James Gray MP: Hello, good afternoon, everybody and welcome to this beautiful meeting at the Henry Jackson Society. And I hope you did not find too much trouble getting up to this eerie on the top of the Palace of Westminster which was the only room that was available apparently at the time. I would like to welcome you. It is a good week, we are having this particular meeting with the crucial votes on Brexit occurring tomorrow on Wednesday although and for all other reasons it is a very good week to be discussing defending Europe and Global Britain and the future of Europe in geopolitics, which is the topic that we have planned today. Delighted to be able to welcome two speakers from Henry Jackson – James Rogers who is the Director of Global Britain programme and who incidentally (inaudible) highly when the Chief of General Staff dropped out of the meeting the other day. James took very close steps at the last moment and did rather a better job than the Chief of Staff could have done. And Gabriel Elefteriu who I will introduce later. James Rogers is a founding member of the Henry Jackson Society and Director of the Global Britain program. He has an extremely distinguished CV and a whole variety of geopolitical European strategic type roles (inaudible). Baltics Defence College in Estonia for some years – there he was an Acting Dean, Director of the Department of Political and Strategic Studies, Lecturer in International Relations. He worked at the European Union Institute for Security Studies in Paris, first of all as a Visiting Fellow and then as an Associate Fellow after that. He worked for research projects for RAND Europe, the Egmont Institute and the European Council on Foreign Relations. So he knows what he is talking about. James.
James Rogers: Thank you very much for that kind introduction. So I thought I would begin by saying a few words this afternoon about what animated me to write this report because I think those to some extent capture what the report is about and what it says. One of the key things which struck me last year was one of the comments made by Mr Barnier who claimed in November last year that the UK was basically withdrawing not only from the European Union but also from European security. And what he said was quite explicit and I would quote him for a few seconds – “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”. Well, this struck me as being a very strange statement and there are a number of reasons for this aside for the fact that the UK had continued and has continued to play a role in supporting France in its endeavours in fighting various extremists in North Africa. But more than that it seems to in a way reduce the entire discussion when in fact we should actually be enlarging the context. And it also fought into this kind of idea that Britain is in decline of which there is no real evidence to support and I will point you to the latest statistics from the Elcano Royal Institute, Spain’s version of Chatham House. And each year they do a kind of global presence index where they rank most of the world’s countries against a group of criteria to determine how present they are on the global scene and the UK remains in the third position where it has remained for the past 10 or 15 years or so. Third only behind the US and China. And not that far behind China. So the idea that the UK is in some way in decline I think has no real credibility at this point. Any way in which it may be in decline is probably more political as opposed to economic or in terms of its military posture in relation to other countries. So I want to in a way scotch this idea and also try to remove the idea that we can reduce European security to the European Union. Because one of the key things that I found among the key things I have realised over my career is actually that the European Union in a way is wrapped up within a wider geopolitical system that we otherwise now today call NATO. But this system is even wider and it goes back even further than the founding of NATO in 1949. Indeed, in that sense this is the 70th anniversary of the Treaty of Brussels which actually the UK was critical, if not the main backer of. And this treaty brought together a number of different countries in Europe, the UK of course but also France and other countries. It was seen as it is seen today as an initial step towards the formation not only of NATO a year later drawing into military and industrial power of the United States and Canada but also in so far as it created a strategic foundation for Western Europe in the context of a Cold War and in the context of trying to ensure that Germany at the time did not resurge and become a threat to European security again. It created the foundations also for European integration and the emergence of the European coal and steel community in the early 1950s. So the point is that we cannot reduce European security or Britain’s role in the European security to only the European Union and we have to expand the context quite substantially to understand the role the UK has played in European security and more broadly in the construction what I defined as an Atlantic order. This Atlantic order defining the relationships between the major powers and preventing those that seek to undermine us such as the Soviet Union in the past but Russia today, from usurping the value that hold us together and the structures that keep us strong. So this also falls into the final argument that I want to make as an opening salvo, if you will, of this report and that is that the European Union is not solely responsible for peace in Europe and in a way it has been a product of that peace and not its cause. The cause of the peace has been NATO, the cause of the peace has been the role that Britain and the US in particular have played in the aftermath of the Second World War and those 5 critical years from 1945 to 1950 and subsequently in maintaining the alignment of Europe in such a way that those who may seek to overturn the established order are unable to do so. So those are the main ideas that animate this report and its production and creation. But I will just take you through very broadly before I hand over to Gabriel who is going to discuss some of the elements of this report, the main components of it aside from those that I have already identified.
