We have updated our Privacy Notice, you can read the updated document here
Mods please check the Moderators Group for an important update on Mod tools. If you do not have access to the group, please PM Niamh. Thanks!

The Strategic Consequences of Brexit

  • #2
    Registered Users Posts: 5,048 ✭✭✭ Snickers Man


    What, if any, are likely to be the effects of Brexit on the strategic environment in Europe and especially in Ireland?

    On the one hand, the EU is not a military alliance; there is a separate organisation called NATO that fulfills that role. On the other, there have been suggestions that a more integrated army representing the member states should be constituted. Britain always opposed such moves giving the existence of NATO as a reason not to duplicate efforts.

    But now.....

    So saying there were to be greater co-operation between EU member state's armed forces. And so saying this led to some form of centralised budget, not an outlandish consequence to consider. How would this effect relations between Ireland and Britain?

    It is wrong to say that Britain's relationship with Ireland has always been exclusively strategic, but nevertheless our geographical position as Britain's vulnerable western flank HAS been a factor for centuries. Indeed it could be argued that despite the presence of the Normans since the 12th century, Ireland's real problems with Britain started with England beginning to be a major international maritime power in the 16th century.

    The opening up of colonies in the New World, and the English realising that it was more profitable to steal Spanish treasure convoys through licenced piracy than to go and dig it out themselves meant that England was becoming a serious power and had seriously powerful rivals. The emergence of ocean-going navies around that time meant that England had to secure her western flank. Ireland, long left at arm's length as long as the Anglo-Norman colonists survived and kept paying their tributes now had to be brought into line. Henry VIII was the first English king to be king of Ireland too and his Tudor family embarked on a reconquest of the country which ended with his daughter Elizabeth I finally vanquishing the last remnants of Gaelic authority early in the 17th century.

    From the 16th to mid 17th century, Irish recalcitrants sought succour from the Spanish; from the late 17th to early 19th it was the French; in the early 20th the Germans were happy to provide arms to BOTH sides in what looked to be an impending Irish Civil War in the run up to WWI. During the Cold War, Britain had concerns that communist influence was driving the uprising in the North. The end of the Cold War, the emergence of the EEC/EC/EU and the changing nature of the perceived threat to Britain--from Islamic terrorists rather than a sovereign enemy--meant that the strategic imperative had changed and that a neutral Ireland bound to Britain by joint membership of the EU could be tolerated as no threat.

    Until now.

    Britain is turning its back on European integration. It wants to stand alone as a separate and powerful nation comfortable with the Splendid Isolation to which it aspired when it was the world's strongest empire. Now the EU with its Frogs, Wops, Krauts and Spics is a rival and the harder the Brexit the deeper the rivalry.

    What if Ireland were to co-operate with greater european military integration (let's use that as a euphemism for "European Army" which will probably not appear as a name for some time yet)? Effectively this would mean that the successors of the Spanish Armada, the Grande Armee and the Luftwaffe, or at least their paymasters, would have welcome, co-operative and legal access to West Britain, a strategic eventuality that England/Britain has sought to avoid for 500 years.

    And that's before we even think of Scotland cutting or at least loosening its ties with the mother country.

    Interesting Times ?


Comments

  • #2


    Ireland got opt-outs from the forthcoming common EU defence force as part of the Lisbon treaty v2.0 thing years ago.

    We won't be participating in the JunkerArmée.


  • #2


    "Opt outs" don't preclude anybody opting back in.

    Brexit means Brexit. And it changes everything.


  • #2


    "Opt outs" don't preclude anybody opting back in.

    Sure.

    But I highly doubt any government will go to the trouble, it would be politically radioactive.

    Shoot an email to the minister of defence and see if they will respond to such a query: 'Do you have any plans to go back on Ireland's Article 42 - Lisbon Treaty opt-outs?'

    The EC seem dead set on undermining NATO on the mainland.... good for them, that is their undemocratic prerogative.
    But Irish people are loath to join either military alliance.
    I don't see that changing.


