hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Friday, 29 April 2016

Brexit: Dear Christopher...

Dear Christopher,

As a Europhile, EU-sceptic the decision I have made that Britain remain within the EU is an on balance decision to do with all the issues I laid out in my blogs; the survival of a politically-fragile UK, British influence over the big change that is coming in Europe, Britain's need to lead the anti-federalists within the EU (there are many), the existence of the constitutional lock that prevents further transfers of sovereignty, Britain's history as Europe's common-sense power balancer, the nature of the threats we all face from the likes of Russian and IS/Daesh (and the vital need for strategic unity of effort and purpose to confront them), and the coming battle over the new Treaty on European Union. 

Democracy: If we cede the field to the Euro-federalists at this critical moment in Europe's history they will win. This is why many of them want us to depart. We can only stop what I believe to be an historic mistake if we remain within the EU and do what England/Britain has done since the 16th century - stop misguided, self-interested, far-distant uber-elites from imposing a grand dessin which shields them from the 'inconvenience' of democracy. Yes, Cameron achieved little in his efforts to achieve EU reform, primarily because he sought a poliical fix to a political problem of his own making. However, the issue of, and need for EU reform is very real. Moreover, the reform process is only just beginning and Britain must help lead the fight to return the EU to the nation-states which remain the foundation of political legitimacy in Europe. And, by so doing honour the mass of people who regard the nation-state as THE focus of power, identity and representation. 

Governance; Again, Cameron's sadly typically smoke and mirrors 'reform' effort masked another struggle; the coming fight between those of us who believe that most European nation-states have matured and no longer pose a threat to themselves and others (my view), and those who believe Europe can only be saved from itself if the state is scrapped (the Obama view). Europe is on the verge of a new political struggle over governance, legitimacy and efficiency that Britain cannot and must not turn away from. 

Sovereignty: We will not protect our sovereignty by turning away from the EU because left unchecked the euro-federalists would impose another form of 'sovereignty' upon us. No, to protect our sovereignty Britain must remain within the EU to fight for the principle of shared as opposed to transferred sovereignty. Specifically, that means fighting to ensure the European Council remains the pre-eminent and only truly legitimate body of the EU. Therefore, Britain needs to be engaged to prevent the ubercrats of the Commission, the European Court of Justice and their fellow travellers from wilfully misinterpreting the treaties for federalist convenience and then using the legitimacy-lite, rubber-stamp European Parliament to provide a fig-leaf of faux legitimacy.

Power: Given Britain's slow relative re-emergence as an, and possibly in time THE, economic and military power within Europe the way politics works is such that whether Britain votes to stay or go Britain will end up to my mind in pretty much the same place - the leader of the non-Euro Europeans. This power role will be vital for Britain to play in the coming intergovernmental conference about the new political settlement without which the EU will be unable to function and which will be the best guarantee of both political accountability and a return to political balance.  Indeed, it is the absence of that balance in the EU between the Eurozone and non-Eurozone which has led to the Brexit referendum and of which it is a symptom. 

Leadership: Too often Britain's incompetent political and bureaucratic elite blame the EU for their own failings, and indeed their own lack of belief in Britain. The Scottish question became a crisis not because of the EU but because successive British governments withdrew from the world role a top five world power should play and eroded the institutions that help forge British national identity, most notably our armed forces. Critically, locked into the short-termism of London they failed to understand that the very idea of Britain is based on the world role Britain has and must play. This monumental failure of political leadership has been further compounded by a Whitehall bureaucratic elite who routinely seek to gold plate EU legislation to prevent proper parliamentary oversight and scrutiny. The result is a country that far from punching above its weight in the world, after what is a tired and utterly misplaced mantra, now punches far beneath it, be it in Brussels, Washington or elsewhere. This weakness was apparent again last week in the needy, fawning body language evinced by Cameron during the Obama visit.  Indeed, the people who pose the real danger to Britain are Britain's own elite Establishment precisely because of its lack of belief in Britain, lack of ambition, and the lack of strategic imagination from which the Westminster/Whitehall bubble suffers. 

Finally, I like your optimistic belief in our great country which is one I share. However, I believe we must fight with others to reform the EU AND fight our elite to re-establish a belief in Britain that will once again forge a sense of national pride, confound the secessionists, and with partners and friends enable us to carry the principled fight for a democratic Europe.  Britain can lead that fight and win it if we the British, together with our many admirers desperate for us to again lead, have the courage and the determination to engage in it. 

Therefore, right now, given the issues, given the moment in British and European history, given the dangers we face, given our history, and given who we are, I am committed to remaining within the EU to change it, to reform it, and to give the Euro-federalists hell in the coming fight for Europe. Indeed, my mission is a simple one; to return the very idea of 'Europe' back to the people where it rightly belongs. 

I hope that explains my position and thank you for a clarification of your own Eurosceptic position.

All best,


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

NATO: End Europe’s Ten Year Rule!

