hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Brexit from Poland

Warsaw, Poland. 29 June. It has been an interesting couple of days. My reason for coming here on the eve of the NATO Warsaw Summit was to present my new paper, NATO: The Enduring Alliance 2016 for the German Polish Co-operation Foundation. However, the 65 million person elephant in the room for much of the debate was of course Brexit. Part of me wondered what kind of reception I would get. After all, in the past I called for Britain to leave the EU, I predicted Brexit, before I decided after talking to a lot of people, and in the wake of the Paris attacks, that on balance Britain should remain. My concerns were misplaced. Poland of all countries understands the difficulty of balancing patriotism, interdependence, and membership of an institution a significant part of which would like to replace the democratic state with an oligarchic super-state.

What I found instead this morning at the Sjem, Poland’s parliament, when speaking to senior parliamentarians, was a respect for the democratic decision of the British people. What I also found was Polish pragmatism. Poland deeply regrets Brexit. However, there was absolutely no sense that the British people should somehow be punished for having the temerity to have expressed a majority opinion on a matter of fundamental import to them. Rather, there was a genuine commitment to forge a new relationship for Britain with the EU, and to confirm Britain’s existing relationships with friends and allies on the Continent. The terrible events in Istanbul last night served as a stark reminder of the dangers we all face and must all face together.

Encouragingly it was also an opinion of hope and goodwill expressed by Ambassador Rolf Nikel, Germany’s envoy to Poland, at a delightful reception held last night at the German Embassy. Indeed, the only humiliation to which I was subjected concerned the tactical withdrawal from the European football championships by England following their defeat by mighty Iceland. Don’t worry.  I immediately countered by enquiring as to the state of Berlin’s new airport!  

Poland is committed to keep the British fully engaged in the security and defence of Europe. They are right. To that end the forthcoming NATO Warsaw Summit must to some extent be a Brexit summit. Indeed, it will be a chance for London to remind it allies and partners that Britain remains a power and is utterly committed to the security and defence of Europe. There is one caveat. David Cameron and George Osborne are talking of more cuts to public expenditure in light of Brexit. It would certainly be a mistake to cut the British defence budget any further. It would also be advisable to re-invest in Britain’s diplomatic machine as London will need all the tools of influence at its disposal in the coming years.     

So, Poland need not worry…too much. However, Poland’s help would be much appreciated, recognising Warsaw faces its own political challenges at present. Forget all the pre-negotiation posturing. As France and Germany have proven in the past it is amazing how flexible European ‘principles’ are when it comes to power. A post-Brexit deal is possible. That was also the view of my Polish counterparts.

Which brings me to Scotland. If European partners such as Poland want to find a solution with and for the UK to the mutual benefit of all they must be careful how they respond to the political manoeuvrings of the Scottish Nationalist Party leader, Nicola Sturgeon. Her political mission is and always has been to destroy the UK. The Scots had a referendum in September 2014 which saw a decisive 55%-45% rejection of Scottish independence. Above all, Sturgeon legitimised the UK-wide Brexit referendum as a UK-wide referendum by campaigning in it, and by campaigning outside of Scotland for the Remain side. She can hardly cry foul simply because she lost a vote that she legitimised. She might have had a case if she had ordered the SNP to abstain on the grounds that such a referendum had not been formally endorsed by the Scottish Parliament. She did not. Therefore, countries like Poland have a choice to make; London or Edinburgh.

What struck me most about this visit is the deep and enduring human relationship between Britain and Poland. What rightly matters to Poles is the proper and respectful treatment of the up to one million Poles now living in mainly England. However, if Poland really wants to help a friend at this difficult time it could do so by recognising that it was the sheer scale and pace of inward migration that drove much of the Brexit vote. It was also the refusal of fellow Europeans to heed warnings about this.

Britain will not get access to the single market unless it upholds the principle of free movement. A huge swathe of British people will not accept a new deal with the EU unless and until some degree of pragmatic management of immigration is in place. Absolutism on either side right now will simply entrench already entrenched positions. It would be better for all of us to properly explore the possible, not retreat behind the barricades of the impossible.

So, the message from Warsaw?  Let’s all calm down, those trying to stir the pot cease and desist, and those responsible for moving us all forward…get a grip!  There will be a solution but together we must fashion it.

