If you have the remains of an Anderson shelter in your back garden, now might be a good time to see if its still in good enough shape to be reinstated as a second home. No, I’m not suggesting that you rent it out to help you pay the mortgage, this is a serious public safety announcement.
War is Coming!!
Apparently this is what will happen if we leave the EU – and the Prime minister has told us so, so therefore we must take it seriously.
So what is the real likelihood of conflict in the modern European Continent and where does the real risk lie? Will Brexit make us safer, or will it make us more likely to be involved in conflict?
There are potential threats to some nations in Europe from outside actors either looking to bolster their own positions or from instability possibly erupting internally or on their borders. Russia’s actions in the Ukraine prove that where it sees a threat to its own interests it will act swiftly and ruthlessly. It has also done this in Syria, for the sole purpose of gaining influence in the region and therefore pushing out others who might have been one day able to pump natural gas through Syria and into Europe.
Other threats are from rogue states such as North Korea. But the main current threat is from international terrorism, utilising the instability in many Middle Eastern and African states as bases for their own ideological or political aims.
In the UK we have a very strong intelligence service, operating both at home and abroad. It is largely this which has prevented large scale loss of life in the UK in recent years. But what of the threats to our interests and allies abroad? Well it has been important there too, in supplying both our European colleagues and other geopolitical allies with good information and giving advance warning of potential threats. The UK intelligence service is the best in Europe, with better resources than most, long history and a strong track record. Within or without the European Union, this would remain our first line of defence, and an important source of safety for our European and other Allies.
How does EU membership change the geopolitical balance?
If the EU develops in the manner that it wishes to, and as especially France has long hoped it would, then it could actually cause more instability rather than less.
The French political class has long harboured deep resentment at the loss of French influence and power. It was one reason why DeGaulle did not want Britain in the EEC, as he felt that it would detract from the French view of a truly Franco-German based Europe, where the real power lay with France as its main military power (having been technically on the winning side of the last war and with a de militarised Germany). France also took on the bureaucracy of Europe, hoping to mould it in its own image.
Throughout the history of the EU, the ideal of building a European superstate has primarily been the dream of the French, and others have been drawn to this ideal by the stability it attempts to offer. The southern states which the French naturally lead have been dictatorships in their recent past – Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain. While they prize their freedom, they have what can only be called fledgling democracies by those of us in the UK who come from a much longer democratic history. Unlike many of us, they therefore believe that the EU preserves their democracy, because the EU dictates that its nations must be democratic – it is a safeguard against one party seizing power corruptly and retaining it through corrupt or coercive means. Joined in this history of having had dictatorships are the former Warsaw Pact countries, whose local communist dictators were really puppets of the Soviet Union. Their fears are real, and we should not discount them as unreasonable. Britain however, was more democratic before its entry to the EEC, in that we ceded no sovereignty at all in our lawmaking to any other than our own elected representatives, a very different position to many other member states.
This is one reason why I think that the UK leaving the EU will not alter the course that the EU is on dramatically, though it might make some nations think a little more closely about their own interests. There is a significant ideological investment with many of these nations in the EU, one that the UK has never really shared so fully.
But what is not always understood by these nations is that the real effect of having the EU as a superstate is not to bolster the defence of the European continent, but to weaken it by challenging NATO as the primary source of defensive organisation.
The EU tried to bring the Ukraine into its own sphere of influence, but when it failed to do so it fired not a single shot in its defence. Why not? Because it is militarily weak, and has no agreement at its heart that defines its strategic interest or its defensive border. Does it have an obligation to defend countries which are allied to it, or in advanced co-operation? Must it even defend its own states? Who knows? It would be up for debate. Could it do even so without the USA or Britain?
What was certain was that, having tweaked the tail of the Russian bear, it was in no position to defend the object of its endeavours. The EU is a paper tiger. The push into Ukraine was politically foolhardy as it upset a finely balanced position, but it was made even more foolish by the lack of physical strength with which it was backed.
On the other side of the balance, NATO has a very simple constitution – laid out in the mutual defence pact of article 5.
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security .
And that’s it. There is no equivocation. Attack mainland Europe and you therefore attack America and Britain – well armed military states. It is the concrete nature of the agreement itself which makes it so effective. It is not a political construct with a parliament and an executive – it is a treaty obligation which none would abrogate, lest they be in the firing line themselves.
Let us not forget, only one nation has invoked article 5 in NATO’s long history. And that was not its weakest nation, but its strongest one – the USA. It has not been attacked in such a way again.
But most importantly it is a defence pact – it does not tie nations together in an aggressive action. So it does not allow for adventurism in search of geopolitical gain. An EU Superstate with a centralised armed force would not have that constraint. How might that have played out in Ukraine? At present, the EU tries to act as a state without the powers of one. But what happens when it gains those powers, will it attempt to project these new found abilities into the Russian sphere of influence?
It is clear that from history, some of it very recent, that it is NATO which keeps the peace, not the EU. However, that is not to say that if the EU were to collapse then there would not be overt dangers in that. But the dangers would be more of an internal nature in some of recent accession states, because suddenly a line of funding would disappear and the likelihood of civil unrest would be greater.
Leaving the EU is not about collapsing the European project, it is simply about not being a part of it – and its undemocratic nature. In Britain, the long held belief of many is that the most stable form of government is a Parliamentary democracy, where we may hold individuals to account directly as voters for their actions. The USA believes in this form of government for itself too – and together we have been the backbone in the world’s defence and peace strategy for 7 decades. While recent adventurism in the Middle East has been misguided, it should be noted that it was led by politicians who are now the subject of much opprobrium, and the eagerness to follow them into fresh engagements has certainly receded in recent years. Simply put – the public are reticent to fight wars in the Middle East, and the politicians fear the public.
Once we get beyond the point where the power to use military force is held at a national level, where politicians can be held directly accountable, then the chances of military conflict potentially increase, not decrease. Geopolitical adventurism is easier for a bureaucracy than a democracy, because the will of the voter is not felt directly.
We should not wish for the post democratic era of a European Superstate, with its own army, seat on the security council, and possibly its own Nuclear weapons.