A very wise and close German friend, one of his country’s leading industrialists, described the destruction of the wall as the night, ‘ The Russian mother could no longer feed her child, so she left the baby on our door step, but twenty years earlier than we expected.’ One sees the echoes of that time in the recent election throughout the east of the country where votes surged for Alternative for Deutschland. They look upon themselves as well meaning but are more dangerous than they realise and for reasons that are not their fault. None-the-less, they have eased open the flood gates and who knows who will follow. Angela Merkel only became involved with the democratic movement shortly before the first reunification election. We have another old friend who was a student with Angela Merkel. She says that on the night the Berlin Wall came down, rather than join the celebrations, Angela spent the evening at a coffee house with fellow students discussing a physics problem set by their tutor and requiring answer next morning.
One should not overlook the impact of childhood and education in East Germany. There is an increasingly visible difference between the old Western Germany of the Cold War and the new united Germany today. During spring 1945 East Germans simply exchanged one tyranny for another. Ten years later when she was three months old, Angela Merkel’s father emigrated from the democratic west to Stalinist East Germany; he was appointed pastor of a country church in Brandenburg. She had to join Communist organisations to gain access to better schools, youth activities and eventually university. She was not alone. All girls and boys had to swear some form of allegiance to Marxist ideology and the state if they were to advance in life. Talking to German friends one senses their worry that the reunited Germany of today has absorbed mind-sets infected with traces of the old Prussian over-confidence and inflexibility, the tunnel vision that led them into two seismic defeats, followed by partition in the first half of the last century.
At the time, Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s Prime Minister, expressed concern – shared by Francois Mitterrand and Mikhail Gorbachev – that Germany once more might become too large and too dominant. The record of that famous seminar at Cambridge during those months before unification is remarkably prophetic. Germans rewarded themselves the credit for unification, rather than thank Gorbachev who actually deserved their praise. Helmut Kohl already flexed his elbows in the EC. Nor did he recognise the Oder-Niesse line as the frontier of a united Germany. Margaret Thatcher was much criticised by the usual liberal chorus, including her own FCO advisers, but over the last quarter century events have proved her judgement not just sound but spot on.
She was never alone in worrying that a united Germany needed its political and military ambitions constrained within an international structure. Fortunately one existed – NATO – but in 1990 they recognised that one could only forecast the foreseeable future. The creation of the Single Market started a process which reunification accelerated. Germany controlled Single Market standards from day one, blocked new technology, destroyed industries in other member states. Portugal used to have thriving industries for electrical appliances and shoes. Now they have mass youth unemployment. Living next door in Switzerland over the last decade, one’s perspective gradually alters until the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties are less steps on the way to closer integration of the European Union than yard sticks of Germany’s relentless, growing economic and political power.
Last November the weekly magazine Der Spiegel published the gist of the German Army’s latest planning paper Vorausshau 2040 – Strategic Perspective 2040. Ever since this article in Der Spiegel there has been radio silence from Berlin. The actual report is probably quite lengthy but from just reading the leaks in Der Spiegel one realises that the new German strategy plan is a watershed. Not since the Second World War has the German Army contemplated a future without belonging to the NATO command structure. Nor will every German like this idea. One of the worries about unification was could Germany gain military and political power through the EU where the Kaiser and Hitler failed through war. Parts of the report most likely are contributions from diplomats and officials and I would not rule out significant input from Germans employed at the EU Commission in Brussels. Some of the forecasts are astute, indeed already have come to pass. The author, Katrin Suder, has worked for McKinsey. Her study’s core message is that Europe cannot rely on the Americans any longer. I don’t agree. For us Brits, having the Americans involved with Europe’s defence has kept the peace for seventy-two years and still does even with Donald Trump watching TV into the small hours and tweeting all day long.
The paper’s central worry is that a break up of the European Union could bring about the collapse of the economies surrounding Germany and kill off these valuable export markets. The consequent unemployment could lead to civil disorder, even another Weimar crisis. One assumption is that the European Union started to break up during 2008 when the Lisbon Treaty did away with each member country’s veto and replaced it with majority votes. Another assumption suggests that NATO started breaking up during 2014 when member countries were asked to work towards spending 2% of their gnp on defence and 20% of that on new equipment. Der Spiegel observed that Germany falls well short of both targets each year.
