hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Is Britain the New Afghanistan?

Alphen, Netherlands.  20 August.  Is Britain the new Afghanistan? What has become of my country?  James Foley, an American photo-journalist is beheaded by a sneering Jihadi who speaks with a British accent.  As per usual the apologists appear on British TV and radio to talk about the need for ‘understanding’ and ‘tolerance’.  And, indeed, it is vital at this moment that the millions of moderate British Muslims are not tarred with the broad brush of hatred these people wield.  It is precisely division and mistrust such people seek to sow in British society.  And yet there is clearly a problem.  

When I look back to my salad days the very idea of a British Jihadi would have been unthinkable.  Indeed, even today it is hard for the bulk of the indigenous population to equate such killers with being British.  Instead, most of we Britons sit in sullen, silent anger at how our traditional tolerance has been corrupted and look-on in tired aghast at the utter incompetence  and inability of politically-correct elites to get to grips with what is fast becoming a dangerous Britain. 

Instead of dealing with such issues by properly controlling who can enter and live in Britain and then seeking to build an integrated society government after government has retreated into failure-masking spin and pretence.  The entire population knows that successive British governments has lost all but nominal control over Britain’s borders and yet Londonistan (as the French continue to call London) continues to trot out the same old tired mantras that immigration is under control and that multiculturalism works. 

It is not just a problem with politicians but the entire London Metropolitan elite.  Last week one of the great over-washed masquerading as that towering Victorian journalist Walter Bagehot wrote a piece in The Economist entitled “The Trials of life in Tilbury”.  It was one of the most arrogant and out-of-touch articles I have ever read about the poor, white working class of Tilbury.  These are people who in little more than one generation have had their country taken away from them, their old-fashioned values of tolerance, mutual respect and patriotism trampled on by a sneering and incompetent elite, and the Britain they once-loved and for which many fought and died torn apart. 

And yet, according to ‘Bagehot’, who reduced the whole complex issue to one of stupid, white people they are the ‘left-behinds’ who do not ‘get’ globalisation, the ill-will of whom is generated by “autochthonuous meaness”.  Now, I have four degrees and a reasonable facility with the English language and yet I had to look up ‘autochthonuous’.  For the on-this-particular-planet people out there ‘autochthonuous’ means ‘indigenous’.  In other words the white population of Tilbury are intrinsically and by implication genetically ‘mean’ for being concerned about the impact of hyper-immigration on their town, their country and their lives. 

In fact, it is the natural tolerance of the English that politicians have too often exploited and then used against decent, ordinary people to silence dissent.  Indeed, as politicians have repeatedly failed to get to grips with the dangerous society Britain is fast becoming politicians have too often tried to use law and intimidation to silence anyone who speaks out about what is now self-evidently a clear and present danger.

Too often the political class have simply tried to wish-away the consequences of their irresponsibility.  Do not get me wrong – I am of course not accusing all nor indeed the massive majority of immigrants of seeking to de-stabilise British, or should I say more particularly English society.  Respect and tolerance goes to the very heart of my DNA.  Equally, no longer can London go on trying to pretend that some aspects of the hyper-immigration of the past twenty or thirty years have not spawned what is now a very real and dangerous problem.  Apart from a very few pathetic people it is not the indigenous population that is being radicalised.

Britain cannot go back and there is nothing to be gained from nostalgia.  British society today is what it is and that must be the starting point.  However, the issues raised by ‘British’ Jihadis are fundamental.  As the 2015 General Election approaches the High Priests of Multiculturalism are already re-appearing and they must for once be resisted.  Indeed, for too long been multiculturalism, i.e. the deliberate fostering of parallel, separate lives of different 'communities' on a small island has been Britain's problem not its solution.  It is multiculturalism that has created the dangerous space that has allowed the extremes of separate-ness to lead to the kind of brutal extremism evident in the slaughter of James Foley.

Therefore, no more the kid gloves of political correctness which is destroying British society.  Government needs to fundamentally re-think how it helps to construct a re-integrated society in which all of its members irrespective of race, religion or orientation believe they have a stake.  If London fails social cohesion will progressively fail, the making of foreign and security policy will become impossible and national life itself will be at risk.

“Policy” means properly re-integrating Muslims and indeed all other minorities properly into British society.  By all means be a hyphenated-Briton but to be ‘British’ and have the right to share the benefits of British society must mean to be a part of that society and to share its core values.  The good news is that there are a whole host of hyphenated-Britons out there who can help lead the way towards the most important of social attitudes - respect.  

Re-integration will take a long time but it must start now. And for once Government must not dodge the issue in the face of the inevitable barrage that will come from self-interested, self-appointed, single-interest groups.  This is because the threat posed by ‘British’ Jihadis to British society and indeed the United Kingdom is far greater than a few Scottish fantasists in skirts.  No more pretence, no more appeasement and no more dangerously self-deluding political correctness.

Sadly, the British people as a whole must be under no illusions; even though they despise “British values” these extremists were bred in Britain, their toxic views were allowed to fester in Britain, and sooner rather than later they will seek to return to Britain to cause mayhem.  Politicians caused the mess that is British society today and it is politicians that must help fix it.  If not then Britain will indeed become the new Afghanistan – a threat to itself and to others.