So it begins basically with a geopolitical overview of Europe and the role of the major powers within Europe – these being of course Russia, Germany and France. But also important in a different context, the UK. It asserts that geopolitics has prime in relation to European security and borders or the lack of thereof between the major powers with the exception of the UK and so forth. It has natural borders formed by the coast and have defined the conflicts and the struggles that had been broken out between the European powers in the past. And it argues that the ordering attempts of these various powers, particularly France, Russia and Germany over the last 200 years have had a defining effect on how the European balance has been maintained and how it has changed. The key point it makes in keeping what I just said is that basically after the Second World War Britain and the US suffocate geopolitics on the European mainland. They do this in two ways and this is shown by one of the maps you should have in front of you. This one here – basically they keep the Soviet Union out and they basically reduce its ability to occupy or change the geopolitical balance in Europe and also they maintain a stable balance of power on the European mainland through projecting US power in and also that of the UK and forming a new system undivided first by the Western Union that was founded as I said, in 1948, 70 years ago and then later by the original NATO allies and the formation of the Atlantic alliance which in turn brings about an Atlantic order. So the UK has basically sought to operationalise or to realise its established approach and it has always sought to prevent the emergence of a single hegemon on the European mainland from changing the balance of power in such a way that it would not harm Britain’s interests and allows that power to suffocate Britain’s trade routes and those of other powers as well. So the UK has long been a friendly power towards smaller countries on the European mainland because it’s prevented or sought to prevent the emergence of these other powers, particularly France but then later Germany and later still the Soviet Union/Russia. So while the UK would like to be disengaged from Europe it has never been able to do so for a simple reason that it has to maintain its own interests. And through that was implemented a strategy that I call and which is widely called offshore balancing. In the past it simply sided with those who sought to restrain the (inaudible) and it created a coalition to basically knock them down. However, at the end of the 19th century-early 20th century this became increasingly impossible because of the advent of railways and their extension across the European mainland and then later airpower which gave the continental powers the ability to attack the UK directly, in a way that they formally could not do very effectively. So this forced the UK both in the First and in the Second World War to become much more engaged in continental geopolitics as if as such it were itself a continental power. And it did this through the late 1940s through the formation of this Western Union and also through the deployment of forces in Germany in particular, including around 55,000 troops and a tactical air force. And the US also did something very similar – it realised its interests were very similar to those of the UK and it too engaged directly as a continental power for the first time in history. So this basically suffocates European geopolitics and prevents those within the Atlantic order from rising up and it prevents those from outside of the Atlantic order from coming in. And it keeps the UK and the US and Canada directly integrated into the European geopolitical balance and that is the system in which we live and irrespective of what the European Union has achieved it was nevertheless only made possible for this initial surge and through its subsequent maintenance. So what I am going to argue is essentially that this system seems to be challenged across multiple different vectors of the current time and it is coming under challenge through two different forms – firstly, from those from without the system but also to some extent from those from within the system. And there are two different ways in which this is happening. One, I argue, is counter-hegemonic struggle and the other is anti-hegemonic struggle. And the counter-hegemonic struggle is basically those who wish to simply replace the Atlantic order with the new order and then there are those who wish to simply undermine it and here, I am thinking of countries such as Russia which has been actively trying to undermine the Atlantic order, to stir things up, to create discord and basically to break the entire system down, prevent it from being as strong as it currently is. But also I think that there is also a number of challenges that are coming from within and some of these can be seen in the context of the European Union itself. I think there are some within Europe who would like to create an alternative European order. And there are some who would like to decouple the EU from NATO and the Atlantic order and go their own way. And they see a number of opportunities before them in order to achieve this. At the same time, we seem to see the emergence of some competition between some of the European countries, particularly France and Germany to define what the European Union actually is. And in this sense we have seen the ascendancy of Germany within the European Union over the past 15 years both economically and increasingly politically and this has had an impact on the common security and defence policy and more broadly on this so called defence union that is now being put together in Brussels. More broadly we have seen the emergence of France or the resurgence of France under the President Macron who has sought to provide a new vision for how Europe might look and this vision might be set not entirely in (inaudible) with the vision that is favoured by Germany. Across all the vectors, both economic and political, and military. At the same time, we also see a kind of problem within the Atlantic order between to some extent the British and the Americans and also the major Europeans and that is in relation to some of the claims that President Trump has made but he is simply building on claims that have been made by almost all of his predecessors going all the way back into the 1990s. And that is, there is a kind of a decoupling between the commitment of the two sides of the Atlantic alliance and the major Europeans in particular, and particularly the Western European countries, in so far as the Eastern European countries, not least Poland, Romania and the Baltic States have dramatically increased their defence spending over the past few years, that the Western European countries, Spain, Italy, to some extent France and particularly Germany have not being paying heat to the obligations and commitments to the alliance, and paying insufficient amount of money into their own defence. And this comes at a time when the US is increasingly forced to engage more vigorously in East Asia, not least with the rise of China but also the changes in a geopolitical balance in so far as it is now expanded beyond Europe as it was in the Cold War and thereafter and is becoming increasingly affected on a global plain.
