Tag: Brexit (Page 1 of 2)

Review: The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America

 

The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America –  Timothy Snyder.

Tim Duggan Books, 2018.

Hardcover, 368 pages, $27.

 

In sum, Snyder’s central thesis is that Russia is a nationalist, hyper-masculine, reactionary great power that wants to return to an age of soft imperium and spread Christian social-conservative ideas across a postmodern, effete, liberal, and secular Europe. This is the cause of Brexit, of European disintegration, the war in Ukraine, the election of Trump, and the overall terrible misfortune of humanity.

This thesis is as simplistic as it sounds and is based purely on conventional wisdom and current liberal narrative. It also suffers from the notable disadvantages of being empirically inaccurate and wrong.

Read the full review HERE

Trump, China and trade war : two short op-eds

Trump declares (trade) war…for now

Donald Trump’s inauguration marked a change in the world order, the free market liberal order that continued from 1945 in the West, and spread across the world around 1989. Here’s the transcript of the entire speech. But here are my quick three takeaways. The speech means, firstly, Trump is planning a 1930s-type national nation building project. Secondly, and inevitably, there’s now all possibility of a devastating trade war. And thirdly, Islamists are now the prime target of the administration.

The speech highlighted the new American credo of manufacturing in US, with American workers, and American infrastructure getting priority. It is unclear how he can do it, however, as if he imposes legal procedures on manufacturing outside US, his own company which outsources to China, will also suffer. The world is not stuck in the 1930s, and one cannot change the direction of capital flow or alter the comparative advantages. The center of gravity of economy moved to the East, and one can only adapt so far.

Trump’s inauguration statement was straightforward and refreshingly neutral in tone. In a certain way, it was without all the ridiculous and optimistic and hopeful balderdash we seem to have expect from American inaugurations. This was like a whistle for a firing squad. The world is now without leadership, and every power for its own. If you’re a strong power, then be stronger, if you’re weak, choose a side. Simple as that.

Researchers who deal with grand strategy often tries to find historical patterns in foreign policy. 

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The Grand Strategy debate London is avoiding

Originally published in CLAWS Delhi.

There’s a broad scholarly agreement that British grand strategy, was formed as a geopolitical gift. Britain, as argued in the Stratfor analysis linked above, traditionally was a naval power, but went on to dominate the globe and her peers, in a geopolitical game which was usually dominated by land powers. Despite early colonial ambitions, Britain was initially in no position to establish hegemony, and her losses in the American colonies made it look more unlikely. However, after the fall of Napoleon, and with Napoleonic hegemony decimating all the established continental forces, Britain was left challenged by other European power for the next hundred and fifty years. The only two near peer rivals were the United States, which was mostly busy solidifying its own hegemony in the Western hemisphere, and the Russian Empire, which despite her intentions, were economically, demographically and technologically far inferior to the might of the British Empire. The rest is well researched and archived. It dawned on British leaders that it could maintain this hegemony by tactically balancing opposing forces in continental Europe, even if it meant unwritten mega compromises with former rivals and colonies. This geo-strategic thinking, documented from Lord Palmerston to Winston Churchill, saw Britain form alliances with former rivals like France, Russia and Soviets as well as former colony United States to twice see off challenges and hegemonic aspirations of another rising continental superpower in Germany. Britain, aware of her radically diminished status after the Second World war and the Suez Crisis, also then subsequently joinedwith United States to balance the Soviet hegemonic ambitions.

Brexit brings this debate into forefront again. Surprisingly this time, amidst the chaos, no one seems to have a clue, about what British Grand Strategy would be. One reason is, as John Kerry once said, it is all very much like 19th century politics, and strategists usually do not openly talk like that in civilised circles anymore. Liberal consensus in foreign policy and strategic circles also moved from such structural analyses, and talks of amoral balancing and bandwagoning and great power politics are considered old fashioned. Unfortunately the lesson that was etched in the next two years since that speech was that great powers, regardless of whether they are powerful or declining, lash out when their “perceived” national interests and spheres of influence are threatened. Even when those perceptions might be severely misconstrued, and it might even lead the great power to commit forces beyond it can muster or support, the great power will carry on the course, even at the risk of punishing economic retribution. Kerry and co re-learnt something which Realists talked about for the last quarter century, that there’s no other way other than either a compromise and honourable retreat, or a full on geopolitical confrontation (not necessarily conflict) that are the two ways this challenges can be dealt with. And that nation states, and not values or culture or trade are still the single most powerful determinant in geopolitics.