“Great empires are not maintained by timidity”

Rome, Italy. 27 April. History does not repeat itself, but patterns of power certainly do. The classical Roman Republic prior to the first century BC was absolutely no democracy in the contemporary European sense. However, compared with the subsequent Roman Imperium the Republic enshrined at its core a system for limiting power; both of those who were ‘elected’ to lead it, and more particularly the power and rights of the Roman legions that served it. On Tuesday I had the honour of giving a speech at NATO HQ in Brussels about my latest and of course utterly brilliant book – NATO: The Enduring Alliance 2015. In fact, it was less a speech than an appalling two-footed tackle with studs showing on self-deluded Alliance leaders for which I should, and probably have, received an immediate red card.

As I spoke I was struck by a profound sense of Yogi Berra-ness – déjà vu all over again. Many years ago at Oxford I wrote a thesis about British policy and the coming of World War Two. As part of my research I was given access to all the Downing Street Cabinet minutes covering every day for a decade or so prior to and during the war. What struck me yesterday was this; the response of the British Government to the rise of Nazi Germany bears a striking similarity to the response of contemporary European democracies to what Winston Churchill would no doubt have called the latest World Crisis.

When Adolf Hitler became German Chancellor in January 1933 the attitude of London was one of indifference. The British were far too busy trying to fix their broken economy mired as it was in the Great Depression. Indeed, the government of Ramsay MacDonald was simply too focused on the economic crisis to properly consider a possible new threat to the European and world order. After all, the League of Nations existed to prevent such a challenge, didn’t it?

However, within ten months, and the failure of the Disarmament Conference, the British began to realise they had no choice but to consider the possibility of another major European war. In October 1933 the Committee of the Imperial General Staff finally laid to rest the so-called Ten Year Rule, whereby British policy stated that there was no need to plan to fight another major war for at least a decade.  

Furthermore, in February 1934 Britain launched the Rearmament Programme. This initiative would lead in relatively quick order to the warfighting force that prevented Hitler from winning World War Two. Spitfire and Hurricane fighters eventually emerged from the ‘Programme’, as did a re-equipped Royal Navy, and a war-proofed industrial base. However, it was RAF Bomber Command which would become the focus for much of the Rearmament Programme. One obsession of the 1930s was the widely held elite belief that the bomber would “always get through”. On the night of November 14th, 1940 515 ‘light’ Luftwaffe bombers attacked the British city of Coventry. On the night of May 31st, 1942 1000 RAF ‘heavies’ blitzed Cologne. The creation of that massive British force dated back to a decision taken in 1934.   
Which brings me back to NATO today. Much of my presentation concerned NATO’s forthcoming Warsaw Summit in July.  Ahead of the Summit there is apparently some ‘good’ news – NATO Europeans have stopped cutting their defence budgets. First, if that is all there is to celebrate the Alliance is in real trouble. Second, be it Britain playing fast and loose with defence accounting rules to maintain the appearance of 2% GDP expenditure on defence, or the disarming Dutch and others presenting small investments below the level of defence cost inflation as ‘increases’, NATO Europeans are clearly not as yet prepared to scrap the current implicit Ten Year Rule that drives most defence planning in Europe.

Therefore, if Warsaw does nothing else it must move to scrap NATO’s implicit Ten Year Rule. If Europeans do not they will soon be in for a shock. At the 2014 NATO Wales Summit NATO nations agreed in principle to move towards 2% GDP defence expenditure “within a decade” of which 20% should be spent on new equipment. Indeed, that IS the implicit Ten Year Rule under which the Alliance now labours. However, my bet is that within a year Washington will demand that the 2%/20% ‘guideline’ becomes the absolute minimum European commitment to burden-sharing if the US security guarantee to Europe is to be maintained. And, that the guideline becomes a commitment that will need to be met well before 2024.

Europeans might dream of a world of latter day Roman republics. In fact, the world is brim full of the putative wannabe ‘sons’ of Caesar, Caesar Augustus, Trajan, and not a few Caligulas and Neros. Therefore, no more NATO summits for nothing in which success is measured purely by the fact that ‘language’ was agreed for a Declaration, even if said declaration bears little or no relation to, or has little positive impact upon, strategic reality.

Europe is again at the centre of big, bad horrible history-making. And, whilst the history that is today being made will by definition be no repeat of the past, the power pattern that is driving dangerous change is all too familiar. End Europe’s Ten Year Rule now!

Julian Lindley-French       

Monday, 25 April 2016

America Needs a Unity Europe, Mr President

Alphen, Netherlands. 24 April. To save the EU on Friday last President Obama finally ended what Winston Churchill first dubbed the Special Relationship (big ‘S’, big ‘R’).  And yet the president offered no American view of the future of Europe. Indeed, what was striking about Friday’s carefully-staged Obama-Cameron (in that order) press conference in the utterly inappropriate Locarno Room of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was just how ‘unspecial’ the Special Relationship has become. Rather, the world witnessed a lame duck president telling the facts of power life to (and for) a lame duck prime minister about the future of what Washington clearly regards as a lame duck power in what has become a dangerously lame duck institution. Why?

First, President Obama repeated the enduring American misunderstanding about European history. For many in the Washington elite there were no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Europeans in the past. Neither World War One nor World War Two were struggles between good and evil, democracy and totalitarianism. They were European ‘civil’ wars for which and in which all Europeans were responsible for the price America had to pay to ‘save’ said Europeans from themselves.

