The West's New Front-Line State

LONDON/BERLIN/BRUSSELS | | grossbritannien

LONDON/BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Own report) - Fierce power struggles over EU foreign policy orientation and leadership accompany western threats against Russia following the Salisbury poison assassination attempt. With its accusations of Russia, London has succeeded in imposing "a united western foreign policy approach under British leadership," a leading German daily has noted. Great Britain has become the "West's new front-line state." After leaving the EU, the UK is presently setting course for its ensuing European policy, by focusing not only on a military treaty with France, but also another with Poland, aimed against Russia. Berlin is maneuvering: On the one hand, it is closing ranks against Moscow and, on the other, it is not willing to cede leadership of EU foreign policy. "Good and close collaboration between Russia and Germany" is very "important," the German president declared, thus marking a first counterpoint to British policy.

German-British Military Cooperation

Shortly after the Brexit referendum, the UK government began restructuring its future foreign and military relations with the EU27. London is, to some extent, seeking military policy cooperation with Berlin. This is met with approval in Germany, because it is well aware that future European military forces can hardly do without the UK, which - alongside France - is currently Western Europe's strongest military power. Already in February 2017, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen declared that also in the future, