Europe – The War Grave of Politics


Christopher Lee

22 April 2016, London

Ted Heath, shortly after he retired as Prime Minister told me that EU membership made war less likely in Europe. We were sitting in the drawing room of his house in the peaceful embrace of Salisbury Cathedral Close with the garden running down to the sweet Avon.

It was a warm summer and the future was safe in the hands of Europe – as long that is, the hands were firmly clasped together.

President Obama’s message this morning is that too many American soldiers died on the beaches and ditches of this continent for the United States not to have a view on the UK referendum on EU membership. Ted Heath M.C. and Obama would have understood each other.

What Heath said and the point Obama made is a reminder that the EU was born out of the tragedy of World War II. The founding fathers, men like Jean Monet, Joseph Bech, Robert Schuman, Paul Henri Spaak et al were of one mind; the Benelux Customs Union, the Coal and Steel and later the Economic Community brought together minds in political and commercial unity.  But the purpose was greater: Europe should never again be split in war.

This was all during the opening moves of the Cold War. The USSR prepared for war – the Channel Ports in four days was the brag of the 16th Shock Army in Magdeburg. A wise European elder, sat with me this morning, sipped from his bowl of coffee, dragged on his now socially unacceptable Gauloises (a successor to Monet perhaps) and observed, Putin has his new Shock Army.

This past week, Putin’s suits sat once more in the NATO-Moscow Council in Brussels (No No Smoking signs needed – you simply don’t) and with splendid diplomatic curtness ran through an agenda to see if the Alliance and Russia could get back to an practical informality that predated the taking of the Crimea and the interference in the Ukraine. It was good that the cocktail of ambassadors met after two years apart. Yet the political and military differences are as great if not greater.

As my vieux sage rasped, Putin works on the break-up of the EU. The Americans are throwing in brigades. Not what we had in mind when we all signed in 1975.

Equally let no one doubt that the US would never pay to join an organisation that dictated 60% of its laws.  Nevertheless the imagery of committed soldiery is stark. Today, with remaining suspicions about Putin’s ambitions and the demonstration of Daesh tactics in Brussels and Paris quite clear, the Obama message should be understood. In effect, Europe remains America’s front line.

That is not a political point as is the June referendum.  It is Intelligence Analysis at its simplest.

Ted Heath too understood this as did many of his Cabinet – five Military Crosses, including his Defence Secretary.  They had got their knees brown. Heath’s view was simple: membership of NATO was not enough even though it brought Canada and the US into some future ORBAT.

The real Order of Battle is the diplomacy and long term thinking of the EU. Could be why Obama has gone out on a diplomatic limb.





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