The Army planners are convinced that Germany must look after its own security. An obvious start is to concentrate on binding together the inner core of Euro Zone countries, economically, politically and militarily. An outer ring of satellite economies, which includes us British, must be kept within the political and economic orbit of the Euro Zone and its political and economic sun, Germany. The scale of Germany’s reliance on these satellite markets is best measured by the lengths to which the German government goes to disguise the size of the country’s huge annual trade surplus – somewhere around 340 billion Euros according to the economists Professor Heiner Flassbeck and Friedericke Spieker in their recent report – helped enormously by the existence of the Euro as a currency inside which hides a very under-valued Deutschmark. According to Heiner Flassbeck one can reasonably argue that German workers pay for this huge surplus through a lower standard of living than if their money floated at its real worth. Control of markets and money, in my view, becomes essential for managing this export machine as it sucks the life from once thriving industries in almost thirty satellite countries. One prospect still makes them nervous. A successful Brexit. That’s why the ‘ European Union ’ is so desperate to keep us aligned – controlled by them for as long as possible into the future.
According to Der Spiegel, ironically, the Army report speculates that one day the Poles and Baltic
states might throw in their lot with Russia. I have come across Polish diplomats convinced that Angela Merkel saves them from Putin’s Russia. Others are less convinced. German politics has thrown up a movement to restore their 1945 frontiers. The planners also worry that the Hungarians and the Balkans might do the same in protest against a European Union run by Germany and France. Keep in mind, as an old friend and onetime very senior German intelligence official explained to me one evening over supper at our home, that our membership of the European Union made Franco-German rule more acceptable for the rest. Realistically that was German rule and although some Germans think it’s their turn, not a sufficiently good reason, I observed reasonably, for us British to stay after millions of us including my wife and I had just voted to leave. Membership of the EU had done exactly the amount of damage to our export industries, shipping and trade that long ago we had warned about. Germany and France had profited at our expense. Indeed, one could argue that the present situation in Poland suggests the reverse of the planners’ fears is happening. Whether it’s through buying gas or investing in Baltic pipelines and Siberian car factories, Germany seems the country with the closest economic relationship with Russia. Poland and the Baltic states appear glad to have NATO troops and supersonic fighters based in their countries while some in neutral Sweden even think of moving closer to NATO. President Macron’s latest plan for Europe is straight out of Vorausshau 2040. Are all Eastern Europeans ready to hand over their protection from Russia to Putin’s telephone friend, Angela Merkel?
Over the last two years but particularly since the German election there have been plenty of signals about the future of Europe. Mrs May and remain supporters of all parties appear to have recognised none of them. Either they don’t realise what it is happening to Europe right under their noses or they support Germany’s ambitions and believe we should become a colony of this new German empire. For the Cabinet, our choice has little influence, perhaps doesn’t count – though becoming a German colony is not what the people voted for in the 2016 referendum.
My own forecast for this continent is expect a gradual disengagement from NATO by the European Union countries led by Germany until eventually that leads to a Russo-German pact draped with a European Union flag. Negotiating such a pact may take longer than Angela Merkel’s latest Chancellorship – if that lasts a full term. German political leaders may genuinely believe that under their management the new European Union super state ought to be able to pull off a diplomatic coup that brings peace to Eastern Europe including the Baltic and Balkan satellite economies, moreover, a peace deal that removes all threats from Russia. Such a deal could safeguard Germany’s considerable investments in Russia, above all cost far less than another Cold War arms race, or God forbid, another European war. The latter fear makes it much easier to sell a gambler’s pact to uneasy German voters. We should not forget that the democratic deficit in Europe started when the German Parliament voted through the Euro without giving the voters a chance to insist on keeping their Deutschmarks. That effects German politics to this day.
Putin, of course, wants to split NATO and part of any deal will include a demand that the European Union lifts all sanctions. As part of a new ‘ peace dividend ’ almost inevitably our troops would swap Sennelager for Salisbury Plain. The Americans would also be asked to depart from the soil of the European Union. An obvious and tempting price for this would be that Russia gives back the Kalingrad enclave and Germany regains Konigsberg and whatever is left of the Masurian Lakes in that portion of East Prussia. This might prove a master stroke but it could also be the match that lights the gunpowder. Already there is an armed movement in Germany that wants to restore the old frontiers. Silesia was taken as part of Poland in 1945 by Stalin after the Yalta and Potsdam conferences. Are we going to see another ruthless Polish partition three centuries after the last one? As Digby Jones has pointed out, while we focus on smoothing trade in goods and services, the Germans and the European Union seek political gains for which they are prepared to make economic sacrifices. May I suggest that other sacrifices might arise for which they have made no allowance – despite thinking they have. Lifting sanctions is the high value card and it’s held by Angela Merkel as she pursues rapprochement with Putin. He’s not an easy neighbour and any deal with him will be tricky to police. Along the Russian marches some countries worry, they could pay a steep price for diplomatic and defence incompetence in Brussels – or should I say Berlin – as Ukraine has already.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
When Elizabeth the First sent envoys to his court in Delhi, the Moghal Emperor Akhbar already raked in the equivalent of £ 17 millions annually, more taxes than George the Third would collect two hundred years later.