Enough is enough!

Julian Lindley-French

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Retreat from Humanitarianism

Alphen, Netherlands. 19 August. Today is World Humanitarian Day.  The event commemorates the 19 August 2003 bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad.  Among the dead was the UN’s top envoy Sergio Viera de Mello with whom I had spent a day in Geneva shortly before he left for Iraq.  Last week UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon published a report on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) entitled “Fulfilling our Collective Responsibility: International Assistance and the Responsibility to Protect”.  With American and British forces active again in Iraq on the face of it R2P and humanitarianism are alive and well.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Firstly, humanitarianism was essentially a European idea in which Europeans did not invest.  In April 1999 then British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a famous speech in Chicago which laid the groundwork for humanitarianism and the merging of values with interests – the Doctrine of the Value-Interest.  Blair said, “No longer is our existence as states under threat. Now our actions are guided by a more subtle blend of mutual self-interest and moral purpose in defending the values we cherish. In the end values and interests merge. If we can establish and spread the values of liberty, the rule of law, human rights and an open society then that is in our national interests too. The spread of our values makes us safer. As John Kennedy put it “Freedom is indivisible and when one man is enslaved who is free?”  That was then and this is now.

Today, the idea of humanitarianism looks like yesterday’s idea, precisely because it is so closely associated with Tony Blair and his ilk – yesterday’s man, yesterday’s idea.  Indeed, in the soon-to-be wake of Afghanistan humanitarianism looks to austerity-mired Europeans like a recipe for the endless engagement of small, ill-equipped and under-funded military forces in dangerous, difficult and costly places in pursuit of ill-defined goals made more unclear by empty political rhetoric. 

Secondly, without the support of the US humanitarianism became just yet more empty European political prose. Indeed, the failures in both Afghanistan and Iraq and NATO’s retreat from certainty were caused in no small part by the confusion of values with interests by America and its European allies which made planning virtually impossible.  The specific US aim to engage in Afghanistan was to deny Al Qaeda the use of an ungoverned space from which to launch attacks such as 911.  However, in a desperate bid to build a broad coalition the aim morphed into turning Afghanistan into a functioning democracy built on the European principle that when European forces must leave a place far better off than the day they arrived.

Thirdly, 1999 was also the high-water mark of Western power.  On 12 June 1999 Milosevic began his withdrawal from Kosovo and the tragic Wars of the Yugoslav succession came to an end in which over 140,000 people had been slaughtered and 4 million displaced. It seemed for a moment that the Doctrine of the Value-Interest would know no bounds.  Indeed, emboldened by a successful 2000 military intervention in Sierra Leone Tony Blair became the High Priest of Humanitarianism.  

And yet over the horizon first China and then Russia were re-emerging as powers with a much narrower concept of the national interest.  In 2013 the West’s inability to intervene in Syria’s tragedy was partly a function of this power-shift and the new geopolitical fault-lines which it imposed and which now so constrain the West’s room for manoeuvre, even within its own borders.

Fourthly, humanitarianism and the Value-Interest were also inextricably linked with the then concept of European defence.  Back in June 1998 I wrote a piece for the “New Statesman”, a Labour Party-leaning magazine called “Time to Bite the Eurobullet”.  The piece called on Britain to help lead the creation of a meaningful autonomous European defence project and laid out the framework for what became the 1998 St Malo Declaration with France and eventually the EU’s 1999 Helsinki Declaration. 

Scroll on fifteen years and European defence is effectively dead.  Torn asunder by the 2003 Iraq War, the 2008 financial crisis and the ‘national caveats’ and ‘red cards’ which meant too few nations did too much of the dying in Afghanistan.  Today, European ‘defence’ is split between the declining Anglosphere and the ‘do nothing’ Eurosphere.  Sadly, once again it is the Americans and British taking action in Iraq whilst ‘can’t do, won’t do’ European allies sit and twiddle their fingers.  Indeed, I am growing old listening to the same old EU nonsense that the much-vaunted Common Security and Defence Policy and which enshrines the very principles of humanitarianism is still young.  To paraphrase Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot” sketch; CSDP is dead, an ex-policy that has ceased to be.    

However, there is one other reason humanitarianism is in retreat – the loss of public support.  At the weekend Prime Minister David Cameron told the BBC that, “…alongside the humanitarian crisis, there is also a political and extremism crisis in Iraq that has a direct effect on us back here in the UK”.  Each and every time Britain has engaged on a humanitarian mission it has led to thousands of refugees seeking refuge in Britain.  Yesterday, Canon Andrew White the somewhat implausibly Anglican Vicar of Baghdad called on Britain to take an initial 20-30,000 ‘Christian’ refugees from Iraq. The same day 35 Afghan Sikhs were rescued from a container at Tilbury docks seeking refuge not in India but Britain.  English society in particular has been progressively destabilised by the arrival of significant numbers of traumatised people from traumatised societies in traumatised regions often with views and beliefs markedly different from the “British values” Prime Minister Cameron claims to champion.  Indeed, the tragic irony of humanitarianism is that not a few of the Islamic State extremists America and Britain are seeking to defeat are so-called hyphen-Britons drawn from communities that settled in Britain as a function of humanitarianism.