So, where does this leave us? Well, I advocate that we need to think much more carefully about opposition in relation to the European mainland. And we cannot reduce our discussions and our future to the European Union alone. What is so important is we maintain the NATO alliance and also the Atlantic order and we need to do this in a different way than we did in the past. The simple reason is the Atlantic order is no longer necessarily entirely about protecting Europe or defending Europe, but ensuring the defence of Europe overseas because Europe is becoming a part of a wider geopolitical system that includes China, India, Russia and countries in the Middle East and indeed of course the United States. And in so far as the balance of power is changing quite fundamentally and we saw this only this weekend in Canada, we need to think much more carefully about how we can retain established position in this Atlantic order and therefore ensure that it remains relevant for the 21st century world. So what I advocate is that we need to move away from those established approaches that we have adopted in the past such as onshore tethering either within a system that we have operated after the Second World War or the offshore balancing that we have operated before that and we need to move towards a system or a strategy that I have called onshore bonding. We need to operate to ensure that the linkages between the EU and NATO and the various bilateral and multilateral initiatives within Europe are upheld but they are also complemented with new initiatives that should be at the forefront of ensuring that Europe remains relevant in the 21st century world and also the alliance between North America and Europe remains robust and strong. So what I advocate is that we create the European defence initiative that is affiliated to NATO but nevertheless is extremely exclusive and therefore it will help to encourage other European countries to increase their defence spending and some of them have been very reluctant to do so. And also wealthy members should also be obliged to spend more on overseas development assistance which should be issued in much more strategic and coordinated fashion. I also argue in this report that the UK should be much more active in providing security guarantees to its best European allies and also that it should increase its military spending. Military spending is now falling to around 2.2% of GDP. Throughout the end of the Cold War period it was much higher – up to 5-4.5% and in the immediate aftermath all the way into the 2000s it was up to 3% – just slightly under. So it seems to me that spending only 2.2% of our GDP on defence is not going to sufficient for this new world of tomorrow which is becoming increasingly geopolitical defined by struggle and competition as much as it is by cooperation and becomes much more global in scope than it has been in the past. And it is part of this approach that the UK should be more prepared to deploy forces to countries that are most exposed to the struggles and challenges and also we must ensure that the European security within itself is actively globalised in so far as what happens in East Asia or South East Asia or the Middle East is going to affect Europe as much as what happens on the Eastern flank of the alliance or the Mediterranean. So in a way we need to force a much more active idea among European countries including ourselves in how Europe’s role within the European security and global security is upheld in the 21 century. And there is an overview of the report and I will hand over now to Gabriel.
James Gray MP: The point is I better introduce him I guess. Thank you very much indeed for that, James. An extremely useful and Gavin is lobbying hard to get the government to announce further increase in defence spending in the run-up to the Brussels summit in July, few weeks (inaudible) work very hard to try and persuade the Treasury to do just that. Gabriel Elefteriu is the Senior Defence Fellow at Policy Exchange. Before that he was with a defence market intelligence company and has worked on global defence and homeland security within a number of business and security roles in the City of London. He holds a first class honours degree in War Studies and an MA in Intelligence and International Security both from King’s College London where he mainly focused on space security and strategy and he is now an Associate of the King’s College. Gabriel.