Second, President Obama repeated the enduring American elite obsession with a united states of Europe. Ever since Jean Monnet seduced US Secretary of State and uber-grandee John Foster Dulles the Washington elite, both left and right, have by and large bought into the silly notion that a US of E would one day emerge in the image of the US of A. Moreover, many still believe a federal Europe would share the American world view and be supportive of it. Wrong on both counts.

Third, President Obama reflected Washington’s dislike of anyone challenging the mistaken American view of ‘Europe’. Far from being America’s closest ally in Europe Britain has become one of its biggest irritants. This is why the president so belittled Britain, its people and its role in the world. It is also why the Americans last week compared Britain’s relationship with Brussels with that of North Dakota to Washington. The simple fact that Britain is the world’s fifth largest economy and a top five world military power was simply brushed aside. The only special relationship (small ‘s’, small ‘r’) that exists is between America and Germany precisely because it is founded on power.  

At the beginning of this blog I referred to the inappropriateness of holding the Obama-Cameron press conference in the FCO’s Locarno Room. The 1925 Treaty of Locarno allowed Germany to join the League of Nations as part of the then hope that laws and institutions could replace power and force in the affairs of Europe. President Obama and the fawning David Cameron hoped this would send a signal about the continued need for such institutions and the ‘laws’ they spawn in Europe.

The political sentiment is of course right. However, law without power are, as Hobbes had it, “covenants without the sword” and doomed to fail. In 1936 Adolf Hitler destroyed that hope when he marched German forces into the Rhineland. The Obama administration seems like many on this side of the pond to also believe that if ‘laws’ are just and institutions effective then there will be little need for power and force. Sadly, law must be reinforced by sanction and institutions can only be effective if they are seen by the people as legitimate. At no point during his visit did President Obama address the crucial dilemmas of power, legitimacy and efficiency facing contemporary Europe.

The paradox of contemporary US policy is that the blind commitment of the White House and much of Washington to the failed Monnet-Dulles ‘vision’ of Europe is also preventing Europe recover from its strategic slough. If Europe is to recover from the self-engineered Eurozone crisis and the Schengen-exaggerated migration crisis, and if Europeans are to again reinvest in the defence of their own continent, what is needed is not more fantasy federal Europe, but a realist Europe built on a close super-alliance of Europe’s nation-states.  In other words, Europeans need a unity Europe, not a united Europe.

The clear failure of President Obama to understand that simple distinction was perhaps for me the most striking failure of his London remarks. It also reinforced the paradox of this most paradoxical of Obama’s visits to Britain. Yes, there are unthinking Brexiteers who can be described as parochial, nostalgic little Englanders. Indeed, Cameron is trying to paint all Brexiteers as such. However, there are also serious, heavyweight thinking Brexiteers who like me understand the real problem; this ‘Europe’, i.e. this EU, simply does not work. It is not democratic enough, and will never generate either sufficient wealth or sufficient security precisely because of its very self. Critically, unless the link between people and governance is restored by putting the member-states firmly back at the centre of the European Project the EU will never become a power partner of the United States in the world.

My view is not peculiar to Britain or indeed myself. Indeed, it is a view now held by millions of Europeans. Therefore, the strategic task now at hand is to step back from the dead-end of a united Europe and to create in its stead a functioning unity Europe, without as the Americans fear the collapse of the whole edifice of ‘Europe’. However, the failure of President Obama to a) recognise Europe’s contemporary reality; and b) commit to helping Britain achieve such a realist reality was perhaps the greatest failure of vision in Obama’s London remarks. Certainly, the implicit suggestion by President Obama that the EU represents the status quo will soon prove to be utterly misplaced.
My on balance judgement is that Britain should remain within the EU at this tipping point in its affairs and help fix it. However, it will be very hard to ‘fix’ the EU if Washington remains fixated on a fantasy federal Europe. The future of Europe is a unity Europe, not a united states of Europe and both America and Britain must help create it. However, to succeed Washington must first understand the limits of ‘Europe’, and London must relearn how to wield power.

You insulted me last week, Mr President. Not because you insulted my country because on the issue of British weakness I think you have a point. No, Mr President, you insulted my intelligence by trying to reduce all the fundamental issues of democracy and governance implicit in the Brexit debate down to a simple issue of trade. Somehow I thought you were bigger than that. Silly me. No matter, Mr President. After all, I am a mere European citizen and my views count for nothing.

Julian Lindley-French    


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Brexit: Do No Harm Mr President!

“The State, in choosing men to serve it, takes no notice of their opinions. If they be willing faithfully to serve it, that satisfies”.
Oliver Cromwell

Devon, England. 20 April, 2016

Dear President Obama,

Like you, Sir, I have accepted that Britain should on balance remain a member of the European Union. My reasons for so doing I suspect reflect pretty much the same strategic rationale as your own; at a moment when the West stands on the precipice of a potentially deep abyss of risk, threat and danger it is vital the West preserves unity and unity of purpose. This week you will arrive here in my native England to engage in the Brexit debate. You must be careful and respect the issues of history, power, liberty, governance and identity driving the debate over Britain’s membership of the EU. You are also entering the fray in what is the most fractious British electoral contest I can recall in my now long history. Therefore, sir, it is vital you get the tone, the content, and indeed the respect right if you are to avoid being told in no uncertain terms where interfering ‘Yanks’ might go. 