Britain and the wider West must not abandon the principles of humanitarianism for it is those principles that defines the civilised West and help to make the world a better place.  At the same time, uncomfortable though it may be particularly for those on the political Left, societies such as Britain must be careful not to risk the very social cohesion that still just about defines them simply to uphold humanitarianism.  Western states like Britain need to escape quickly from the woolly no-end, dead-end no-man's land that humanitarianism has become.  They must also establish a much clearer idea of their interests if they are to preserve their values.

Indeed, until balance is restored between values and interests humanitarianism will continue to retreat and any sense of international community with it.   For all that I pay genuine tribute to the brave aid workers who have given their lives for the sake of humanitarianism, the better world in which they clearly believed and for whom World Humanitarian Day was rightly created.

Julian Lindley-French 

Friday, 15 August 2014

The West Needs an Indirect Approach to the Middle East

Alphen, Netherlands. 15 August. T.E. Lawrence wrote, “In fifty words: granted mobility, security (in the form of denying targets to the enemy, time and doctrine (the idea to convert every subject to friendliness), victory will rest with the insurgents, for the algebraic factors in the end are decisive, and against then perfection of means and spirit struggle quite in vain”. 

Western leaders should heed Lawrence’s words but not in the way they may think.  Seared by failure in Afghanistan and Iraq, paralysed by the situation in both Syria and Ukraine the West has retreated into politics at the expense of considered strategy.  Indeed, having understood that the threats they face from across the great belt of insecurity require a big, long-term strategy it is as though having batted badly in the first inning they have decided to leave the field to the opponent. 

Indeed, uncertain what to do political leaders across the West have retreated into a series of military/humanitarian sound-bites ignoring some catastrophes, focusing on others on the grounds that they can at least do something.  In Britain these days it is not the government that runs British foreign and security policy, but BBC Television News. 

And yet what is happening to Europe’s east and in the Middle East is forced change by opponents with potentially catastrophic consequences for the West.  Indeed, far from being the exception to the twenty-first century rule such conflict is fast becoming one of its defining features. 

British strategist Basil Liddell Hart wrote in the 1930s that, “In Strategy the longest way around is often the shortest way there. A direct approach to the object exhausts the attacker and hardens the resistance by compression, where as an indirect approach loosens the defender's hold by upsetting his balance”.  The Russians in their crafting of a ‘new’ doctrine of ambiguous warfare are in fact simply applying Liddell Hart’s dictum.  The way for the Western leaders to out-manoeuvre Russian ambitions in Eastern Ukraine is also (in fact) relatively simple.  They must up the Russian ante by offering a better future for ALL Ukrainians if they remain Ukrainian.  Make the costs of ambiguity too high for President Putin and he will seek a face-saving solution to extricate himself from bad strategy.

The Middle East is of course more complex, as indeed it always is.  My assertion some time ago that the entire Sykes-Picot state structure is at risk has now become fact.  Indeed, what the Islamists of Islamic State/ISIS have successfully achieved is to create a sense that they are unstoppable.  They have been allowed to get away with this partly because politically-correct Western leaders worried about offending minorities somehow accept that the Western action over the past decade was implicitly a form of colonialism/ imperialism.  They selected the aim and then abandoned it and now want to keep the threat at strategic distance by either appeasing it, ignoring it or both.

And yet what is happening in the Middle East is acutely important. Faced with such circumstances ‘strategy’ should mean a collective ability to see the very big picture of this very big picture conflict.  However, contemporary Western strategically-illiterate political leaders seem unable to do that.  At the very least Western leaders should and must challenge the two assumptions upon which this grand insurgency is established.  Firstly, that the majority of people in the Middle East actually want a Caliphate and the return to medievalism that it entails.  Secondly, that in this struggle between the state and the anti-state the state is somehow a doomed anachronism.

Of course, direct engagement of the Islamists by booted and suited Western troops would give Islamic State/ISIS exactly what they want.  It would be presented as a form of anti-imperialist legitimacy of the kind (not without irony) that Lawrence turned against the Turks during World War One - hence the need for the indirect approach.

The problem with Western leaders is that because they routinely put 'no significant military action too close to an election' politics before strategy they have lost the will, the patience and the statecraft to deal with complexity.  And yet if the West is to re-generate twenty-first century grand strategy - the pursuit of large ends via large means – it is precisely statecraft and a new approach to dealing with complexity that they need.  Indeed, complexity is the very stuff of international relations.

Therefore, the West must generate its own form of ambiguous warfare by turning the insurgency against itself.  This means in the first instance properly supporting groups such as the Kurds who can help stop the advance of Islamic State/ISIS.  Over the medium to long term diplomacy, aid, development and above all consistency will be central to any such strategy with a particular aim of renovating the idea of the legitimate state in the Middle East and helping to ease the many grievances the Islamists exploit.  And, from time to time direct military expeditionary intervention will also be needed and Europeans in particular must pay heed to the need for such military capabilities.

