hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Europe: In the Shadow of Empires

Podella Pisanella. 29 April. Niccolo Machiavelli once said, “Men are so simple and so inclined to obey immediate needs that a deceiver will never lack victims for his deceptions”.  The Tuscan landscape flows smoothly across the eye like a good bottle of Brunello di Montalcino flows smoothly across the palette.  In the grand distance Cypressi stand erect across the hills and ridges like Roman legionnaires celebrating the status – real or imagined - of the masters who planted them.  This is a refined, man-made landscape born of ages with just the merest glimpse of the ancient Etruscan wildness and medieval mayhem which once did so much to shape this land and its people.  Tuscany in some ways is a metaphor for Europe. Right through its ancient heart run the highways and bye-ways of an empire that still effectively shapes Europe – the Roman Empire.  What does Tuscany’s history say of Europe today?
Rome grappled continually with the battle between elite power, the rights of citizenship, discrimination, immigration, insecurity and supranational identity.  Even today the shadow of Rome does so much in the mind to separate the European from the non-European, the ‘them’ from the ‘us’.  It is a tussle that still marks Europe’s many dividing lines and which is daily played out as the EU and its leaders try to turn distinct nations into European empire…again.
For many years now the battle for a European ‘us’ has been fought between politicised Eurocrats and their political fellow-travellers and national democrats dismayed at the assault on their states by the very institution they thought served them.  The EU has become one of those giant computers beloved of Hollywood which is built to serve but learns to dominate.  Sadly, what started out as a wonderful, war-ending idea has become a nightmare as the ‘Europe’ the elite built simply created a new ‘them’ and ‘us’ between the anonymously powerful and secret and the anonymously and yet massed impotent – the people. 
In May almost-elections will take place to the almost European Parliament to elect the mainly unknown at great expense to ‘represent’ the all-too-wittingly unknowing.  Thereafter, the power-justifying, mandate illegitimate European Parliament will be cited by the powerful as a false mandate to build their false ‘Europe’ on false democracy.  Sadly, the EU today is just about as far one can get in democracy from government by the people, for the people and of the people. 
Machiavelli knew that If politics outstrips identity then power becomes autocracy.  And yet so many in the Brussels elite seem to think that by chipping away at the power of the state function can somehow build identity.  The saddest thing of all for the people is that so many European states are willing to go along with this.  Many eastern Europeans after years of subjugation by the Soviet Russians see EU membership as a badge of honour and a source of protection (of sorts) even if it is not quite democratic. Southern European states mired in debt see a loss of democracy and possibly liberty as a price worth paying for access to the money of the few European taxpayers actually paying hard cash to keep the Eurozone afloat.  The French and other members of the original ‘Six’ still somehow think the EU of today is the European Economic Community of old and that somehow they still have the beast under control.  The Germans think that because they control the European Central Bank in Frankfurt they control the EU and that somehow the Union is the answer to the century-plus old German Question; European integration on German terms.
Only the British perhaps with their distinct traditions of law and freedom hewn out over centuries of revolution-free history see the EU for what it is – power for a few at the expense of the many. And yet the British elite have become so entangled in their own spin that they have abandoned the fundamental principles of power and influence.  No-one listens to them anymore – either within or without. 
Just up the road from here in Florence Machiavelli understood power and the arts of its dangerous practice. He would have recognised today’s European nation-states as not dissimilar to the Fifteenth century Italic League that he helped craft and which was eventually crushed by the 1494 French invasion.  The League was too late for Italy’s warring city states had already been stripped of real power. Today’s EU state has been similarly hollowed out by transferring so much of the essence of state power to Brussels that no-one knows where the EU starts and the state ends.  It is a recipe for strategic disaster.
And in steps Vlad. Moscow is re-drawing Europe’s margins in that direct and brutal way in which Russia has so often told its own story.  Ironically, given the case made by those for deeper European integration Russia’s aggression has revealed just how weak Europe has become because of it.  In any case, Comrade Vlad thinks the EU is hypocritical.  The EU’s exercise of power is little different to that of the Kremlin - utterly secretive and lacking in transparency with few if any real checks and balances.
Machiavelli was at his Florentine peak during the 1494 French invasion.  The Master would have understood all too well the Europe of today.  For him there would likely be only two winners – the false democrats of Brussels spinning their paralysing webs of ‘harmonisation’ and ‘efficiency’ and the non-democrats of Moscow driving their tanks of autocracy through sovereignty. 
The only question Machiavelli would have asked is to which of the two to serve.  After all, both Brussels and Moscow are brim full of plotting little princes with whom the Master would have felt entirely comfortable.  My bet is on Brussels for Machiavelli would have understood that with power moving inexorably away from the state it is the little princes of Eurocracy that will soon rule whatever the people say, think or vote.  Power is an end in and of itself for princes.
The new struggle for Europe concerns where democracy happens. The EU elite unlike Comrade Vlad are not averse to democracy they simply want it to happen at the European level.  The rest of us believe that 'democracy' at the European level will simply confirm power that is too far distant from the people.  They very thing that in the end killed Rome.
Julian Lindley-French