Gabriel Elefteriu: Thank you, thank you, James Gray for this introduction and for facilitating this event. Thank you, James, for the invitation – I am pleased to be here. First of all, congratulations for the report, it is a very solid and useful piece of work I think that (inaudible) bits that stood out for me and I will have some comments on them and my own thoughts on how we might look at Global Britain. I hope to deliver complementarity rather than complication. So two things that I value most about this report is that it is grounded and solid analysis of the foundations of European geopolitics, with the basis of power, lines of geopolitical fracture and past geostrategic models, all these things that you bring out very well. It is very refreshing to have analysis based on a proper analytical framework. I think perhaps too much of our public debates in this area is often just sort of an extension of ideological debates on Brexit, Trump, and so on. Of course there are other possible frameworks for looking at this, one can apply to deconstruct this political landscape and power relations and economic and military power and incidentally I think the misunderstanding of the power balance between the UK and the EU is actually one of the same features of Brexit negotiations. But anyway, geopolitics is solid grounding and I think we need more of that type of analysis. And the second thing that I value very much is that the report really pinpoints key issue in European defence which is this perspective of post-Atlanticism, as you call it, and at the heart of the report, it is the main theme and it is a concern which I fully share, which is that decoupling of the European subsystem from the Atlantic order. I have written about this too and I think NATO has, what I call it, an EU problem. So what is the problem? I think the Western lines were structured in a particular way from the beginning, two components that were supposed to work in sync. Now they have gone out of sync. The concept was NATO does defence and strategy and European governments do economic development and provide the prosperous base for defence. Over the past 70 years or so, one of these two components has undergone a radical organic transformation while the other has not. The EU has evolved from an economic vehicle into a full-fledged political project with its own separate defence and foreign policy ambitions with the global strategy. And the EU has outgrown its original role – this is putting pressure I think on the original post-war model for the Western Alliance overall on which the defence and geopolitical viability of Europe is predicated. So what exactly do I mean by this pressure on the model? I think obviously and first of all, the EU and NATO and (inaudible) out of step politically. We see this with Trump and anti-Americanism in some European circles, which predates Trump by the way, it goes back to De Gaul and so on. Trump is actually just the latest pretext for the European push back against American influence and I think the issue is a really bad European pursuit of strategic autonomy from the United States. I see it as a struggle for power designed to pull away from the (inaudible) of Washington, as Mr Junker put it in his speech in 2015, so again – long before Trump. So I think in the logic of the EU federalist project this trend is inevitable. EU federalism is incompatible with any sort of external dependency in the end, especially military dependency on America and (inaudible). And the second reality pressing on the Euro-Atlantic alliance is that the EU’s policies can impact NATO’s strategic position. It may sound controversial but two things to note here. So one, actually James has already referred to, is slow pace in committing more funds to NATO defence and instead really focusing on creating this parallel EU defence structure with the prospect of having a separate set of capability requirements, different from NATO. So that is one way in which NATO is not strengthened by the EU. And the second thing is EU dysfunction which potentially weakens key EU states which are also NATO allies and I am thinking about Eastern Europe. And of course Brussels does not intend this but it happens arguably automatically as a result of what we have seen as a Euro-federalist reach from Brussels. So obviously people denounce malfunctions in Poland and Hungary but why is this happening? Because one point of view would be that because the EU has perhaps not worked for these countries in the way that it should have and this creates more space for, you know, when the EU does not work, this creates more space for corruption and less democracy and more opportunities for Russian mischiefs so it does not make NATO stronger. Finally, NATO is predicated on land line structure of prosperous liberal democracy which is what Western Europe has had and what has made NATO very strong. It was not designed to work on the side of a very powerful but not allied and dysfunctional EU so therefore the task is to restore the defence of Europe and I think, to restore the old successful model, and this has everything to do with the dynamics within the EU. Now, you also want to guess the consolidation of German power and raise the issue of German defence spending and it is right to focus on Germany. I am very concerned about this too and I think the most important thing in this report is that in 1990 West Germany was on (inaudible) 10% more populism. France was around 29% more economically productive and now its 25% more populous, 40% more economically productive. That is a massive imbalance. Modern Europe has had this recurrent German problem and we must understand this I think, when it is put together a United Germany just ends up being too powerful. It