Brexit – Defence and NATO
While Mrs May is making the rounds of the European Capitals to see what can be done about the Brexit Vote, it will be important that all the players have regard to an ongoing threat to European Defence and NATO. The first duty of any national government is to assure the defence of the nation. All those EU countries who were once in the Warsaw Pact: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Albania know the dangers of being close neighbours of Russia – and indeed, for most of them, NATO membership was a more urgent and important matter than membership of the EU.
But it is entirely possible that Donald Trump could become the next President of the USA. Yes, it’s a horrible thought.
But if, God forbid, that were to happen, the US relationship with its European NATO allies might well change. See this in the New York Times: “Donald Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies Against Attack”.
The NYT article summarises the Trump Defence policy thus:
“Mr. Trump repeatedly defined American global interests almost purely in economic terms. Its roles as a peacekeeper, as a provider of a nuclear deterrent against adversaries like North Korea, as an advocate of human rights and as a guarantor of allies’ borders were each quickly reduced to questions of economic benefit to the United States”.
In those circumstances, the European members of NATO have to consider that they may no longer be able to rely on the USA as the guarantor of European security. It is worth looking at this paper: “The UK and European defence: leading or leaving?” which gives a lot of the background to the UK’s dealings with the other EU Member states on Defence. There is a long history of both the USA and the UK unsuccessfully seeking to persuade other EU NATO members to step up to the plate on Defence spending.
The USA spends 3.5% of GDP on Defence. The UK spends 2.2% of its GDP on Defence, but the majority of European states spend less than 2%. That may now have to change – and quickly.
Further, there are only 2 nuclear weapons states in Europe: the UK and France. So with the USA possibly being set to renege on its NATO obligations, the ultimate nuclear deterrent rests on just two European powers.
The UK Parliament has just voted to renew its Trident Nuclear submarines. What this is really going to cost the UK is difficult to ascertain. See this in the Guardian: “Trident renewal: would £205bn be a price worth paying?“. France also maintains its nuclear deterrent capability. See: NTI – France. Britain and France co-operate bilaterally to maintain their capabilities – but while these are national capabilities they are also in reality a NATO capability protecting those EU states which are NATO members.
Bayeux is located seven kilometres from the coast of the English Channel and 30 km north-west of Caen. Bayeux is best known to visitors for the Bayeux tapestry, made to commemorate the 1066 Norman Conquest of England.
During the Second World War, Bayeux was the first city in France to be liberated during the Normandy Campaign. The British Bayeux War Cemetery is situated in the south-western outskirts of the town on the by-pass, which is named Boulevard Fabian Ware. On the opposite side of the road stands the Bayeux Memorial:
The inscription translates: “We (British) once conquered by William have returned to set free his native land.” With two uncles in WW2 war graves in France, I have always been a fervent supporter of the European Union. I am sad to see our Government reneging on the deal because of the idiocy of the Brexiteers who infest the Conservative Party. It is to be hoped that a solution will be found which will recognise the common interest of the UK and its European partners.