BETWEEN TRUMP, BREXIT, AND PUTIN – WILL THE WEST MAINTAIN ITS UNITY AND SECURITY?

BETWEEN TRUMP, BREXIT, AND PUTIN –  WILL THE WEST MAINTAIN ITS UNITY AND SECURITY?

By
Harry C. Blaney III

In the last post I tried to empathize that our key focus now should be that “there is a lesson to all of us who worry about the direction that humanity is moving and not less what direction America will go in the future.”  Recent events have already reinforced this concern and need for all of us to recognize the challenges we will be facing in a likely Trump and Putin dominated world. The declarations in the inaugural address and other statements have not changed the judgement that we are in for a very risky era and especially dealing with Russia.

As we move into Trump’s presidency he has, even before being president, created more chaos and disunity and doubt among our dearest allies and friends and given joy to those that wish us ill. He has acted as if his main and only goal is to be a major disputer of our shared international democratic and security framework that has held our common values and security together. Already there is talk that his main strategy is to create chaos and thus increase his control as his management style.

The 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. day “massacre by tweets” from Donald Trump, and his interviews with European publications, has already severely damaged our relationship with our allies. His actions include the degrading of the key institutions upholding decades of peace, security and cooperation in Europe.

These institutions and our promises of collective security and maintaining peace for all are underpinning the essence of global stability and unity. The Atlantic community ties are key and even hinting that we could do away with them and indicating his disdain for the EU and NATO have set in motion confusion among our friends and empowered dark authoritarian forces in Europe.

I believe this was a deliberate act of sabotage of existing key institutions that have kept the peace in Europe and kept America as the respected and undisputed leader among free nations. That confidence no longer exists. In the Trump world of support for the racist and fascists factions in far right parties of Europe the result is we have deeply hurt the shared values on both sides of the Atlantic.

These parties that Trump has praised are themselves calling for disunity, hate for immigrants, adapted extremist views, denounce democracy, and advocate conflict and disunity within Europe and in society. In some nations they have already taken actions contrary to democratic norms, undermine media independence, and the rule of law. Not much difference than the tact Trump increasingly has taken here – witness his attack on the press and opposition leaders like Rep. John Lewis.

The one person who has gained the most from all this disunity is Putin. The gambit for as early summit portends possible decisions which might further undermined security in European and beyond. Europeans wonder if Trump would sell out their security for a “mess of porridge.” This with the background of the consequences of the disastrous Brexit which seems now to run on autopilot, thanks to UK Prime Minister Theresa May who now directs her nation off the cliff of influence in Europe and the world.

Frankly, Trump has done in just one or two days of tweets and interviews with European publications more damage to the security and unity of Europe and of the Atlantic community, than Putin, in decades with all his underhanded efforts to subvert European democracy and unity by promoting far right fascists groups and subverting European media. Either this is from madness, stupidity, or something even more dark and terrible?

Can the damage be undone? The prospects of Trump wanting to be a positive and stable voice in global affairs looks very dismal as it does here at home after the John Lewis debacle.  This is demonstrated in his continued desire to undermine our fundamental American values of justice, racial and social tolerance, our need for strong public education which is key to our democracy, the protection of our environment, and not least a strong social and health safety net. These actions at home and those we cited abroad divide rather than unite. They also diminish America’s image among our allies and decent people everywhere.

The only ray of hope was in President Barack Obama’s last press conference, where he indicated his faith in the good judgement and decency of a majority of the American people to persevere and in the end win out against our worst instincts.

We welcome your comments!  See the comment section below.

WORLD WIDE OPINION ON THE ELECTION RESULTS: WHERE AMERICA NOW STANDS OR FALLS ABROAD

By Harry C. Blaney III & John Gall

The American people have spoken as has Donald trump and Hillary Clinton and already our newspapers and social media are having their say. But like it or not America is but about 4% of the world’s population and we depend on our allies and partners. We are not an island standing alone. The path ahead remains uncertain to say the least. Darkness lurks at every wrong turn and bad or reckless decision.

One judgement can be that rationality and kindness has lost and hate and stupidity is on the rise. We are all in disbelief  and shock. It is a time however for better thinking, courage, and the forces of good to work together as they never did before.