is a structural fact of European geopolitics and does not have anything to do with Germans being evil or anything like that. It is a match for a geopolitical weight so we must be careful about how much mutual power we want to add to Germany’s weight and this links to these constant demands in Germany to increase its defence spending. But 2% of defence spending in Germany today would come to about 54 billion pounds. Compare that to 36% we are spending here – that is 51% higher than defence spending in Germany would be today without having to sustain nuclear deterrent. So what would that make of Germany today? It is a case of careful (inaudible). I think, I am not sure if the American perspective on Germany accommodates all the nuances that the European perspective can when it comes to these things. Secondly, on the European defence – you mentioned that by working with the EU, the UK can strengthen its capacity to shape European preferences despite withdrawal. Ok, as far as it goes and I agree with the spirit but the case is made (inaudible) I think was seeking to be closely aligned or plugged into EU defence is a way to influence EU strategic direction and level of ambition as I suggest. But it is worth asking whether this is a realistic prospect. I am very willing to listen to this but I haven’t heard any convincing arguments how exactly we can shape anything if we do not have membership leverage anymore, without a seat on the EU Council. So, this idea that we can retain meaningful influence that shapes EU policies in various areas is a big area of untested assumptions and a lot is being stated on this kind of illusion, I think, in the negotiations. And finally, you make the case for a greater emphasis on Eastern Europe calling Poland and Romania as UK’s first line of defence. I completely agree with that. It is an incredibly important point. If fact, I think the key to holding the Atlantic orientation of Europe as you call it might lie in Eastern Europe. First, let me say that Eastern European affairs are a blind spot in UK’s strategic discussions. Indeed, when you say Eastern European people think of Poland and Baltics. But that is only the Northern part of the eastern flank and I believe it is (inaudible) for Britain to develop an integrated plan of Eastern European strategy. It has never had one and again and again, from the First World War, the Second World War, in Ukraine today this is where the trouble starts. I think it’s the kind of trouble that affects Britain itself in the end. I think there is a lesson there that needs to be learnt at some point. And as you say, Poland and Romania are UK’s first line of defence. So why is Eastern Europe key to Atlanticism? Two main reasons. First of all, because East European countries are strongest supporters of NATO. And that’s because of the new threat perception and nothing makes you love NATO like Russian tanks on your border. Atlanticism is already established as an (inaudible) for most local governments and mainly on security grounds in a way that, you know, it is really not paralleled in Western Europe. East European countries are also very concerned about Franco-German power and about what the next stage of European integration policy holds for them. And we all know the recent debates with migrant photos and the cultural clash of course, the prospect of EU funds drying out for Poland – that will start affecting Polish policy in Europe in the next phase of the EU project. There is already a semi-organised East European push back against precisely these sort of EU tendencies that you identified as problematic for Trans-Atlanticism. I would suggest that something to build on but very carefully and the question is can we turn this crisis into an opportunity for stronger, more Atlanticist Europe? And all these things are being perceived very clearly in Eastern Europe in a way that they are not happy. There is a real disquiet in East Europe of the prospect of eventually having to choose at some point between prioritising NATO over EU or EU over NATO, choosing between the two. Therefore, I think there is an opportunity now to perhaps strengthen the East-European pillar in NATO and EU to moderate some of the West European impulses towards the defence union which are strangling the alliance. And external input from outside this East European space is essential for this – these countries need support. And if you think about it there is (inaudible) developing this special relationship with Eastern Europe jointly with the US. And I should also say finally on this that there is a renewed US policy emphasis on Eastern Europe, something what would have never been really seen before. We have seen Trump going to Warsaw and to other places in Europe for example, and he made a big speech there. And this is really the historical novelty in European geopolitics by the way, since we are using this framework. And the novel element, this is historical, is that you have a new great power present in the space between Germany, Russia and what used to be the Ottoman Empire, whatever it was to the South, but this has never really happened before. I mean these countries are always having to balance between these three empires. But there are new possibilities being open now and UK policy also has momentum in this area. We have seen UK-Poland defence cooperation treaty signed a few months ago, the IRF is being deployed to Romania, and there is a significant UK investigation mission in Ukraine and East European countries are also trying to organise in a way that they had not really until now with three Cs initiative, (inaudible) format, quite apart from the Visegrad form. So if perhaps it’s the time to take this to the next level I think this is a strong UK