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HJS REPORT LAUNCH: “DEFENDING EUROPE: ‘GLOBAL BRITAIN’ AND THE FUTURE OF EUROPEAN GEOPOLITICS”
11th June 2018 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pmFree
As the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, geopolitics is returning to the European continent.
Germany and France are squabbling to define the future of European integration. Russia continues to menace its European neighbours, and British allies and partners. China is surging in Asia, with growing interests in Europe, the final destination for its Belt and Road initiatives. And the United States is continuing to accelerate its Indo-Pacific turn. Britain, meanwhile, looks increasingly uncertain of which way to turn.
By kind invitation of James Gray MP, the Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to an event with the Director of our Global Britain Programme, James Rogers, to mark the launch of his new report Defending Europe: ‘Global Britain’ and the Future of European Geopolitics. He will outline why the time has come for the United Kingdom – Europe’s greatest maritime power and liberal democracy – to think harder about the future, seize the initiative, and uphold the Atlantic orientation of mainland Europe. Gabriel Elefteriu Senior Defence Fellow at Policy Exchange will also provide his expert analysis into the subject.
James Rogers is a founding member of The Henry Jackson Society and the Director of our ‘Global Britain’ Programme. He holds expertise in British grand strategy, European geopolitics and Baltic security, as well as European influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Formerly, he held a number of positions at the Baltic Defence College in Tartu, Estonia. There he was Acting Dean (2016), Director of the Department of Political and Strategic Studies (2015-2017), and Lecturer in International Relations (2012-2015). James has also worked at the European Union Institute for Security Studies in Paris, firstly as a Visiting Fellow (2008) and then as an Associate Fellow (2013). He has also worked on research projects for several other institutions, including RAND Europe, Egmont Institute, and the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Gabriel Elefteriu is Senior Defence Fellow at Policy Exchange. Before joining Policy Exchange in 2014, he was Senior Defence Analyst and Consultant with a defence market intelligence company working with global defence and homeland security industry clients, including A&D primes. His earlier experience includes a number of business and security intelligence roles in the City. Gabriel holds a BA in War Studies (1st class) and an MA in Intelligence and International Security (distinction) from King’s College London, where his main research focus was on space security and strategy. He is also an Associate of King’s College.
We began with Rogers explaining his rationale for the report, quoting Michel Barnier as saying; “Never had the need to be together, to protect ourselves together, to act together been so strong, so manifest. Yet rather than stay shoulder to shoulder with the Union, the British chose to be on their own again.”
This type of thinking is spurious and incorrect, and propagates a neo-declinist argument. The UK may be leaving the EU, but it is still fundamentally tied to Europe, especially in the realm of defence and security. The EU is a product of European peace which has been underpinned by NATO and the Atlantic order more generally, of which the UK has been, and will continue to be a key pillar. On the 70th anniversary of the Treaty of Brussels for which the UK was a driving force, and which laid the foundations for European integration, German re-integration, and tied US power to the continent, it is right to reassert the positive role that Britain can and should continue to play in European defence.
The report itself is based firmly in a geopolitical analysis of Europe, arguing that the defining feature of European politics has been the attempts by various centers of power – Russia, France, Germany – to impose their vision of a “positive” order over the continent, and the UK’s efforts to counter them. While the UK would prefer to exist in “splendid isolation”, the demands of preventing a European hegemon from emerging have necessitated it to engage in “offshore balancing” and “onshore tethering” to maintain the balance of power. The development of a “negative” Atlantic order by the UK post-WWII, with the US and Canada, has served to “smother” traditional competitive European geopolitics and laid the foundations for peace and cooperation.
Rogers continued that this order is now under threat as the world enters an era of new geopolitics. Counter-hegemonic and anti-hegemonic actors will strive to disrupt and break down, and in the case of the former replace, the Atlantic order which has provided such stability. External threats such as a revisionist, anti-hegemonic Russia, and an ascendant, counter-hegemonic China will push at the edges of the order, while the US which has been the bedrock of this order struggles to maintain its dominant position. As the US puts increasing priority on regions outside of Europe, European states will need to do more to sustain the Atlantic order. However, Franco-German competition to define the EU going forward, with Macron’s new vision of a strategically autonomous Europe and Germany’s increasingly dominant position economically, will put strain on the order from within. We risk a decoupling of the EU from NATO and the wider Atlantic order which could facilitate a return to European geopolitical competition and undermine the order which Britain has benefited from so well.
As a result, the UK needs to take up a more active and forceful role in supporting and maintaining the Atlantic order, for which a new strategy of “onshore bonding” will be required. The UK must remain actively involved in the defence of Europe, stepping up commitments to NATO and other allies and encouraging others to do the same, while also striving to ensure that the EU remains tied to NATO. The UK should be upping its defence spending, and be prepared to deploy more forces to Eastern Europe, while also working to foster a more global European strategic culture. Dr Rogers specifically proposes the creation of a new European Defence Initiative (EDI) which would be a security organisation separate from, but affiliated to NATO. This EDI would be set apart by its exclusivity, with members needing to maintain target spending on both defence and foreign aid or risk ejection.
Gabriel Elefteriu then picked up on many points in the report, praising its grounding in solid geopolitical analysis, and its clarity in pinpointing post-Atlanticist thinking as key issue contemporary developments. He elaborated that NATO appears to have an EU problem, where what were once clearly differentiated pillars of the Western Alliance – NATO with a focus on military and defence, and the EU’s more economic orientation – have desynchronised. The EU has outgrown its original role and this has implications as it tries to adopt more formerly NATO competencies in a context of growing anti-Americanism. He also echoed the call for caution in thinking about German ascendency, which has been a structural problem in modern European geopolitics, and questioned the wisdom of calls for the UK to “plug in” to European defence structures without a seat at the table.
Furthermore, Mr Elefteriu argued that Eastern Europe is the key to Atlanticism because those nations are traditionally its strongest supporters, while also being warry of Franco-German power and of having to choose between NATO and the EU. Dr Rogers is therefore right to suggest the development of a closer relationship with this specific region. Ultimately, he contends, the UK can become a mediating force for balance in Europe which is enabled by Brexit. UK strategy will probably always involve a firm commitment to European defence, but this will be on the basis of a British calculation of British interests – not political obligation to EU affairs.