First, you ARE interfering in the internal affairs of a foreign democracy. However, if there is one foreign head of state who has the right to intervene it is the President of the United States. Our two countries share a unique bond. Moreover, you have the right to state the American national interest. Indeed, it is stated American policy to support the EU as such a US interest, even if some of the more misguided members of your Administration mistakenly confuse the political fantasy of a United States of Europe with your own United States of America. However, do not presume, Mr President, to lecture us about our own British national interest.
Second, the special strategic relationship between American and Britain is built first and foremost on power and operates at several often below the radar levels of influence. However, Britain is not a strategic convenience for the United States, and you must understand that Mr President. You must respect the fact that Britain is the world’s fifth largest economy and a top five military actor. Some analyses (Goldman Sachs) suggests that by 2030 Britain might well be Europe’s biggest economy. Moreover, given the £178bn (c$250bn) being invested in new military equipment Britain will be Europe’s strongest military power by far and again your main military ally. You must recognise the importance of the relationship to your own hard-pressed country, Mr President.

Third, democracy is in danger in Europe, Mr President, and you of all people must understand that. Specifically, you must avoid insisting the British people accept a form of governance that the United States and its people would never accept. The EU has become too distant and too remote from its citizens. It is run by a ‘we know best’ elite who interpret European treaties in a way that maximises their power at the expense of the legitimate member-states who signed them.  Indeed, in your intervention you must (and with respect, sir, I insist upon the use of ‘must’) state your determination to support the people of these strategic islands and all Europeans who want the return of real democracy in Europe.  

Fourth, remember who we are, Mr President. We English have fought tyrants for centuries. We created the modern world at least as much as you Americans. We paid with our blood in for liberty and democracy in Europe alongside a glorious generation of young Americans, Canadians and others. Through our language, our culture, and the institutions we gave the world, our soft power at least matches your own. Like many Britons I am willing to help lead Europe to better times as part of our transatlantic community. However, I will never be subject to an arbitrary EU and its Euro-Mandarins and you must not only accept that, but join me in my quest for EU reform.

So, Mr President, this week when you rise to speak honour who we are, respect us for what we have achieved, defend our liberty and our ancient freedoms, and acknowledge the concerns millions of us have about the EU. You may remind us of who we are and that we have never run away from a fight over Europe and that we cannot afford to do so now. Above all, Mr President, you must avoid the charge of ‘do as I say, not as I would do’ hypocrisy.

And one other thing, Mr President – understand the significance of this moment and your carefully-chosen words. You will arrive in a country torn asunder by the June 23rd referendum. In less civilised times it would not be not unreasonable to assume that this debate could have led to a second English (and I stress English) civil war. After all, many of the issues that led Oliver Cromwell and Parliament between 1642 and 1649 to fight to end the unelected and arbitrary power of King Charles I go to the very heart of how the English view power.

In 1776 your own people revolted against arbitrary imperial rule from England and created the United States of America. The American Revolution was in many ways the continuation of the English civil war and England’s Glorious Revolution of 1688. Your great President Lincoln once talked of power for the people, of the people, and by the people, the very principles at stake in the Brexit debate. Honour those principles and we will listen to you. Abandon those principles and we will wonder as a nation whatever happened to the principles your Founding Fathers enshrined in your magnificent Declaration of Independence.   

Do no harm Mr President!

With very sincere respect,

Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 15 April 2016

Talk Strategy, Affordability AND Technology

"To put it simply, our new missile defence architecture in Europe will provide stronger, smarter, and swifter defences of American forces and America's Allies. It is more comprehensive than the previous program; it deploys capabilities that are proven and cost-effective; and it sustains and builds upon our commitment to protect the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats; and it ensures and enhances the protection of all our NATO Allies."
President Barack Obama, 17 September 2009

Alphen, Netherlands. 15 April. The annual RUSI Ballistic Missile Defence Conference is an interesting event. Like all RUSI conferences it is good stuff and brings together the defence industry and decision-makers with policy wonks such as yours truly. This year was no different. However, I am always struck on such occasions by the way representatives from the defence industries, particularly US defence industry, talk technology firm in their belief that their latest whizz-bangs will sell themselves. That might work in the US but no longer works in Europe. However, as the US will soon pile enormous pressure on its European allies to spend more on armed forces the defence industry as a whole is going to have to talk strategy and affordability, as well as technology.

Let me turn first to the event itself. In some ways there was a mismatch between requirement and capability at this year’s conference. The focus was on the ongoing development of US-funded NATO missile defence. Now, I say missile defence because the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) is specifically designed and sufficiently limited not to bring into question the ‘credibility’ of Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

The existing NATO missile defence plan is in effect a stand-alone system that has little or nothing to do with Article 5 collective defence of the Alliance. Indeed, the current ‘architecture’ is only designed to ‘kill’ the missiles of some thirty non-Russian states to the south and east of Europe who might one day launch a very limited number of missiles against NATO populations and forces. For that reason the number of radars and planned interceptors is very limited.   

The thinking is that by not challenging the ‘credibility’ of Russia’s nuclear deterrent European stability will be maintained. What stability? Indeed, I found it strange so many at the conference repeated the need to reassure Russia. Reassurance for what? It is a fair question given that Russia seems determined to unilaterally bust out of all existing European arms control treaties, most notably the Conventional Forces Europe Treaty and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces. Is not ‘reassuring’ Russia at this time a fool’s errand. After all, Russia is deploying a range of nuclear-tipped missile systems to places like Kaliningrad that are simply not treaty compliant, most notably Iskander M missiles with both a ballistic and flat trajectory.