United Kingdom similarly needs to decide on the number of challenges that it will inevitably face in the coming years. Firstly, assessment needs to be done on the plausibility and effect of market forces deciding geopolitics and how much economic pain are the Britons willing to suffer. Britain cannot survive without European market, or without foreign brains, mostly working in the finance and tech and educational sectors in UK. Regardless of the cavalier attitude displayed by the Conservative leaders recently, one needs to get facts clear. United Kingdom is not British Empire without the productivity, and market of India, Canada, Australia and New Zealand behind it, and British industry base, like most of the Western countries, has shifted from manufacturing, agrarian and hard industry to a more modern urban, finance and tech centric knowledge based economy. There is no way that is going to be reversed, and Britain simply will not survive a competition when it comes to the labour mobility and comparative advantages of India or China, or other Asian economies for example. Which brings to the more important question, as both United Kingdom and Europe needs each other, what about the European Union and how to deal with it?

The European Union, is a political construct, and as long as it stays, harsh though it may sound, it might tend to look at United Kingdom post Brexit as a rival source of competition. UK has unleashed, or at least inspired a lot of national socialist and populist forces within EU, and the survival of EU depends on dominating and defeating these forces and that cannot be done, unless UK either compromises with EU on single market or capitulates to a more powerful EU. Already there is extreme friction with regards to an European security force led by none other than Germany, which understandably leaves UK shaken as it leads to a separate division and bureaucratization of European security command alongside NATO, not to mention the nightmarish idea of a potential joint military force across a narrow sea, of which UK is not a part of. With regards to that, what then should therefore be the British strategy? Would she join forces with Russia, another great power (albeit a rogue one) which might feel threatened by the same development? Should Britain then try to persuade United States that a single economic and military union in Europe is actually a hegemonic idea which is not desirable and one that both US and UK should oppose, because frankly no one knows how this union might act in future? Or should it covertly instigate separatist conservative anti-centralisation forces across the continent?

This is not a a fortunate or necessary development, however, nor is it desirable and is being advocated here. It is just a plausible scenario that falls within the realms of statistical possibility and therefore must be taken into account in any such analysis. United Kingdom, without a shadow of any doubt, has got more in common with immediate neighbours in Western European nation states than for example Russia or Central-Eastern V4 states, when it comes to culture, political leanings, and values, just as United States has more in common with United Kingdom than other European continental powers. United Kingdom is also heavily dependent on both European brainpower and research funding and the market forces and labour, despite the bravado of her current leaders.

However, Britain, is also a great power, and just like any other power, is shaped and influenced by structural forces around her. And as the literature of alliance formation tells us, if Britain faces too much pressure from the European Union regarding Brexit deals, the spring might just snap, and London might have to look for other partners and a more confrontational grand strategy, not just economically but also geopolitically. A lot is at stake here, and even post EU Referendum, it would be imprudent for both London and Brussels to be uncompromising, just as it would be unwise for Washington to have a completely hands off attitude regarding the future of these negotiations. The entire Atlantic security depends it.

Addendum: “This article was written on October 14th. One of the three primary hypothesis was that Britain, should it face an intransigent EU, might consider tactical alignment with Russia. The author would like to note, that as of 31st October, 15 days after the article was first drafted, while not official policy, that hypothesis is well within official consideration among the ruling Conservative policy circles.”

Sumantra Maitra is a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, UK. His research is in Great power politics and Neorealism. You can find him on Twitter @MrMaitra.

Assorted geopolitical thoughts from yours truly

Sorry, I’ve been busy with research and writing. But I took some time for an update on five important developments, which you might have missed. As the world is busy with the disillusioned illiberal democracies, here are some other updates you should be reading about.