Thursday, 24 April 2014

An Obama Doctrine...Apparently

Alphen, Netherlands. 24 April.  When asked by a journalist back in the 1960s what worried him most patrician British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan allegedly replied, “Events, my dear boy, events”.  President Obama has clearly been taken aback by Russia’s use of force and insurrection in Ukraine.  Obama’s opponents like to cast the President as a foreign policy naïve who does not really understand nor feel comfortable with the idea of American power.  And yet as President Obama begins a four-nation Asia-Pacific tour in Japan far from lacking grand ambition the ideal of creating a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) built on open trade could be said to be the beginning of a truly grand strategic Obama Doctrine.
The problem is that the Obama Doctrine is more appearance than stated ambition which is the hallmark of this Administration.  It would appear to emphasise trade power rather than hard, military power and it would appear to be built on two potentially grand free-trade deals with democracies.  The apparent aim is to help America regain grand strategic pre-eminence via the twelve-state Asia-Pacific-focussed TPP and the thirty-plus state Euro-Atlantic Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). 
The Doctrine also makes some apparent sense. Taken together a TPP/TTIP nexus would represent some 75% of world trade. The message to America’s strategic competitors China and Russia is clear (apparently); continue to rig the trading relationship in your favour and/or use force to resolve territorial disputes and you will be excluded from the partnerships at your cost.
In a sense the Obama Administration is trying to replace the Wild West lawlessness of globalisation which Washington believes permits Beijing and Moscow to flout conventions of state behaviour with an American-centred regime of rules.  This is particularly important given that the UN and other world institutions are now paralysed by a Cold War-style grand strategic power lock.  If the appearance is correct then the Doctrine is the grandest of grand strategies and if successful would wrest back America’s fading leadership of the world.
However, appearances can be deceptive.  The strength of the Obama Doctrine is that America remains for the time-being the world’s biggest economy and leading trading power.  As such Washington can continue to try to condition the behaviour of others through the use of strategic economic levers.  Its weakness is that 2014 is not 1945 and US leadership of the West no longer enjoys the automaticity it once did.  The great financial and economic architectures America established post-1945 to confirm its political primacy such as the Bretton Woods Agreement have become weakened by America’s huge debt burden, the hitherto strategic parochialism of the Administration and the rise of the power challengers.
Furthermore, American leadership is being challenged from within.  The US Congress is notoriously short-termist and parochial with even Democrats unlikely to be comfortable with free-trade deals that would appear to take jobs away from their districts.  Indeed, the only people more parochial are the many Asian and European politicians notoriously schizophrenic in their dealings with the US.  They demand the US taxpayer by and large pays for their defence, insist on their right to tell the Americans what to do and where, and ‘protect’ themselves from American trade when it suits.  As a result both the TPP and TTIP could well fail as short-term, regional tactical bickering and protectionism overcomes long-term American strategic ambition.
However, it is precisely the apparent long-term strategic ambition of the Obama Doctrine where both the TPP and TTIP could have their greatest impact.  Implicit in both is an American attempt to rebrand the ‘West’ as a global idea built on democracy and trade.  As such both partnerships (note they are not formal treaties) could provide the economic underpinnings of a new world-wide security web (WWsW) specifically but implicitly designed to constrain and contain dangerous revisionist powers such as China and Russia.
In that light America’s emphasis on Asia-Pacific is less a pivot and more the rebalancing of twenty-first century American grand strategy away from Europe and and a hitherto exclusive post-911 struggle with Islamism. As an aside Tony Blair’s rather strange intervention in London that the world’s great powers put aside their differences and refocus exclusively on Islamism as a threat was special pleading by yesterday’s man about yesterday’s big issue yesterday.  Of course Islamism remains a threat but it must take now its place in the Pantheon of grand threats America and its allies must grand strategically consider. 
However, what makes President Obama’s Asia-Pacific tour truly grand strategic is the implicit re-positioning of American grand strategy firmly on the Continental United States and the American interest.  Asian, Australasian and European allies and partners need to understand that. 
Of course, it would be nice to think President Obama understands the Obama Doctrine.  Too often he presents American strategy more as theory than practice.  This makes the Obama Administration not only appear unsure of strategic grip but particularly vulnerable to Harold MacMillan’s “events”.   
Julian Lindley-French

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Greater Russia and Europe’s New Disequilibrium