Julian Lindley-French    

Monday, 27 June 2016

Causes of Brexit

Warsaw, Poland. 27 June. The causes of Brexit that I have heard thus far are as follows:

The politics of austerity, the collapse of the Labour Party and the loss of the white working and not-so-working class, splits in the Conservative Party, Tory grandees, David Cameron’s political gambling, David Cameron’s ‘deal’ to the keep Britain in an unreformed EU, English political culture, the erosion by the EU of national democracy and sovereignty, popular demands for ever more devolution, elite demands for ever more centralisation, the Euro, the growing gap between the Eurozone and the non-Eurozone, the 1991 Treaty of Maastricht and the UK opt-outs, the marginalisation by France and Germany of the UK within the EU, immigration and the refusal of the political elite in London and Brussels to address popular concerns over many years, the sheer pace and scale of immigration, failure to prepare sufficient housing, schools and public services to cope with mass immigration, refusal of Brussels to be flexible, the failure to make the case for immigration, Commonwealth immigrants who did not like a perceived bias in favour of migration from the EU, Jean-Claude Juncker, the 1973 lie that ‘Europe’ was only a common market, the 1957 Treaty of Rome, a nostalgic view of English and Welsh history, a lot of Westminster politicians, some Whitehall bureaucrats, the Establishment in general (both British and EU) which many in England just wanted to give a good kicking to, the collapse of political integrity spectacularly revealed by both the Leave and Remain campaigns, Martin Schulze, Tony Blair, George Osborne, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Corbyn, protectionism, the European Commission and interfering Eurocrats, the European Parliament and its lack of political legitimacy, Iraq, Afghanistan, President Obama, globalisation, blaming globalisation, the British media, de-industrialisation, patriotism, fat cat employers, multinational corporations, the European Court of Justice and the dictatorship of legalism, the European Court of Human Right, because it got confused with the European Court of Justice, ignorance, bigotry and downright prejudice, and from a personal point of view the Eurovision bloody song contest, Sheffield Wednesday which I blame for everything, and me because I predicted it!

As for who voted for what and for what reasons please take your pick. However, be careful. The latest I have heard from our Dear Leaders today is a) that the referendum should be re-run so that the peasants can this time get the answer right; b) the referendum should be re-run because it upset Martin Schulze who injured his fist banging a table; c) the referendum should be re-run because the peasantry were so stupid that they ticked the ‘leave’ box when they meant to tick the ‘an awful lot more Brussels’ box, d) the referendum should be ignored by Parliament because Britain has a representative democracy even if it is not very representative; and e) the EU would like the British to pretend the referendum never actually happened at all.

Happy days…not!

Julian Lindley-French   

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Brexit: Some Personal Reflections

Alphen, Netherlands. 25 June. It is 30 hours or so since Britain’s historic decision to leave the EU and the fallout and backlash is just beginning. What do I feel now about Brexit? Over those hours I have been saddened but little shocked by the vitriol sent my way. One email even suggested that Britain has become an enemy of Europe, whatever that means. Emails have been refused, and one good friendship lost, which I regret. But don’t worry, I can take it. After all, I am cut from the same Yorkshire oak as the many of the people that drove this decision, and I have always taken responsibility for my writings.

I am an analyst and my job is to analyse. Back in 2010 I did believe Britain should leave the EU. Britain was mired in a massive banking crisis, and the Eurozone was mired in a massive debt crisis. The Eurozone faced a choice; integrate or collapse. Britain did not face such a choice.

Back then it was clear to my mind that the only way for the Eurozone to resolve the crisis, and indeed make the Euro work was a deepening of European political and monetary union, including a banking union. Eurozone leaders still face that choice, they just haven’t taken it. And so the Eurozone crisis bubbles away below a thin crust of apparent political stability ready to explode at any moment. Given that Britain was never going to part of deeper political integration my on balance sense was that back then Britain should leave the EU.

What has I admit irritated me throughout this entire intervening period is the extent to which some senior Americans have treated my country as a strategic public convenience; Britain and the British people as mere instrument of American grand strategy. In so doing they have denied that Britain is a living, breathing democracy with its own issues, and its own tensions, its own interests, and its own political identity. The Obama administration has routinely dismissed British concerns about the direction of travel of the EU as some kind of post-Imperial psychosis rather than seen such concerns for what they are; a complex reflection of the same distrust of distant power that drove their own revolution back in 1776, and about which Americans are so proud. Indeed, far from backing British calls for EU reform the Obama Administration tried to force Britain into into simply accepting a status quo that was never sustainable over the longer term. Still, one can hardly blame the Americans for that Little Britain view of Britain. Too many needy British leaders have convinced American leaders to think of Britain as little more than an American strategic public convenience.