  • #2


    The EC seem dead set on undermining NATO on the mainland.... good for them, that is their undemocratic prerogative.

    Lets' zoom out from a parochial Irish focus and consider the strategic realignment effected by Brexit more broadly.

    You have in the White House (from today) a capricious megalomaniac who has openly questioned the need for NATO and poured scorn on the notion that America should guarantee the security of smaller members who couldn't do the job for themselves.

    Britain is withdrawing economically from Europe: the harder the Brexit, the more complete the withdrawal.

    Why would Trump weaken NATO? Well, he (and others who plan America's strategic positions) could reasonably take the view that they do not need NATO any more. It was built to counteract the Soviet Union and its eastern European allies, who have all gone now. For future European crises, the US has two nuclear-weapon-possessing allies (Britain and Israel) who are or will be utterly beholden to them: Israel, because it has always depended on maintaining military superiority in its region with the backing of powerful allies; and Britain because it has always seen itself as America's Special Friend, not like those tatty Europeans, and because it needs a bigger shoulder to lean on now that it is leaving Europe.

    With Israel and Britain firmly at America's side does she really need to guarantee the freedom of the likes of Denmark, Luxembourg, Estonia, Poland?

    A diminished or disbanded NATO would lead to a massive strategic vacuum in Europe. What would fill it? The need for a European Army would then become much more apparent. Britain's line to date has always been that there is no need for a European Army because we have NATO for that sort of thing. If Nato gets redefined to be essentially Britain and the US, then that argument goes away.

    The big powers of Europe (such as they are) would then have to reassess their own strategic needs. Only France in the remaining EU has nuclear weapons. Germany is not allowed have any because of their misdeeds of the past but this realignment would change everything. Would the smaller nations of the EU concede to pooling their resources into a pan-European Army? Would the larger countries (Germany, France, Italy) be able to agree on who is in charge? (history suggests they would struggle) Will the likes of France end up doing its own thing, as it has always tended to do, leaving Germany to contemplate the option of rebuilding its own military might, whatever the international community may think?

    These are all much wider issues than the notorious "dreary grey steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone" but they would have an effect here too. How would we deal with a hard border? What would happen to the Good Friday Agreement?

    They've really ****ed up our world with Brexit. Bloody Brits!


  • #2


    "leaving Germany to contemplate the option of rebuilding its own military might, whatever the international community may think?"

    You do realise that the international community had no great issue with the Western German forces which was one of the major NATO forces during the Cold War. It's only since the Re-unification that they have become the pale gutted shadow that they are today (both for diplomatic reasons ( a force limitation agreement) and due to domestic German feelings. As things stand Germany is entitled to double it's total manpower before it even gets back to the treaty limits. Their other major issue is that they have ended Conscription and are struggling to attract new personnel.

    However they have started increasing spending with plans to move to the 2% target (currently at 1.2%), these plans include more subs, tanks, planes etc.

    In terms of EU defence I do think that change is coming, (and no it's not the EU undermining NATO), for example the French have already stated the need for a joint project for the next gen fighter, and they and the German's have signed up for a next gen MBT.


  • #2


    sparky42 wrote: »
    In terms of EU defence I do think that change is coming, (and no it's not the EU undermining NATO), for example the French have already stated the need for a joint project for the next gen fighter, and they and the German's have signed up for a next gen MBT.


    I don't believe it's the EU undermining NATO either. I just get the very strong feeling given Trump's pronouncements (and the apparent lack of contradiction from anyone else in the US military establishment) that the US of today is far more keen to promote the perception of European Allies helping to defend the US than the notion that the US is there to defend Europe. I also think the smart people in Europe (outside of Britain) are very aware of this too and realise that Europe is going to have to become stronger in its own right.

    I'm not sure I welcome this. Things were a lot easier when there were two major nuclear-armed power blocks. But in the scenario in which America curtails its commitment to NATO and Britain turns its back on Europe it is almost inevitable, from a strategic point of view, that a European military force emerges in strength to fill the vacuum.