The indirect approach works because as a strategy it implies not just that the ends are political but also the ways and means.  Specifically, that means Americans and Europeans together engaging to find a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict AND actively helping to remove the forces that can only benefit from conflict, such as the Assad regime in Damascus.  At times such a strategy will mean uncomfortable bed-fellows such as Iran; at times it will mean offending this group or that at home.  Above all, ‘strategy’ will mean a truly joined-up, whole of government approach to strategy that is so lamentably lacking from the celebrity politics of the age led by political vision and reinforced by political back-bone.

However, unless the West together helps the people of the region generate a better future in the Middle East no-one else will and given the ensuing vacuum spill-over to Europe and beyond could be catastrophic.  In that light the dropping of aid to ease the plight of the Yazidi people (important though it is) is not a function of a Middle Eastern strategy but rather a mask for the retreat from it. 

The strategy-vacuum at the top of Western governments was put best in an email yesterday from a very senior American friend of mine. “Obama has no-one to do any serious thinking and doesn't seem to know he doesn't have it. It is the great "unknown unknown." And the Europeans are not in the game, not even the Brits, whose government is all talk and no walk”. 

Sadly, need I say more?

Julian Lindley-French

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

NATO: A Welsh Fantasy

Alphen, Netherlands. 12 August.  Wales - the land of Celtic myths, legends and fantasies. W.B. Yeats once wrote, “Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams, Unloose the cord, and they will wrap you round…”  Indulge me.  Pretend for a moment that the NATO Wales Summit in September really mattered.  Pretend for a moment that NATO's political leaders had the vision and the will to really understand the strategic potency of that Welsh ‘moment’.  And, pretend for a moment that for once NATO leaders were prepared to put strategy before politics and prepare NATO for the future rather than the all-too-comforting but dangerously illusory past.  What would my Welsh Fantasy NATO look like?

Fantasy NATO would face the world as it is, not as our leaders would like it to be and take its rightful place at the hard core of a world-wide web of secure democracies.  A strategic force multiplier Fantasy NATO would forge new relationships between members and partners as the West ceases to be a place but is re-born as the winningest idea of the twenty-first century in an age of dangerous hyper-competition.

Fantasy NATO would reflect today’s realities, not yesterday’s with a strategically-serious Europe easing the pressure on failing, flailing America; the world’s only indispensable power hopelessly indispensably present in all the world’s fractious regions.  In Fantasy NATO flexibility and agility would be the mantra of power.  Sometimes coalitions of willing and able members would lead; sometimes coalitions of willing members and even more able partners would lead; and sometimes a Fantasy NATO-supported Fantasy EU would lead. All would be bound together by NATO Standards for the effective doing of effective things effectively.

Fantasy NATO and Fantasy EU would be unjealous of each other in my Welsh fantasy; united in practical partnership.  Fantasy EU would be organised and integrated around Germany and the Eurozone and at last able to manage crises beyond itself not simply within itself.  Britain, the great brake on European integration and Continental Europe’s increasingly desperate search for a twenty-first century balance between sovereignty, strategy, and affordability would be cut free.  Cut free to take its rightful place alongside America, Canada, Australia and others that share its strategic culture and that are prepared to properly share risk and burdens at the point of contact with danger.

In NATO security might be indivisible, but the sharing of burdens is clearly not.  Fantasy NATO would finally face reality and have two new pillars; the New Atlantic pillar and the New European pillar.  Nations would be free to move and indeed choose between the two pillars for they would represent the two very different strategic cultures now enshrined at the heart of the Alliance. Fantasy NATO would also have two very different levels of membership built on the principle of more pay more say.  The New Atlantic pillar would be for the full-on full members, whilst the European pillar for the half-membered and half-hearted.  Whilst the Atlantic Pillar would be a small, exclusive club containing all the ‘two-percenters’, the latter would be a kind of strategic rest home for those who have decided to park themselves on the margins of history – the ‘one percenters’.   

Partnership as much as membership would be the dynamic ethos of Fantasy NATO with new relationships forged between stability partners, strategic partners and members.  To that end, Fantasy NATO would find a natural place in a family of reinvigorated international institutions.  Indeed, Fantasy NATO could act as a brokerage for the effective sub-contracting of legitimate forceful action and the mutual reinforcing of institutions vital to the prevention of extreme state behaviour and states of extremism the world over.

Above all, Fantasy NATO would be a big, global military picture NATO; an Alliance of the strategic mind that would reach across the globe.  It would have a clear, core mission to act as the true world standard for the legitimate generator of democratic force and its effective command, control and interoperability.  

Fantasy NATO would be organised around three strategic commands; Allied Command Operations, Allied Command Transformation (finally free to transform); and Allied Command Knowledge.  All three would be open to Member and Partner alike.  Critically, in Fantasy NATO ‘Transformation’ would act as the transition between knowledge, understanding, influence, deterrence and effect with ‘ACT’ at last equipped to properly scan global horizons freed from the mixed metaphorical shackles of dangerous one-lensed and rose-tinted glasses. 

