My latest for the Telegraph: if V Putin would enjoy #Brexit, does that mean that it’s a bad idea?
The end of the Cold War was the moment of moments for radically restructuring Europe’s economic and strategic architecture. Europe’s then leaders blew the opportunity, choosing instead to stick with their own institutional arrangements painstakingly developed during the Cold War decades. More than that: it was fairly easy in practical terms to bring the newly independent countries of central Europe into Nato, but much slower to integrate them into the already hugely complex EU framework. Moscow saw Nato and in due course the EU steadily enlarging eastwards, but got nothing in strategic institutional changes in return.
As the British Embassy in Moscow argued time and again to London, this policy course was exactly how not to build a new substantive positive partnership across the board with Moscow, the big prize in the post-Cold War world. Those arguments failed to win the day. There was no appetite across Western Europe’s political and administrative elites for the hard radical work needed to wind down EU process-intensive integration in favour of Something Completely Different.
Plus, of course, huge entrenched vested interests developed and protected by the EU feared the implications of the end of the Cold War. How can the Common Agricultural Policy survive if cheap food products from points East enter European markets freely? Horreur! And don’t mention the life-threatening problems for Belgium’s heavy industry by allowing freer trade in post-Soviet aluminium.
Thus the miserable position two decades on, where Russia’s relations across the board with almost every European country are bad tempered if not antagonistic. Won’t a Brexit vote now just make a big bad situation much worse? Who other than extremist people and forces bent on spreading mischief needs added complications?
The core answer is simple. If the other 27 countries in the EU are unable to organise themselves coherently and present a shared strong democratic face to Moscow without the UK being a permanently awkward presence at the table, the structure is doomed anyway. Maybe that really is the case. As the fevered efforts to prop up the Eurozone and the possible new deal with Turkey over the ‘migration’ crisis show, the EU is increasingly like an unbalanced high-wire performer using ever more desperate flailings to avoid falling to disaster.
Yes, a Brexit vote carries all sorts of risks. Yes, Vladimir Putin will enjoy the spectacle and seek to exploit it. But staying on the Titanic in an iceberg zone also carries risks. A Brexit vote opens the way for the rest of Europe and Russia alike to look hard at first principles and adjust accordingly. Several new smaller, lighter, more manoeuvrable ships sailing along nicely together, instead of one massive sluggish vessel that’s taking on water?
The ensuing comments from the anonymous Kremlin Troll Tendency exceed all expectations on this one.
Vladimir Putin didn’t voice on Brexit; he probably couldn’t care less what goes on here in the Turkey twin. Why is this writer putting words in Putin’s mouth and expecting the .British to be gullible enough to suck up the lies. Are we sunk so low? For the benefit of the writer of this unexciting and probably libellous article, international protocol frowns on the habit of one country interfering in the internal politics of another. Putin acts in conformity with protocol and international law unlike countries of the West, including Britain.
Well, I daresay that grabbing part of a neighbour’s territory does not count as ‘interfering in its internal affairs’. Once that territory is grabbed, it’s ours, so it’s not theirs. So we’re not interfering in it. See?
Then there’s this not uninteresting argument:
If Vladimir Putin wants you to do something, it’s wise to not let that fact bother you in the slightest.
If Obama wants you to do something, it’s wise to consider the fact that he’s yet another jumped-up narcissistic seppo who presumes to think that sovereign nations should remain shackled to dysfunctional, bureaucratic tyrannies just for his convenience.
Basically, if Putin wants you to do it, maybe you should and maybe you shouldn’t. If Obama wants you to do it, you shouldn’t.
Lo! A glimmer of a real person here in Pantherblue‘s observation:
So do tell us what the “the British Embassy in Moscow argued.” We are curious to hear what was proposed. Crawford can be interesting reading sometimes but he seems a bit mealy-mouthed here. WHAT exactly is “Something Completely Different”? Crawford seems to forget the mood after the fall of the Iron Curtain (cute phrase now, isn’t it?). After decades of political and economic stagnation, all of Eastern Europe (as well as the former Soviet republics) were desperate to escape the decaying clutches of the clapped out USSR and Warsaw Pact. The EU was bright and shiny then. And despite all the problems it is a Good Thing the EU and NATO “expanded (horrors) to Russia’s borders” because Russia remains a Problem.
I have replied
Thanks for the ‘sometimes’!
When the Cold War ended there were voices (not only in UK) arguing for drawing a line under the heavily institutionalised basis for European integration that had developed thanks to Cold War divisions and eg start negotiating a free trade agreement across the whole Eurasian space. The aim was to work in a completely different way with Russia and all the other capitals. That idea also included looking for very different pan-European security architecture.
In each case (ie EU and NATO) it looked to be impossible to articulate a sufficiently plausible and achievable ‘different’ that would allow political leaders on all sides to make the huge and maybe risky effort required to move from what we had to something quite new.
NB that it was not only Western leaders who wondered how to make radical changes. Moscow was unlikely to accept the logic that gave smaller European nations heavily favourable asymmetric weight in European economic policy-formation as per EU systems. It is genuinely difficult to find ways to bring (say) Russia and Estonia and Germany into any new structure that guarantees their sovereignty but also gets things done.
Is Crawford under a three line whip from the Telegraph to support Brexit? It is hard to believe his heart is in this article. One of Putin’s major foreign policy aims is to break up the EU. “A Brexit vote opens the way for the rest of Europe and Russia alike to look hard at first principles and adjust accordingly” Crawford says. What the hell does that mean? It sounds like he is saying lets just leave continental Europe for Putin – nothing to do with us. Didn’t Neville Chamberlain say something similar?
Don’t think he did.
The number of Putin apologists and trolls on here proves Charles’s wishful thinking completely wrong. It was the triumph of mistaking what he wanted to be true for the real truth. The Puti-stooges are busy below and above pulling the rug from you Charles.
This exchange between lhhh and s0crat3s is gauling: