilities they could incur in the name of an independent Scotland. 
However, it is not Scotland’s future liabilities what worries London.  Indeed, the Scots represent only 8.9% of the British economy and 8.3% of the population and currency union would actually ensure de facto British control over an ‘independent’ Scotland.  Of greater concern to Westminster is that Scotland’s departure from the UK would increase calls for an English Parliament to represent England’s 58 million or so people in the same way the Welsh Assembly represents the 2 million in Wales, and Stormont the 1 million in Northern Ireland.  
Therefore, rather than do tawdry big power deals with the European Commission London must offer a new political vision; a Federal Britain.  A Federal Britain in which London would retain control over federal taxation and the currency, as well as foreign and defence policy.  A new English Parliament would be established, naturally in York the ancient capital of Roman England and my own native Yorkshire.  Crucially, the Bank of England would be renamed the Federal Bank of the United Kingdom.  A Britain that looked more like America, Australia or Canada would actually furnish Westminster with far more political legitimacy to seek the repatriation of powers from Brussels that is the next big political struggle.
The simple fact of political life is that whatever happens in the Scottish referendum on 18 September Scotland will remain a relatively small rock stuck on the end of a hugely bigger England at the windswept margins of a broken Europe.  The facts of power, people and geography will produce in effect the same result - independence-lite or devolution max. 
As an Englishman proud of the Scottish blood coursing in his veins the departure of Scotland from the United Kingdom would be one of the saddest days of my life.  However, as a democrat I would support the will of the Scottish people.  Scots deserve to be offered a far better vision by big power than Borg-like ‘resistance is futile’.  Like the rest of us they need a new vision of a twenty-first century United Kingdom in a re-democratised European Union - a new vision for a new country in a new century in a new Europe.
Nicola Sturgeon has at least put that agenda on the table and for that alone I am grateful to her.
Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 14 February 2014

Little Britain? ( Book Extract Five - Asserting British Influence Over Strategic Change

Britain could still be a powerful player on the world stage if it so chose.  According to the CIA World Factbook 2013 Britain has an economy worth $2.48 trillion serving a population of 63,181,775.  France has an economy worth $2.60 trillion serving a population of 65,350,000.  Germany, on the other hand, has an economy worth $3.4 trillion serving a population of 80, 399,300.  As a comparison, the United States has an economy worth $15.68 trillion serving a population of 316,391,000, whilst China has an economy worth $8.23 trillion serving a population of 1,353,921,000.  In terms of purchasing power parity, Britain is the ninth richest country in the world and Europe’s second richest after Germany.  Moreover, according to the web-site Global Firepower, Britain ranked fifth in global defence spending in 2012, with the US having spent $689.59 billion, China $129.27 billion, Russia $64 billion, France $58.24 billion and Britain $57.87 billion.
In other words, Britain cannot hide from power and the responsibilities it imposes.  Therefore, Britain has every right to aspire to have influence over other states, if the security of the British state and its citizens is to be assured in a complex environment in which state power will remain the main driver of change and competition in the world.  As Britain is an architect of the contemporary state-centric international system, the meaningful, robust and durable stability of that system should be the necessary goal of British influence.  Equally, the institutions of systemic governance, most notably the UN, but also relevant regional institutions, must also be reformed if they are to be effective instruments for managing stability and stable change rather than expensive talk shops.  Strange though it may seem given the financial crisis, it is precisely this moment when Britain must seek to assert maximum influence over change.  For Britain to assert such an influence role, demands of Britain the policy, strategy and organisation worthy of such an ambition and the political will to seize the moment. 
Harvard University’s Professor Joseph Nye described national or grand strategy as the organisation of large means in pursuit of large ends.  Clearly, Britain still possesses a significant amount of that most important of strategic commodities - influence.  However, influence is as nothing if the ends of British strategy become estranged from ways and means.  That makes any call for an ambitious British strategy seem, on the face of it, perverse.  One can only imagine the tut-tutting and head-scratching response of tired, senior practitioners in a London worn down by political uncertainty, financial constraints and diplomatic and military over-stretch, not-to-mention the eternal bureaucratic infighting that, in the absence of firm political leadership, is Whitehall today.  A London today that does not know where Washington ends and Brussels begins.  However, it is precisely the danger of this moment and what it portends that makes such a call for a decidedly British strategy not only necessary but also timely. 
Part of London’s problem is that it sees avoidance of conflict as a strategy in and of itself, particularly if it means conflict with allies and partners.  However, as Sir Lawrence Freedman states, “…strategy comes into play where there is actual or potential conflict, when interests collide and forms of resolution are required.  This is why strategy is more than a plan.  A plan supposes a sequence of events that allows one to move with confidence from one state of affairs to another.  Strategy is required when others might frustrate one’s plans because they have different and possibly opposing interests and concerns”.