Knowledge would be aggressive; gained as much by doing as thinking.  At last exercises would test the unknown, the uncertain and the necessary rather than the known, the comfortable and the irrelevant.  With outcomes assessed, lessons-learnt and wisdom shared across this free association of free nations via the rigours of science. 
At Fantasy NATO’s all-important hard military core a true Welsh monster would emerge Phoenix-like at the behest of visionary leaders; a twenty-first century Article 5 collective defence Welsh dragon ready to defend today and tomorrow not yesterday.  Missile defence, cyber defence and advanced deployable force would be hard-merged by knowledge into a fast-flying, fire-breathing, sharp-eyed, sharp-clawed but discerning beast.  “This is the Land of My Fathers” it would snarl.  “So, don’t even think about it”. 

September in Wales should see light break where no Welsh sun shines as Dylan Thomas would have it.  So, will NATO fly in Wales?  Will leaders finally put strategy before politics?  No, for that would be a pure fantasy and for most of them my Fantasy NATO would be far too much reality.

Julian Lindley-French 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Russian Hybrid Warfare: Expect the Unexpected

Alphen, Netherlands. 7 August. On Monday Russia began a major exercise on its Ukrainian border involving over one hundred aircraft designed nominally to improve the ability of the Russian air force to react to events.  The exercise took place as Ukrainian forces advanced on the separatist-held city of Donetsk.  The true purpose of this exercise is clear; to intimidate Kiev into halting its offensive.  On Tuesday Moscow called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to demand a cease-fire in Ukraine and a “humanitarian mission” which Russia would lead.  Yesterday, in a sign of what might be to come, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian troops massing on the Ukraine border to “expect the unexpected”.  In other words, Russian action maybe imminent if Kiev does not agree to a cease-fire that confirms de facto Russian control over significant parts of Eastern Ukraine.  However, what of the future and what does it say about the twenty-first century Russian way of war?

“Expect the unexpected” is as succinct as any a description of hybrid warfare.  Put simply, hybrid warfare is the conduct of military and other operations that involve conventional forces, irregular forces, intelligence, information warfare and cyber warfare to keep an opponent off-balance both politically and militarily.  Such warfare is backed up by a deep knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of an opponent and a willingness and ability to maintain focus on the political objective by being agile and flexible in the face of events.  New Russian thinking emerged in the wake of the 2010 Defence Modernization Programme driven in part by a deep analysis undertaken by Moscow’s Frunze Military Academy of the political top to military bottom conduct of operations undertaken by US and Allied forces over the past twenty-five years.

Today, Russian forces are designed to exploit hybrid warfare.  Indeed, the strong presence of Russian military intelligence (GRU) and Special Forces in ‘support’ of the separatists has seen an adaptation of Western ideas of hybrid warfare into a new, more robust ambiguous warfare.  Russia’s use of ambiguous warfare is the tailored use of force nominally in support of proxies with a particular focus on exploiting the political weaknesses of an opponent.  In this case the ‘weakness’ in question are European politicians in denial about President Putin’s determination to ensure the Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine become Russian.

So-called ‘snap exercises’ have taken place around Russia’s European border in 2014 all of which have been designed to use Russian military force to exploit and consolidate instability created by the use of proxies in large Russian-speaking populations beyond Russia’s borders.  This is by no means the fault of Russian-speaking citizens of other countries but rather in line with President Putin’s 1 July statement to Russian diplomats at which he said that Moscow will ‘protect’ those who regard themselves as Russian, including a new concept of “self-defence” and a specifically Russian interpretation of international law.   

Critically, the elite Special Forces, Intelligence Forces and the heavier but highly mobile new force in the Western Military District are under the direct control of President Putin who keeps them at a very state of readiness to act.  They can be used in a range of ways from providing a base for insurgent operations, acting as a dagger to impose a diplomatic solution Moscow seeks or as a self-sustaining force that can assault an objective or simply move in under the guise of humanitarian relief to secure an objective. 

President Putin would prefer that his political objectives in Eastern Ukraine are achieved with as little bloodshed as possible much like the operation to seize Crimea.  Too much death would exacerbate the consequences Moscow would face.  He also understands that whilst Ukrainian forces maybe advancing in the rural areas around Donetsk they would find it hard to prevail in a street-by-street battle.  Indeed, such a battle would likely turn the city into a grotesque parody of Grozny, the shattered capital of Chechnya levelled by the Russians in the 1990s.

NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Sir Richard Shirreff, who in many ways pioneered NATO’s concept of hybrid warfare, has warned against politicians that “lack muscle memory”, i.e. prefer to avoid the nasty end of politics.  President Putin has correctly understood that one of his greatest strengths is the denial amongst other European leaders about the scope and nature of his ambitions and his determination to use force to prevail if needs be. 

However, there are signs of change.  Russia and Ukraine will now dominate the September NATO Wales Summit.  On 2 August British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen calling for a NATO force that would counter the new Russian force.  This new force would be modelled on the old ACE Mobile Force and would require of all the Allies significant new investment in mobile, high end forces held at high readiness and able to deploy at short notice.  To be effective such a force would need a new high level command structure reinforced by real knowledge about evolving political situations.

The British could take the lead by re-instating the Advanced Research and Assessment Group which I once supported.  ARAG was closed down in 2010 because its strategic analysis proved politically inconvenient for ministers and senior civil servants.  It is precisely the culture now well-established in Europe whereby sound strategy is sacrificed for short-term politics that President Putin has properly understood and nimbly exploited.

