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Westminster Reflections 

Sir Bernard Jenkin MP says the UK will refocus on the importance of Nato in the years ahead

As all eyes are on Russia for the World Cup, remember there is another organisation preoccupied with Russia.  Nato is now one of the world’s oldest international military alliances, and has been part of the underwriting of global stability and the total absence of wars between major powers since the end of World War II.  But today, too many European powers take peace for granted, or erroneously believe that the EU can be a substitute for Nato. The defence facts on the ground make it harder and harder to maintain the credibility of Nato’s deterrent role, in the face of the mounting Russian military build-up.  As the UK leaves the EU, expect the UK to refocus on the importance of Nato in the years ahead.

The July Nato summit will contain some politically explosive ingredients.  Without the UK, the whole of the EU represents just 20 per cent of Nato military spending, and most of the EU provides almost negligible deployable capability.  And the UK has just announced major increases for NHS spending, apparently pre-empting any increase for our own overstretched defence budgets, which requires an additional £5-10 billion per year, just to support existing programmes, training and manning levels.  As yet, there is no sign that this will be forthcoming.  And the USPresident is well known for his impatience with European members of Nato.  We seem to take the US security guarantee for granted. President Trump embodies the warning we should heed: we cannot carry on like this.

Inadequate spending on defence both reflects EU complacency and encourages weak responses and attitudes to Russian aggression.  Some views expressed in Brussels about Russia are plain irresponsible. Only recently, President Juncker said that “we have to reconnect with Russia… This Russia-bashing has to be brought to an end” – as though the West’s reaction to the illegal occupation of Crimea, the downing of a civilian airliner over Ukraine, the wanton military interference in Ukraine, and such incidents as the Salisbury poisoning incident is just ‘Russia bashing.’

The UK exit from the EU presents opportunities for our relationship with Nato. Our commitment to European security is not in question, but in future the UK will be free to invest our considerable diplomatic and military capacity unambiguously in Nato.  Back in 1998, the former United States’ Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright warned about the consequences for Nato of a rival military alliance under the EU. She was never any kind of Eurosceptic, but as she made clear at the 1998 Nato Conference, “any [EU] initiative must avoid pre-empting Alliance decision-making by de-linking [the EU] from Nato, avoid duplicating existing efforts, and avoid discriminating against non-EU members.”

The European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) offends all three of those principles.  CSDP comprises EU military capability which is explicitly autonomous from Nato; CSDP duplicates Nato processes and decision-making and CSDP excludes non-EU members of Nato like Turkey, Norway, Canadaand of course the US.  And because of arcane disputes between certain states (like Turkey-Cyprus), EU-Nato relations can easily be paralysed.

The European Union’s Military Committee provides strategic advice to the European Council, just as Nato’s Military Council provides advice to the North Atlantic Council. Both are comprised of member countries’s chiefs of defence staff. The European Union’s Military Planning and Conduct Capability is as yet a pale shadow of Nato Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). The EU wants its own fully-fledged military HQ.

This is all derived from the EU’s ambition to look like a military power, without actually taking any of the responsibility.  A reflection paper published last year by the European Commission makes it clear that their end destination for the continent is complete pooling of military resources and the introduction of new command structures at an EU-wide level.  But what’s the point of even more spending on chiefs, offices, HQs, councils, cars, administrators, when they add absolutely nothing to deployable military capability?

The UK is the world’s sixth largest power by military expenditure, as well as the sixth largest economy. That makes us larger in defence terms than any of the EU27, larger per capita than both Chinaand Indiaand the world’s second most geopolitically competent power. We are also pre-eminent in security services.  The head of the Government Communications Head Quarters in Cheltenham has just pointed out that British intelligence helped foil four major terror attacks elsewhere in Europe over the past 12 months.

We will reinvest in our own national capabilities and in Nato. Planning for the role that this country plays in the wider world – which is most of the world – is critical to ensuring its success. As we leave the EU, the UK will restore and extend our network of alliances with the rest of the world. Our renewed commitment to Nato will continue to be the cornerstone of our commitment to European security.  We will remain engaged with all our Nato and EU allies.  What will the EU itself do?



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