Several events led me to shift my position on the EU. The outbreak of the Syrian war and the emergence of ISIS began to change the strategic environment in which Britain and Europe reside, and threatened the collapse of states across the Middle East and North Africa. In 2014 Russia seized Crimea and began the long dissection of Ukraine which continues to this day. Moscow also began to threaten and intimidate Central, Eastern and Northern Europe. Huge flows of desperate people forced their way into Europe and compounded the many problems faced by countries in southern Europe. In November 2015 ISIS terrorists attacked Paris and then Brussels. Whilst I retained some sympathy for the frustrations many feel in Britain about the EU. and the way it is run, in such circumstances I could not countenance Britain leaving the EU.
There will be some Americans who will also blame Brexit for the weakening of NATO. OK, I will admit that there can be no EU Common Security and Defence Policy worthy of the name without Britain. But then, there never was going to be a truly ‘C’ CSDP with Britain because to make the ‘C’ word mean something a European government would be required. How many of you out there really want a European government? Your call.

As for NATO it is not Britain that has weakened the Alliance. After all, under NATO rules the British are one of of only four Allies who actually meet the target of 2% GDP to be spent on defence with 20% on new equipment. If there is any one factor that has prevented so many Allies meeting what should be a minimum commitment to the Alliance it is the Eurozone rule that prevents a state ratcheting up a budget deficit of more than 3% GDP, even at a time of crisis.  Don’t blame Britain for that.
Next week President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel will hold one of their directoire meetings to discuss the post-Brexit EU. Years ago I called for a trirectoire and the inclusion of British prime ministers in such meetings. After all, Britain is Europe’s second biggest economy and strongest military power. That call was rejected. It has always seemed to me one of the EU’s many contradictions how European ‘integration’ has always been defined by two major powers and their national interests in the name of ‘Europe’.

Here’s the irony. At that meeting Merkel and Hollande will call for a more flexible Europe. They will not agree on much else. Had they done that even a few days ago they may have swung enough undecided British voters (you know the people who are meant to matter, but to much of the elite do not) to back Remain.

Brexit also marks a moment of opportunity. With Britain about to leave the EU we will see just how enthusiastic those Europeans (and Americans) who have long blamed Britain for blocking ‘progress’ really are for some form of United States of Europe. This is your moment, guys. No longer can you Euro-federalists blame us British for blocking your glorious Project Europe. I suspect, however, we will soon discover just how many of you do not actually want ever closer political union.

Brexit was long in the making, but too many refused to see it coming. Read my blogs and other writings and I warned people that Brexit could happen because for years Britain and the Real EU, the Eurozone, have been drifting apart. Brexit has now formalised what for a long time has been an observable fact on the ground. Indeed, those that argued that by remaining in the EU Britain would be upholding the status quo were talking as much rubbish as those that argued leaving would mark the start of a new Elizabethan age for Britain, or more accurately England. The EU was never going to, nor could it ever, remain where it is today; trapped between debt, integration, and impotence.

So, we all have a choice to make right now. If the blame game of the past 24 hours gathers pace then Brexit will indeed weaken Europe, Britain and the West and there will be no winners at all. If, however, common sense prevails and a period of calm reflection is then followed by sober considerations of how best to proceed mutually beneficial outcomes can be crafted and at least some positives will come out of this mess. The next two and a half years would then be about the nature of Britain’s future relationship with a future EU. Good sense would ensure such a relationship works for all – Britons (even Scots), other Europeans, and even Americans.

As for Britain as enemy, really? There are plenty of those elsewhere. So, keep calm and carry on talking.

Julian Lindley-French        

Friday, 24 June 2016

Brexit: For Better or Worse, For Good and Ill

“Oh what tangled webs we weave when at first we seek to deceive”.

Alphen, Netherlands. 24 June. Why did Brexit happen?  Peering through the grey drape of fatigue in which I am cloaked having spent the night watching history being made (or is that unmade) the decision the British people have taken last night is quite simply momentous. To be honest I felt something like this might happen the moment I saw people in a working men’s club in my native Yorkshire declare for leave to a man and woman. I know these people. Part of me is hewn from their stock. This was the English, and I stress the English, at their stubborn best and bloody-minded worst. An Agincourt-beckoning two fingers (the English don’t do one finger) to distant Establishments from people who have for too long felt ignored, bypassed, and don’t give a damn who tells them what they must do however exalted.  

