Fishing at the Edge of the Rubicon

During the course of this General Election campaign, the tectonic plates of international relations have slipped, dramatically. The G7, the borderline disastrous NATO summit, and Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change, add up to most dramatic rift in the Western Alliance for decades – all in the space of a week. Yet serious debate on foreign policy has been strangely absent from the campaign, not only among the politicians and the pundits, but even from the erudite columnists of The Economist and The FT.

There has been plenty of talk about Brexit, mostly limited to shouting about who would be ‘strong’ in negotiations; and some talk about the Middle East, mostly about whether British intervention has encouraged terrorism or if even saying that encourages terrorism. There has been nothing of substance beyond that, even as the old order is listing badly.

At the NATO summit, Trump’s demurral from affirming the Article 5 mutual defence provision, especially in front of a memorial to the only occasion on which it was invoked, by the United States after 9/11, is a signal that NATO really could dissolve as a meaningful entity during his presidency.

As a result, a German Chancellor, and in Angela Merkel one not known for excitability, gave a speech stating that “We Europeans must take our destiny into our own hands.”

A major point of both NATO and the EU was to ensure that Germany never again felt the need to become a major military power. We’re not at that point yet, but Germany is saying pointedly that it no longer feels it can rely on the US – or, for that matter, the UK – to guarantee its security. In fact, the President of the USA effectively told Germany, ‘Man up and arms yourselves you goddam feeloading pussies’, in words not much more subtle than that.

What is even more extraordinary is that this is passing without the merest comment from parts of the British press and establishment that usually have a reflex Germanophobia. Of course, this is not the 1930s and any German military build-up will almost certainly come within the framework of a European army. Yet, it has also been a settled British position to resist such an army – “a rival to NATO”. On the way out of the EU, it no longer has the capacity to do so, especially as continental countries might find they have to create a replacement rather than a rival.

The UK is drifting, quite quickly, into the most diplomatically isolated position it has been in at any point since the Act of Union – that is not hyberbole. The diplomats are distrusted by their political masters, who in turn are living in denial.

Despite the PM’s unseemly haste in visiting Washington to prove herself a loyal satrap after Trump’s inauguration, it has been made clear time and time again that he really doesn’t care; most seriously and deplorably in the leaking of shared intelligence after the murders in Manchester, but that was simply the latest of many examples.

In that context, what was striking about his Paris exit speech was that it wasn’t about the science of climate change. He never once claimed it wasn’t real. Instead, he said Paris was an unfair deal for America – indeed shouted it, in angry, nationalistic, phrases. In his own words, he is a President for Pittsburgh and not for Paris. He is not one for Peterborough either. America First means America First.

Britain’s recovery since the post-imperial nadir of the 1970s has been largely based on being an open trading economy in an ever more open global trade environment. That era is passing, quickly. The USA, its keystone, is abandoning support for free trade. President Trump also means President Trump. In the 11 months since the Referendum, there is not the mistiest hint of a British strategy for surviving in the brave new world, economically or otherwise.

At the NATO and G7 summits, the UK was consistently on the same side as the rest of Europe and against Trump. Yet, the cackhandedness of the handling of Brexit seems set to alienate the UK’s natural allies – not just in the rest of Europe, but countries like Canada, Japan and Australia as well.

In terms of emerging powers, who are alleged to be gagging for a favourable relationship with post-Brexit Britain, it is notable that both India’s President Modi and China’s PM Li are in Europe this week and pointedly not visiting the UK. On the UK side, also, Theresa May hardly rolled out the red carpet for an open and warm special relationship on her visit to India in November.

So, we come back to the General Election jousting over Brexit. The only question either May or Corbyn seems to face is whether or not they are sufficiently ‘strong’. That in itself is a tacit acceptance of a Trumpean view of the world where displays of force are supposedly the most effective negotiating tactic.

Subtlety, flexibility and creative ambiguity will be necessary for the UK to achieve a deal with the EU where it doesn’t end up being a big loser, still more to secure its national security in a context where the USA is going rogue and aggressive nationalism is resurgent worldwide. There is little sign of them.

  • chrisjones2

    “the USA is going rogue ”

    Not rogue …Trump reaffirmed a commitment to NATO but not to paying all the bills while freeloading EU states stand by and dont. Merkel is about to face her own election hence her statement but it can be read two ways – Europeans need to fess up

  • npbinni

    I thought this was funny…

    ‘I’ll believe there’s a climate crisis when the people who keep telling me there’s a climate crisis start acting like there’s a climate crisis’
    ( https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/266398/ )

    Take, for example, Hillary and Huma…

    Huma: Looks like plane won’t be an issue. …looks like michelle obama also going.
    Hillary: … Is it ok that we and Mrs. O take two separate planes?
    Huma: I think its ok. But let me see what kind of plane she’s taking.
    Hillary: I would rather have our own of course.