Looked at from across the ages, the need for strategy is even more pressing.  In 1562, John Hawkins sailed to the Americas at the dawn of a new strategic age for England.  Britain may well now have come to the end of that unparalleled strategic adventure which started with Hawkins’ 1598 battle with the Spanish at San Juan de Ulloa.  If that is indeed the case, the consequences will be profound and not just for the British.  There is a strange but compelling symmetry to British history.  The true age of Empire began with the 1607 arrival of English and Dutch settlers in what eventually became the United States.  Britain’s two hundred year domination of the seas can be dated to the 1713 signing of the Treaty of Utrecht that saw Gibraltar ceded permanently to Britain.  In 1815, Britain’s supremacy was confirmed by Wellington’s final victory over Napoleon at Waterloo.  In 1914, the First World War broke out and, in spite of British victory in 1918, the long slide of decline was set inexorably in place.  Will 2014 and a possible Scottish secession from the Union mark the true end of Britain as a strategic power?  The jury is out.
Julian Lindley-French

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Le Rapport Spécial?

Alphen, Netherlands. 13 February. When asked at the Franco-American summit this week if France had replaced Britain as America’s special friend President Obama replied that it was like asking him to choose between his two beautiful daughters.  President Hollande replied that France and America had helped each other win freedom and that France was America’s oldest ally – against Britain.  In so doing President Hollande ignored the many tens of thousands of British soldiers lying dead in Commonwealth war cemeteries across France who also died for France’s freedom.  President Obama ignored the many thousands of British soldiers killed and maimed supporting American policy this past decade.  Clearly, Britain’s relationship with the US is being downgraded by this administration whilst France’s relationship is being upgraded.  Why?
1.               Washington has a very short memory.  All that matters to the Americans is what you are doing for them today not yesterday.  Yesterday in Geneva a senior NATO official asked me why it seemed France was able to do far more with its armed forces today than Britain.  Simple.  The French were not in Iraq and refused to commit fully to Afghanistan.  There are still 8000 British troops supporting the US in Afghanistan.  Moreover, the British armed forces have been seriously denuded over the past decade giving full support to the US in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. 
 2.               Paris has successfully manipulated the British Parliament’s wise rejection of last summer’s deeply flawed American 'neither one thing or another' limited strike against Syria for which France offered full support.  The US is also supporting French operations in Mali for which Britain has only offered some modest logistical support and a training mission. 
3.               The Obama administration does not like Britain very much.  Some of the serious heavy-hitters in the Administration from the President down really believe that the future special relationship is with an EU led by Germany and France.  Britain – Euro-sceptic in Chief – is seen as a troublemaker for not bowing to the ‘inevitability’ of further European integration.  Indeed, the Americans are quietly trying to force British compliance.
4.               Washington today simply fails or refuses to see the fundamental issues of political and democratic principle that Britain is fighting for.  They are blinded by the belief that a ‘USE’ would be a kind of putative USA, rather than the inward-looking, neo-pacifist bureaucratic, dogmatic and intransigent institution which no American would ever begin to consider legitimate.  The coming treatment of Switzerland will be proof of that.
5.               France, whilst utterly frustrated with current EU defence still believes the future is European.  The EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy is utterly stymied and unlikely to lead soon to either a reformed or improved European defence effort.  Therefore, for the time-being a France also worried by the growing influence of Germany over the European project is signalling a move towards the US and NATO.
6.               London completely miscalculated and under-estimated the impact on Washington of the military-slashing 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.  To the Americans it signalled a determined British retreat from influence which an Anglophobic administration was all too happy to seize upon.
7.               The whole concept of a ‘special relationship’ was and is over-blown.  There was a moment during World War Two when the Anglo-American relationship was special.  However, after the war the Americans were ruthless in their treatment of Britain, particularly over the repayment of war debt.  Over time the ‘special relationship’ simply became a fig-leaf the Americans offered British leaders to mask Britain’s rapid decline.  There were moments when the politics of London and Washington aligned, such as Reagan-Thatcher in the 1980s.  However, the ‘special relationship’ is today little more than a metaphor for Britain’s poodleism. 
So, a rapport spécial?  Non!  First, France still believes that the future of Europe’s defence should in time be European and focussed on the EU.  Second, France refuses to see NATO as anything other than an alliance of last resort that should only be used for collective defence.  Third, when a Republican administration eventually returns it could well be that the politics of London and Washington become re-aligned.  Fourth, with a confirmed defence investment budget of £160bn/$261bn the British will re-invest far more in defence than a France trapped in the Eurozone. Moreover, excluding France the British defence investment plan is bigger than the rest of NATO Europe combined.
The real lessons for London, Paris and the rest of Europe are this; abandon romantic notions of a special relationship/rapport spécial with the Americans.  Yes, European allies will still have value to the Americans as a pool of democratic legitimacy for American action.  However, the real test of any relationship with and for the Americans will be the extent to which an ally offers an increasingly Asia-Pacific focused and over-stretched America hard support.  And, if London plays its current cards right and stops retreating both in political mind and fact within a decade the only real military show in Europe will be a British show.   
Power is what influences Washington – nothing more, nothing less.
Julian Lindley-French