It is not just America, but as I said, Europe is also on the edge of the forces of darkness with the rise of the far right groups. Britain and Europe and our allies in Asia will also need to keep their heads. Leaders abroad are mulling what all this means as you will see from the quotes below.  The structure of the post-WWII security order is now in shambles and the question is whether the elections here will make it even more in disarray.

It is a testing time and we are seeing only now a bit of the implications and these quotes will give us just an initial look at how the world now sees what can only be descried as untested and dangerous waters.

EUROPE

  • UK Prime Minister Theresa May – “I would like to congratulate Donald Trump on being elected the next president of the United States, following a hard-fought campaign. Britain and the United States have an enduring and special relationship based on the values of freedom, democracy and enterprise. We are, and will remain, strong and close partners on trade, security and defence. I look forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump, building on these ties to ensure the security and prosperity of our nations in the years ahead.” (BBC)
  • French President Francois Hollande – The election of Donald Trump as US president “opens a period of uncertainty…We must be aware of the concerns provoked by the disorders of the world in all the peoples, including the American people. We must find answers that are capable of overcoming fears.” (EuroObserver)
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel – “Whoever the American people elect as their president in free and fair elections, that has a significance far beyond the USA. Germany and America are bound by their values: democracy, freedom, the respect for the law and the dignity of human beings, independent of their origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political position. On the basis of these values I offer the future president of the United States, Donald Trump, close cooperation.” (DW)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin – “We realize and understand that this will not be an easy road given the level to which our relations have degraded,” Putin said in congratulating Trump on his electoral victory. A moment later, he added, “We know this will not be easy…It is not Russia’s fault that our relations with the United States have reached this point,” (Time)
  • UK Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn – An economic system that “isn’t working for most people” had been rejected. (BBC)
  • Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – urged Mr Trump to “reach out” to those feeling “marginalised” by his campaign. (BBC)
  • Former UKIP Leader Nigel Farage – drew parallels with the Brexit campaign and said he would “hand over the mantle” to the Republican. (BBC)
  • Crispin Blunt, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Britain’s House of Commons – “We are plunged into uncertainty and the unknown.” (NYTimes)
  • Gérard Araud, French ambassador to the United States – “After Brexit and this election, everything is now possible. A world is collapsing before our eyes.”  (NYTimes)
  • Henrik Müller, journalism professor at the Technical University of Dortmund – “It would be the end of an era. The postwar era in which Americans’ atomic weapons and its military presence in Europe shielded first the west and later the central European states would be over. Europe would have to take care of its own security.” (NYTimes)
  • Vladimir Frolov, a Russian columnist and international affairs analyst – “Trump’s presidency will make the U.S. sink into a full-blown crisis, including an economic one. The U.S. will be occupied with its own issues and will not bother Putin with questions. As a consequence, Moscow will have a window of opportunity in geopolitical terms. For instance, it can claim control over the former Soviet Union and a part of the Middle East. What is there not to like?” (NYTimes)

ASIA

  • Kunihiko Miyake, former Japanese diplomat  – “The question is whether you will continue to be involved in international affairs as a dependable ally to your friends and allies. If you stop doing that, then all the European, Middle Eastern and Asian allies to the United States will reconsider how they secure themselves.” (NYTimes)
  • Izumi Kobayashi, vice chairwoman of Keizai Doyukai, a Japanese business group – “He has been focusing on the negative side of the global markets and globalization. But at the same time it is really difficult to go back to the old business world. So how will he explain to the people that benefit and also the fact that there is no option to go back to the old model of business?” (NYTimes)
  • Shen Dingli, professor of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai – “If he indeed withdraws the troops from Japan, the Japanese may develop their own nuclear weapons. South Korea may also go nuclear if Trump cancels the missile deployment and leaves the country alone facing the North’s threats. How is that good for China?” (NYTimes)

NORTH AMERICA

  •  Agustín Barrios Gómez, former congressman in Mexico and president of the Mexico Image Foundation – “All bets are off,” (NYTimes)
  • Rossana Fuentes-Berain, director of the Mexico Media Lab, a founder of the Latin American edition of Foreign Affairs – “I see a clear and present danger. Every moment will be a challenge. Every move or declaration will be something that will not make us comfortable in the neighborhood — and that is to everyone’s detriment.”(NYTimes)

ISRAEL

  • Yohanan Plesner, former member of the Israeli Parliament, president of the Israel Democracy Institute – “Decisions cannot be postponed. The situation in Syria is very chaotic. The unrest in the region is continuing. America has to decide whether it wants to play an active role in shaping the developments of the region.”(NYTimes)

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Remember if you want to know what Trump or Hillary Clinton said during the campaign click here for a key reference section to their thoughts and positions.