    I don't think this is mad conspiracy theory waffle. It's a simple consideration of the strategic balance of power and how it's likely to change in the near future.

    Meanwhile the popular press is talking about Trump's pussy grabbing!!!

    Any gob****e can be a sexual predator; Trump and his administration are far more dangerous than that.


  • #2


    Chief Brexit negotiatior and former premier of Belgium talking about a European Army on American TV today. (Jan 23rd 2017)

    Looks like there is momentum for this building from both sides of the Atlantic.

    The implications for Ireland are huge!!


  • #2


    Chief Brexit negotiatior and former premier of Belgium talking about a European Army on American TV today. (Jan 23rd 2017)

    Looks like there is momentum for this building from both sides of the Atlantic.

    The implications for Ireland are huge!!

    No they aren't, the EU is not waiting for Ireland to treat defence seriously. They are looking at the major spenders and the major projects.


  • #2


    sparky42 wrote: »
    No they aren't, the EU is not waiting for Ireland to treat defence seriously. They are looking at the major spenders and the major projects.

    I don't think the issue is the size of Ireland's defence budget or the keenness of European arm's manufacturers to benefit from its largesse. At least, not in the first instance.

    The issue is actually Ireland's geography and the effect it has on the calculations of strategic planners elsewhere. This has always been our curse, a point I tried to make in the OP.

    Since independence we have been tolerated by Britain as a militarily weak neighbour unlikely to discommode them too much, or to strike up an alliance with any of their serious enemies. Whatever British propaganda may have said about Nazi submarines refuelling on the West Coast of Ireland, there was never any danger that De Valera would get into bed with the Germans, or that they in turn would have had the technical capacity to invade Ireland during World War II. And even if they did, Britain had a strategic foothold in the North just in case.

    Similarly, during the Cold War there was little likelihood of Ireland going Communist or allying with the Soviet Union (despite the best intentions of the party variously known as Sinn Fein, Sinn Fein Gardiner Place, Official Sinn Fein, Sinn Fein the Workers Party, The Workers Party and Democratic Left). Sure, there were recalcitrant nationalists, some of them very left leaning, who had to be subdued in Northern Ireland but the softly softly approach of the Peace Process proved to be far more effective at that than the "military option."

    The 20 or so years since the Good Friday Agreement, coinciding with the evolution of the European Union has seen unprecedented amity and co-operation between Britain and Ireland. The Irish border has effectively disappeared, the national differences between Irish and British up north have been effectively fudged, there have been no trade barriers and given that Ireland and Britain were both partners in the EU, the continued absence of Ireland from NATO was of no concern.

    But now......

    there is a danger that two military blocks, ostensibly friendly to each other, will emerge in Europe. A rump NATO comprising basically Britain and the US, and a vaccuum-filling EU army. Where this will leave other non EU countries like Norway is unclear. Maybe Norway will prefer to be an ally of Britain in rump NATO than make another alliance.

    But what about Ireland? Not a member of NATO but very much a member of the EU, and by implication duty bound to have some sort of contribution and relationship with the EU army? How would this be viewed in London? And Washington?

    All I'm saying is that these questions are likely to be raised in the event that a) NATO falls apart either precipitously or naturally through general apathy on the part of its major players; b) an EU army emerges or c) both.

    I just think this is worth debating. At the moment, nobody here seems even to be thinking about it.


  • #2


    OK happy to be a lone voice shouting in the wilderness. Maybe history will quickly show me to be a gibbering unnecessarily nervous paranoiac but let's for the hell of it continue to draw attention to what is actually happening in international diplomacy and attempt to analyse it in context.