It would be easy to blame a lot of people for Britain’s decision. And yes there are many who should be looking hard at themselves this morning. French and German leaders who for years excluded Britain from the leadership of the several European projects always implicit in what eventually became the EU. A Brussels Establishment impervious to all and any argument that did not fit into their ‘one size fits all’ idea of ever closer political union.  A kommentariat of which I am in some ways a minor part who simply could not believe the peasants would ever revolt.

In reality none of the above were really the cause of Brexit. Britain’s departure began the day Britain joined the then European Economic Community back in 1973. Ticking away deep in the heart of Britain’s accession was a political time-bomb with a delayed fuse that last night exploded. To convince the British people to accept a new idea of ‘sovereignty’ then Prime Minister Edward Heath and his ministers simply lied. They knew that the EEC was far more than a ‘common market’. Indeed, one had only to read the preamble of the 1957 Treaty of Rome to realise that Britain was joining a political project.

As the ambition of that project grew over the years stepping, sometimes stumbling, forward from treaty to treaty successive British leaders wriggled and struggled to maintain that original lie. An opt-out here, a special ‘deal’ there, all to defend a political space that over years steadily shrank. Finally, the idea that Britain could be in the EU but outside the European Project could no longer be hidden and began to look like the absurdity it was. In the end the original lie came to be seen even by some members of the British Establishment, as an original political sin.

The problem with the lie was that it eroded one vital conversation and replaced it with another. Since at least the English civil war British democracy has been established on what Abraham Lincoln would describe in his magisterial Gettysburg Address as government of the people, for the people, by the people. However, as British politicians danced ever more clumsily on the head of a hot political pin to maintain the original lie the conversation with the British people itself became a lie.

Rather, for the British Establishment the traditional conversation between power and people was replaced by a more ‘important ‘conversation with Brussels and the leaders of other EU member-states. And, as the gulf in importance between the two conversations became ever wider it become ever clearer the European elite conversation was far more important than the British political conversation. Worse, too much of that elite conversation took place behind closed doors in a secrecy-obsessed Brussels. This exacerbated a gnawing, growing sense in the political instincts of millions that Europe was not for the people but against the people.  That democracy was being eroded with the Mother of Parliaments reduced to little more than a political reality show.

The die is now cast. My arguments against Brexit have been confounded. This is a moment for calm reflection. Given the dangerous world into which Britain and states and peoples that this morning remain friends and allies are moving, it is vital a new relationship between a post-Brexit Britain and the EU is quickly established. The British people cannot be punished for democracy. Britain must also sail towards new horizons with countries with which it shares old visions.

The bottom line is that with respect Britain is not Norway or Switzerland. Britain is a major power, the world’s fifth biggest economy and fourth biggest defence spender. Turbulence is of course inevitable. However, it is surely in the interest of all Europeans and indeed the world-wide West to re-embed Britain in new relationships, not least with what will soon inevitably be a new Europe. The British people have exercised their democratic right. Other Europeans will exercise their own right as they see it. That, after all, is why Britain fought and helped win two world wars this century past. Britain has not suddenly become an ‘enemy’. There are plenty of those elsewhere.
That Agincourt-beckoning two fingers has in the past saved Europe from slavery. It maybe that last night the English helped break the Europe that could not have been built without Britain. I hope not. But, for better or worse, for good and ill Brexit is now fact and I am very, very tired, and very, very sad. And, I now need some sleep. As clearly does David Cameron for he has just resigned.

Julian Lindley-French 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Russia: The Italian Job

“I am a fool with a heart but no brains, and you are a fool with brains but no heart; and we’re both unhappy and we both suffer”.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot

Alphen, Netherlands. 20 June. It seemed, I suppose, fitting. In a speech to President Putin at the St Petersburg Economic Forum Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi reminded the Russian President that Dostoyevsky had written The Idiot in Florence. Who is playing the idiot now? Certainly not President Putin. As Renzi announced deals in St Petersburg with Russia worth some €1.3bn it was as though Russia had done little to concern anyone of late; the illegal annexation of Crimea, the forced detachment of much of eastern and south-eastern Ukraine, the downing of MH17 by an anti-aircraft missile from a missile battery belonging to the Kursk-based 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, the treaty-busting stationing of treaty-illegal nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad, and the almost daily illegal incursions by the Russian Air Force into the air space of Baltic and Nordic EU and NATO members.