AN ISOLATED BRITAIN AND A SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BRITAIN

By Harry C. Blaney III  

Photo Credit via Independent


The latest pronouncement of Prime Minister Theresa May at the Tory Party Conference in October provided an especially harsh and rigid statement of future relations with the EU that amounts to a declaration of self-destruction for an open, influential, and prosperous United Kingdom. It was a red-meat speech for her Tory Euroskeptic xenophobic co-conspirators which likely leads to a weakened Britain and into a very dark space that makes Britain and Europe less secure. It brings delight to Putin, undermines greatly the “Special Relationship” with America, and not least emboldens the worst elements in our societies to rise into power.

I have been watching the process of European integration since 1964 and served at the US missions to both the EU and NATO, as well as living for a while in Britain studying European-US relations. But I could not imagine any sane leader after 40 years of building close cooperation and many gains from unity, would bring about such a break in the linchpin of Europe unity and security. I was in Britain for the last phase of the Brexit debate and vote and saw the sad aftermath which had much of the quality I am seeing today with Trump.

Reading Prime Minister Theresa May’s October Tory Conference speech, I was horrified at the false promises made, the emphases on “controlling” immigration, and thinking she can get a good deal that is NOT on offer and that giving the slogan “Global Britain” she can wash away the ugly reality of a small, divided, and weakened and yes, more isolated Britain.  Prime Minister May talks as if she was living again in the 19th Century, focusing on sovereignty and making our own laws, etc.

Americans will always see Britain as our friend an ally but the first call in a crisis will likely not be to London but to Berlin and Paris. Also to say there is no turning back is to say that the old British tradition of realism and pragmatism to redress an unimaginable error is like heading towards the cliff knowing the results. To not permit a vote on the issue when new valid information on costs and dangers emerges is the height of irresponsibility.

Already we see in Britain increases in brutal attacks on those that look different.  After the lies and exaggerations that were told by Nigel Farage and his partner in the vitriolic Leave Campaign Boris Johnson, that Britain would, in effect be great again (familiar words here in the corrosive presidential campaign), outside the EU.  They said all would prosper and those pesky job robbing foreigners would be taken care of and not bother us any more. The big lie of course was to say that Britain would get almost all it wanted from the despised EU even as EU leaders said it would never happen.

Today sadly the EU and more importantly the concept of a peaceful, united, prosperous, and secure Europe seems at risk. The EU unity problem was exacerbated by the “Great Recession” and the failure of the EU to come to the true assistance of the endangered vulnerable states. Many countries including Britain decided to embark on disastrous austerity policies that left far too many people behind, desperate, and feeling hopeless. For this the blame rests unequivocally on the Conservative Party.

Further, the evil stench of Trump is mirrored sadly in today’s UKIP and Right of the Tory Party with its hyper nationalism and bigotry, as well as the French Le Pen National Party and in Germany in the Alternative for Germany with their neo-Nazi bent.  Brexit and May’s harsh speech can only embolden these fanatics.

And now after the Brexit vote. I never have been so concerned not only for Europe, but also for the implications of a deteriorating, divided, selfish and myopic continent for global governance. No wonder that Vladimir Putin is licking his chops over a weakened and divided West.

We are living in a high risk world that calls for greater unity and cooperation, not less. A Continent fighting itself can’t help the rest of the world fight global warming, terrorism, poverty and inequality, and not least deal with the dangers of nuclear weapons nor defend itself against the real dangers of authoritarian aggression near and far.

BELOW ARE SOME EXCERPTS FROM PRIME MINISTER’S SPEECH WHICH ILLUSTRATE THE CONSEQUENCES OF BOTH PANDERING TO THE EXTREME RIGHT AND DISREGARDING THE LONG-TERM NATIONAL INTEREST:

Crediting Brexit as a Conservative Victory
“But come on.  The referendum result was clear.  It was legitimate.  It was the biggest vote for change this country has ever known.  Brexit means Brexit – and we’re going to make a success of it.”

