IF the 21 miles across the Dover Strait seem wider than the Atlantic, try the sullen grey waters between the Humber and Heligoland. Then add a daily language barrier combined with surprisingly little interest from the British media, who rarely stray far from Brussels. Parliament’s shameless obstruction of Brexit reveals its occupants’ astonishing ignorance about our Continental neighbours.
Throughout the last three years, all debates in Parliament have discussed the EU as though time has been suspended on the Continent since 1989 and possibly frozen for eternity. Modern British voters want questions of war and peace to go away. This is understandable, but removes much of the pressure on MPs to do their jobs properly and educate themselves.
Eton and Oxford are not enough on their own. One must keep learning, keep observing, keep reading and talking. Not everyone is like us, the Americans and Commonwealth. Our rather sheltered MPs deceive themselves more than us – which makes their ignorance almost less excusable. The most glaring black hole in their knowledge is today’s Germany. Blame the language barrier if you like. I blame intellectual idleness.
On the Continent everyone can watch everyone else’s TV channels, including each country’s version of the news. One does need to understand what the people are saying! Most of our MPs do not speak another language, thus a majority of the Rotten Parliament (whom Boris Johnson wants us to largely re-elect) cling to an imaginary Continent which hasn’t existed since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.
Their ignorance of everyday events on the Continent is one of the main reasons why the Rotten Parliament failed to deliver Brexit after three-and-a-half years of talking about it. Keep this in mind when you vote before Christmas.
During the past decade I have enjoyed a ringside seat at the German-led campaign to absorb Switzerland and, above all, the Swiss franc into the EU. For those who would like to know more, there are articles on this website, more on Veterans for Britain about Germany’s ambitions and several more on Brexit Central, the Red Cell and here on TCW.
The prime duty of any government is defence of the realm and thereby its people. After the record of Cameron and Osborne, I do not regard abiding by the NATO target of spending two per cent of Gross National Product on defence as a serious strategy – unless defence of the realm is that political party’s lowest priority.
Co-operation with the EU on foreign policy and defence are options with very short lifespans, potentially as dangerous as the EU’s disastrous intervention in Ukraine. Continental politicians are not from our nation of shopkeepers. For them political gain is king, queen and ace.
They will sacrifice any big trade opportunity for quite small political gain if it promises to pave the way for something greater. Germany has been on such a path since August 1944, when the inevitability of defeat became obvious.
Forty-five years later, another peace in Europe came about – the end of the Cold War – which had little to do with Europeans other than East Berliners, although a lot to do with Mikhael Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher … and Publius Flavius Vegetius.
Vegetius was a Roman military expert who in the 4th century AD wrote: Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum. (‘Therefore he who desires peace, let him prepare war’).
For my money deterrence, nuclear weapons backed by strong and balanced conventional forces, and – above all –
the involvement of the United States in the defence of Europe for all those years, kept and eventually made possible the grand peace after the Berlin Wall came down.
Angela Merkel spent that evening out for the night with fellow students solving a physics problem. Indeed, if you look at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office records, the small team of British diplomats at the talks for the peace treaty that brought about reunification of Germany played a special role. They came armed with one of the first laptops and thus could type out fresh drafts in the conference room rather than waste time while delegations returned to their diplomatic missions.
According to Germany’s new strategic plan – Vorausschau 2040 (Strategic Outlook 2040) – NATO is breaking up, America will not come to Europe’s aid under Article 5 of the NATO treaty and Germany must look after herself in future.
As part of this, Germany must keep control of her export markets by binding the Eurozone to her while holding the satellite economies within the gravity field of the German economic sun. Britain, as the largest planet – our economy equal to the 19 smallest economies of the EU – must be kept in close orbit at all costs.
For the first time since the original 1954 peace treaty, Germany is planning her defence outside the NATO alliance. No wonder the authors of Vorausshau 2040 declare that NATO is breaking up. The ball and chain are swinging and the machine driver is Angela Merkel.
This plan was drawn up while Ursula von der Leyen was Defence Minister. Over the last two years, Angela Merkel has followed the plan, made it central to everything Germany decides or pursues. So much so that she made sure Ursula von der Leyen became President of the EU Commission, then appointed her own successor as party leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, as Germany’s new Defence Minister.
Both these carefully-placed ladies are ready to follow the strategic plan after Merkel steps down. While Ursula von der Leyen is secure in her post, there is now doubt over the future of Annagret KK, as she’s known by the German media.
The election in the eastern state of Thuringia resulted in Merkel’s CDU Party coming third behind the Socialists and Alternative for Deutschland. Annagret KK’s move from party leader to Chancellor is no longer a done deal, if it ever was. Until we know her future, close watch is required; defence may become far more important than the present idle generation of British politicians imagine.
NATO’s break-up is under way, supposedly because President Trump demanded all member countries pay their share of Europe’s defence and this is presented to German voters as Trump trying make Europe buy American equipment. The reality is it’s the price of EU integration and vanity – both driven and steered from Berlin. Merkel was always more comfortable with Putin (if not his handsome dog) than with any British Prime Minister or American President.