What is needed instead is modernised Article 5 collective defence architecture of which missile defence is an important part. Such an architecture would need to include an enhanced NATO anti-access, area denial (A2/AD) capability, strengthened cyber defences, enhanced resiliency of European states, systems and societies, better intelligence and more shared intelligence, increased numbers of advanced deployable conventional forces, AND relevant missile defence.  Moreover, much of these enhancements will fall to the European taxpayer to fund because US forces are inevitably going to become ever more overstretched given global commitments which the Americans must bear.

To that end, defence industries must understand that NATO is fast approaching a strategy, affordability, responsibility tipping point at which all the old assumptions about who pays what for what will be tossed out. Therefore, to help European governments make the necessary informed choices about the balance to strike between strategy, affordability and capability it is critical now that the defence industry as a defence industry demonstrate they understand the challenges governments face. They must also offer the technological solutions not just to meet the worst-case threat, but also to bridge the gap between strategy, affordability and capability.

Now, I am no naïf about such matters. I have seen how defence contractors operate in Washington through K Street lobbyists. Moreover, I am fully aware of how in Europe, particularly in France, there is little distinction between the political, bureaucratic, and defence-industrial elite as they are pretty much one and the same. Still, the tendency to let the latest whizz-bang technology do the talking for itself and to compete with each other is self-defeating and reinforces the tendency to defence-cost inflation and unacceptably long delivery cycles.

Unsuspecting European governments are soon going to have to face a massive defence re-investment challenge if they are to a) maintain their defences; and b) maintain their defences through a modernised and re-balanced NATO. This will come a) as a shock; and b) sooner than any of them think. It is therefore vital that right now the defence industry as an industry considers not just their own bottom-lines, but how the defence of Europe could look in ten, fifteen, and twenty years’ time. They will as a group also need to consider how they can best help equip Europeans as part of the coming twenty-first century strategic transatlantic contract. This can be best described as the continued American-led defence of Europe in return for European support for America’s enduring global grand stability mission.

All of the above will not only require a new relationship in Europe between power, technology and money. It will require industry to talk strategy and affordability as well as technology. Things are about to change round here big time…or we Europeans simply give in and appease reality. 
Julian Lindley-French


Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Where to Sail the Mighty Queen

London, United Kingdom. 12 April. No, this is not a blog about a peripatetic, super-sized member of the gay community. In 2017 HMS Queen Elizabeth, ‘the mighty Queen’ will sail south from Rosyth in Scotland to HM Dockyard Portsmouth, the home of the fleet flagship, Nelson’s HMS Victory. At 72,500 ton (fully-loaded) and with her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales this ‘super’ aircraft carrier will be the largest ship ever commissioned into the Royal Navy. This past week saw the handover of command from First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas, who I have had the honour on occasions to support, to Admiral Sir Philip Jones. Therefore, it is a good moment to consider not just the military-operational role of these ships, but also the strategic–political role, which is at least as important.

The moment HMS Queen Elizabeth is commissioned she will have to play many roles. Her first strategic-political task will be to remind the British people that the UK remains a top five world power. As such both ships will rapidly become icons, part of Britain’s strategic influence brand, both abroad and to its own people.

She will also need to demonstrate Britain’s position at the heart of European defence, whatever the outcome of the June Brexit referendum. To that end, the ‘QE’ will need to be put front and centre of a coalition of allied and European navies. Whatever Europe’s institutional arrangements, and the obsession Germans and some smaller European powers have with institutions, it is still power which is the driving factor in influence. For Britain the ‘QE’ will be testament to that reality.

However, the first mission of the ship must be to go west. Together with Type 45 destroyers and new Astute-class nuclear-attack submarines as soon as the ‘QE’ takes on her first F35B fast jets she must sail to Norfolk, Virginia, the east coast home of the United States Navy and thence to Halifax, in Canada.

The greatest threat to NATO is the coming reckoning with American politicians over burden—sharing. Yes, I know, the burden-sharing row has been going on for many years. However, in the past America could afford to pay for Europe’s defence. No longer. First, there will also soon be a reckoning for America’s enormous deficit that will impact on public services, including the US military. Second, the United States is now facing a zweifrontenskrieg, a two front war, of global proportions. Americans will simply not put up with a bunch of free-riding Europeans anymore. And, it is not just the strategically-illiterate Donald Trump who is saying that.

It is therefore vital that Britain sails the Mighty Queen into Norfolk as soon as possible together with a full British carrier strike group even if that stretches the Royal Navy to its operational limit. She should then conduct several days of ship visits for senior American politicians, commentators and military commanders. The message, apart from sticking two fingers up to John Paul Jones in his own backyard? There is at least one European ally willing to invest in the kind of high-end military kit that NATO desperately needs and that the United Kingdom will again be willing and able to ease the burden on the United States.