“Now of course, we wouldn’t have had a referendum at all had it not been for the Conservative Party – and had it not been for David Cameron.  And I want to take a moment to pay tribute to David……”

Valuing Total Sovereignty over the Benefits of Cooperation
“But what we are now talking about is very different.  Whether people like it or not, the country voted to leave the EU.  And that means we are going to leave the EU.  We are going to be a fully-independent, sovereign country, a country that is no longer part of a political union with supranational institutions that can override national parliaments and courts.  And that means we are going, once more, to have the freedom to make our own decisions on a whole host of different matters, from how we label our food to the way in which we choose to control immigration.”

Brexit Will Happen
“Having voted to leave, I know that the public will soon expect to see, on the horizon, the point at which Britain does formally leave the European Union.  So let me be absolutely clear.  There will be no unnecessary delays in invoking Article Fifty.  We will invoke it when we are ready.  And we will be ready soon.  We will invoke Article Fifty no later than the end of March next year…..”

Flagrant Denial of Dismal Economic Forecasts
“And it has also meant that we have given some certainty to businesses and investors.  Consumer confidence has remained steady.  Foreign investment in Britain has continued.  Employment is at a record high, and wages are on the up.  There is still some uncertainty, but the sky has not fallen in, as some predicted it would: our economy remains strong.”

“I know some people ask about the “trade-off” between controlling immigration and trading with Europe.  But that is the wrong way of looking at things.  We have voted to leave the European Union and become a fully-independent, sovereign country.  We will do what independent, sovereign countries do.  We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration.  And we will be free to pass our own laws. “

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UK IRAQ INQUIRY REPORT RELEASED, FINDS MAJOR FAILURES IN THE DECISION TO JOIN AND FIGHT THE WAR IN IRAQ

UK IRAQ INQUIRY REPORT RELEASED, FINDS MAJOR FAILURES IN THE DECISION TO JOIN AND FIGHT THE WAR IN IRAQ 

By: Harry C. Blaney III

REPORTING FROM LONDON

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On July 6th, against the background of the Brexit referendum, the long-awaited report (click here to read) by Sir John Chilcot on the British participation in Iraq War was released after seven years. The Inquiry had approximately 2.6 million words that condemned the British decision to invade and the subsequent conduct of the Iraq War.

The report contained wide-ranging censure of the UK’s decision to enter the Iraq War and also the implementation of that war. It focused on former Prime Minister Tony Blair and UK intelligence reports that led to decisions on the planning and the strategy in Iraq that were made with insufficient debate in Britain. Chilcot said it was an intervention that “was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments.”

Chilcot and the report concluded that Britain went to war on the basis of unreliable intelligence. He added that planning for war was totally inadequate, concluding that there was insufficient debate on the decision.  Chilcot further said that “in March of 2003, there was no imminent threat from the Saddam Hussein regime.” The implication was that the military action taken was not justified.

There was much criticism of the UK intelligence agencies, and in time more will likely come out on this in the UK and with implications also for the US intelligence agencies. Some have said the intelligence reports were flimsy and that MI6 in particular has been highly criticized.

The report found that diplomatic options had not been fully explored before the decision was made to go to war. This is a lesson today for both the UK and the US.

The families of the troops that were killed have supported the report and have both questioned how and why all went wrong in the buildup to war and argued for Blair to pay in some way for the cost of his actions. There has been talk about a legal action either domestically or in an international court. From a legal perspective, that is highly unlikely, however. But emotions will remain for a long time. The media has been exceptionally critical of Blair to the point of imbalance and unfairness, which indicates that the issue has created massive anger and bitterness in Britain.

FORMER PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR RESPONSE TO INQUIRY 
After the release of the report, former Prime Minister Tony Blair held a two hour press conference (coverage linked above) in which he said he did not regret his decision to invade, which he said was the hardest of his term in office. He said he made the initial decision “in good faith,” adding that he “did not have the option to delay in response to the quick decision.” He also said he had more sorrow and regret over the decision than others will ever believe.

In a 2002 memo to Bush, Blair said “I will be with you, whatever.” But he added, which the UK media did not fully report, that he also wrote that all of the difficulties must be examined. He said it was a good act to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but added that they underestimated the potential for subsequent upheavals. There was also criticism in the report that the UK military and intelligence leaders were under-resourced, arguing that the troops did not have the tools to do their best and do it safely.