The largest economy on the planet was China with 30% of global GNP. Second largest was India with about 25% and third came Europe with about 23% of global GNP. The largest European economy was France.
By the year 1700 the Indian economy was overtaking China and the Emperor Aurangzeb collected taxes worth £100 millions – more than all the nations of Europe combined.
By 1800 the annual tax income of India was collected by the East India Company – over £ 110 millions a year – and helped pay for Britain to defeat Napoleon.
During this century China may become the largest economy in the World – for the first time since the Seven Years War over 250 years ago, the largest economy on the planet will no longer be a democracy, instead once again an imperial state ruled by a single political party, effectively by an aristocracy.
This century resembles the beginning of the eighteenth. No longer do only three power blocs compete for control of the world’s resources. New players step onto the global stage. Some will struggle more than others to become wealthy and influential countries. Although natural wealth is a huge blessing, often its benefits are squandered through poor political and commercial management and institutional corruption.
Britain has the gift of reinventing itself and that gives our country enormous human energy. Our economic size compared with China – and soon India – looks remarkably similar to that period three hundred years ago. Let’s reinvent ourselves as a strong player in this modern new world. Britain became the first super-power by breaking away from Europe. When the Pope gave Latin America to Portugal and Spain, we became Protestants and pirates, captured strategic islands in the West Indies and founded colonies on the North American continent. We established trading stations on both coasts of India. Eventually we became rich and powerful enough to keep the balance of power on the European continent for two hundred and fifty years. Let’s resume the blue ocean strategy that made us so successful. I know from my own life the incredible dynamism of the Far Eastern lands and the fantastic opportunities for exporters with good products of any shape or form, manufactures or services. Africa and Latin America are going to catch up. Our true friends in the Commonwealth are opening up for business, not shutting out competition like Europe. Countries want to join the Commonwealth, nowadays ones that were never part of the British Empire. We’re not alone in wanting to leave the European Union. Our voters had the bravery to vote out.
Ultimately far more significant than European politics, our planet crosses the threshold of another industrial revolution. Driven by quantum physics, powered by electricity, and who knows, one day maybe to a great extent by gravity. Medicine advances into realms where what once lay beyond the imagination are normal treatments. At such a moment, why on earth would anyone with half a brain hand over the power to decide technical and safety and moral standards in the British Isles, moreover to Angela Merkel’s standards and regulations empire? They even regulate against vacuum cleaners to gain commercial advantage. They would trip over themselves to ban Dyson electric cars, block all our fresh ideas for services or manufacturing. They already ban gm crops that have been proven safe and robust for years. Eurocrats are thorough, rigid and managed by a German zealot. Yet in Mrs May’s government the minister responsible for small businesses changed three times during the last year. Mrs May listens only to fat cats and multi-nationals.
And why restrict ourselves to only white Europeans as the people with ideas and skills and creative imagination? There are three times as many Indians as Europeans for a start. The people of Singapore are creative and clever. So are the Koreans. These are the partners of the future. Forty years ago we had trading links with Africa, Latin America and the Far East and a large merchant navy sailing to all these places. We should rebuild this trading web around the globe. Let’s have a new naval alliance with Japan a hundred years after ending the previous one – an act that partly led to Pearl Harbour. This country has a rare chance to completely reinvent itself yet stay true to its long and proud story as a champion for freedom in word and deed.
Where does all this leave NATO, not just Britain? Consider the broad picture. The planet is going through startling change. Not least among the countries of the Commonwealth. Sea, land and air transport will become electric powered, artificial intelligence take over all sorts of manufacturing and service industries – artificial intelligence may create far more jobs than it replaces. All this is happening without a soul having to persuade German industry barons and Eurocrats like a latter day Academy of Sciences under the French monarchy to allow their ideas to prosper. Britain drove the first industrial revolution because the City ruled commerce, not the state. We should resume this successful formula born simply from the geography of central London. The planet is divided between the countries that believe in freedom of thought, new ideas, free trade and those that don’t. We are one of the former while the German ruled EU is very much one of the latter.