Expect the unexpected!

Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Guns of August? Why NATO Needs Strategy not Politics

Alphen, Netherlands. 4 August. How can NATO deter Russia?  One hundred years ago today Britain declared war on Wilhelmine Germany for invading Belgium and breaching Belgian sovereignty guaranteed under the 1839 Treaty of London.  These past few weeks there has been a lot of politically-correct nonsense about the causes of World War One with (as usual) Britain’s BBC at the forefront ably supported by Cambridge professor Christopher Clark and his 2013 book “The Sleepwalkers”.  It was nobody’s fault but everybody’s fault goes the line.

The strategic causes were in fact fairly straightforward even if today they are politically unpalatable.  The war was caused by the aggressive nationalism and revisionism of Wilhelmine Germany reinforced by the paranoia of the Juncker elite about the emerging labour movement in Germany and the social and political change they were demanding.  It was triggered by an opportunistic but failing Austria-Hungary emboldened by its alliance with Berlin and then magnified by the bloc system put in place to ‘balance’ Europe.  Scroll one hundred years on and Wilhelmine Germany sounds a bit like Putin’s Russia. 

Naturally, the way the outbreak of World War One is being covered has nothing to do with history. ‘History’ (as so often) is in fact a metaphor for today and the deep divisions within Europe concerning Russia’s actions in Ukraine and elsewhere.  It would be easy to say (as some leaders are indeed saying) that Europe is now immune to big war.  That is also utter nonsense. What such leaders are really saying is that for them it is unthinkable that major war in Europe could happen.  Think again.  The proponents of such an argument like to point to Russia’s actions in Ukraine as somehow a one-off, an enforced adjustment to boundary ‘mistakes’, a realignment of states with nations. If Ukraine is compensated by Moscow for the loss of Crimea and gas supplies assured by Russia Europeans can again live happily ever after.  That is to ignore President Putin’s long retreat into nationalism and revisionism as an illiberal regime comes under increasing pressure for liberal change. 

Like the causes of World War One the facts of Russian strategy are also strategically-clear but politically unpalatable.  Since the $700 billion 2010 Defence Reform Programme was announced Russia has embarked on a major rearmament effort which now consumes some 20% of all Russian public expenditure.  Russia is also constructing new tactical and strategic nuclear weapons some of which may be in breach of the keystone 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.  In other words, Russia’s actions are those of a state with a clear if misguided strategy rather than a state ‘sleepwalking’ into conflict.

The choice for the rest of Europe is equally clear; deterrence or appeasement?  Or, rather what balance to strike between the two.  Last week a high-level report came out from the European Leadership Network (ELN) written by several former European foreign and defence ministers.  The report warns against escalating the conflict in Ukraine to create a twenty-first century ‘doomsday’ scenario whereby systemic war between adversarial great powers could be inadvertently triggered in Europe as a result of escalation caused by the actions of smaller third parties.  Recognise it?

Now, hard though it may seem to the people of Ukraine 2014 is nothing like the powder-keg Wilhelmine Germany had created at the heart of 1914 Germany.  And yet, some of the strategic principles remain the same.  What action to take?  What does escalation actually mean?  Above all, is an accommodation possible with Moscow and is Moscow in a position to offer compromise given internal pressures? 

Professor Clark would have it that it was the pre-1914 arms race that created the conditions for World War One rather than per se the aggressive politics and militarism of Wilhelmine Germany.  That is to ignore the one dynamic strategy that drove all others.  The situation in Ukraine has been triggered similarly by the aggressive politics and proxy/closet militarism of Putin’s Russia and Moscow’s correct belief that their fellow Europeans are now so weak and divided that they can do very little to stop Russia.  Even the much-heralded enhanced sanctions agreed by the EU last week have so many loopholes in them that Russia is already driving the latest T90S tank through them.

Therefore, in such circumstances it is vital that European leaders do not confuse legitimate circumspection with appeasement.  Indeed, de-escalation before escalation looks awfully-like surrender, i.e. the abandonment of any real determination to demonstrate to Moscow that rapacious land-grabs that herald a shift in the European balance of power will be resisted.  First European leaders need to understand and then critically agree why Russia is doing this.

The reasons for Moscow's actions are again strategically clear but politically unpalatable.  Driven by a deep sense of nationalism allied to manufactured grievance over EU and NATO enlargement the Kremlin believes that unless it changes the orientation of states on its borders by extending its sphere of influence Moscow will be cast to the margins of influence.  The method is the use of actual and implied military intimidation to force Eastern European states to look not just to the West but again East.  Few if any of these states want to do this beyond being good neighbours of Russia.

Therefore, facing clear strategic but unpalatable political truths is again the real challenge facing Europe’s leaders.  Are they up to it? Right now Europe is again dealing with fundamental issues of power and principle, war and peace even though some leaders would rather not admit it,  whilst some are even unable to recognise it.  Rather, they seek solace in a new kind of appeasement; that somehow Russia can be bought off.  This is particularly the case in Berlin which still carries the yoke of the legacy of both Wilhelmine and Hitlerian Germany even though neither has much if anything in common with modern Germany.