Alphen, Netherlands. 22 April.  Joe Biden’s visit to Kiev and the failure of last week’s Geneva Accord should finally force Europeans to face reality; Russia is a competitor not partner.
A few years ago in Garmisch-Partenkirschen I sat opposite the Russian Deputy Defence Minister at a NATO-sponsored dinner.  It was one of those classic moments when two Great Powers met face to face – Russia and Yorkshire.  As she was a woman who clearly did not mince her words neither did I.  “Is Russia part of European security or a problem for it?” The Minister smiled as she understood my meaning.  “Russia will always have its own interests”, she replied frostily. 
The greatest shock of the Ukraine crisis to Europe’s High Priests of Soft Power is not per se the unexpected instability in Europe’s east but Russian inability to 'get' Europe.  The fact that after all these years Russia has not accepted the primacy of the EU’s liberal-eurocracy as the defining feature of ‘power’ in contemporary Europe.
American mathematician John Nash pioneered the so-called Nash Equilibrium whereby competitive actors achieve stability only when no actor can gain by changing a system of relationships.  Moscow has today perceived the opportunity for gain through aggression because Europeans have failed to invest in key elements of Europe’s security and thus lack both the intent and capability to preserve the system in stasis.
For too long Brussels and other European capitals (not to mention Obama’s Washington) refused to understand that Moscow sees the relationship with the West as essentially and inherently competitive.  Indeed, for Russia all crises reflect nodal points of decisive competition at two levels – low politics (between peoples) and high politics (between states) – both of which are to be exploited in the Russian interest. 
In the ‘low’ politics of Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine the desperate struggles of desperate people in desperate societies are to Moscow domains for high political competition not merely humanitarian tragedies.  In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War when Russia was reeling at the sudden loss of empire and prestige the West decided that geopolitical competition was at an end.  Henceforth the future strategic creed would simply concern the steady spread of Western liberal values via globalisation and humanitarianism.   Revisionists were simply those states that either could not nor would not see this ‘reality’ and in time would be forced to recant by their own peoples.
However, high politics was not and never will be at an end.  President Putin repeatedly told the West that he was a student of history and saw Russia’s future not in terms of the values espoused by European liberal-eurocrats but by a concept of the Russian national interest that was deliberately differentiated.  At the Munich Security Conference he laid out his vision of Russian Great Power.  He was politely listened to in that appallingly condescending way the Eurocracy deals with all dissent.  The result is Europe’s new disequilibrium.
Historians will see the European complacency and self-indulgence of the nineties and ‘naughties’ as one of those great self-delusions that Europeans are all too wont to suffer.  President Putin calmly went about exploiting the seemingly bottomless well of empty rhetoric that steadily hollowed-out Europe’s security and defence.  Moscow’s method was to keep Europe off-balance by telling European leaders by and large what they wanted to hear, by exploiting the European appetite for ‘cheap’ energy and then quietly doing the very thing European did not want to see. 
Russia’s true intentions are now clear; Greater Russia.  Greater Russia does not necessarily mean a new Cold War but it does mean that Russia will never buy into ‘Europe’.  Putin today sees the world today very much in the light of Mackinder with cores of power and their peripheries.  His power map of the world is and always has been Russia not Europe-centric with Russia the core and Europe Russia’s periphery.  Energy and military power are simply his dynamic agents of change.
President Putin finds nauseating in the extreme the whole concept of European soft power and the idea that stability is a power end in and of itself and therefore that power is in fact weakness.  He utterly rejects the idea that power and influence lies in a world more like the EU than Russia.  Ultimately, for President Putin power and prestige are founded on the military men and machinery that every May again march through Red Square and the energy that lies beneath his feet. 
For the Russian president weakness legitimises Russian intervention for it creates the very lines of advance for pursuit of the Russian interest and with it the creation of a new ‘equilibrium’ built on European dependence on Russia.
Europeans have forgotten the first rule of grand political Realism; don’t get fooled by illusions you have yourself created.  Nineteenth century Russian Prime Minister Gorschakov once described Europe as a peninsula stuck on the end of Russia.  That is President Putin’s twenty-first century aim. 
The Americans seem to understand this but Washington’s ‘understanding’ is not without tragic irony.  Moscow understands that the EU is less than the sum of its parts.  In the midst of the crisis the Obama Administration is driving Europe’s powers to abandon their individual foreign policies to create a new EU ‘power’.  The American obsession with a ‘united’ Europe not only complicates the crisis it undermines NATO and turns Europeans into a non-power; easy for Washington to control but incapable of exerting credible influence. 
The cruncher is this; for the High Priests of European Soft Power to see credibility restored unto their creed they must invest in the military tools of hard power that President Putin has helped restore as a reserve currency of power. They must also wean Europe off Russian energy.
As John Nash said; in competitive relationships there is always a loser.
Julian Lindley-French

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Ukraine: The Necessity of Europe?

Alphen, Netherlands. 17 April.  Have I missed something?  When did Britain or indeed any EU member-state formally hand-over its foreign and security policy to Brussels?  Today a meeting will take place in Geneva at which the American, Russian, Ukrainian and EU foreign ministers will sit down to discuss the current crisis.  As far as I can see this is a first and establishes a dangerous precedent for the conduct of the foreign policy of Europeans by the EU.  Indeed, it is precisely the kind of functional precedent European federalists use to prosecute creeping federalism.  It must stop as it is neither effective nor efficient and certainly not legitimate.
In AD 46 at the end of the Roman Civil War Cato the Younger warned that “Necessity is the argument of tyrants, it is the creed of slaves”.  He was speaking as he was about to commit suicide having watched Pompey and Caesar destroy the Roman Republic in the name of Rome.  Don’t worry as I am not going to fall on my sword even though Sheffield United did lose 5-2 to Hull in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley last Saturday. 
Cato’s words were prophetic as Rome moved to greatness under the emperors but only at the expense of liberty.  The headlong rush to give ever more power to Brussels in the name of necessity is a similar such political sleight of hand.  The strange thing is that national leaders allow this to happen behind the backs of their people.  I can fully understand why officials in London’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office want to do this.  The FCO as an institution has lost all faith in Britain and its leaders and believe to a man and woman that Little Britain can only survive in the comforting bureaucratic embrace of an ‘over-mighty’ EU. 
When William Hague, my fellow Yorkshireman, became Foreign Secretary I thought “na then, him at’t Foreign Office will give them southern diplomatic plonkers some reet Yorkshire nous” (Translation; Mr Hague will ensure Foreign Office Mandarins protect the British national interest).  I could not have been more wrong (it happens once every five centuries or so).  Hague has gone completely native by allowing his Mandarins to convince him that it is in the British interest to hand over foreign and security policy to the EU in the midst of a crisis for it marks the beginning of the end of a distinctive British foreign and security policy.
Some of you will no doubt be accusing me at this point of falling into the grip of those who equate the EU with the dark arts.  Not a bit of it.  I am more than willing to see the EU in the room with the big three.  That is precisely what happened in the E3/EU+3 talks with Iran last year.  The EU joined Britain, France and Germany in the room with the US, China and Russia. 
So, can the EU move to greatness?  Indeed, if an EU foreign policy could ensure European effectiveness then at least a case could be made for a European foreign policy even if it fails to meet my standards for representative democracy and legitimacy.  However, an EU foreign policy is anything but effective.  Baroness Ashton (bless her soon to be departed Lancastrian heart) far from representing the collected and collective will of the EU and its peoples (i.e. me) will in fact say very little that would convince Moscow of Europe’s collective will.  At the same time she is by extension neutering the only voices in Europe to which Moscow might listen because of their vestigial Realpolitik power – Britain, France and Germany.  
EU foreign policy paradoxically is about the representation of the weak at the expense of the strong.  Indeed, an EU foreign and security policy is less not more than the sum of its parts as it reflects neither power nor policy.  Ashton will therefore sit in the Geneva room (I know which one) with twenty-eight hopelessly split EU member-states sitting on her shoulders plus the European Parliament and the European Commission (the EU’s twenty-ninth and thirtieth states respectively).  She will say precisely nothing of substance.
What is more important is that her sole presence marks the beginning of the end of the Republic as represented by the nation-states and the creation of a form of horribly inefficient and ineffective empire which will make me less safe, less secure, less free with less of a voice.  Like Sulla, Pompey, Caesar and Augustus before her she claims (not personally) ever more power unto the EU in the name of the very Republic she is destroying.
Therefore, handing European conduct of the Ukraine crisis to the EU is a dangerous oxymoron.  Indeed, an EU foreign and security policy can neither be effective nor efficient let alone legitimate because it does not reflect the very thing vital to crisis management - reality.
Julian Lindley-French  