  • tim plum

    Actually he did not reaffirm a committment to NATO. Only a chance to give a political speech to his base supporters.

  • Starviking

    Individual jet flights for political leaders are a drop in the ocean, and are a requirement of diplomacy.

  • Starviking

    USA spends 3.3% of GDP on defence, but has defence commitments all over the world, that’s why they have 6 dedicated geographical commands covering the whole world. So not all of that 3.3% is dedicated to NATO.

    Most NATO nations do not have worldwide commitments, and do not dedicated commands covering areas outside of Europe.

  • Granni Trixie

    A safety requirement, surely.

  • chrisjones2

    They have agreed to spend 2% of GDP. Most aren’t doing that

  • chrisjones2

    I am sure that Michelle Obama thought that too!

  • chrisjones2

    No …the Secret Service agents would have stopped them fighting. But in any contest my money would have been on Michelle

  • Jim M

    Hmmm. I’m not a climate change zealot and although I think it is probably a real thing, the way some environmental advocates talk about it puts me off. That said, the whole thing about a ‘climate crisis’ is that once it hits, it will be too late to do anything about it, and we will have a whole host of problems (principally major flooding and millions more refugees). Therefore expecting people to ‘act like there’s a crisis’ is a bit disingenuous: it hasn’t happened yet.

  • Granni Trixie

    I hope this is your wee joke – just in case let me spell out – I thought the safety rule was that Presidents, Royalty and their families air travel in separate planes.

  • Jag

    Didn’t know that China and India were visiting Europe but avoiding the UK. There was a Chinese state visit to the UK in October 2015, nine months before the Brexit vote, so avoiding the UK this time round is all the more surprising.

    But surely, with Boris Johnson as foreign secretary, all will turn out well in the end?

  • Patrick Jones

    He has reaffirmed it before but this week he laid into them again. And he is right to do so

  • Patrick Jones

    They have been here recently and we have visited them. You sound like a Mother upset that her son visted his Aunties house and didn’t drop in with her as well. Do get a grip

  • Patrick Jones

    No I think its that POTUS and Vice POTUS fly separately and that the Monarch and First in Line always fly in different aircraft

    Hilary was a nothing ….Michelle was FLOTUS and had status which may have been the comparison that Hilary wanted to avoid

    And no I wasn’t joking. There is no love lost between the two I understand. Michelle is a feminist and has intellect and strong personal values – indeed she would make an excellent POTUS. Hilary is Hilary and wouldnt

  • chrisjones2

    There is a climate crisis for LITTLE PEOPLE not would-be world leaders sponsored by big oil and green energy companies fed by grants and Washington Pork. Think RHI on a Galactic scale

  • chrisjones2

    “political leaders”

    It was Hilary Clinton

  • chrisjones2

    …and a lot of the evidence is ‘guff’ like the polar bear extinction scam.

  • chrisjones2

    Me …joke about an issue like Hilary’s personality and its role in how she lost …….never

  • Patrick Mac

    Global Warming, now known as Climate Change – the biggest scam of all time.

  • Patrick Mac

    Jim, you sound like a man with good discernment. Now would be an ideal time to ‘let loose’ and go the full distance by stating what you suspect.

    Its all a grand lie on a grand scale which is standard when it comes to the Left and their Socialist antics. The warming scam was, in my view, a concerted effort to usher in a global governance, wiping out national identities and economies. In time Trump will be praised for having done the right thing.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    So it’s all a conspiracy with another agenda? If warnings of global warming are the scam with the magnitude that you assert then it’s a charade that could never be successfully pulled off.
    Time will only tell as much with Trump’s (essentially isolationist) legacy as anything else. I hope he does ‘rebuild’ a ‘re-enfranchisement’ among the average American but as the leader of one of the world’s biggest economies he has international responsibilities too and it’s the latter that don’t seem to interest him.

  • grumpy oul man

    Patrick/abucs.
    So you dont believe all those scientists and the climate change taking place around the world.
    The seas are not warming.
    We are not having record years for extreme events nearly every year.
    Interesting.
    But tell me why would all those educated men and women get together in a conspricy about climate change.
    ( by the way if you quote any sites, check them out first.
    Remember when you claimed that a groub of wee hoods from dublin having a fight on a main street were muslim fanatics and i should get chastity belts for the women in my family)
    We dont want that embarrassment again.

  • hgreen

    Your naïveté is amazing. Follow the money. The reason Trump wants other countries to increase spending is because it will result in a windfall for US defence companies.