In a breathtaking act of political insincerity Renzi danced on the head of a legalistic pin to justify the deals. The deals were not technically in breach of EU sanctions, he said, because they cover infrastructure and energy. And yet everyone in St Petersburg with half a brain knew exactly what Renzi was doing. The only ‘strategic’ matter of import to him is that on his watch in 2015 the Italian budget deficit ballooned to a record (even by Italian standards) 132.7% of GDP. Italy is broke, the Italian debt crisis will soon break, and Renzi will do whatever deal he can, with whoever he can, to delay what is now the inevitable.

President Putin understands all of the above, precisely because President Putin understands power…and weakness.  He certainly understands the strategic implications of his Italian Job which is why he is pushing it. Moreover, the deal could not have been announced at a worse time for NATO, something which is not lost on Moscow. With the July NATO Warsaw Summit beckoning the Italians have at the stroke of a misplaced pen revealed there is little or no strategic unity of purpose in the Alliance.  To Rome the Russians can intimidate Eastern European allies all they like just so long as Italy can get down and do a dirty deal with Moscow.

Consequences? Putin has brought a political cleaver down right through the middle of NATO and prized open an existing cleavage. There will be much empty rhetoric at the Warsaw Summit about NATO’s so-called 360 degree adaptation; that through political solidarity and the efficient use of Allied forces credible deterrence will be afforded the Eastern Allies against Russia, and a credible defence mounted in the south against ISIS. Many words, little meaning, even fewer forces.

Rather, Renzi has demonstrated there are two NATOs. One NATO defends Eastern Europe against Russian aggression, about which Italy cares little. The other NATO helps defend against ISIS and threats from the south to Italy, of which after the Renzi deal Eastern Europeans will also care little.
Renzi has also revealed the essential and dangerous contradiction, dare I say lie that is European defence. Europeans are all too happy to defend their own bit of Europe, but not each other. After all, is not defending Europe what the American taxpayer is for?

If the St Petersburg kow-tow to Putin was Renzi alone then maybe the damage to Alliance and EU strategic unity of effort and purpose could have been contained. However, just when one thought it was safe to go out up pops ‘President’ Juncker to imply that EU sanctions on Russia might soon be lifted. You can always count on good-old Jean-Claude, the former prime minister of superpower Luxembourg, to put his political foot in his strategic mouth. Worse, German Foreign Minister Franz-Walter Steinmeier even suggested that by undertaking Exercise Anaconda in Eastern Europe NATO was “warmongering”. This is the stuff of Monty Python, the political equivalent of being forced to apologise to a bully for striking one in the face. "Run away!"

By the way, you might like to know Herr Steinmeier that since 2014 Russia has conducted twelve major snap exercises all of which have been designed to intimidate Eastern European allies and partners from Tallinn to Warsaw. Moreover, your government agreed to Allied exercises at the 2014 NATO Warsaw Summit as a necessary demonstration of Alliance solidarity and strategic reassurance. There are also some 120,000 Russia troops if not threatening the Baltic States, at least implying a threat. They are all peacekeepers of course.

Statecraft 101: it is enough to make this seasoned strategist weep. Juncker, Renzi and Steinmeyer all share a desperate desire to promote dialogue with Putin by sacrificing strategy to short-term politics, and security for trade, in the hope that trade can provide security.

Dialogue with President Putin is needed but must only take place as part of considered statecraft and from a position of strength. Such dialogue begins first with confidence-building measures being undertaken by both sides. Kind words are then matched with good deeds, and then built-up over time to a moment when both sides deem a formal codification of bona fides to be appropriate.

Instead, Prime Minister Renzi has sold Italy, the EU and NATO down the Tiber, Juncker seems to have forgotten not just the threat to EU citizens Russia continues to pose, but how many died due to Russian military incompetence, whereas Steinmeier clearly does not understand statecraft. We British remember a word for that from our own history; appeasement.

President Putin says Russia demands respect. Why would he want respect from European leaders who repeatedly and consistently demonstrate that they fail to understand power, statecraft, and the considered application of both?

Who indeed is the real idiot now?