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Book Extract 9: Little Britain ( Russia

Russia aims to re-establish itself as an alternative power pole to the EU in Europe.  However, Russia is a dangerous cocktail of power and weakness, allied to a strong sense of historic grievance and entitlement.  Indeed, Russia is an oligarchy and in danger of becoming like Saudi Arabia or Iran; led by a small rich elite, difficult to predict, with immense political and social problems, and, at best, an irritant, rather than a serious systemic strategic player, albeit nuclear-armed.  The re-emergence of Russian prickliness has gone hand in hand with the need for Russia’s abundant natural resources by much of Europe.  President Putin has skilfully manipulated oil and gas revenues to boost Russia’s prestige both at home and abroad, even though price volatility has sobered Kremlin planners.  In fact, Russian energy masks an uncomfortable reality for Moscow; Russia is a declining power with a declining population that must be governed over six time zones. 
Britain has been the target on several occasions of Russia’s need to flex its strategic muscles, most spectacularly (and allegedly) with the November 2006 London murder of Russian émigré Alexander Litvinenko, allegedly by an individual close to the Kremlin.  The focus on Britain by the Kremlin is paradoxically flattering and concerning.  Like their Iranian counterparts, many of the so-called Siloviki (state security apparatchiks) around Putin tend to regard the British as the sophisticated architects of a Western anti-Russian strategy.
Furthermore, by targeting Britain, Moscow can send a message to Washington that is not directly injurious to American interests.  Russian assertiveness is unlikely to change, so long as President Putin is in power and representative democracy remains weak.  Indeed, the Kremlin will continue to have a love-hate relationship with Western powers, dependent on the rest of Europe economically, but occasionally resorting to traditional anti-Western reflexes to mask the inherent instability and weakness of the Russian state from the Russian people.  The modernisation of Russia’s armed forces will also promote the seductive idea amongst Russians that Moscow can re-establish a sphere of influence over Russia’s ‘near abroad’, particularly in central Asia, the southern Caucasus and possibly even Eastern Europe, as evinced by the 2008 invasion of Georgia. 

For all that, Russia does not pose a threat to Britain.  Moscow has legitimate strategic and regional concerns of which Britain must be cognisant.  Indeed, as one of three European outlier powers, Britain may share a convergence of interest with both Russia and Turkey if the EU integrates away from Britain.  Britain needs to work constructively with Russia on the successor treaty for the Conventional Forces Europe (CFE) treaty.  However, Britain must never accept that Russia has ‘special rights’ in Europe or that Moscow could re-establish an extended sphere of influence over allies and partners.  Sovereign choice by all states in the Euro-Atlantic security space is a fundamental principle underpinning both NATO and the EU which Britain must firmly uphold. 
Therefore, whilst Britain must be sensitive to Russian concerns over future enlargements of both NATO and the EU, border disputes in its region, missile defence and the modernisation of NATO’s strategic defence architecture, Moscow can have no veto.  Rather, Britain must emphasize that none of the West’s efforts to enhance security in Europe are aimed at Russia per se.  And, Russia could still become a vital security partner in the fight against dangerous instability, in all its forms, if a new political accommodation can be established between Russia and the West.  Britain should seek to corral North Americans, Europeans and Russians to transform the relationship with Russia into one of constructive engagement, built on mutual respect for international law, respect for sovereignty and the mutual pursuit of strategic financial and security stability.
To that end, Britain and its allies must also confront the many inner-contradictions in their collective approach to Russia.  Americans and Europeans (and Europeans and Europeans) have different views of, and approaches to dealing with, Russia.  There must be a strong common stance on Russian attempts to undermine NATO (which need no encouragement to undermine itself).  Whilst Russian proposals to strengthen the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are to be welcomed, the 2010 Russian proposal for a New Security Treaty threatened to undermine NATO.  Any attempt to marginalise NATO, or to interfere in the sovereign rights of states on Russia’s borders, will and must be resisted firmly by Britain. 
Britain and the West must also avoid strategic irresponsibility.  NATO cannot credibly extend an Article 5 collective defence commitment to potential candidates such as Georgia.  Indeed, it would be extremely dangerous (indeed irresponsible) to extend a security commitment until an assessment has been made of how the Alliance would carry out such a commitment.  In any case, there is no internal consensus within NATO about future enlargements.  Britain should, therefore, promote caution and encourage NATO members to better manage expectations about enlargement, both within and without the Alliance and frankly be more honest about the level of commitment on offer from the Alliance.
Britain must also endeavour to help European nations develop a coherent, coordinated strategy toward Russia.  To that end, British strategy should underscore the close and friendly relations Britain desires with Russia, but that these relations must be based on respect for international law and the UN Charter, as well as respect for the sovereignty and independence of its neighbours, especially those in the former Soviet space.