Having performed her first act of strategic diplomacy with Britain’s American ally the ‘QE’ should then sail north to Halifax. At some point on that voyage the United States Navy would hand over escort of the British carrier strike group to the Royal Canadian Navy. First, the appearance on the horizon of the strike group flying the White Ensign rather than the US Ensign will remind Canadians of the enduring link between Britain and Canada. Second, it will show Canadians that Britain is still a power to be reckoned with and that the Anglosphere floats and fires. Third, as the Canadian Government considers further cuts to its defence budget and another shift from hard to soft power the Mighty Queen will send an important message. That a Canada with three contested oceans to its east, north and west needs a powerful, modern navy, able to operate alongside powerful allies, such as America and Britain.

A century ago next month Britain’s mighty Grand Fleet engaged and defeated the German High Seas Fleet at the Battle of Jutland. In fact, the Germans sank more British ships than the Royal Navy sank German. However, such was the might of the Royal Navy and the enormous steel trap the Germans sailed into that the defeat was crushing. The defeat was not the result of inferior German materiel, far from it. It was primarily because the German commanders already suffered from an inferiority complex about the Royal Navy.

A century on the United States Navy still enjoys the mantle of absolute superiority it inherited from the Royal Navy. Today, American military superiority is frayed around the edges. For Britain and the Royal Navy to demonstrate now both the capability and will to help keep America strong will go a very long way to spiking the coming burden-sharing row. It will also demonstrate determination to maintain what is after all the key factor in deterrence; power.

Julian Lindley-French               

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Some Dutch say ‘nee’ to Ukraine…and the EU

Alphen, Netherlands. 7 April. On the face of it yesterday’s referendum here in the Netherlands involved a few people in a relatively small country voting against an arcane and complex EU agreement with Ukraine about which very few know very much. The result was clear; 61.1% voted ‘nee’, whilst only 38.2% voted ‘ja’, albeit on a turnout of just 32.2%, slightly above the 30% needed to make the vote valid under Dutch law. Dutch Premier Mark Rutte has acknowledged that the vote must “be taken into account”, and that ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement cannot take now place in its current form.  What are the implications of this vote?  

If one wants to understand the importance of Ukraine to the future stability of Europe then look at a map. ‘Free’ Europe is in competition with President Putin’s Russia over the future order of power and governance in Europe. This reality was brought home to me the other day when I addressed members of the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev. Moreover, it is also clear that Ukraine is the battleground in which this silent and no-so-silent battle is taking place.

It is a battle of ideas. The EU seeks an elite-led ‘community’ of European states and peoples as the defining organising principle of power in twenty-first century Europe. President Putin, rather, wants a good old-fashioned Russian sphere of influence in which ‘influence’ is simply defined by the reach of Moscow’s power in its many and too often nefarious ways.   

Ukraine is a front-line state in this strategic contest. After all, it was the prospect of the Association Agreement that triggered the Maidan protests and which led President Putin to act to keep Ukraine within the Russian sphere of influence. Without the prospect of an EU-Ukraine Association Agreement the Russian ‘hybrid’ invasions of Crimea and the Donbass would not have taken place.  Nor would the criminal 2014 shooting down of Malaysian Airlines MH17 and with it the murder of almost 200 Dutch citizens.

Now, let me turn to democracy in the EU.  The other week I shared a platform with Thierry Baudet, the sponsor of yesterday’s referendum at a meeting of the Clingendael Institute in The Hague. Thierry is impressive and courageous, and not surprisingly despised by much of the rubber-stamp Dutch Establishment for what he has done. He also has a point. Too often we European citizens vote for politicians in our own countries who, because they have handed power and sovereignty to an unaccountable Brussels elite over and above our heads, have little meaningful influence. ‘Democracy’ in the EU is fast becoming a sham, a pretence in which unless people vote for ever more EU and thus ever less nation-state their voting slips might as well be cast straight into the garbage.

The resulting democratic deficit is leading to two developments. First, the rise of so-called ‘populist’ parties, i.e. political movements deemed ‘populist’ by the elite precisely because they reflect the legitimate concerns of huge numbers of disempowered citizens. Second, the growing use of referenda as a desperate attempt to hold said elite to account. Indeed, how to hold an ever-more distant EU elite to democratic account was the real reason for Thierry Baudet’s referendum. It is also the central issue in the coming Brexit referendum, which is really about traditional English concerns about who controls distant power that date back to at least 1215 and Magna Carta (or more accurately 1265 and Simon de Montfort’s ‘Parleymont’).

Therefore, on the face of it Thierry is absolutely right to demand a referendum on the issue of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. This is because the Agreement is already being implemented BEFORE it has been ratified by EU member-states. Again, on the face of it, such arrogance by the EU elite is outrageous and demonstrates all too clearly the contempt in which said elite hold democracy. However, the problem is that precisely because ‘free’ Europe is in strategic competition with Russia and the EU Association Agreement is the only tool available to prevent Ukraine becoming a slave to Russian interests then Brussels (with Berlin and Paris) on this occasion had to act quickly.  
So, what will now happen? Nothing, for the same reasons I reject Brexit. Right now, at this moment in European history, the need to counter Russian ambitions trumps my concerns about the autocratic tendencies of the EU elite. That the EU elite have such autocratic ‘we know best’ tendencies must not be doubted.  In 2005 the Dutch tried to stop ‘ever closer union’ by voting against the proposed EU Constitutional Treaty. The Brussels elite simply ignored the plebiscite, made a few minor cosmetic adjustments (à la Cameron), and re-issued the ‘Constitution’ as the 2007 Lisbon Treaty.  