    A day after meeting with newly inaugurated President Trump, UK Prime Minister Mrs May flies to Turkey to meet with that country's prime minister and president, the latter being authoritarian strong man Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    After the meetings it was announced (see link above) that the two countries had agreed a £100m defence deal in which Britain would help to develop fighter jets for the Turkish Air Force. The spin was mainly around the trade aspects of the deal, post-Brexit Britain able to do successful bilateral deals without Brussels' say so yadda yadda, which is all well and good but the strategic aspect wasn't completely ignored.

    "The deal would pave the way for a deeper defence partnership and help to safeguard key roles at BAE Systems, the announcement says."

    How much deeper a defence partnership is necessary if both Britain and Turkey are each members of NATO? Could it be anything to do with the fact that in another couple of years, neither will be in the EU?

    Or could it be further evidence that there may be a split in NATO between those countries favouring an EU army and those, typically not in the EU, who will band together more closely in their own separate alliance?

    I think the pressure for a fracture in NATO is coming from two sides: those who want an EU army and those who want to stay close to a USA that is going cool on the whole idea of NATO as a pan-European defence project.

    As I said before, the implications for an Ireland that is of necessity loosening ties ever more completely with Britain are huge.


  • #2


    Generally speaking that kind of langauage "deeper partnership" is more related to defence procurement rather than anything else, basically May is just trying to promote BAE (why anyone would pick them given the UK history who knows) for work. Back when they were trying to flog the 26 to everyone Turkey was on the list for example. So I wouldn't read much into that, the 100 million contract for example is insiginficant compared to the costs of a full up 5th gen fighter


  • #2


    All to late Europe will mabey realise the folly of sending David Cameron home empty handed, all that was needed was to give a country the tools to help of set the hardship and stress on services 1 million new people every 3 years were bringing. You could see the glee in the eurocrats faces reveling in saying no to the brits, the brits who...

    Contributed 10billion net per year.
    Gave jobs to near 4 million Europeans.
    Made up the bulk of Europe military strength.
    Has a 100billion trade deficit with Europe.

    But people still believe the stupid brits didn't realise how good they had it?!?!?!?


  • #2


    gallag wrote: »
    All to late Europe will mabey realise the folly of sending David Cameron home empty handed, all that was needed was to give a country the tools to help of set the hardship and stress on services 1 million new people every 3 years were bringing. You could see the glee in the eurocrats faces reveling in saying no to the brits, the brits who...

    Contributed 10billion net per year.
    Gave jobs to near 4 million Europeans.
    Made up the bulk of Europe military strength.
    Has a 100billion trade deficit with Europe.

    But people still believe the stupid brits didn't realise how good they had it?!?!?!?

    They didn't, the UK has had plenty of opt outs, and at least some of their issues with the EU are simply the UK f'ing up and blaming the EU (for example their issue with EU national's using the NHS, turns out they have a law for that, it's just the NHS never billed the EU nations so never got paid), it was the UK who didn't apply the limit on the Ascension countries, it's the UK that doesn't have enough restrictions on welfare (which other EU nations already have).

    As for the "bulk of EU forces", not really, the most used in out of EU operations without question, the most advanced in areas but hardly "the bulk of forces"


  • #2


    sparky42 wrote: »
    They didn't, the UK has had plenty of opt outs, and at least some of their issues with the EU are simply the UK f'ing up and blaming the EU (for example their issue with EU national's using the NHS, turns out they have a law for that, it's just the NHS never billed the EU nations so never got paid),

    And it's not like they didn't know.

    I remember years ago, while a UK resident, reading an apoplectic editorial in some right-wing rag about an astonishing piece of cheek by the Irish government.

    It was based on the fact that under EC arrangements at the time (it was the 1980s so EC , not EU) the health departments of all the member countries kept records of which nationals from other community countries they had treated throughout the year and then each billed the other for the treatment its citizens had received.

    So in theory, if everybody was working the system properly, the French (say) would prepare a bill for all Irish holiday makers treated for sunburn and alcohol poisoning while visiting France and the Irish would do likewise for all French visitors who had been to hospital in Ireland after mugging or joy-riding incidents. And the difference would be settled as per the regulations.