One of the Foreign Office’s opening moves in 1963 was strategic – merging with the Commonwealth Relations Office. At a stroke they destroyed the Commonwealth’s champion in Whitehall, removed the focal point for opposing the FO’s plan to join Europe and turn our backs on our kith and kin overseas, our closest allies in two world wars, and five-hundred years of history. We should start Brexit with a strategic counter move – revive the Commonwealth Relations Office and put it in charge of our international development aid budget.
The democracies are far ahead of their rivals because we enjoy freedom of thought and word. This and God’s gift of our geography is why we command the world’s oceans. Our economies are wealthy because we can trade freely. Pretty well all the countries of the world want to trade with us, even our political opposites, but most of all, our friends. Atiku Abubakar, running for President of Nigeria, hopes Brexit will lead the way for real free trade between Britain and the countries of Africa. EU tariffs are over 350% on some Nigerian farm products and raw materials. No wonder the German sun desperately fights from behind the EU planets to keep control of our economy and trade.
Russia can make itself a nuisance at sea and in the air but only on land has the power to cause real trouble. Were the US Navy given the green light to clear the Russians out of Syria and no holds barred, they could do the job in a single night. Russia wants to take advantage of global warming by opening the Arctic north-east passage as a shorter route to the Far East. They are turning their side of these thawing waters into a military zone and the Canadians may find more takers for the North-West Passage. China, however, makes no secret of wanting to challenge the US Navy for command of the Pacific Ocean and its rim, has done for over a decade. One wonders if some time ahead we face a Eurasian axis with the German ruled EU, Russia and China against the rest of the planet. China also has a plan with a date – 2037 in their case – to challenge the US Navy. Stealing coral islands from their neighbours is an attempt to control the main east west trade route through the South China Sea. If you like, it’s the Spanish Main of this century. Iran is their ally only because it sits alongside the main choke point for the oil trade. At some point although not necessarily 2037, there will be a clash and the democracies had better be ready at both sea lanes. Mind, we have tough potential allies, not least the Vietnamese, who are wily and full of surprises. All the main streets of old Saigon are still named after Vietnamese leaders who beat the Chinese Emperors.
Let’s take a closer look at Europe. For a start how would NATO protect its Scandinavian and Baltic allies should Germany’s EU opt for de facto neutrality through a treaty with Russia? NATO plans for assisting Norway become more important and likewise the forces trained to do that without warning. I refer to the Royal Marines and their specialist fleet of ships designed for amphibious warfare. Our naval and air defences need doubling or tripling as a matter of urgency. French fishermen playing bumper boats in the Channel are amateur league players compared to Russia’s navy and air force. Other allied countries will have to decide whether they want to throw in their lot with the new German led super state or stay NATO members. Sweden and Finland may conclude that an understanding with NATO is enough but the Baltic countries and Poland might well opt to stay with NATO. There is a plausible argument that NATO and the Scandinavian neutrals should copy the Irish and keep out of squabbles between the EU and Russia.
The present situation is not a barometer as there is no alternative EU/German command structure at the moment. Countries may still belong to both NATO and the EU though probably not for much longer. Alternatively the EU/Germany can prolong the charade where their defence forces claim to be loyal members of NATO. That could make serious problems for the British government. In the event of a disagreement between the Americans and EU/Germany, whose side are we on? Greece and the Balkan countries face a similar impossible choice. I have no doubt that Martin Selmayr’s EU Commission will protest that the EU supports NATO but to quote Mandy Rice-Davies – ‘ He would say that, wouldn’t he.’
One sees how the British Isles, the Royal Navy and Royal Air force become even more important. So does the reliability of our advanced technology. Artificial intelligence soon will allow robots to deliver supplies to forward units in the combat zone. Anti-submarine and mine warfare will use swarms of robot surface and submersible vessels to search and hunt for submarine weapons and mines – the latter may become small arsenals of mini-torpedoes. The Royal Marines are looking into the possibility of supplying commandos ashore by load carrying robot amphibious vessels – torpedoes with tracks – or aerial cargo robots. Strike aircraft may soon launch cruise missiles that carry and control multiple weapon pay loads. Air defence fighters launch clouds of smaller robot fighters armed with air-to-air weapons. I suggest reading Ghost Fleet by PW Singer and August Cole if you want an educated guess regarding the flavour of future ultra high tech’ warfare after a second Pearl Harbour. Surprise, surprise, China is the bad guy.
