- “This is not Britain’s finest hour. Amid the hysteria over Brexit, little has been written about the strategic consequences of Britain’s pending split from the European Union (EU) and even less about the impact Brexit could have upon NATO;”
- “Neither NATO nor Britain are what they used to be. The once-predominant United States, while still the only truly global power, is stretched thin the world over with peer and not-so-peer competitors emerging to challenge its writ, at times and in places of their choosing, and possibly in conjunction. Even if America continues to have the will to lead – and there are big questions today about the Trump administration and the Alliance – Washington will still need NATO;”
- “Britain? Sadly, since the 2016 EU referendum Britain has become even more of a Little Britain, with the high political and bureaucratic establishment now embroiled in a form of political civil war that is in danger of reducing a top-five world economic and military power to little more than a bit-part player in a latter day Shakespearean tragedy;”
- “The EU is not much better, and in fact in some respects far worse. There is much talk in Brussels these days of a European defence union. Indeed, the idea is gaining ground in Brussels, as well as certain usual suspect capitals, that now is the moment for the EU to take on more and more responsibility for the bloc’s defence … [and] … yet, the best the EU can hope for is a shadow NATO that will be very expensive to establish. Few EU and NATO members seem willing to properly embrace the 2014 NATO Wales Summit defence investment pledge of spending two per cent of GDP on defence by 2024, of which 20 per cent per annum should be spent on new equipment and defence integration. Instead, (like Canada) they play semantic games with language so as not to be tied down to a commitment they only made to keep the Americans happy;”
- “Brexit or no Brexit, the pillars of NATO are shifting. The United States will need to demand more of its allies if Washington is to maintain a credible security and defence guarantee for Europe. Indeed, that aim is implicit in current efforts to adapt NATO to meet 21st century challenges, one of which is more equitable burden sharing with the Americans;” and
- “It is hard for an outsider to discern Canadian defence policy, rather than bumbling along in strategic suburbia with the desire to be seen as the good neighbour. The flagship Canadian defence policy paper – Strong, Secure, Engaged – is remarkable in that it is almost entirely the product of domestic issues and competing interest groups with little or no sign of either strategic analysis or external planning drivers. There is certainly no evidence Canada is preparing for future war. This is a mistake. NATO’s shifting pillars have profound implications for Canadian security and defence policy. With the remilitarization of the Arctic and the northern approaches, Canada will need to take on increased responsibilities in what are fast-emerging theatres of strategic contention. With the U.S. ever more engaged in Asia-Pacific, Washington will also demand of Ottawa some form of presence to buttress growing strategic relations with Australia, Japan, and of course South Korea. With Britain returning to a more maritime-amphibious emphasis, and with the Russian Northern Fleet conducting more aggressive operations in the North Atlantic, as well as Russia’s militarization of the Arctic, Canadian forces will once again find themselves patrolling historic sea lanes with their counterparts in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. There is little sign Ottawa understands this.“
The key idea in the paper is, however, about how Britain may react. “So,” Julian Lindley-French asks “Anglosphere and Eurosphere? … [based on the assumption that Britain will, sensibly, look towards e.g. the USA and, possibly a CANZUK alliance, and] … Yes,” he answers, “it may be possible to envisage the Alliance adapted into an Anglosphere and a Eurosphere. It would certainly be a neat political solution for a post-Brexit NATO. However, that is not the way the Alliance works and there are a range of challenges to such a formulation.“
One of those challenges is: “Would the United States, Canada and possibly others such as Australia (and even in time perhaps India) entertain the idea of such a grouping as the Anglosphere? It certainly has a nostalgic ring to it, possibly reinforced by a shared experience in Afghanistan, where those who took the greatest risk tended to speak English. Elements within the Trump administration are certainly attracted by the idea, not least because the president sees the EU as little more than a fig leaf for an emerging German empire. Still, would the Trudeau administration in Ottawa buy such an idea? The answer is no. A century ago Canada came of age as a nation during the First World War, and my sense is that an Anglosphere is not the direction of travel 21st century Canada sees for itself. That said, a new strategic grouping is emerging organized around the Five Eyes (now Six Eyes) intelligence regime comprising America, Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and as of 2017, Japan.“
That’s Dr Lindley-French’s position as I understand it; but in my opinion, Britain has only one sensible strategic choice: return to a maritime strategy.