  • grumpy oul man

    But jim. If you know that a crisis is coming and you can take action o reduce its impact. Then surely the smart thing to do is take that action.

  • grumpy oul man

    How would this ushering happen.
    Seems all a bit far fetched and conspricy theory to me.
    So tell how will this world goverment project be aided by “inventing climate change”
    But please some facts not just claims.

  • hgreen

    What’s the weather like in Harvard this morning?

  • grumpy oul man

    Have you told the polar bears this.

  • chrisjones2

    NATO states have a commitment to 2%. They can spend that, fro example, on their own armed forces personnel. Your comment is nonsense

  • chrisjones2

    “Remember when you claimed that a group of wee hoods from dublin having a fight on a main street were muslim fanatics and i should get chastity belts for the women in my family)”

    Garbage. I never said that or anything like it

    “all those educated men and women get together in a conspricy about climate change”

    A range of reasons from Group Think to fear of attack from colleagues to the need for grants and to avoid criticism that might damage college funding. And dont forget, just because its warming (and that is debatable) doesnt mean the causes of that re known or the consequences predictable

  • chrisjones2

    No they are too busy breeding …their numbers have almost doubled

  • grumpy oul man

    Chris the post was directed at PM, and he most certainly said it.
    I do hope that was a mistake on your part and your not a third avatar for dear old Patrick.
    He is also Abucs and love’s to back himself up.

  • grumpy oul man

    Could you perhaps produce some evidence for that.
    A check in google doesnt produce any evidence from any respected source.

  • Celtlaw

    (1) Ireland is the biggest of all freeloaders. Fully protected by NATO while refusing to acknowledge its legitimacy. (2) “We Europeans must take our destiny into our own hands.” Isn’t that what Germany tried in 1914 and 1939?

  • hgreen

    Oh will everyone spending 2% make us really really safe? What are these threats NATO is unable to deal with at the moment? Naïveté.

  • chrisjones2

    You have a very naive view of how science works. In this case climate systems are very complex with a huge range of variables. A small change in one can have a huge impact on the outcome and we do not understand many key issues in the models

    The issue is that the main models predict warming. Shock horror. But then when you relate the model back to the current real world you find that the model hugely overstates the amount of warming. I.e. It’s wrong. Sciences response is we need more grants to fix it so we get the right level of warming.

    The second issue is why is it warming? The climate goes through cycles. A critical issue is the amount of energy arriving from the sun. Sunspots and solar flares also send bursts of radiation that effect the ionosphere and MAY impact weather. There are cycles in these and historically we have had many mini ice ages about every 100 years as well as warmer periods. These stretch back to medieval times well before industrialisation. We have no clear idea why.

    Third scientists are human beings. There is huge pressure to confirm as grant money follows orthodox lines.

  • grumpy oul man

    I think that all your no evidences above have plenty of evidence. On increased solar activity.
    The issue not the amount of energy which hits the earth but the amount radiated away that iis the issue.
    The sun go through regular fluctuations the are a matter of record but in the past these events have not caused the extreme events taking place now what is different is that the earth is retaining a larger percentage ( that is the important factor) of that energy due to greenhouse gas buildup in the atmosphere.
    Those gas’s are a result of burning fossell fuels or the defrosting of natural carbon sumps.
    I think your very last line ” what will it matter if the sea levels go up a bit”
    says it all really, apart from a lot of land being lost sea level rise is only another effect of climate change.
    The effect of higher temperatures on sea life will be profound, the present rate or coral bleaching and the subsequent loss of fish stocks is proof of this.
    Huge area of land will become dustbowls.
    This is happening as we speak orther area are losing the seasonal rains that feed the eco systems.
    Now im still waiting for some proof about this claim of yours that the numbers of polar bears has doubled.
    After all if you cant prove that then its hard to take you other “facts” with anything else than a pinch of salt.

  • Abucs

    You’ve got to love the Donald.

  • Abucs

    I’ll say it again, I am not Patrick and Patrick is not me. But live in your fantasy world if you must.

  • npbinni

    When the playing field is level the Americans will come back on board. Why should the USA be expected to subsidise everyone else? They got where they are through sheer hard work.

  • grumpy oul man

    But you always seem to be aware of me mentioning this strange phenomenon.
    Almost like i was talking to you.

  • 05OCT68

    The fact that Trump hadn’t the guts to announce his intentions to abandon the Paris accord at the G7, face European leaders & an informed European press, instead scurrying home to grandstand says it all. Dodged the Vietnam draft three times did the commander in chief.