Julian Lindley-French      

Thursday, 16 June 2016

ICC: Between Power, Precept, and Impunity

“To this war of every man against every man, this also in consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law, where no law, no injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the cardinal virtues.”
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

Alphen, Netherlands. 16 June. Much of the past week I have spent reading the copious amounts of literature kindly furnished me by Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaud of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. It was my distinct honour to be the guest of the Judge last week on a visit to the futuristic court building. It was fascinating, although I was somewhat thwarted in my desire to witness the ICC in action by the two trials in process both hearing closed evidence. My talents such as they are concern geopolitics and power politics, not law. However, driving away from the ICC I could not but help think that the ICC is in fact at the very cutting edge of geopolitics. Indeed, it is a noble effort to instil some level of principle into power, and in so doing prevent the inevitable impunity of Realpolitik.

The facts. The ICC has a clear political role by overtly linking the serving of justice to the pursuit of peace within the broad framework of the United Nations. The ICC tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes: genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. In 2010 the founding Rome Statute was amended to include aggression as a crime. However, for these amendments to become international law they must be ratified by at least thirty states, which is as yet not the case. The Court applies a form of international criminal justice that is an amalgam of common law and the civil code.

On 17 July, 1998 one hundred and twenty states ratified the Rome Statute.  On 1 July, 2002 the Statute took effect when sixty states formally ratified the document. There are eighteen appointed judges, served by some eight hundred staff from over one hundred countries, with a 2016 budget of €139.5 million. In other words, by the standards of international institutions the ICC is a small organisation.

There are six official languages, but the two working languages are English and French. Thus far twenty-three cases have been before the court and twenty-nine arrest warrants have been issued against twenty-seven suspects. Eight people have been detained in the ICC detention centre, thirteen suspects remain at large, whilst three cases have been dropped due to the deaths the suspects. In addition to the futuristic court building in The Hague the ICC also has six field offices in Kinshasa and Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kampala in Uganda, Bangui in the Central African Republic, Nairobi in Kenya, and Abidjan in the Ivory Coast.  

My judgement? In theory the ICC is a vital step on the road to a world in which impunity is accepted as unacceptable. However, look at the number of cases and from where most of them come, and then look at which states have not as yet ratified the Rome Statute, or not even signed it. The majority of defendants come from Sub-Saharan African states. On first appearance some might suggest the ICC functions as an instrument of latter-day imperialism. That is not the case. Quite simply, not a few leaders of African states have accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC simply to remove political opponents.   Still, too many of the defendants are black Africans.

Now, look at which states have not acceded to the Statute or refused to ratify it, of which there are some seventy-three. The list includes China, India, Russia, North Korea…and the United States. The US claims to have concerns about how the ICC might affect its deployed armed forces. However, American political objections run deeper; for Washington international institutions such as the ICC have always been for ‘lesser’ states, i.e. everyone else. China and Russia, and to a lesser extent India, seem to regard the ICC as counter to a world view that can at best be described as twenty-first century Machtpolitik. North Korea? No comment. Even Britain and France, two of the main sponsors of the ICC on the United Nations Security Council, and two of the architects of an institutional community concept of international relations (Brexit???) keep their distance.     

In a sense the ICC is one of those strategic bell-weathers, the fate of which indicates the health or otherwise of the global order. If the ICC prospers and is adopted and accepted over time by all powers then it would indeed suggest a world order embedded in functioning institutions and established on shared and universal principles of conduct and precept. If the ICC fails, and it could, the world will look much like it did to Thucydides in the fifth century BC, "We hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Lacedaemonians, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

My thanks again to Judge Perrin de Brichambaut and I very much hope I can return to the ICC to see and this time hear the Court in action.

Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 13 June 2016

Four Steps Back to European Military Credibility

“Armed conflict is a human condition, and I do not doubt we will continue to reinvent it from generation to generation.”
General Sir Rupert Smith

Alphen, Netherlands. 13 June. How can Europe restore military credibility? Three events this past week have led me to consider what makes armed forces credible? The first was a brilliant (of course) intervention of mine in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf in which I again pointed out why what the Dutch government claims is a modest increase in the Dutch defence budget is in fact not. The second, and not unrelated event, was a visit by the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to the Netherlands during which he politely pleaded with Dutch Prime Minister Rutte to increase their defence spending. The third, and most glitzy of all the events, was London’s impressive Trooping the Colour this past weekend to mark the official birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and her own ninetieth birthday. British military precision at its best, topped off by a thirty-five aircraft flypast by the Royal Air Force. And yet, it takes ever more effort by the British armed forces to put on a show that is by historic standards relatively modest.  