Blair said that he “will take full responsibility for any mistakes that were taken.” However, he “will not apologize for going to war.” Blair also added “the report makes it clear there [were] no lies.”

Some of the commentators have noted Blair’s efforts to moderate US Policies, which in the end were only partly successful. They noted in particular the effort to go to the UN Security Council to get the authority to go to war, which was stopped by a veto by Russia.

Neither the report nor Blair’s statement will put an end to the politics of this emotional issue for many years. It is still unclear if some kind of general agreement on what took place has finally been reached. I doubt that there will be much relief from the bitterness and acrimony that clouds British politics and society.

SOME ADDED THOUGHTS FOR US ALL
The report and the response by Blair will sadly not lay to rest the criticism or the bitter debate in Britain about the Iraq War. It will continue to influence public and governmental attitudes towards going into conflict situations for a very long time.

In America, this report will likely continue the debate (which has never stopped) over the wisdom of the US decision to go to war in Iraq. That was, in my view, an unforgivable act by the George W. Bush administration and one that was based, as we all know now, on lies and false intelligence reports by our own agencies.

Blair’s most relevant statement for the world of 2016 was that “we do not have the right strategy to deal with terrorism.” That is, as they say, a British understatement. On this Blair is quite right. We all need to re-think our global strategy and it will take a united effort and deep assessment to go forward with new military conflicts. I have argued that we need always to seriously assess the costs before going into conflict situations. Decision makers must consider the consequences of our actions. One clear failure was the poor policies and efforts to deal with the post-conflict need to establish security and ensure a stable government in Iraq. Neither America nor Britain took this problem seriously.

Both the US report (which was critical of many decisions by the Bush administration) and the UK report made it clear that both governments did not understand the high potential costs of their actions. As Chilcot said, the consequences of the war were misjudged. I hope that, in time, these reports and a more historic assessment will compel both nations to make future decisions based on a careful debate on a long-term strategic and moral judgment, as well as look at the facts on the ground. War is always costly and sometimes necessary, but the argument must be made with great care. I hope that we will have more clarity rather than hate and divisions. In the end, we need to make careful decisions that will create a safer world for all.

We welcome you comments!

 

A PERSONAL NOTE ON THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME AND BREXIT

A PERSONAL NOTE ON THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME AND BREXIT

By: Harry C. Blaney III
Reporting from London

David Cameron tours the Somme Exhibition in Thiepval, France and meets a group of British School Children.

Via Gov.UK

On July 1, 1916, Britain, France, and their allies fought in the historic and fierce battle of the Somme. It was the most mutually ruinous battle of World War I. Forces on both sides suffered horrible causalities. The first day of fighting was the most deadly day in British history with 57,470 causalities. On the hundredth anniversary, the ceremony was held at the British cemetery in France with a moving and impressive commemoration featuring all nations that participated 100 years ago. Heads of state and other leaders all came to pay their respects on that sad and tragic field.

The ceremony was one of extraordinary meaning and one could not help but be moved watching it. It was but a few years ago that I walked through the American cemetery overlooking the World War II beaches of Normandy, where the allies gained a foothold on the continent at a great cost. It was clear from my visit that America had made a great commitment for the freedom of Europe in order to ensure that another appalling World War would not face future generations.

What was most moving was the image of the line of tombstones with the music of choirs from Britain, France, Wales, and others including Germany in the background. There were moving remarks by the dignitaries that attended, including Prime Minister David Cameron, President of France Francois Holland, and Charles the Prince of Wales.

I could not but think, however, how peculiar these statements of comradeship, shared goals, and common struggle seemed against the background of the British vote to remove themselves from the inner center of Europe. One great irony of the day was that Cameron, who called the referendum but supported Remain, told the story told of how German troops at the Somme held their fire when a British solder moved through the line of battle to take a British wounded solder off a barbed wire fence.

The Brexit vote has already precipitated the rise of just those forces that so many died to abolish forever. The British vote to cut the ties with their common European brethren – their comrades in arms – just before they commemorated the cost of a war that could have been avoided if only the spirit of unity that created the EU could have found in the summer of 1914. Now those same dark forces are rising out of anger, racism, super-nationalism, and denial of our common humanity, both in Britain and on the continent.

My hope today is that in some way the lessons of the Somme might permeate into the consciousness of both Britain and the nations on the continent before it is too late.