The tragedy is that these two issues have become entwined and intertwined in Thierry Baudet’s referendum. Real democracy desperately needs re-invigorating within the EU. However, such re-invigoration can only take place at the national level. Unwelcome though it may be for the EU elite it is the nation-state with which the massive majority of ordinary Europeans identify and which for them provides the only really legitimate ‘polis’ and ‘demos’. That is why the EU elite is in conflict with Europe’s peoples. Equally, Ukraine desperately needs and deserves the Association Agreement. In other words, Thierry has made an important point AND President Putin will be happy.

There is one final irony about yesterday’s referendum – I could not vote in it. As a British citizen who has lived outside the UK for many years I have lost the right to vote in any British election, including the upcoming Brexit referendum. As a European citizen living in the Netherlands I am denied the right to vote in all Dutch elections, including elections for the European Parliament, save that of the most local of local elections. As a democrat to be so profoundly disenfranchised breaks my heart.

What Thierry’s referendum points to is the need for a new political settlement within the EU that returns power to the states and makes the European Council the true and only legitimate body of the EU. That means a new EU treaty. It also reinforces the need to give Ukraine a future for all our sakes.

Julian Lindley-French   

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Speaking Truth to Power and Idiocy

“Oh Faustus, forget these frivolous demands which strike a terror to my fainting soul”.
Mephistopheles to Faustus in Marlowe’s Dr Faustus

Alphen, Netherlands. 5 April. Freedom of thought and speech is under attack in Europe. The attacks are being mounted from the hard political Left and Right.  If not confronted and defeated they threaten the victory of reality-bending pretence that in extremis would ultimately result in dictatorship in one form or another. Therefore, it is time I spoke out in warning.

The attack from the hard Left is most obvious and egregious in British universities. Once famed for their academic freedom and independence of thought British universities are fast becoming centres of intolerance in which even the slightest divergence from hard Left dogma as decided by God who knows who is met with intimidation and bullying. Such intolerance hides behind the utterly misplaced title of ‘safe spaces’. In theory such ‘spaces’ are meant to be places where anyone can express any view however challenging. They were created so that very challenging views could be expressed on British campuses, such as those held by hard-line Islamists. Instead they have too often become platforms for hard Left witch-hunts from which intolerance and hatred are being projected, most notably anti-Semitism.

The latest act of freedom-denying idiocy came at Edinburgh University. Imogen Wilson, vice-president of academic affairs at the University of Edinburgh’s Students’ Association was threatened with expulsion from a student council meeting after she had raised her hand to challenge a speaker. Apparently at Edinburgh University the raising of one’s hand to ask a question could be seen by others as an act of intimidation. Throughout history the denial of basic rights inevitably masks a dark purpose; power and control.

Now, if such nonsense ended there one might conclude that it is simply youthful and immature student politics set in a political context that is not of this world. However, Ms Wilson’s experience is but the latest example of reality-bending nonsense that has appeared of late in many British universities, including my own Oxford University. Anything can indeed be discussed in such ‘safe spaces’ so long as such discussions conform to the potty prescriptions of the hard Left as defined by some self-obsessed activist.  Worse, fellow academics working at such august institutions have told me how worried they are about the danger posed to their own work and indeed their own futures by the intolerance of the madly politically-correct. University leaderships in Britain must act to protect academic freedom from all threats.

However, the threat to freedom of thought and speech comes not just from the potty British hard Left. A more insidious threat comes from nationalist hard Right, most notably Russia and China. Last week in Estonia I was in conversation with a senior official about certain European thinkers and think-tanks that have been bought by Beijing and Moscow. Sadly, the evidence I was given is in line with other evidence that is emerging. Naturally, I will not name the individuals or institutions under suspicion but those suspicions go to the top of governments in Europe. Consequently, those under suspicion no longer have access even to the most innocuous of sensitive information.

Academics and think-tankers are constantly in search of money in Europe and the offer of a lucrative ‘relationship’ with China or Russia can be appealing. Certainly, both governments are engaged in extensive influence campaigns in Europe and are willing to spend money. However, by selling his or her soul an individual fast becomes like Marlowe’s Dr Faustus – short-term gratification at the expense of eternal damnation. Once hooked there is no way out.

Some may think I am naïve but believe me I am not. Indeed, I am well-versed in such matters. Last year an individual close to Beijing contacted me looking for a ‘relationship’ which would have involved some financial remuneration. Apparently, said individual and the group he represented liked my writings. That is until I wrote a piece critical of China. I never heard anymore.

In 2013 I was invited to speak at the Moscow European Security Conference. It was a great honour. Whatever dim view I may have of current Russian policy I have never lost the profound respect I have for Russia and its people. On the day of departure I was picked up at my home by a senior Russian official and taken to Schiphol Airport. Upon my return I was picked up at Schiphol Airport by another Russian official. On that return journey the official in question broached the subject of Russia having a ‘relationship’ with me.