Already the impact is game-changing. The Poles want the Americans to pivot eastward and base an armoured division in their country as a deterrent against Putin’s next gamble. That cannot be done without a large American investment in Eastern Europe, mostly airpower and area denial surface-to-air missiles and radars.
Despite grandiose names for EU defence programmes, the Poles know that no help will come from Germany, where less than 25 tanks are roadworthy. They know as well that presently it’s the RAF which deploys Typhoon fighters on rotation with the Royal Canadian Air Force to police the skies of Eastern Europe and it’s the British Army that rotates a battle group. Three years ago, the Polish ambassador here assured me that Angela Merkel defended his country from Putin. Not any longer, it seems.
The obvious diplomatic path for Merkel’s ambitions is some form of rapprochement with Putin, leading to incognito neutrality – draped with an EU flag – which allows Germany to rely on France’s armed forces and deterrent while resuming its large-scale investments in Russia.
The Russian state gas company Gazprom has as its president Gerhard Schroeder, who ran the most anti-American campaign in German post-war history to become Chancellor. The Left on the Continent resemble teenagers in their dislike of America. Trump has been a gift for their slogans.
Quasi-neutrality would fit with Merkel’s moves over the last three years, moves intended to gain control of our deterrent and armed forces as well. Is this part of a private package with Putin? Ask yourself if Labour, the Lib Dems and Scottish Nationalists were in charge, how long would it take for majority voting by the other EU members to abolish our nuclear deterrent?
Imagine how much cash Merkel would save German taxpayers through effectively disarmament, people who want to make money these days, not war. These are the kind of questions the candidates in this election all failed to ask themselves in the last Parliament, never mind anyone else, and show no sign of asking either.
When I quizzed a chum who is a senior officer in the German Army how he would feel about being sent to Catalonia or County Monaghan on EU internal security duties, he said that as long as it was OK with the European Parliament, it was OK with him. Perhaps our MEPs would like to tell us how they’d vote and by how much they would be out-voted!
Would all the other European NATO members go along with Merkel? France may not want Germany taking all the big decisions, but does not have sufficient economic clout to challenge Merkel. Witness French President Emmanuel Macron’s frequent grandstanding, inevitably followed by him backing down. France needs Germany. Yes, Germany needs France, though only to make her rule acceptable to the rest of Europe.
Suppose, however, the Scandinavians, who live much closer to Russia, refuse to part with their lifeline from America. One can argue that in these circumstances the Norwegians, Danes, Swedes and Finns might feel a lot safer if the British remain NATO’s foothold on the eastern side of the Atlantic.
Of course, like any well-run club, NATO might prune the membership list. Gone would be France, the Benelux and Germany, possibly the whole EU as a neutral bloc. Turkey is on the way to the door without any help.
Let’s say the Scandinavians, Poles and Baltic states split from the EU defence structure and stay with NATO. Is that a foothold on the Continent or a distraction and liability? Are not EU member states belonging to the largest protectionist bloc on the planet? A bloc with the opposite aims for global trade and development than the free-trading nations led by the English-speaking world – the Anglo-Saxons, to borrow German shorthand.
NATO instead could spread its wings and become a global alliance of sea powers who believe in free trade. All the building blocks are to hand. The Five Eyes intelligence alliance, comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US, seems to earn itself a lot of column inches of late.
It’s the obvious foundation for an alliance which many others would work alongside. India, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam all spring to mind, as do many countries in Africa and Latin America.
British diplomats preach that there’s no such thing as the Special Relationship, because they don’t understand what it’s about. Five Eyes is frequently in the news, but the core strength of the Special Relationship is between the two navies, the special forces and airborne forces. I was a member of HM Diplomatic Service for nearly 30 years but my special relationship with Americans is entirely because I served in airborne forces.
I wasn’t invited by Sandy Molloy, the commanding general of the 82nd US Airborne Division to spend a week at Fort Bragg looking at what the division did and they way they did it because I was running the British Information Services across Canada.
The US Navy gave the Royal Navy an enormous amount of help when it went nuclear for propulsion. Today, the two submarine services might as well be one. Anyone who watches BBC 2’s excellent programme about HMS Queen Elizabeth will see that after a gap of ten years, the US Navy is giving the same help to restore the Royal Navy’s carrier strike force.
There are going to be mixed air groups of British and US squadrons, probably three RN and a pair of US Marine Corps squadrons in an emergency – 60 or more stealth fighters and troop-carrying aircraft – able to operate worldwide because their escort force will be armed with the latest area denial weapons, aerial and sub-surface drones and radar. I would rather our young people stand together with America and the Commonwealth than oppose each other when the EU, Russia and China attempt to create Eurasia, as some already dream.
If you think I’m biased, you’re damn right. I have found myself in trouble spots and wars many times. I’ve served in the British Army as a soldier and an officer. I’ve been caught up in wars on three continents and worked with about a dozen armies, including ours. I have to tell you that if one is going to war, do it with the Americans, or with them on your side.
This article was first published on Briefings for Brexit on November 5, 2019, and is republished by kind permission.