strategy in this region. We have some benefits. And I will just throw out some of my own thoughts about what may lie ahead for the UK policy in Europe. I think we are seeing really two narratives here. One is that nothing has changed – Europe’s security is our security and so on. And the other is – well, this is a new world, it’s a blank slate and we can pack Europe into a nice (inaudible) and put it in this NATO storage room and bring in the global furniture. But I think actually that European security content order prosperity remains paramount to Britain. But the difference I think is that whereas until now the UK had to align with the Brussels consensus on how to achieve this was part of Europe’s view of its own security, now the UK can and should develop its own concept of European security which might include views on EU reform and other aspects of power balance within Europe. So European security on Brussels terms versus British view of that. And I suggest there is a unanimous pragmatic positive case for taking more distance from Brussels and that is the case for Britain to become a mediator in Europe for the sake of European stability and Western cohesion. UK can force a balance that is not hindered but enabled by Brexit. So breaking off in the content of the lock is an opportunity (inaudible) moderating influence from afar. So perhaps on this one point, my views differ slightly from James’ because I do think we should be (inaudible) completely dismiss the offshore balancing, traditional British statecraft. It has been suspended for 40 years but now we sort of coming back to normal in many respects in terms of the traditional strategic dilemmas. (inaudible) With Brexit we are not actually breaking (inaudible). Global Britain talk today is fake news not because it is not true but because it is not news. Britain has been global for hundreds of years and it was on the road to reenergise global engagement way before Brexit. It was Dave Cameron who was talking about the global race, who activated massive new drive for trade with Asia, doubling trade by or to 1 trillion by 2020 – that was a target, who have been commercially into China, who built relations with Japan very quickly and very impressively from 2010 onwards. And all of this at the height of UK defence cuts by the way so the argument that Brexit Britain cannot do global and we must retrench for the lack of resources not sure is very persuasive if you look at what was going on before Brexit and at the time of defence cuts. So in a way I think nothing has changed because European security remains a core (inaudible). But in another way, there has been this reset on the question of how we achieve European security and what it means. We don’t have the leverage anymore within the EU from the inside or with a seat on the Council but nor do we have to pay political penalties for constructing our own vision for how European affairs should proceed. We can diverge on the strategy obviously, and I am speaking from the point of view of Brexit having gone through and what might happen in that scenario so we are not there yet. So yes, we can put UK strategy first. It may well be that the first line in that strategy is to support Europe at all costs. But it will be as a result of the British calculus of the British interests rather than a political obligation or treaty which link our solidarity credentials to some of the day to day diplomacy and to the interlinkages that were happening in Brussels while we were members. So we can take a step back and I think this is the main point of Brexit. This is the final point but our policy I think requires moderation as we look forward. And Brexit liberates Britain’s political capital. I think I will just leave it there.
James Gray MP: Well, Gabriel. Thank you very much indeed for that critique of what I think you agree is an outstanding and good report and it is extremely useful. Can I have the privilege to ask the first question which is on detailed matter? I was interested, I have never heard of anybody previously suggesting that we should be aware of what we wish for in regard to seeking to persuade other NATO members to spend 2% of GDP and that regards Germany. The notion that Germany would by that means become super powerful spending 50 billion (inaudible). I find it quite hard, unless you fear sort of German hegemony on the continent, I cannot see how they can possibly (inaudibly). Surely if Germany spends 50 billion on defence that will mean that others (inaudible).
Gabriel Elefteriu: I think it’s right to keep the 2% target there to, I mean the Germans have already made clear that they don’t intend to move towards 2% any time soon so it is good to have that instrument there, a target to provide political pressure for them to do more. So even now when they are spending much less they are actually not spending it very well. We hear all these stories about the state of the German armed forces. I was just making a point in a geopolitical and historical perspective and I think we should not dismiss these things completely. And it was a long ranging point as well. The fact is Germany is running a huge surplus so actually last year it had the highest surplus in history. It was 36 billion Euros surplus. It is the geopolitical and political weight of Germany and you were talking also about the concerns and political and grouped effects this can have on build-up of Germany military power in the regional politics, in Eastern Europe, Central and East Europe. Those countries also have a historical memory. These things actually matter. So I think this is something we should not be alarmed about but I think there is something to keep in mind what Germany’s spending 51% more than UK on defence might look like.