  1. India-Iranian geo-strategic convergence. India recently started a naval port in Iran. Details here.
  2. Brexit is turning out to be a geopolitical struggle between EU and UK, which might get nasty.
  3. What does Suez crisis tell us about declining hegemons and rising peer rivals, and how it is similar to South China sea rivalry between US and China? Read here.
  4. The politics of human rights is essentially politics, rhetorically espousing values. Here’s why.
  5. Finally, how threatening is EU Army for UK, US, and Russia and what does International Relations theory tell us? Read here.

My once rejected article which is still “under edit”, is already being proved right

You know when idiot editors meddle or reject your hypothesis, which then gets proved right? Yes. Just happened.

 

My once rejected article which is still “under edit”, is already being proved right. How frustrating is that?

 

I wrote an article on British Grand Strategy post Brexit on October 14th. I submitted it to a UK journal, which I obviously cannot name here.

There is this para which raised a few eyebrows.

The European Union, is a political construct, and as long as it stays, harsh though it may sound, it might tend to look at United Kingdom post Brexit as a rival source of competition. UK has unleashed, or at least inspired a lot of national socialist and populist forces within EU, and the survival of EU depends on dominating and defeating these forces and that cannot be done, unless UK either compromises with EU on single market or capitulates to a more powerful EU. Already there is extreme friction with regards to an European security force led by none other than Germany, which understandably leaves UK shaken as it leads to a separate division and bureaucratization of European security command alongside NATO, not to mention the nightmarish idea of a potential joint military force across a narrow sea, of which UK is not a part of. With regards to that, what then should therefore be the British strategy? Would she join forces with Russia, another great power (albeit a rogue one) which might feel threatened by the same development? Should Britain then try to persuade United States that a single economic and military union in Europe is actually a hegemonic idea which is not desirable and one that both US and UK should oppose, because frankly no one knows how this union might act in future? Or should it covertly instigate separatist conservative anti-centralisation forces across the continent?

This is not a a fortunate or necessary development, however, nor is it desirable and is being advocated here. It is just a plausible scenario that falls within the realms of statistical possibility and therefore must be taken into account in any such analysis.

Here’s a reviewer comment I received on my overall post. One sentence from it.

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My new essay; and you might need a trigger warning

My new long essay published, on EU, Merkel, migration, etc.

Ross Douthat once earlier pointed out, this Europe bound flow will never stop unless the structural problem of Africa as a continent are solved. Problems like exploding population, conflicts, industrial stagnation, social tribalism and exploitation of finite natural resources. Question is how will that be solved, by another intervention, or by creating buffer zones between Europe and Africa/Middle East? Who will police these buffer zones? What about genuine high educated migrants facing racial attacks, as a backlash by native population, who don’t differentiate between an illegal migrant and a research scholar with a valid visa who might actually be beneficial for the host society? Why would someone even want to take the legal route anymore, if all laws and borders break down anyway?

I write about some other questions, amidst what one might arguably call, a European disintegration.

Read it here.

PODCAST: Let no one say Politics is boring…

Tweets that didn't age well.

Tweets that didn’t age well.

 

What a week, and it is not even Thursday!

I have written about politics since 2008, covered US, NZ, Indian, Fiji, and British elections, fair to say, I haven’t covered a week like this, as a columnist. And the week is not even over yet.

British politics just officially out Game of Throned, Game of Thrones.

CmM3S0KWIAAaDsDTo sum it up, Boris is out of Tory leadership as he realised, that he got outplayed by Michael Gove. For all his Roman scholarship, he never saw that coming. So, he is now dodging the bullet, putting himself in a kingmaker position, wait for Theresa May or Gove to come for his support, positioning himself for the ultimate leverage, and wait for the next person to clean up the mess. Boris lives to fight another day.

Michael Gove and Theresa May in, Labour is turmoil, and Brexit a fact, as Cameron wants India, China and US to replace EU investment and partnerships with UK.

And it’s not over yet! Listen to me here…and watch this space for more to come!

Is racism really on the rise after Brexit?