In formulating its strategy, Britain should be sensitive to the fact that Russia has long-standing political, economic and security interests in this region.  However, the defining principle of British policy must be that all legitimate states have a right to decide their own political and security orientation, including membership in NATO and the EU (if they so wish) and should they meet the qualifications for membership. 
Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 14 April 2014

How Russia Exploits Europe's Great Seam

Alphen, Netherlands. 14 April.  When I was speaking the other day to a senior European Council official he referred to “the enemy across Brussels”.  “NATO?” I enquired.  “No, the European Commission”, came the reply.  As EU foreign ministers meet to discuss the worsening crisis in Ukraine’s eastern regions and with FSB agents continuing unrelenting Russian efforts to destabilise Ukraine Europe is effectively paralysed by division.  By exploiting Europe’s many seams Moscow is successfully keeping Europe politically off balance in the midst of crisis.  Europe’s cacophony of irresolution and incoherency is testimony to Russia’s success.  Can Europeans ever find strategic unity of effort and purpose?
This weekend former Luxembourg Prime Minister, EU federalist, uber-insider and possibly the next European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called for the creation of a European Army.  On the face of it and given Russian aggression such a suggestion would appear to make sense.  Europeans clearly need to spend more on security and defence.  Juncker’s argument is that in the midst of the on-going Eurozone crisis the most ‘efficient’ way to afford such a force would be via the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).  It is a political trap.
CSDP has its place in Europe’s range of tools because the flag one places on an operation in complex environments is as important as the force or the effort one deploys.  However, to seek to exploit the crisis as part of Europe’s interminable battle over EU governance is irresponsible in the extreme.  It is vital that Europe’s states take concerted action rather than get lost in the federalist fantasies of M. Juncker.
The problem is that Europe’s most dangerous seam runs right through the EU between ‘common’ structures such as CSDP and collective structures (like NATO) in which the nation-states lead.  Typically, M. Juncker is using the crisis to make the case for a real CSDP not so much to deter Russia as to transfer responsibility for national defence to the EU and thus further erode the 'core competence' of the European nation-state.  It is a classic federalist ‘functionalist’ manoeuvre which not only enjoys no political legitimacy whatsoever but is downright dangerous at this dangerous moment. 
Sadly, the EU's great political seam has created a strategic no man’s land between the unelected European Commission and the barely-elected European Parliament on the one side, and the European Council and the most powerful member-states on the other.  Strategically ‘Europe’ is paralysed by a political stalemate between the two camps that is doing immeasurable damage to Europe’s ability to influence events around it.  Moscow fully understands this. 
To break the stalemate in their favour the federalists in the Commission and the European Parliament want more EU not less.  To get there they have resorted to covert (and not so covert) back door political integration.  This involves the maximum possible interpretation of the Treaty on European Union and political gambits masquerading as technical fixes under the rubric of “harmonisation”.    
Next week a classic piece of “harmonisation” will take place concerning car number plates across the EU.  On the face of it the proposal seems innocuous.  The Commission recently moved to make it simpler for EU nationals to register their vehicles in another member-state.  The aim they claim is to prevent fraud and waste.   However, the Commission’s friends in the European Parliament proposed an amendment that would see national designs for car number plates scrapped and replaced with a single EU template.  The  political aim is to create in the mind of the citizen the belief that political momentum towards a federal European state is inexorable, unstoppable and inevitable and that resistance is futile. 
Last week a British diplomat Iain Mansfield won €100,000 for proposing the most compelling case for a Brexit – a British withdrawal from the EU.  He will need the money as his career is now toast in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which is packed full of EU loyalists.  His central point is that a British exit from the EU would release Britain from the appalling cost of EU regulation.  Mr Mansfield misses the point; EU regulation is deliberately excessive because through such regulation the Commission and Parliament (the EU’s twenty-ninth ‘state’) can enforce harmonisation and by extension integration. 
For European action to be both effective and legitimate in the face of Russia’s challenge Europe’s states must be clearly in the lead.  Therefore, it is time the European Council and the states move to put M. Juncker in his place by decisively taking control over foreign and security policy back so that they can respond collectively to the crisis.  If some states choose to demur or stand aside then so be it.  The alternative is paralysis. 
A truly common CSDP may one day become reality but not for many years to come.  However, as long as the European Commission, European Parliament and the likes of Jean-Claude Juncker use such crisis in an existential struggle with the European Council and the states represented therein Europe will be fatally weakened.  Moreover, Moscow will continue to exploit the political trench warfare taking place at the heart of the EU and the uncertain and weak Europe it has created.   
European strategic unity of effort and purpose right now means more state action and less not more EU.  It is time for Europe’s states to lead and act together. 
M. Juncker please shut up! 
Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 11 April 2014