James Gray MP: We have 20 minutes or so for questions and brief conclusions on the floor. You might want to introduce yourselves as you do so.
Question 1: Thank you very much. Euan Grant, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Statecraft. And I can assure you we very much recognise the Mediterranean and the Black Sea regions as much the frontlines as north in the Baltic. I worked in Ukraine, including just after the Orange Revolution, just before the Maidan and as a result I am very sceptical about the European Commission and therefore to a certain extent Western European states in relation to defence and security and particularly in relation to Russia. My question is based around that – how do you see the key member states liaising with the Commission and then with Brussels? Frankly, both in the member states of the West and in the Commission, there are some worrying issues about blatant anti-Americanism. And how do you see this all coming together on a theory of suspects of the Western Europe (inaudible)?
James Rogers: Well, I have to say that I have spent the last 5 and a half or so years in Estonia so I saw this from sort of a Baltic angle maybe and to some extent from a British one of course. But I have always thought that we have largely failed and the EU in particular has failed and we should not be afraid of saying that in our dealings with Russia in relation to Ukraine. I mean if we look at the strategic balance, if we look at it from the geopolitical perspective Russia’s economic output is comparable to that of London and Paris put together. Two Western cities. All that of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, three relatively small but nerveless prosperous European countries. How is it therefore that a country with such a small economic base like Russia and frankly even its military capabilities are nowhere near comparable to those of the West, how has it been that the Russians have essentially had us on the back foot for the past 5 or 6 years? Going all the way perhaps to the war against Germany back in 2008. And I think this is actually symptomatic of the problem of the way in which we think about security and the way in which it has become so ascendant in the last particularly 5 to 10 years? And it also I think infected, and I will use that work ‘infected’, people in the UK about the way that they think about security too. It is having an effect, a ripple effect, I would call it to some extent the Europeanisation of British strategic thinking. I believe you (James Gray MP) have on your desk this amazing strategic document which was written in 1952 by the British themselves, looking at the geopolitical balances of the world and whether UK fits into that. It seems to me we are incapable of thinking about that. We reduce everything down to the European Union about structures and so on, instead we should be thinking how we can get Russians on the back foot and not waiting for them to take the initiative and (inaudible) respond to it. Because that basically has been the strategy that has failed. And we see the situation in Ukraine, in Georgia and in some other countries, Moldova today being that. And Russia in that sense has succeeded in what it wanted to do. It has won because it has prevented those countries from moving closer towards the West and seizing the initiative in the same way that the countries of Eastern Europe did it in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War to become part of the Atlantic order and also to prevent us from thinking that they can to some extent become part of the Atlantic order. And that is I think a serious failure on our part and in particular on the European Union’s part because they way in which it thinks about security, not in the sense of defence and strategy, as it was thought of in the past but rather about institutions’ structures, aid, all of these kinds of things.
James Gray MP: The document that James refers to was handed to me before the meeting. First of all, it is top secret document dated to 50s, precisely 1952, and produced by the government’s Chief of Staff and it is entitled Defence Policy and Global Strategy and if you glance through it, it remarkable how much remains true today more than seventy years later. Great stuff here about German rearmament and what worry that will be and how it should be handled for example. Sir.
Question 2: Well, first of all thank you for these refreshing insights. By the way, my name is (inaudible), I am an independent China strategist. Of course Europe lies in an interconnected world. There is a great (inaudible) to see the UK not standing alone on its own on security. My question is on the question of limits of the UK’s capacity, bearing in mind that kind of roadmap, the kind of scope, extending beyond Europe itself and to other parts of the world, and this is on two fronts. First of all, domestically, obviously we are talking about defence budget, more resources to defence but it is always a trade-off. Whether the British people will support this kind of trade-off in order to embrace this expanding scope? The other front is external which is much more serious in relation to NATO. And there are three aspects of that. First of all, the change in America’s relationship under the Trump administration towards its allies, even though these allies are part of NATO – how it would impact on the effectiveness of NATO in terms of security? Secondly, of course the Trump administration’s view on the order of things. The importance of Europe, let alone the UK in the order of things in the eyes of the Trump administration. You know, whether Europe is that important now to the United States as before, let alone the UK? Last but not least, is ‘America first’ kind of mind-set, ok, America would like to have influence in Europe but it is always based on America first kind of agenda. Whether or not, the America first issues would coincide, would be the same or identical with the Europeans or the UK’s sense of importance is another question. So I think my questions to you is the limits of the capacity both domestically as well as externally in the context of NATO and especially in relation to the Trump administration.
James Rogers: OK, that’s three very important and very interesting questions. Whether the UK has support from within – well, the issue I think is there is a disconnect between the UK’s power with capability and the willingness of the political elites, the foreign policy elites, and I am not talking about those just in government but also outside of government, in the think tank and the policy world, to connect the two. And there seemed to be this strange disconnect and I think it’s played us in the past 50 or so years although perhaps in the 1990s and 1980s it sort of subsidised a little bit after the Falklands war and the collapse of the Soviet Union. And that has been this sort of plague decliniism because of you look at all the major indicators for the UK, and all of the major think tank reports that deal with these things you will see that the UK sits very much on the top peg of the international system. Of course the US is up there by some margin but then after it is normally either the UK or France and then basically everybody else. So the UK has a considerable position in the economic system. It is still the fifth largest economy and this was reconfirmed last week by the International Monetary Fund. It has London which is the centre of the global financial system and has a huge scientific and research base. It still has the most projectable military in the world after the United States despite its relatively small size. It still has one of the world’s largest defence budgets, it still has one of the world’s biggest diplomatic services, it has one of world’s biggest degrees of connectivity and all the other major institutions and for its diplomatic portfolio. So the UK sits in a very prominent position and yet at the same time we still have this kind of plaguing decliniism, this kind of feeling that we cannot do anything, and I think there has been a failure of leadership in the UK to assert this and to show that this is no longer the case. And this has I think infected to some extent also by this European thinking, that we should actually downplay our position nationally because we want to increase that of the European Union. And this idea is quite prominent among some of the elites in this country. And I think this idea has to be basically scotched so that we could move forward and understand that we live in a new world and we are in the new order and everything is changing. And this brings me to the second parts of your question. What role does the new US thinking have on NATO? Well, I think this is becoming increasingly apparent. The world is changing; it is no longer Eurocentric in the way it was during the Cold War or even in the immediate aftermath. The US will become increasingly interested in what China in particular is doing and the resulting geopolitical changes in the region related to India, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, and so on and so forth, and how this change will affect its own strategic posture because the US is also a Pacific power as much as it is an Atlantic one. So in this new context the US I think will be increasingly wanting its European allies not only to hold the line against relatively weaker countries such as Russia but also to play a role in an extended European neighbourhood, potentially even as far as the Indian ocean region in helping it to uphold this so called rules-based international system. And if the Europeans are unable or unwilling to do this for whatever reasons, because they are engaging in European defence initiatives probably nowhere like they had in the past 20 years or not spending sufficient amounts of money on defence then the Americans will become increasingly disinclined to take Europe seriously. And we are perhaps already there despite many warnings over the past 10 years by various American presidents, defence secretaries, foreign secretaries, and so on and so forth. So this leads us to the importance of the US to Europe. Well, for the UK the US is very important because it sustains the liberal international order or the rules based system and the UK has done extremely well after that. And also it has supported NATO and the Atlantic order with the UK and then the UK has done perhaps better than anyone else out of that. So if we see the US increasingly disinclined to take us seriously then we are in a serious situation and we’ll be in a serious situation not only in Europe but also in further afield. So we should be doing more ourselves and we should be revealing ourselves more and we do have the capabilities – one of them sailed out of Portsmouth harbour this morning, a 70,000 tones supercarrier. We should be using these capabilities in signalling to the US that we are still a serious country and that we will take our selves seriously and we are there to support the US in its wider geopolitical endeavours. And we have the capabilities to do that. We just need to create the alignment of our strategic thinking to exercise that strategic power effectively and I think of no better way would be for us to announce our increase in defence spending before the NATO summit in July.