More reports to come, focusing on the British referendum aftershocks, the rise of these divisive forces in Europe, and the resulting disarray of both major parties in British politics.

We welcome your comments!

See our Brexit Page for more up dates.

 

FIVE DAYS ON AND “BREXIT” STILL UNRAVELS EUROPE AND BRINGS DISUNITY

FIVE DAYS ON AND “BREXIT” STILL UNRAVELS EUROPE AND BRINGS DISUNITY

By: Harry C. Baney III
REPORTING FROM LONDON

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 2.34.40 PM

Despite a bit of stability in the stock and exchange markets, the Brexit vote continues to bring a downward spiral of bitter arguments, disunity between and within political parties, acts of racial hatred in Britain, growing uncertainty about both the strength and even unity of Britain, and questions of Europe’s durability as a democratic and cohesive bloc and as a strong partner in solving global challenges. The impact on the unity of the West is a fundamental turning point or, as one leader said, an “existential moment.”

Wednesday’s House of Commons debate was particularly corrosive, an atmosphere engendered by the narrow vote that split the principle parties themselves. The recriminations have created an atmosphere of bitterness and distress that will be long lasting, unless both parties elect a leader who pushes for unity. In the House, Prime Minister Cameron debate even told Corbyn to “go,” which is not in keeping with the spirit or decorum of this institution. Cameron said – in typical understated British fashion – that there will be “choppy waters” ahead. He made it clear the coming negotiations will not be easy.

The Brexit vote has split both of Britain’s major political parties. Jeremy Corbyn recently lost a no-confidence vote 172-40. Already several Labour party MP’s have put forth their names to replace Corbyn. While they may share his vision for a more equitable social program, his opponents feel that Corbyn can’t win the next general election for the party. If this conflict drags on, it may destroy the party as an alternative. Even if Corbyn loses the party Parliamentary vote, he has the right to call for a vote by its public paid active members that could deliver a win for the Labour leader. The division threatens to split the party, which could be ruinous for an effective opposition party in the UK.

The Conservative Party (Tory Party) is going through its own destructive process in search of a new party leader and likely Prime Minister after David Cameron announced he would stand down. The vote has placed a major wedge in the Tory party between those that supported the Leave Campaign like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove and those that backed the Remain Campaign. Johnson officially withdrew his name from consideration on Thursday, leaving Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May There (who supported the Remain Campaign) as the most likely successors to Cameron. Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox, and Andrea Lawson will also run for PM. The party got itself in this mess, but does not seem to know how to get out of it.

The Continent also seems to sense uncertainty. Cameron went to the EU meeting Tuesday, but was excluded from a Wednesday meeting. He tried to make the case that Britain would still be a good partner in Europe, but to little effect. Statements by EU leaders after that meeting was clear, the “Four Freedoms” – movement of money, goods, services, and peoples – can’t be compromised in any deal with the UK. This directly counters the likely most important demand by a new UK government to limit the number of people coming to the UK from the EU. A key leader of the EU said: “If you are out you are out.”

But the reality is that Europe is also in perilous situation because of its disarray. The simple fact is that Euro-skeptic, racist, nationalist, and even fascist parties and leaders (such as Marine Le Pen in France) are taking advantage of the Brexit to push their own agendas. Parties in EU nations hope to dissolve the EU and come to power on programs and hatreds that bring back sentiments of the 1930s. This disarray brings glee to just those forces that a democratic Europe was supposed to be a bastion against, such as Putin’s Russia that hopes to weaken the EU and NATO. This is not just a European problem, but also a threat also to the entire Atlantic community and to the common strategic and economic aims of building a strong, democratic, and peaceful Europe.

To give just a few examples of those that wish ill of European unity the following will give a hint of the risks and darkness ahead:

Nigel Farage, a Member of the EU Parliament (believe it or not) who leads the far right anti-immigrant UK Independence Party and supported the Leave Campaign said on Tuesday in that parliament: “You as a political project are in denial. You’re in denial that your currency is failing. Just look at the Mediterranean! As a policy to impose poverty on Greece and the Mediterranean you’ve done very well.  You’re in denial over Mrs. Merkel’s call for as many people as possible to cross the Mediterranean – which has led to massive divisions between within countries and between countries. The biggest problem you’ve got and the main reason the UK voted the way it did is because you have by stealth and deception, and without telling the truth to the rest of the peoples of Europe, you have imposed upon them a political union…What I’d like to see is a grownup and sensible attitude to how we negotiate a different relationship. I know that virtually none of you have never done a proper job in your lives, or worked in business, or worked in trade, or indeed ever created a job. But listen, just listen…Even no deal is better for the United Kingdom is better than the current rotten deal that we’ve got.  But if we were to move to a position where tariffs were reintroduced on products like motorcars then hundreds of thousands of German works would risk losing their jobs. Why don’t we be grown up, pragmatic, sensible, realistic and let’s cut between us a sensible tariff-free deal and thereafter recognize that the United Kingdom will be your friend, that we will trade with you, cooperate with you, we will be your best friends in the world. Do that, do it sensibly, and allow us to go off and pursue our global ambitions and future.”

While Putin has been diplomatic about the subject, only saying that he “would like to stress yet again that the so-called Brexit is the choice of the British people, we did not interfere with this process and are not tampering with it in anyway,” other Russian leaders were quick to express their delight at the result.

The leader of Russia’s nationalist Liberal Democratic Party Vladimir Zhirinovsky, said “Britain has voted to leave the European Union and I think others will follow suit…NATO, the Schengen Agreement, and the euro will fall apart. So hail the Russian Ruble and the development of relations between Russia and the democratic nations of Europe.”

The Kremlin’s small-business ombudsman Boris Titov said in a Facebook post that “it seems it has happened — UK out!!! In my opinion, the most important long-term consequence of all this is that the exit will take Europe away from the Anglo-Saxons, meaning from the USA. It’s not the independence of Britain from Europe, but the independence of Europe from the USA,” he wrote. And it’s not long until a united Eurasia — about 10 years.”

More words of joy came from the French National Front Party leader Marie Le Pen who is leading in a majority of polls to be the next President, arguing in a New York Times editorial that a “People’s Spring” is imminent and that more countries, including France, should abandon the EU in favor of “freedom.”

The vote was praised by Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and Vladimir Putin. No wonder the fear, uncertainty, and nervousness characterizes much of the world!

Future posts from London will look at the underlying reasons here for both the UK vote and why there is so much anger and despair in Britain and Europe. The financial recession and government reactions to it have precipitated an increase in poverty, inequality, and therefore a rise of latent xenophobia.

See the Brexit Page for continued coverage.

We welcome your comments. 

 

A BREXIT VOTE OF GLOBAL CONSEQUENCES: ITS MORE CHAOS AND DISUNITY

A BREXIT VOTE OF GLOBAL CONSEQUENCES: ITS MORE CHAOS AND DISUNITY

By: Harry C. Blaney III

Reporting from London

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A BREXIT VOTE OF GLOBAL CONSEQUENCES: ITS MORE CHAOS AND DISUNITY

By: Harry C. Blaney III

The UK vote to leave the European Union by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent to stay has already created great costs to the UK and much of the rest of the world on every level – economic, political and security. The impact has already been sizable and more effects will undoubtedly continue to come as nations and people evaluate the real implications of this historic, massive, unnecessary, and tragic act.

The truth is that Britain is a badly split nation and the margin of winning was indeed small, despite the Leave campaign claiming it was large. There are inherent dangers to taking such a dramatic move that did not garner the support of the vast majority of people. There is speculation that many people, including those that did not vote, did not want to leave. A petition for a re-vote already has over 3.6 million signatures. We may see still a major fight yet over the future of Britain in Europe and the world, as well as the future of the UK itself. Leaders in both Scotland and Northern Ireland have implied that referenda on their future as part of the UK could be coming soon. These problems will be complicated by the leadership struggles that currently plague both the Conservative (Tory) Party and the Labour Party.

One of the major lessons for the vote was that, at its heart, it was a protest and demonstrated a sense of disaffection by working class and some older citizens who feel that their well-being has been neglected, and by those who believed the intolerant cries of far right leaders like the UK Independence Party and MP Boris Johnson, the likely Tory candidate for the new Prime Minister.

It is estimated that 62 percent of Labour voters voted to Remain while a third of Labour voters chose Leave, largely because of immigration fears, unhappiness about their declining living standards, and anger at the EU hyped by the partisan media and the Leave Campaign. Voters also understandably blame the UK political establishment for their situation, especially on jobs, education, the decline on health care, and immigration. The Labour Party has already faced a leadership challenge with MPs calling for a confidence motion against Jeremy Corbyn, who said that he was going nowhere at a press conference in London. Corbyn also noted that there is a need for a new look at international relations.

