Rearming Germany and Britain
This is the sixth instalment of an essay called 'International Relations in the Twenty-First Century: the Russian Snake'.
It is in draft and all comments are welcome. The other instalments appear at www.the-paladins.com/blog
One problem with the NATO model of deterrence is that it is and always has been that it is premised upon triggering nuclear war between the United States and Russia in the event of Russian imperial aggression in Europe. The prospect of nuclear war has therefore kept the Soviet Union, now the Russian Federation, at bay. But the principal member of NATO, the United States, always imagined that nuclear weapons would be enough. The war in Ukraine has shown that nuclear weapons may not be sufficient to deter a resurgent Russia, that has been determined to fight a conventional war in Ukraine. The conventional western wisdom was that the competing accumulation of nuclear arsenals in the 1980's between the United States and the Soviet Union is what caused the Soviet Union's collapse; she could not afford the race to spend more, and her people were dissatisfied that the Soviet Union's economic resources were being exhausted in building nuclear weapons rather than providing for the consumer goods and quality-of-life improvements so desired by her citizens.
Hence once the Cold War ended, NATO lay fallow until an Islamist organisation based in Afghanistan attacked the United States in 2001, an extraordinary and unprecedented event in modern times. NATO's collective self-defence agreement was thereby triggered for the first time, and NATO fought various wars of influence in the Middle East for the next 20 years. In the meantime, the original purpose of NATO, which was the collective defence of Europe against Russia, was forgotten all about. Europe's conventional military resources were wound down, because nobody imagined that Russia presented a threat to the sovereignty of European nations anymore. The invasion of Ukraine, starting in February 2022, proved the NATO member states wrong. Russia, it turned out, remained with her eyes on European territory.
The logic of Mutually Assured Destruction in the event of nuclear attack my either side has continued to apply. Indeed the military equipment needed to maintain the nuclear deterrent has remained in place on all sides, virtually undisrupted, during the 20-year hiatus between the two Cold Wars. Everything has been presumably re-tested and re-oiled as part of various contingency plans all sides have engaged in. The area in which military capacity crumbled was in conventional weapon technology, particularly in the West who imagined that henceforth they would only be fighting asymmetric wars which require relatively small amounts of high-technology equipment as opposed to huge quantities of equipment it is straightforward to manufacture and replace, which is what the fighting of European ground wars involves.
Moreover the United States, short of the incentive of nuclear armageddon which will not happen provided that all sides maintain their nuclear arsenals, has less of an incentive to fight European ground wars than any countries does in Europe. History shows us that it is only when essential US vital interests are threatened that she will go to war on Europe's behalf. It was the threat of attack upon US territory by the Japanese forces at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii that dragged the United States into the World War II, not any specific events that occurred in Europe. Nor in the Russian invasion of Ukraine is there sufficient US interest to send anything but money and a modicum of artillery. The in excess of one million Ukrainian Americans, with the votes they carry, are insufficient incentive to cause the US military machine to move. Moreover the greater majority of the US troops that were stationed in Europe as a buffer against Russian westerly aggression in the Cold War have been removed home or sent to other theatres. In fact the US military is as quiet now in operations as it has been for a long time. Large armies take substantial periods to mobilise and demobilise. The US armed forces, acting at a distance, has proven itself both unable and unwilling to mobilise in response to the Ukraine crisis.
Therefore if NATO is to continue in its prior role as a deterrent to Russian westerly imperialism, she must acquire European capacity. That entails a British navy and a German land army. The United Kingdom's navy has become eroded during the period since the end of the Cold War, her not anticipating the need for defence of the British Isles. Germany underwent a pacifist streak in her foreign and defence policy after World War II, and her army remains far too small by the NATO standard of each member state spending 2% of her GDP on defence. Both the United Kingdom and Germany will need subsidies from the United States, and technology sharing, in order to transform themselves into a credible defence force against Russia's westerly aspirations. And the United States must continue to serve as the final backstop deterrent, moving her missiles and troops into Russian border states such as Finland in ever greater numbers.
This massive rearmament of Europe will, one hopes, create a balance of power between the Germany and Russia. Germany is known for her own imperial expansionist ambitions, and those ambitions must be confined to her aspirations to expand the European Union. EU transformation of the Balkans is essential to improve institutional quality in this benighted corner of Europe, the only area that remains outside the transformative structures of the EU. Only funds in the quantity available to the European Union are capable of transforming the Balkans into modern European states. But German militarism must not be allowed to re-emerge in Europe, even in the face of European provocation. That is why British, French and German troops must remain cooperating under the NATO umbrella to resist Russian aggression, and not allow themselves to be side-tracked into their own unilateral military campaigns. As in the nineteenth century, Britain may find herself holding the balance of power in Europe.
For all these reasons, the United Kingdom must remain engaged with the European Union as it may develop its own splits and fissures in deciding how to deal with the Second Cold War and Russian aggression. The United Kingdom's departure from the European Union may have been regarded as untimely, with the benefit of hindsight; but the purpose of her doing so now reveals itself as an exercise in repositioning herself geopolitically as a steer for the European Union and the holder of the balance of power within the EU as a proxy for the United States, within the EU and NATO structures as they develop themselves towards major rearmament and tools of economic development of those parts of Europe that remain outside the reach of EU reforms. Hence the role of the United Kingdom suddenly becomes important, just as does that of her Navy, the principal tool of which will in the future surely to be to threaten or impose economic blockades in response to Russian aggression.
The precise boundaries of German and British military expansion; and their interaction with French military forces that are substantial, remains to be seen. But Europe must forge a distinctive future from this point onward, the purpose of which is to keep conventional Russian ground forces at bay in their potentially westward imperial ambitions, and also to prevent Russian economic expansion westwards. In this way the most powerful member states of Europe create a balance of power with Russia, preventing her progress any further while in all hope managing to achieve this goal without substantial further war.