    What pissed the Daily Mail off in 1987-88 was that included in the itemised bill presented by the Irish Government for treatment of UK subjects in its hospitals that year was a sizable item for the life-saving treatment that had been given to Armagh native (and resident) one Dessie O'Hare.

    For younger readers, he was a particularly nasty freelance republican gunman who had been drummed out of the IRA and had set up his own splinter organisation. They gained notoriety when they kidnapped a Dublin dentist, held him for several weeks and then chiselled off the tops of some of his fingers to send to his family after they had been slow in sending the ransom. (Actually they had tried to send the ransom but O'Hare's gang was so incompetent they couldn't interpret their OWN instructions and left a vital message under the wrong statue in a church.... but I digress)

    Following the dentist's release after a gun battle with Gardai in Cabra O'Hare went on the run but got his come-uppance in a Garda/Army ambush in Urlingford a few weeks later. The car in which he was travelling was riddled with bullets, one of his henchmen was killed and he was shot several times.

    He spent six weeks in hospital as they patched him up before sending him for trial. He was sent to jail for a long time.

    But of course, as a UK citizen/subject, it was Her Majesty's government who had to pick up the tab for his life-saving treatment provided by one Irish public service organisation for injuries inflicted on him by another!

    You'd think they might have taken the opportunity to return the favour more often. :)


  • #2


    A gentle rattling of sabers as the Daily Telegraph reports on a speech Michel Barnier made at a Security Conference in Berlin.

    This is reported as Barnier saying that Britain must drop objections to Europe becoming a military power. However, it doesn't actually quoting him saying any such thing. He says that military co-operation between EU member states has grown since Brexit, that the EU has as an aim "autonomous and united European defence" and that it will not wait for Britain before implementing such a policy but will be ready to co-operate with Britain "when the time comes".

    This is another nail in NATO's coffin. Or at least the current incarnation of NATO. Pretty soon it will just be Britain, Norway, Turkey and the US. If the US could be bothered that is.

    But what does little old neutral Ireland do post Brexit?
    1) Join the "autonomous and united" European defence alliance?
    2) Join up with Britain (which would almost certainly mean leaving the EU)?
    3) Try to play off one side against the other and maintain strict neutrality?

    Option 3 would be the most preferable and politically popular at home but will we be let get away with it?


  • #2


    Ireland will do what Ireland always does in this case. It will wring it's hands, shout "we're neutral", moan on about how everyone loves our peace-keepers because we are not colonials and do nothing, Anything short of the current "neutrality" is a politically dead on arrival in Ireland. Yes, we have some degree of strategic relevance by virtue of geography, but that is not as relevant as it was even in the 1980's due to the capabilities of modern aircraft & naval vessels. 
    Ireland faces no definable external nation state threat, the opportunity to get on board that train was the Cold War, but we chose to not play, so we've been set aside militarily and politically. Threats to Irish national security were always perceived as internal (subversives), so we responded by building a huge police force (the Gardaí) who includes intelligence, counter terror and counter subversive and largely marginalized our military. Our defense forces has been reduced to some sort of gendarmerie we wheel out for very safe UN missions, flooding, forest fires and Easter parades. The odds of that changing due to some sort of Brussels directive are almost non-existent. 
    Yes, the Russian bear is flexing it's muscles again and NATO is worried by both that and the noise from Trump. Russian neighbours are looking westward and NATO is trying to figure out how to respond to Comrade Putin, shrinking defense budgets and where NATO fits in with the whole terror/cyber thing. Ireland just doesn't fit into that equation as other than being on the west Atlantic, Ireland has nothing to offer from a military capability point of view and seems happy to keep it that way. 
    Brexit is an unknown, but from a defense perspective, again, Ireland is just not a consideration. Regardless of the implications for NATO and the EU, Ireland has nothing to offer. It would take years of capacity building and billions of Euro's in increased defense spending to develop any kind of real capability and I don't see this as a political reality.
    I agree, the EU does seem to be slowly, very slowly dipping it's toes into the defense realm, and who knows, it may one day actually replace NATO. In this scenario, I'd be willing to bet Ireland would just opt out and throw out the neutrality card, make the usual self righteous noises about colonialism and the "western war machine" and generally act like a petulant child. The EU/NATO crowd, would just shrug, roll their eyes and get on with it without our glorious peacekeepers.
    With the rant over, I'd like to point out, I see this as a policy/strategy issue of Irish governments, not as an attack on the Defense Forces who I hold in the highest regard. They are dedicated and professional but they don't make the policies.