The problem is that history in Europe today warps politics and undermines strategy.  Appeasement prior to World War Two failed to prevent war just as much as Professor Clark would claim that pre-World War One arms races caused war.  Today’s Europe is somehow lost wandering between the two and both strategy and politics reflect that.  However, war is not prevented by simply refusing to prepare for war.  Tough though that may sound to western European leaders many of my Russian colleagues would totally understand that.

A March 2014 spat between Britain’s then former Defence Secretary (now Foreign Secretary) Philip Hammond and NATO’s then Deputy Supreme Allied Commander (DSACEUR) British General Sir Richard Shirreff highlighted the dangerous division in Europe between the strategic class and the political class.  Now, I must declare an interest at this point.  I was a contemporary of Hammond’s at University College, Oxford and although I would not claim to know him (few would) there is a protocol between Old Members of my Oxford College.  Equally, I used to support Richard Shirreff and he is a friend.  So, I will be ruthless in my analysis.

Hammond threatened Shirreff with disciplinary action because the latter had suggested that Russia’s actions in Ukraine were a “paradigm shift” and that NATO was not up to the task of defending Alliance members against Russia.  His statement simply reflected a classified assessment by NATO of NATO that Hammond found politically inconvenient.  Last week the House of Commons Defence Select Committee in a new report effectively agreed with Shirreff saying that “…events in Ukraine seem to have taken the UK government by surprise”. 

On Saturday Prime Minister Cameron wrote to all other NATO members urging them to “…make clear to Russia that neither NATO nor its members will be intimidated” and hinted at possible increases to the British budget.  He also called for a strengthened NATO Response Force (a real NRF would help) and a reassessment of relations with Russia.

On the face of it Cameron is doing what all good leaders should do in light of changed circumstances; adapting. By contrast Hammond’s tetchy response to Shirreff in March demonstrated a refusal to adapt precisely because if properly understood Russia’s action would get in the way of his policy priority – cutting the British defence budget.  To be fair to Hammond fixing the British economy was London’s strategic priority when he came to office.  Equally, Hammond had to sort out the notoriously incompetent British defence procurement process and committed Britain to a £160bn military equipment budget. 

However, implicit in Hammond’s public put-down of Shirreff was a refusal to reconsider strategy in light of changed events precisely because it might interfere with political dogma.  Shirreff told me recently that NATO was unable at present to fulfil its collective defence mission.  Today, there are very real questions as to whether the Alliance could even fulfil its deterrence mission.  Not only have NATO’s conventional military capabilities become hollowed-out to the point of irrelevance the de facto decoupling of the US from European defence is now fact. 

All of this points to a loss of strategic judgement for the sake of political expediency.  Indeed, over the weekend Sir Richard said to me that his experience had “…been an interesting case where the duty of strategy-makers to speak truth unto power conflicts with political expediency!”  On the one hand, there will be those in the Clark school of thinking that will point to the argument of General Moltke and the 1914 German General Staff who believed that unless they attacked very quickly the forces ranged against Germany would become stronger possibly irresistible.  In other words 1914 was the moment to act.  This is a little like Israel’s argument for acting against it sworn enemy Hamas in Gaza.  With only Qatar left able to offer Hamas support there is no ‘better’ time for Israel to act than now.  On the other hand, for Europeans collectively to do effectively nothing either to counter Russia’s illegal actions or to respond to Russia’s arms build-up would look dangerously like appeasement, especially to those driving policy in the Kremlin.

So, what to do?  For once Britain does matter precisely because Britain is a European power (even if my country might soon fall apart).  At the September NATO Summit in Wales Prime Minister Cameron must demonstrate that he is playing strategy not politics.  He must back the words of his letter of this weekend with action and lead by example.  In addition to the committing of 1300 British troops to more robust and realistic NATO exercises, Cameron must also commit Britain to the 2% GDP NATO baseline on defence expenditure for at least the next decade.  He must also confirm that because of Russia’s actions British troops will be stationed in Eastern Europe.  And, because of the major investment underway in the Russian Navy (with the assistance of France) Cameron must confirm that the second British super-carrier HMS Prince of Wales will join the fleet as planned.  Then Moscow might sit up and take notice that at least one European power is preparing to counter the high-end military force President Putin seems determined to construct.

Something else must be done in Wales– a new high-level dialogue with Russia must be started.  The ELN report said that crisis management lessons from the Cold War needed to be re learnt.   However, the report actually missed perhaps the Cold War’s key lesson; a constructive and essential dialogue with an aggressive state can only be realised from a position of strength.  The INF Treaty was realised in 1987 because many political leaders had resisted popular panic to deploy nuclear forces to Europe.  At the same time they opened the so-called “Dual-Track” negotiations with Moscow that led to the Treaty and eventually helped end the Cold War.  Dual-Track at one and the same demonstrated a will to deter in parallel with openness to talk.  It is precisely those qualities which are needed now if the Allies are to convince President Putin that the costs of his strategy will far outweigh any possible benefits Moscow’s expansionist/militarist lobby are claiming for it right now.