NATO & the New Normal of Power

Rome, Italy. 11 April. Winston Churchill once said, “There is nothing wrong with change, as long as it is in the right direction”. Before coming here to Rome I was in Paris with senior NATO political and military leaders to consider the transformation of the Alliance’s military forces.  I say the transformation of NATO forces but as with all such discussions the real questions were political rather than military.  In spite of being French my dear friend and colleague Professor Dr Yves Boyer made a good point; there can be no military transformation without political adaptation.  Indeed, given events elsewhere the large elephant in the elegant room was whether and how fast NATO’s European allies could re-learn the fundamental strategic principles they once gave the world of classical political realism - the new normal of power.
Classical political realism is hard stuff.  It is neither good nor bad – it simply is. It concerns the understanding, generation and application of power itself established on the hard tools of analysis and the sober application of strategic judgement.  The West’s response to the Ukrainian crisis is the antithesis of political realism with NATO Allies swinging between emotive over-reaction and narrow self-interested under-reaction. 
Russia’s unilateral use of force to change borders and its continued use of force to intimidate Kiev and the wider region is not a constructive contribution to European peace and stability.  However, like it or not it is an effective application of classical political realism, a brilliant use of power and influence in the short-term, even if it makes little strategic sense in the medium to long-term.  Europeans may not like that but it is fact.
Before true military transformation can take place the Alliance and its members must first re-establish hard analysis of capability and intent that would enable the Allies together to look beyond the politics of the moment and out to the structure of strategy.  Only then will NATO Europeans begin to face up to what is fast becoming the new normal of twenty-first century power politics. 
As the debate in Paris unfolded US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and his Chinese counterpart Chiang Wiangqian were exchanging their own bit of classical political realism in a very testy exchange in Beijing.  What Hagel was witnessing was China’s new normal; a growing power beginning to flex its power muscles and in so doing openly objecting to America’s presence in what Beijing clearly thinks is Mare Nostrum.  The point is that the Chinese are not alone in such balance of power thinking.  Ukraine put forward a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly condemning Russia’s action in Ukraine-Crimea as illegal.  Almost half of the world’s states represented abstained. 
Europeans need to understand quickly two hard lessons of classical political realism.  First, the West is in rapid decline and it is a decline that is driven primarily by Europe’s retreat from such realism.  The soft power fixation of Europeans is a distinctly minority viewpoint not shared by the majority of emerging and re-emerging powers the world over.  To expect such powers to behave by such standards is fast becoming dangerous political hubris.  Second, the only way to effectively deter and counter the realist calculations of powers such as China and Russia is to have sufficient military power to enable all other tools of influence to be credible in the eyes of allies and adversaries alike.
Critically, NATO’s attempts to inject momentum into its transformation agenda will fail unless political leaders adapt rapidly to the ‘new’ realities of classical political realism.  Europeans in particular must end the fantasy that they can achieve security and stability without military capability and capacity.  That will require political leadership and the abandonment of the false lament that public opinion would not understand it.  Public opinion is never consulted on anything else in Europe these days, particularly when it concerns the EU.
In September the British will host in Wales arguably the most important strategic summit NATO has held since the end of the Cold War.  Ideally the all-important political guidance would give Alliance leaders the task of reconsidering NATO’s military role in the twenty-first century.  That will mean a sober and purposeful analysis of the political and military implications of the rapid change in the global balance of power that is taking place.  As hosts the British have a key role to play in establishing such a level of ambition.
Much talk is heard at such gatherings of China and Russia being ‘revisionist’ powers.  In fact, London and other European capitals must realise fast that Beijing, Moscow, New Delhi and indeed Washington share many views about the utility of power.  And, they are the new normal not Europe.
If nothing else the 2014 NATO Wales Summit must begin the search for a new and shared strategic understanding within the Alliance.  For that Europeans must return to the principles of classical political realism they have for too long abandoned.
NATO; there can be no military transformation without political adaptation.
Julian Lindley-French  

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Rwanda: For the Sake of Humanity