  • #2


    A gentle rattling of sabers as the Daily Telegraph reports on a speech Michel Barnier made at a Security Conference in Berlin.

    This is reported as Barnier saying that Britain must drop objections to Europe becoming a military power. However, it doesn't actually quoting him saying any such thing. He says that military co-operation between EU member states has grown since Brexit, that the EU has as an aim "autonomous and united European defence" and that it will not wait for Britain before implementing such a policy but will be ready to co-operate with Britain "when the time comes".

    This is another nail in NATO's coffin. Or at least the current incarnation of NATO. Pretty soon it will just be Britain, Norway, Turkey and the US. If the US could be bothered that is.


    Looks like I'm not the only one noticing the pronounced strategic realignment in Europe. In today's (June 7th 2018) Daily Telegraph, enthusiastic Brexiteering commentator Ambrose Evans Pritchard laments the fact (as he sees it) that "the Brexiteers' bid for independence has failed" and that
    "There will not be a return to sovereign and democratic self rule in March 2019, or as far as the political eye can see."
    He goes on:
    "The Government has engaged in foolish bluffs...it has fallen into the Greek Syriza trap, issuing hollow threats followed by retreat. It never took the preparations needed to make a no-deal walkout credible. .....Total British capitulation on EU terms therefore looks unavoidable at the October summit."

    However that is not the end of the matter. He also says that "Britain will be bound and hemmed until the latent contradictions of such a colonial settlement cause a volcanic national uprising, as they surely must." So clearly he thinks there will be a rebellion, and probably a violent one, in Britain against a soft or soggy Brexit, or one that is deemed by Brexiteers to be a BINO (Brexit in name only) solution.

    The silver lining in the cloud as he sees it is that some might "make a realpolitik calculus that the pendulum will swing back as the EU tears itself apart over migration and the rule of law. If Britain waits patiently the European problem might resolve itself, either because the EU ceases to exist or because it becomes a different animal."

    Another potential lifeboat for Britain (and here's where it gets interesting with regards to previous posts here) he sees is that maybe Europe won't be too hard on Britain during negotiations because it will be in their own interests to back off.
    "We can only trust that Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Holland, Ireland and fellow nations will conclude that it is not in their interests to push the punishment too far. Do they want to be encircled by a hostile Britain, Turkey and Russia in Donald Trump's dystopian world?"

    It looks like AEP sees the same strategic realignment that some of us have been talking about for a while.

    Britain and Turkey are both members of NATO. Hostile to Europe? He said it. Not me (on this occasion at least).

    We need to wake up and smell the coffee people. The world is changing. Changing utterly. And not in a comfortable way.


  • #2


    I know nobody seems to read this thread or even this forum but it's a pity because there are quite a few interesting things happening around the world as thinkers try to make sense of the New World Order that is taking place all around them.

    Now granted this article in the Sunday Times is a couple of years old, dating back to November 2016 but it's still interesting given the focus on strategic realignment rather than the status of trade deals that seems to occupy most commentators post Brexit.

    Written by renowned right-leaning historian and economist (or even a combination of the two disciplines) Niall Ferguson it borrows heavily from the writings of arch global strategic schemer Henry Kissinger (still with us).

    I paste it below because although it's on the Sunday Times website, that does have a paywall.