The aim of the Leave campaign was to direct anger against the EU, not against the Tories. However, the EU is not to blame at all for the plight of their voters.  Another issue Leavers hit at was a “loss of control” and “sovereignty” at the hands of Europe.  Interestingly, Leave voters were largely right-wing Euro-skeptic Conservatives and far-right party supporters, although some of the faces of the campaign were the well-educated and wealthy like Boris Johnson and the conservative media.

Sadiq Khan, the new Mayor of London, made the case for keeping close ties to Europe and wanting to find a path forward that does not disadvantage London as Britain’s London-based financial sector. He campaigned in London for staying.

Many Remain voters are very upset over the results, not just those in London, but also voters in Scotland and young voters. The many negative impacts already being felt. The question here in London is what can be done to reverse this decision, as seen by the petition for a re-vote. Few think this is possible, but many want a reversal. I think this tug of war will not go away anytime soon.

Outside Britain, Europeans are very unhappy and troubled over the results. The EU is torn between wanting to protect the UK’s trade position but also does not want other nations that have Euro-skeptic and anti-immigrant movements to take the British example and leave. Marine Le Pen in France has already also for an “out” referendum.  The EU Commission leaders do not want the negotiations to be left in “limbo.” It seems that most of the EU nations wants to start negotiations “immediately.”


While much of Europe wants to move toward negotiations as soon as possible, German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants time to think, consider, and not “be nasty” in the negotiating the implications of Britain’s exit and finding the best path forward. Already EU nations are thinking of how to take economic advantage of the situation for their narrow interests. Some of the European leaders want a quick resolution, as they said it would be in the interest of both sides. Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will stay on until October, when the Tory party will meet to choose a new leader who will lead the nation in negotiations out of the EU over the two years, as stipulated by the EU Treaty Clause 50. So things might get nasty between Britain and Europe and no one will be a winner.

As a dear friend in London wrote to me in summary: “Europe takes this very seriously.  France and Germany, in particular, are aware that the EU is much more than an economic union.  It was designed also to prevent the kind of differences which lead to two disastrous World Wars in the 20th c.  Already, on the morning after the vote, the right wing Dutch party is calling for a referendum there, as is Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far right Front National party in France.  If this move takes down all of Europe, there will be Hell to pay. “

On the strategic side, Vladimir Putin has stated his delight over the British exit and sees it as perhaps his major victory in his path to divide and fundamentally weaken West Europe and the EU, and for that matter undermine NATO.

Global markets have already suffered major damage and predictions show that Britain and other EU nations will see less economic growth than they would otherwise enjoy. Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s downgraded Britain’s credit rating from AAA to AA. The London Stock Exchange dropped an additional 2.55 percent on Monday, doubling down on Friday’s downward spiral.

 

Already there are predictions of major shock waves around the world and a reassessment of British relations toward Britain and the EU. Not least is the American reaction, led by President Obama that although the decision would not change the “special relationship,” Britain would still be in the back of the queue in trade negotiations. Secretary of State John Kerry is currently in London to reassure Britain that relations will continue to be strong between the US and UK, saying “We will continue, the United States, to have a very close and special relationship with Great Britain. We value that relationship. That does not change because of this vote” in Italy on Sunday.  

Frankly, I think there will undoubtedly be major changes in the priority of American focus with a weakened Britain, out of Europe, with Scotland looking for its independence and a restive North Ireland. In Europe, the UK will be considered a lesser part of the core European decision-making system. The Leave campaign saying it would not is just disingenuous.

Finally, the impact has already been a major disaster for Britain. Global stock markets have crashed, as over two trillion dollars have already been lost. The Scottish Prime Minister is already motioning for an independence referendum and is moving to negotiate directly with the EU for a possible special status within the EU.

The nation is divided and at war with itself; financial firms in London are likely to be either greatly diminished and may even move abroad; Britain will have lower influence with the U.S.; and the UK may possibly dissolve. Not a bad day of work for “Little England” Euro-skeptics and the super-nationalists and racist groups that supported this madness.  For the rest of the world, it is an unmitigated disaster in a world that already has high risks.

More on the implications in post over the next week from London.

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