Post Brexit, this is the question on everyone’s lips: Is racism on the rise in UK? Certainly, people will be more aware of it and are eagerly looking for any evidence to support their fears. Extremists play on fear. They weaponize it. Which is why we should not allow any far right cynical agitation, to actually agitate us. Ukip and Farage did not win Brexit. Boris Johnson, Gisela Stuart and Andrea Leadsom did. I believe that with Brexit, we can we fight rising Euro Neo-fascism head on.

The far right has been in the ascendant in the European Union for many years. It has been facilitated by EU open boarders and compounded by the refugee crisis.  A vote to Remain would not have stopped this. Brexit, however, just might. It makes Farage and Ukip redundant.

Many liberals however do not see this opportunity, they are having too much fun indulging their hysteria. They consistently dismiss Brexit voters as ignorant peasants. It’s precisely this attitude which has been their undoing.

The danger in their refusal to listen to the issues of grass roots, working class voters is the danger that when people see themselves being labelled racist and xenophobic (when they aren’t) is that they then believe the racists and the xenophobes are the only ones who will listen to them. And very often, for political ends, they are.

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A typical British Revolution: dispatch from UK

(A shorter version of it published previously as part of my weekly columns. Too important not to republish it here.)

It is not an easy column to write, not because every columnist here is drained after being awake for almost over two days now, but due to the sheer amount of events that happened that is difficult to note down. No adjective is worthy of use; seismic, political earthquake, an event unparalleled in modern history, all seems cliché. Journalists, policy makers, pollsters stunned, BBC, SKY, ITV, every channel and newspaper predictions failed showcasing how out of touch everyone was with the British masses. Even at 2:30 at night, YouGov was showing Remain a comfortable win, by 5:30, England and Wales voted Out, London, Scotland and Ireland voted In. My panicked EU colleagues calling and texting, students crying, pubs bizarrely full at 6 in the morning.

David Cameron came out hoarse and gaunt, his voice breaking, a shattered man, standing next to his wife, herself barely remaining composed, the fabled British stoicism failing on occasions. Cameron resigned, saying that though he will be there to steady the ship, the captain needs to change, in what might go down in history as the most lyrically poignant speeches ever given. Within the next three hours, the GBP went down in the single strongest recorded fall in a day, Northern Irish and Scottish nationalists demanded referendums on independence, Populists and Eurosceptics across Europe, from France to Italy and Netherlands, demanded their referendums to go out of EU, Juncker, Merkel, and Hollande said they respected British voices, Boris Johnson was tipped to be the next PM of Britain, and the Labour party of UK demanding a no confidence motion for Jeremy Corbyn. And it was not even 9:30 in the morning. 

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The Day After The Referendum

There is still a somewhat stunned silence around in relation to the referendum results. I have the pleasure of working in an environment where everyone was very vocal about their hatred of the European Union and have not spared their words on the topics of immigration and governance. Yet yesterday, when the results were confirmed and the markets started plummeting, there was a distinct silence around. The resounding feeling quietly expressed was ‘what have we done’. This juxtaposed with the roar on social media from those of us who are linked with academia, raging about lost opportunities, fearing for funding, and like myself, wondering how long it is before us ‘unwanted drains of the society’, the EU migrants, were marched out of the country by Farage and his team. All this was mixed with the Brexit campaigners glee of a victory many did not believe would not happen.

There is so much that could – and will – be said about the campaign and the politics behind it. The discourses on immigration were especially interesting as they dominated the campaign, leaving economic concerns behind. However, for the politically and legally minded, the situation now gets very interesting. The next official step in the process is the activation of Article 50, which in itself poses one rather interesting question in regards to departure of Britain from the EU. David Cameron has stated that the Article should only be activated once the Conservative Party gets a new leader, which is likely to happen in October this year. the EU leaders, however, want Britain out as soon as possible.

What is it that is so interesting about the Article 50?  The Lisbon Treaty states as follows:

4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

During the process the country withdrawing is not allowed to be present in the negotiations. Those countries that remain decide among their own group the kind of an offer they will put on a table.  Although the discourses that can be read across different EU states are concentrating on keeping a close alliance between Britain and the EU even after the split, the question does remain: will Britain be made as an warning, the example of what happens if you leave?

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