    Ferguson clearly sees the big strategic picture and acknowledges that all he says is conjecture. Indeed, one of his predictions or recommendations (the ascension of Marine Le Pen to the presidency of France) hasn't happened yet nor might it ever. But he clearly sees a realignment of strategic issues that will relegate the EU to a minor power and secondary in importance to the Big three of China, Russia and the AngloSphere. (essentially the US with the Brits sucking up to the big guy by pretending to be his best friend.

    Ominously, he says that "Some smaller countries would doubtless lose out" by which he means almost certainly us, among some others.

    But he sees all too clearly the historic precedent of a global alliance (mostly at arms length) between Britain, America, Russia, China and to a lesser extent France as "the alliance that won the second world war".

    These guys have big fish to fry. Minor inconveniences like the Good Friday Agreement are secondary in their eyes.

    I'm not so sure the scenario he envisages will emerge. I think Central Europe, including France and Germany, will be rivals not allies to the marriage of convenience between West and East. And as such, our neutrality will be a live issue again very soon. Who do we cosy up to? EU or Britain/America?

    Of course we'll all know in the future just why the predictions we make today won't transpire as we claimed, but until then......
    interesting and worrying times.

    Here's Ferguson's article from November 2016

    OPINION | NIALL FERGUSON
    Donald Trump’s new world order
    • By Niall Ferguson NOVEMBER 22, 2016

    “It Can’t Happen Here.’’ That was the title of Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel in which the fascistic Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip is elected president and within months transforms the United States into an American Reich. Well, maybe it just did happen here.

    The litmus test will be how far Steve Bannon’s appointment as chief strategist to President-elect Donald Trump signals the triumph of the will of the so-called alt-right. Will he be Lee Sarason to Trump’s Windrip? Are we all doomed to the Third World War, only this time with America on the wrong side?

    Two weeks after Trump’s election, a more or less complete uncertainty reigns as to what direction his foreign policy will take. Rather than speculate about who gets which job, it may be more constructive to ask what Trump’s strategic options are.

    Let us begin with the geopolitical landscape that Trump inherits from his predecessor. In his most recent book, “World Order,’’ Henry Kissinger outlined four scenarios that he regards as the most likely catalysts for a large-scale conflagration:

    • A deterioration in Sino-American relations whereby the two countries tumble into the so-called Thucydides trap that history sets for every incumbent power and the rising power that challenges it.
    • A breakdown of relations between Russia and the West, based on mutual incomprehension and made possible by:
    • A collapse of European hard power due to the inability of modern European leaders to accept that diplomacy without the credible threat of force is just hot air; and/or
    • An escalation of conflict in the Middle East due to the Obama administration’s readiness, in the eyes of the Arab states and Israel, to hand hegemony in the region to a still-revolutionary Iran.

    This is frightening stuff. Yet Trump enters the Oval Office with an underestimated advantage: the fact that Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been such a failure. This is most obvious in the Middle East, where the smoldering ruin that is Syria — not to mention Iraq and Libya — attests to the fundamental naivete of his approach.

    The “Obama doctrine” has failed in Europe, too, where UK voters opted to leave the EU in defiance of the president’s threats. Finally, his foreign policy has failed in Asia, where little remains of the much-vaunted American “pivot.”
    All this means that, by merely changing Obama’s foreign policy, President Trump will quite likely achieve success. The question is: How exactly should he go about this change? Kissinger’s recommendations to Trump may be summarized as follows:

    • Do not go all-out into a confrontation with China, whether on trade or the South China Sea. Rather, seek “comprehensive discussion” and aim to pursue the policy of “co-evolution” recommended in “World Order.”
    • Give a weakened, traumatized, post-imperial Russia the recognition Vladimir Putin craves, “as a great power, as an equal, and not as a supplicant in an American-designed system.”
    • Treat Brexit as an opportunity to steer the continental Europeans away from bureaucratic introspection and back to strategic responsibility.
    • Make peace in Syria as we made it in the former Yugoslavia 20 years ago, by “cantonizing” the country and giving President Bashar al-Assad a one-year “off-ramp,” or exit route.

    What if Trump, against all expectations, decided to seek better relations with both Moscow and Beijing? This would combine his own Russophile leanings with Kissinger’s argument for a new policy of partnership with China. Such an arrangement would theoretically be achievable if Trump engaged only in kabuki theatre with China over trade (which is what many influential Chinese seem to expect him to do). It would also be consistent with the tough line on Islamic extremism that has been such a feature of Trump’s campaign, for on this issue the three great powers — each with their worrisome and growing Muslim minorities — have a common interest. And it might be consistent with a reordering of the Middle East that reimposes the ancien rme of kings and dictators in the Arab world and reinforces Israel, all at the expense of Iran.

    As a corollary, the three powers might agree on the demotion of Europe from great power status, taking advantage not only of Brexit but of the increasingly fragmented and self-referential character of EU politics. One possible way to do this would be for Trump to propose replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement with NAFTA 2.0, which would bring the UK directly into a post-EU Anglo-Atlantic sphere while at the same time delivering on Trump’s anti-Mexican (though not anti-Canadian) election pledge. Simultaneously, Trump could credibly apply pressure on other NATO members to increase their risible defense budgets. Finally, he and Putin could work together to help continental populists such as Marine Le Pen to win the elections of 2017.

    One striking feature of such a strategy is that the five permanent members of the UN security council would ultimately all be either populist or authoritarian-controlled, assuming Le Pen can somehow be helped across the line against the French pacte rblicain. Thus might the institutions of collective security end up serving the interests of the great powers as never before: the ultimate revenge of realpolitik.

    The new tripartite arrangement would be looser than the post-Napoleonic Holy Alliance of Austria, Prussia and Russia but, like their predecessors 200 years ago, liberals would denounce it as an Unholy Alliance of populists and authoritarians, indifferent to the principles of human rights. Some smaller countries would doubtless lose out. But for the world as a whole it would be an order of sorts. And no world war would be very likely to break out.
    One objection might be that an alignment between America, Russia, and China, as well as Britain and France, is without precedent, but that is nonsense: It was precisely the alliance that won the Second World War. Another might be that such an alliance is unsustainable in the absence of an aggressive Germany and Japan. Yet the Cold War did not begin until 1948, and the Communists did not come to power in China until a year later: Up until that point, many reasonable people had hopes of sustaining the wartime coalition.

    Much that I have written here is necessarily speculative. I do believe, however, that a new American foreign policy — if not a new world order — is already taking shape. Not only is it foreshadowed in the writing of Kissinger.
    It is also implicit in the current constellation of geopolitics.

    If it is Kissinger’s spirit that animates the Trump administration — as opposed to Buzz Windrip’s — then its new order will not be so new, nor altogether bad.
    Niall Ferguson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.


  • #2


    Even the Irish Times is beginning to see a fraying of NATO's unity of purpose....

    Highlights from editorial of June 17th 2020 (emphases in bold are mine)


    "As Nato defence ministers met yesterday by teleconference, the organisation, branded by the US president [Trump] as “obsolete”, was absorbing his latest broadside.

    On Monday he announced his intention to pull out 9,500 of the 34,500 US troops based in Germany.

    Trump has long complained that Germany and others are freeloading off the US commitment to European security by failing to meet Nato’s 2 per cent of GDP targets for military spending. “We’re protecting Germany and they’re delinquent. That doesn’t make sense,” he said this week. “Until they pay, we’re removing our soldiers.”

    European leaders see in the threat, however, more evidence of the US undermining of the trans-Atlantic alliance by a once-dependable ally – and another argument for increased European self-reliance.

    ...if, as some suggest, the troops are redeployed to Poland, the monetary saving to the US will be marginal. Its standing among allies will be the real price it pays for this posturing."

    NATO is breaking up. Brexit was the last nail in its coffin. What do we do?


Society & Culture