The problem in Europe is as ever primarily political. At this point some right-on Leftist dude with political leanings towards the likes of Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn would tell me that armed forces are in and of themselves the problem. On the political Right Colonel (Retd.) Aubry Twistleton-Twistleton Smythe-Ffrench would tell me that Britain (for example) needs to spend at least 10% of the public purse to keep Blighty safe from dangerous, bloody Johnny Foreigner-types.

On one hand, the political Left tend to see their small armed forces as the armed wing of liberal internationalism, particularly in Western Europe. Over the past decade European leaders have come close to breaking their respective armed forces by sending them on bottomless pit campaigns in the hope of making the distinctly illiberal, liberal. On the other hand, the political Right tends to see the military as solely devoted to preparing to fight a major war in order to prevent it.

Ironically, the two political camps are both wrong and both right. The world is such that there are of course occasions when armed force needs to act as a kind of super police force, just as there are times when such a force must demonstrably demonstrate its warfighting credentials through fighting power. Can the European state strike a credible balance between the two?

Before that question can be answered a further question must be addressed; against what must armed forces defend? There is a new way of war called hybrid war in which disinformation, destabilisation, and destruction are fast becoming one and the same. To mount a credible defence and preserve the capacity for the offensive today’s armed forces need to operate together with all security elements of a state (and allied states) across eight domains of engagement; air, sea, land, space, cyber, information, knowledge, and resilience.  

The first step back to military credibility is to face facts. According to its own figures the Dutch government spend 1.14% GDP on defence, significantly below the 1.43% NATO Europe average, and far below the 2% GDP on defence NATO calls for. In fact, if one applies the standard measure for measuring defence expenditure the Dutch spend nearer 1% GDP on defence. In May Euroland leaders conceded the principle of debt mutualisation. By so doing Euroland leaders also conceded the need for the relatively few taxpayers of the relatively few Eurozone states who actually pay for the mess that is the single currency (that is me!) to transfer economic growth-annihilating billions of Euros to those that do not. Therefore, the chance that a country like the Netherlands where I pay my taxes would actually increase its defence expenditure over the interim is now highly unlikely, whatever the spin. In the great struggle between European debt and European defence the latter has been, is being, and will be repeatedly and consistently defeated.

The second step is to bring defence back to the heart of the state. The only way a credible twenty-first century European defence can be mounted is to place the armed forces back at the very heart of European state power – civilian and military.  That does not I am proposing the militarization of the state. There are relatively small forces, such as those of the British and the Dutch, which if properly embedded in and backed by all state means, much of it civilian, and further-embedded in demonstrably functioning alliances, could in turn generate the necessary ends, ways and means to be mount a credible integrated defence and on occasions a pre-emptive offence.  

The third step is to either generate or have access to a sufficiency of military firepower that matches the firepower of potential adversaries. Size and strength does indeed matter in the race for a military edge.

The fourth and most crucial step is for politicians to recognise all of the above and to demonstrate an understanding of the utility of force and, if needs be, in the worst of all circumstances; war. This week Dutch Prime Minister Rutte, like so many of his European counterparts, again demonstrated that he either lacks this crucial understanding, or that on balance to him European debt is a more important strategic issue than European defence. Sadly, the politics of contemporary Europe does make the choice between debt and defence mutually exclusive.  

In a follow-on to my 2015 book on Friday I finished a big, shortly to be published, paper on NATO and the July Warsaw Summit (which is of course brilliant) in which I pose twenty hard questions about whether the Alliance can endure in a changing world. The questions I pose are all questions politicians urgently need to answer at Warsaw, but will not. This is precisely because a) Europe’s political leaders are still unwilling to face hard defence facts; b) far from embedding their armed forces at the heart of the state, most Western Europe’s leaders have spent the past decade pushing them to the political margins by using defence budgets as debt alleviation funds; c) the very idea of military firepower is to many in this generation of European political leaders toxic; and d) many leaders simply do not understand either the political or the strategic utility of legitimate force.  

My conclusion? Most of Europe’s armed forces are today far from being credible as armed forces, which tests not only their credibility but their very legitimacy. Indeed, when set against threats Europeans face few if any would be able to mount a credible defence, and that crucially undermines their collective ability to deter.

Julian Lindley-French