Britain has no business defending French or Portuguese or even Dutch interests on the continent of Europe … they must all deal with Germany on their own. There is no need for a British Army on the Rhine nor for British nuclear armed aircraft to be at NATO’s beck and call. How big the British Army and the RAF need to be, to help promote and to protect Britain’s vital interests everywhere, around the globe, is an open question but what should not be in doubt is that a British (Royal) Navy is the key to Britain’s security and to its influence in the world.
Navies are strategic services … they can project power in a way that neither armies nor air forces can match. A warship can project power without being threatening … sometimes a fancy cocktail party on a warship’s flight deck is a fine example of strategic power projection and peaceful diplomacy; sometimes that same cocktail party can be a thinly veiled threat. It is something that every major country does, including America, Britain and China and, yes, even Canada.
It is more important for Britain to have a global, blue water navy and enough troops and air forces to allow it to, unilaterally, undertake low and mid-intensity joint operations anywhere that its vital interests might be challenged. Of course, the same thing applies to Canada … and to Australia and to China and to Germany. Britain is not unique.
NATO remains a cornerstone of Europe’s defence against Russia and, perhaps ~ as a bit of a stretch ~ some sort of revived, perhaps even Turkish led, Middle Eastern and West Asia caliphate. Britain should remain in NATO, as should Canada but NATO should not be the default international peacemaking or peace restoring agency. That is a task for which a smaller, but broader ~ more diverse and global ~ agency, like a renewed Anglosphere that includes, besides Australia, Britain Canada and New Zealand, e.g. India, Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa might take on. NATO does have an established command and control (C²) superstructure and standardized systems and equipment but it is important to understand that both the C² systems and procedures and a lot of the standardization are the result of the work of smaller groups, mainly from the Anglosphere. That shouldn’t be surprising: a smaller group finds it easier to achieve consensus and the Anglosphere was in the standardization business before NATO was born.
Britain will, I suspect, want to remain “with Europe, but not of it,” as Churchill did say in the 1950s. But Britain, as the world fifth largest economy, after the USA, China, Japan and Germany, has global interests … in many respects, based on history, even more global than Germany’s. Global powers need to be maritime powers. Somehow Britain has to become, once again, a credible maritime power … which means more than just two new aircraft carriers, a dozen new Type 26 frigates, however capable they may prove to be, and a few nuclear armed submarines … how much more is a complex bit of strategic calculus, beyond my simple soldier’s brain. And, somehow, Britain has to remain a partner with an ever contracting Europe ~ contracting in size (because Britain may not be the only country to leave) and, most likely, contracting in diversity because the Eurozone countries may have to all agree to surrender some sovereignty to make the idea of Europe work. Europe will split, I suspect, into three parts: a German led Eurozone, what Dr Lindley-French means by the tern Eurosphere, I guess; a French led weak currency union (a juniorsphere?); and a third zone … all surrounded by non-EU members like Britain, Norway and Switzerland.
In my opinion, a “new NATO” is likely to have three pillars:
- America, with Canada as a very, very junior, most often ignored partner;
- A German led Eurosphere: and
- A group of hangers-on, including a French led grouping and a somewhat disinterested, even detached Britain … one which has returned to something like splendid isolation.
That, a joint US-Eurospehere led NATO, will be fine for the defence of Europe against Russian opportunistic adventurism, but it may make NATO less likely to act as the UN’s primary peacemaking tool and, therefore, less useful to the USA led West (which includes Australia, New Zealand and Japan) as a proxy. There may be a need for a revived Anglosphere (possibly built on the foundations of the existing AUSCANZUKUS agreements and a CANZUK free trade plus base) to be that.