Paris, France. 6 April. Speaking last week at the launch of the EU’s operation to the Central African Republic Baroness Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy said, “The launch of this operation demonstrates the EU’s determination to take full part in international efforts to restore stability and security in Bangui and right across the Central African Republic. It forms a key part of our comprehensive approach to solving the huge challenges faced by the Central African Republic”.  
The French-led EU mission takes place against the sad backdrop of the Rwandan genocide.  Twenty years ago today a plane carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down.  In the one hundred days between 7 April and 15 July, 1994 it is estimated that up to one million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered.  It is something that must never be allowed to happen again.
There are many who might conclude that such atrocities are not Europe’s business.  After all, contributing factors to such conflicts are the arbitrary lines drawn by nineteenth century colonial overlords? Europeans had best stay out of Africa?  Furthermore, with Russia’s annexation of Ukraine-Crimea the world has entered a new era of Realpolitik?  The West the argument goes will therefore have to abandon humanitarian missions in favour of a new great power stand-off? 
No.  Europeans and the wider West will need to consider all such missions.  However, to successfully undertake conflict prevention and mitigation in such places will require a radical re-organisation of the security and defence effort and a leap of ambition amongst national leaders hitherto conspicuous by its absence.
It is precisely because of the values the West claims to uphold that such engagements matter.  Yes, the West is indeed engaged in a form of implicit and not-so-implicit strategic competition with China and Russia.  However, it is precisely because this struggle must not be defined by those in either Beijing or Moscow who would like to see a new global zero-sum that such engagements are vital.
Furthermore, today’s conflict over the “rules of the road” means it is vital the West together seek a new balance between values and interests - what I call in my latest book Little Britain? the value-interest.  That does not mean doing more Afghanistans (although the turnout in this weekend’s elections show some real progress has been made by engagement therein). Rather, it requires recognition at the very highest levels that the upholding of values and rules and their legitimisation through international institutions is a critical Western interest.
Third, if the West does not engage then there will be direct consequences for Europe in the form of further mass migrations and terrorism.  It is precisely such spaces that Al Qaeda and their affiliates exploit, as is all too evident in northern Nigeria. 
However, to engage in such large spaces with huge numbers of people facing immense problems as Rwanda or the Central African Republic demands of the West both modesty and ambition.  Modesty in the sense that all that can be reasonably achieved by Western forces and resources is stabilisation.  Reconstruction and the rebuilding of functioning political, social and economic institutions must come over time from the international community writ large.  In this case the UN and the African Union.  The West, particularly Western militaries cannot substitute for them and it is vital both institutions are strengthened.  Thankfully, this is something China seems to agree with at least in part.
However, the West must also re-establish lost credibility if it is to become effective as an enabler of both strategic and regional stabilisation.  First, the NATO-EU relationship must be made firmer and the implicit and silly competition between the two institutions ended.  There will be times when because of the political complexity of a mission it will make more sense for a force to be under an EU and/or European flag.   The political identity of a force is as important as the force itself because of the political identity it communicates. Europeans must not be afraid of a legitimate interest in Africa's well-being.
Those in the EU who see such missions as the implicit and steady replacing of NATO by the EU must be put firmly in their place.  Neither the EU nor NATO alone will be sufficient to meet the challenges of both strategic and regional stabilisation.
In my presentation to NATO commanders in Naples late last week my final slide was entitled NATO as a Strategic Hub.  My vision was for a NATO that acted as a force and influence generator.  It is a NATO that would be able to generate civilian and military power for crises both at the high and low ends of the conflict spectrum.  It would be an Alliance that works closely with the EU to better organise the civilian and military efforts of Allied and Union governments before, during and after crises.  It would be an Alliance far better able to reach out to partners such as states the world over, international organisations and non-governmental organisations without compromising their independence.
This is the perfect moment to realise such a vision.  The Alliance has a wealth of lessons from operations in Afghanistan.  However, it is knowledge that will erode rapidly if real steps are not taken to turn it into practice – via education, exercising, training and outreach.
This week I will attend a big NATO conference on the future of the Alliance in Paris.  My idea will be clearly stated when I speak; the centre-piece of the NATO Wales Summit in September must be the transformation of NATO into a twenty-first century strategic hub.
 For the sake of humanity, for the sake of peace and for the sake of Rwanda.
  Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 4 April 2014

UKIP: There is NO European Army!

Stuck at Naples Airport, 4 April.  There is NO European Army! A couple of years ago I wrote that Britain should leave the EU.  It was at the start of the Eurozone crisis and my concerns were twofold.  First, to save the Euro, the EU's flagship integration project, Eurozone states would need to become far more politically and economically integrated. This process would automatically prejudice the position of the British and make the costs of EU membership for them far greater than the benefits.  Second, having seen the self-serving and at times fanatical European elite at close quarters such integration would undoubtedly concentrate too much unaccountable political power in too few elite hands. Over time this would render the European citizen effectively powerless in the face of ever more distant power.  In the EU as currently structured political integration thus represents a profound threat to democracy - a strange form of liberal dictatorship.  Third, a new form of 'imperialism' would be established between creditor and debtor states giving Germany in particular exaggerated influence.  It is no fault of Germany which is a model democracy but such an imbalance of power would impact adversely the still delicate power balance that the EU is meant to oversee.

At the same time I am absolutely committed to European states working closely together in a dangerous world and supporting each other.  I also believe for all the many frictions it causes that free movement of peoples is on balance a good thing.  It is free movement of criminals that concerns me.

Therefore, I have had some sympathy with those in the UK in particular arguing their case on the principle of political liberty and democracy. And, I have no doubt that my old, great country would do very well outside of the EU if it had to go. I have been horrified by the blatant propaganda at times of the pro-EU lobby and their scaremongering over jobs to be lost and their silly suggestion that one of the world's top ten powers would be reduced to Norway and Switzerland if Britain left the EU. 

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has been the worst proponent of such propaganda. The European Commission's point man in Britain who is blatantly angling for a fancy Commission job now that his British political career is close to its end has consistently refused to address the dangers to democracy from an over-bureaucratized Brussels.  And he is a Liberal Democrat. 