  • chrisjones2

    The effect of radiation away is a fraction of the radiation hitting the planet

    You say ” in the past these events have not caused the extreme events taking place ” but they have. We had 4 mini ice ages in the 400 years up to 1900. We are due another soon

    “The effect of higher temperatures on sea life will be profound” Yes …a lot of it positive too as there is more foot and species colonise new areas

    Polar Bear numbers 12000 in the 1960s now at 25000 and that probably a low estimate

    http://www.factcheck.org/2008/06/polar-bear-population/

  • chrisjones2

    This troll and a couple of others seem to be working together on the Slugger O Toole site and seem to hunt in packs . They target anyone with politics they dont like and obsessively follow them challenging and attacking them. Common ploys are to suggest you have multiple IDs on the site (as they do), that you are banned but have sneaked back in, that you are racist or misogynist. They demand evidence then allege that you have said things elsewhere that you didnt say

    Apply the old adage….dont feed the Trolls.

    I know its hard but this set are particular nutters. Look on the positive side. If it was not you they would be trawling the darker reaches of the internet looking to victimise some poor woman or seeking our especially perverted porn

  • chrisjones2

    Hearing those voices again are we….

  • grumpy oul man

    Alas the voices i read here know nothing of science and imagine that the musings of right wing nutjobs is factual.
    For example this character claimed that the population of polar has doubled, a amazing statistic considering that the breeding rate of polar bears is on of the lowest of all mammels and considering the high mortality rate of cubs and young bears in even the most favourable circumtances would be a 30 year job.
    Now dispite him claiming this highly “fact” as proof that climate change was a scam and being asked twice for proof, has failed to produce any.
    Now that same person is expecting me to believe other “fact” based on “his understanding” of science which seems to be based on the principal that secientists are dishonest and his “facts” are correct.
    Thats what im reading.

  • grumpy oul man

    Right eing congressman claims that polar bears numbers have trebled.
    When asked to produce data to support this admits none exists. Really good proof.
    I can see why you dont trust experts what with their carefully researched data and all.
    Ypu know i might actally go and join the adults.

  • 05OCT68

    An inconvenient truth that the hawks omit Starvking re: NATO spend.
    Suggestion, the USA reduces it’s defense spending to equal the total of the other NATO members. After all article 5 of the treaty guarantees each member defends the other in the event of an attack. Lets face it US defense spending is pork barrel politics. I think every state has at least one armament plant. Is the USA allowed to launch attacks from NATO bases in Europe to areas outside of it’s NATO commitments?

  • Patrick Mac

    Grumpy, I do believe this is the first literary reference offered to you during these little Internet joustings. Although not inclined to quote authors in order to substantiate one’s own convictions I felt strongly that a departure was in order, given the level of ‘mania’ surrounding this so-called issue of GW/CC:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Charles+MacKay&rh=n%3A266239%2Ck%3ACharles+MacKay

    An important work and very relevant to the current era (or any other era).

    One other item – its not Warming, its not Climate Change, its not Climate Urgency, or Climate anything else, ITS JUST WEATHER !!!

    Incidentally, you must be an avid follower of the religion of Scientism.

  • grumpy oul man

    Again this sillyness that you know more than those trained in the relevent sciencetism”
    And i know you make statement and claims but never facts, but please give a defination of this “relegion of science” what is the dogma etc.
    And it is amusing that you regard science as a relegion.
    Also amusing is your admission that you rarely quote fact to back up arguments.
    Your perhaps could read those books on delusion.
    Come back when you have facts not unfounded beliefs.

  • grumpy oul man

    “Always in a pack”
    but there’s three of you and one of me!
    But i suppose it as accurate as anything else you’ve posted on this thread.

  • Patrick Mac

    Are we talking about the same ‘facts’ that a certain university in the East of England used and abused about five or six years back. The team of warmists at this establishment were protecting their own salaries, re. funded research monies.

    The point is that science has been corrupted, like many other areas of life. Real fact and real truth is very hard to find, and people are very hard to trust.

    Its all the direct result of decades of liberal, leftist, socialist dogma, and worst of all, champagne socialism. Yes?, No?

    One other little tidbit to finish. The polar bears and ALL other members of the animal kingdom will be doing just fine without your faux concern.

  • grumpy oul man

    So no names and no details abut this uni or these “warmist” but you still call it facts!
    And the usual unsupported bull about liberals and leftys again just statements.
    And i am glad the polar bears and all the other animals will be fine.
    Just one question did that bit of good news come from the same source as your claim about muslim mobs rioting near Dublin. You will forgave if i take the word of the trained scientists as they actally have facts to back up thier claims.
    You as usual dont bother with the old facts thing.
    And faux rage! Very good will i would deny that but even if true its better than your faux facts.