Galileo is the EU/German rival to the American GPS. Both are global positioning systems, how your satnav works in the car. The EU/Germany want Britain to help pay for Galileo but announced that they would exclude us – as no longer EU members – from the secure/military communications provided by this global positioning system. After reading Der Spiegel’s report on Vorasshau 2040 excluding the British from the secure military capabilities becomes logical. What about protecting ourselves from cyber attack? According to the media nearly all the components and software for the secure systems on board the satellites for Galileo are made in Surrey. Given a pro-British rather than pro-EU government in London, we would have designed and built an independent UK secure positioning and communications system years ago. As well as restoring our national intelligence gathering capacity to the first rank, a UK system would provide some useful redundancy for the American GPS. Mrs May has let it be known that £92 millions will be invested in a feasibility study for a British version of GPS. This does not fill me with any confidence. Mrs May’s claims tend to vanish into thin air – from Lancaster House to Chequers seems par for the course. Frankly, I regard the announcement as a rather transparent bluff, given that her officials are still trying to lock the Queen’s Armed Forces into the new German empire run by Angela Merkel.
Meanwhile in the real world the US armed forces and the British constantly upgrade their technology to ensure they can carry out military operations together. GPS allows ships, aircraft, tanks to keep track of their exact position all the time. According to The Times the USAF alone has 31 satellites dedicated to its GPS requirements. GPS allows a small drone to spot a moving ground target and direct missiles, mortar bombs, even artillery rounds or bombs onto that target. Even the tiniest variation from true bearings could render the entire GPS system useless and our forces defenceless by removing their ability to hit targets at any range save with direct fire weapons. Once out of the American’s GPS we become reliant on a system run by increasingly hostile countries, where we are not welcome and who could unplug our armed forces any time they chose. This is not good budget discipline but plain dumb. Only an ostrich flock with their heads in the sand could contemplate such a stupid choice. The voters need to know because the voters need this stopped.
That’s not the only risk. A hacker will try to embed a virus but only activate it when the bug can do maximum damage. This is merely one danger that could result from a successful cyber attack. Rival powers try to hack into GPS on an industrial scale. Galileo will face multiple threats. NSA and GCHQ work as a team to eliminate such threats, identify and block intruders, remove viruses that have infiltrated. This allied ability is based on exceptional knowledge, refined skills plus the best technology in existence, above all total trust. NSA and GCHQ keep each other informed to ensure mutual cyber security and reduce vulnerabilities. Our signals intelligence alliance with the United States began during a world war. You can’t build up that level of trust overnight; moreover its start point was one of the greatest political friendships of history.
That is not the state of our affairs with Galileo’s management. When we formed a team with the Commonwealth and the Americans we were fighting most of the countries who don’t want us as full partners in Galileo. We are never going to have the necessary total trust with a group of countries that to this day remain openly hostile towards us – ask a scallop fisherman from Devon – and we shouldn’t even try. It’s that simple. HMG shouldn’t touch Galileo with a bargepole. There is too much risk involved for our own cyber security and therefore the security of our Five Eyes allies. The gold medal for a Russian or Chinese hacker team would be gaining access to GPS and Five Eyes via the British use of Galileo. ( I once tried a German security programme after using Nortons and soon switched back to the latter.) The EU might not inform GCHQ let alone NSA if somebody hacked into Galileo. Within hours of such a breach we could be asked, politely, by the Americans to quit Galileo or the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, the most effective in the world. The other four eyes don’t want the risk of contamination from Galileo. Nobody trusts Angela Merkel’s new German ruled EU – in fairness I should add, including quite a large number of my German friends.
Last Sunday we enjoyed the finals of our local tennis championship. We always have a buffet lunch afterwards. The village is south of Bern and famous for raising footballers and ice hockey players. I was chatting with another member who had worked in South Africa; he despaired how African countries struggle to put their houses in order when they ought to be extremely wealthy and stable. I suggested that it partly goes back to Harold Macmillan’s wind of change. Ordinary people across the empire had volunteered to fight a war to restore and safeguard the freedom of the individual. Africans earned that right as much as everyone else though maybe it came along twenty years before their colonies were fully ready for independent government.
He reflected for a moment then observed, ‘ Sounds a bit like Germany after the wall came down.’