A few days later I received an email from another senior Russian official exploring further the possibility of a ‘relationship’ with me. Of course, I replied. I would love to have a relationship with Moscow.  However, I will have to clear it with London first. After that I never heard another word from my Russian friends.   For the record, anyone who reads my writings knows I am no lackey of London either.         
The most precious freedom we Europeans possess is our freedom of thought and speech. It is under attack from the hard Left and hard Right. No army however strong can defend such freedom if we voluntarily surrender it. That is why I go so often to the Baltic States because they know exactly what freedom means and what it takes to defend it.

To those thinkers and writers either already meshed in this web of deceit or thinking about becoming part of China and Russia’s influence campaign in Europe; don’t! For a thinker and writer the only ‘safe space’ is the space inside our own heads. It is a space that must be defended at all costs and against all threats.

Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 1 April 2016

Defending Estonia

Tallinn, Estonia. 1 April. The Estonian Foreign Ministry building here in Tallinn proudly flies three flags at its front. The flag of Estonia is flanked by the EU and NATO flags, acting as symbolic sentinels guaranteeing the freedom of the people of Estonia. Together those three flags state clearly Estonia’s sovereign choice and its twenty-first century sovereign identity. The job of Estonia’s many friends and allies is simple; to keep all three flags flying until the Estonians decide otherwise.

Yesterday, I had the honour of sharing a platform with the impressive Estonian Foreign Minister, Her Excellency Marina Kaljurand, at an event organised by the outstanding Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association and moderated by the British Embassy. The passionate defence Minister Kaljurand gave of her country’s liberty and its memberships of both the EU and NATO was uplifting.

For me it is always a pleasure to come to the Baltic States. This is not simply to enjoy the stunning beauty of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Such visits also help to clear my furrowed strategic brow, render me seized again of clarity and purpose, and just for a moment allow me to escape from the self-deception, denial and strategic conceits which are slowly subsuming much of Western Europe’s political elite.

My speech was as ever an attempt to burst the bubble of conceit. To point out with I some hope systematic precision the dangerous gap that exists between the rhetoric of leaders and strategic reality. A gap that is sucking the ‘credible’ out of the credibility of a credible security and defence – be it under an EU or a NATO flag.

First, the NATO flag. Yesterday, the US unveiled more details of its European Reassurance Initiative. The ERI is package of investments and activities that commits a further $1bn of US taxpayer’s money to defence modernisation in Europe. As such, the ERI is a typically generous gesture at a time when America’s own armed forces are suffering from sequestration. It is also a hope that such largesse will encourage European NATO allies to finally move towards spending the 2% GDP on defence and the 20% of defence budgets on new equipment that was agreed at the September 2014 NATO Wales Summit.

Something else happened yesterday which should help reassure my fellow European citizens in the Baltic States that the rest of us are beginning to stumble towards matching words with deeds and vy so doing align our ends, ways and means – the stuff of effective defence strategy. General Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR) announced that in the face of an aggressive Russia the Alliance will switch from ‘assurance’ to ‘deterrence’.

This is an important decision because recent NATO exercises have demonstrated that efforts to support the Baltic States through ‘rapid reinforcement’ simply do not work given that some 120,000 Russian troops effectively encircle the three small EU/NATO members. Indeed, NATO’s last major crisis management exercise revealed the true gap between the stated mission of the Alliance to defend the Baltic States, and the worrying reality.  Indeed, to be rendered credible in the face of threat NATO's new Article 5 collective defence will need a mix of forward deployed expeditionary forces, defence-in-depth, cyber and hybrid defence, reinforced by force protection, 

Much of the debate here in Tallinn concerned the upcoming NATO Warsaw summit and the need to really embed what I call forward deterrence in the Alliance’s defence and deterrence posture. Moscow will of course scream blue murder and no doubt cite this as further evidence that yet again NATO is breaking a 1991 ‘commitment’ not to expand to the East. In fact no such assurance was ever given and it is Russia’s behaviour which make such deterrence necessary.

Second, the EU flag. Whilst NATO’s move to ensure effective forward deterrence is to be welcome it is also likely to lead to increased Russian usage of hybrid warfare or strategic masikirovka, and against Estonia in particular. It is nine years to the month since Estonia suffered a massive cyber-attack back in 2007. The lesson is clear; hand-in-hand with NATO’s forward posture vital work also needs to be done to make all Allied and Union societies more resilient in the face of such attacks, particularly against critical infrastructures.

To that end, another vital item on the agenda of the Warsaw Summit will be enhanced NATO-EU relations. However, whilst much good work is being done between officials of both the EU and NATO, and in spite of a charm offensive by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, my well-informed EU sources tell me there is a problem. Apparently, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini is repeatedly vetoing plans for a substantive EU-NATO relationship.

Two concerns, I am told, appear to be foremost in the mind of Signora Mogherini. First, Rome does not want to offend Moscow. Second, she is worried NATO will dominate the relationship. If true both concerns are nonsense and Signora Mogherini needs to get her act together quickly. It is too dangerous to continue playing petty elite institutional politics.

Why? Well, the central message of my speech yesterday was blunt and to the point; the greatest defence is afforded not by systems and structures important though they are, but by solidarity in strategy, policy and purpose underpinned by firm and consistent political will.

What is important about those three flags flying outside the Estonian Foreign Ministry is not simply that they are there, but that they are there together.

Julian Lindley-French