That is how wars have been prevented in the past and there is nothing to suggest that today’s Europe is that much different from August 1914 Europe.  To put it another way, do Europe’s leaders have the political courage to face an unpalatable and potentially uncomfortable strategic reality or has political correctness so infected the chancelleries of Europe that self-delusion is now the order of the day.  God help us all if it is the latter.

NATO needs strategy if it is to avoid sleepwalking into another European disaster because strategy implies reasoned judgement which in turn is the foundation of policy.  The need for judgement is above all else THE lesson from August 4, 1914.

Therefore, one hundred years on from the outbreak of World War One the aim of NATO must not be to fight Russia but to deter it.  For deterrence to work will, capability and above all unity of effort and purpose of all the Allies is and will be vital. 

The Guns of August? NATO Needs Strategy not Politics.

Julian Lindley-French

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Australia: Guardian of the West

Alphen, Netherlands. 31 July.  Australia is living proof that a West still exists and that its beating heart lies not in the tangled nonsense of failing Americans and pathetic Europeans but deep Down Under.

Two old friends took me to task this week.  My immediate reaction to both honoured the great Yorkshire tradition of tolerance known colloquially as “bugger off”.  I come from the ‘Sir’ Geoffrey Boycott (Yorkshire God) school of international relations.  Normally, my reaction to such over-pitched deliveries is either to avoid the corridor of uncertainty and take my bat away or to play the ball straight back past the bowler for four.  However upon reflection, which is about as rare to those of us born to the White Rose as a sighting of the sun, I decided my friends may both have a point.

In an influential piece an old American friend Stan Sloan posed the question, “Does the ‘West’ Exist?”  Stan felt I should have been addressing this issue more directly. Another good friend, Captain Simon Reay Atkinson of the Royal Australian Navy took me to task for not having given Australia its rightful due in my piece “Dignified Dutch, Revisionist Russia”. 

Anyone who watched Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans brilliant verbal requiem to the MH 17 dead at the UN Security Council will have been deeply moved.  Yet, few in the old, creaking, strategically pretentious West will have witnessed the equally moving testament of Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.  At Eindhoven Airport last week a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster stood on the tarmac next to a Dutch Air Force Hercules to return the fallen of MH 17 to the Netherlands.  In Ukraine the strong presence of Australian officials demonstrates the very real lead Prime Minister Tony Abbott has taken to return MH 17 bodies to loved one and to find the criminals who committed the crime.

Britain is a prime example of the heart disease from which the old West suffers.  London is now so lost up its own rear end in a form of strategic political correctness that it is scared to say “boo to a goose”, as we say in Yorkshire.  Worried that any act may offend some uppity minority, or that any decision might contravene increasingly tyrannical EU ‘law’ Little Britain now hovers been irrelevance and break-up.  For a patriotic Englishman the failure of Britain’s political elite to protect British interests is deeply depressing.   

Contrast that with Australia.  It took the lead over the search for MH 370 just as it has taken the lead over MH 17.  Far from retreating behind empty rhetoric in the wake of the failed Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns Australia instead conducted a proper strategic analysis of its strategy and defence needs.  Indeed, it is perhaps the one Western country that is led by a prime minister who actually seems to understand strategy and power.  As a kid Abbott was an avid follower of Jane’s Fighting Ships at a time when the Royal Navy filled more than one at best two of its pages.

Australia is investing in a future force that will reinforce the clout Australia is steadily developing in international fora.  This reinforces something that Britain and the rest of Europe too often seems to have forgotten and which Stan’s great piece identifies; the defence of freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not achieved with rhetoric or yet another pointless, self-paralyzing and self-defeating (literally) Brussels EU meeting.  It is achieved by determination, investment, effort, cohesion and a proper sense of strategy.

Currently the Commonwealth Games are taking place in Glasgow.  Fifty-seven states, nations and territories from across the world are competing in an event that on the face of it seems an anachronism of British Empire.  In fact the Commonwealth is a free association of free states and peoples that grew out of the Empire but which today has nothing to do with it.  Instead, the Commonwealth is the new West, part of a world-wide web of democracies which Australia is helping to lead. 

Today’s Commonwealth says something else about the West.  It is far more effective when it is organised in loose confederations of aligned interest than the one-size-fits-all straitjacket that is the failing EU. 

Stan Sloan says in his piece that the relationship between liberal democratic values and free markets that has come to define the West is also its essential weakness because it sometimes forces states to compromise the former in favour of the latter – Russian gas.  Stan, here I beg to differ.  Australia demonstrates that the mix of the two is still a potent force so long as a state retains sufficient national sovereignty to feel comfortable and self-confident about the choices its makes and its ability to make informed choices.  In other words the West is essentially about balance and it is that which Europeans in particular have abandoned and which has been so badly exposed by MH 17.   

Why is Australia guardian of the West?  Because Australia like the Commonwealth of which it is a vital part proves the West is an idea not a place and that for its values to survive it must be invested in.  Given Australia’s place in Asia-Pacific it cannot afford to delude itself about security, strategy or interests. 

 Australia: Guardian of the West.  Good on yer mate!

Julian Lindley-French