He has been supported ably by big business which simply wants to turn Britain into an offshore source of cheap labour. It is no coincidence that the suppression of wages in Britain and the expanding gap between wages and profits coincided precisely with the opening of the European labour market.

However, if I object to propaganda from the pro-EU lobby I have similar disdain for such tactics from the anti-EU lobby.  Now, I am no supporter of UKIP.  Their ideas on foreign and security policy are straightforward Little England nonsense.  Of course Russia's annexation of Ukraine-Crimea matters!  Listening to Nigel Farage on this matter in his televised debate with Nick Clegg one might have been listening to Neville Chamberlain a lifetime ago and his appeasing of Hitler.

In that vein I was horrified this morning watching Sky News to see a UKIP spokeswoman insisting that the EU was sending a 'European Army' to the Central African Republic.  It is complete and utter twaddle. The forces being sent are European national forces under European command. There is a world of difference between that and a European Army.  I should know - I wrote my doctorate on it!

As a Euro-Realist it was the worst kind of propaganda and if that is to be the future tactic of UKIP then Euro-sceptics should be careful for what they wish for. 

Those of us who are reasoned critics of the EU must stand on the principle of liberty and the hard ground of proper analysis. The case for reform must be made on that basis and if reform is denied such analysis must thereafter provide the avenue for Britain's reasoned departure from an EU that no longer reflects Britain's ancient principles of liberty.

By resorting to such scare tactics UKIP have reduced themselves the same level as the very Establishment they oppose.

There is NO European Army!

Julian Lindley-French        

NATO and the Coming Big War

Naples, Italy. 4 April.  Christine de Pizan in her 1412 masterpiece “The Book of Deeds of Arms and Chivalry” wrote “What will the wise prince…do when…he must undertake wars and fight battles? First of all, he will consider how much strength he has or can obtain, how many men are available and how much money.  For unless he is well supplied with these two basic elements, it is folly to wage war, for they are necessary to have above all else, especially money”. 

War is coming, big war. Not here, not now but some time, some place this century it is coming.  The rapid shift in the military balance of power away from the democracies, arms races, climate change and the coming dislocation of societies, the dangerous proliferation of dangerous technologies, demographic pressures, competition for energy, food and water and the hollowing out of states.  All the necessary ingredients for big war exist driven daily by the growing systemic frictions apparent in the world.

As I write this blog the sun is making its lazy way across the Bay of Naples.  The southern Italian sun is in no hurry and takes its time to appreciate the better things in life.  I contemplate a voluptuous glass of Campania as the old castle of Naples sits to my immediate left on the Borgo Marinello.  To my far left broken Vesuvius lies asleep the Ad 79 destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum but the ancient musings of Tacitus.  In the distance just visible in the sun-fried haze lies the alluring outline of Capri.  It is a picture of Italian tranquillity – la dolce vita?  Or is it?  What I am actually looking at is the ancient remains of a super-volcano with Vesuvius but a pimple on the face of super power. 

Yesterday, I briefed NATO commanders on the role of the Alliance post-Afghanistan.  My message? If the Alliance and its leaders do not face up to the enormity of change in the world and the pressures it is creating NATO too could become a pimple on the face of super power.  Russia’s seizure of Ukraine-Crimea is just a harbinger of things to come in a world in which the West is declining rapidly.  

Military power is of course but one of the many tools the West will need to help manage the coming ruptures. However, military power will remain a critical tool because for many states military power remains the reserve currency of influence and the stuff of prestige. And yet in modern day Europe military power is seen as neither affordable nor useful, a hangover from somebody else’s age that has no place in the new Europe.   

The essential problem is as ever political; a lack of vision, an inability or a refusal of Western leaders and led alike to see the big picture that friction is painting and its possible consequences.  The Russian action in Ukraine-Crimea is but one of the symptoms of an international system under ever growing pressure – a Vesuvius that has begun to smoke and rumble.  Russia took Crimea because it could.

NATO is the world’s big security, big defence alliance, a credible deterrent against extreme behaviour by extremists and extreme states in extremis.  NATO is insurance.  However, the Alliance desperately needs a root and branch reassessment of its role in twenty-first century peace.  Only thereafter could a proper assessment be made of what must be done; the balance to be struck between civilian and military tools, the type of military forces that will be needed and at what level. That will take political courage and strategic vision in our leaders that is not immediately apparent. 

The Alliance must be transformed into a new strategic hub that sits at the very pivot of civilian and military security and defence. Not just in and around Europe but a NATO that also sets a global industry standard for true strategic partnership the world over.  However, for such a NATO to emerge the most profound of mind-set changes is needed at the political and military levels.  Indeed, the challenge now is not to do the past better but to do the future properly.  Strategy can no longer be sacrificed at the altar of expedient politics – the West’s great curse.

Russia is not going to invade the rest of Europe, although the jury is still out on eastern Ukraine.  However, what Russia has done is to end the comforting fantasy that conflicts can always be solved by dialogue alone.  Moscow has reminded Europe in particular that it no longer defines what former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called the “rule of the road”.  This is not just about Europe. Sitting over the far horizon China is watching.  How the West responds to this crisis will decide whether China becomes a stakeholder in the current system or a revisionist power.  That is what is at stake.
Something very nasty is happening and it will be coming to a place near you sometime.  Like the doomed of Tacitus if we continue along the road of strategic pretence will we one day find ourselves with nowhere to run.  We need a legitimately strong NATO to stop it!
Another glass of Campania please.

Julian Lindley-French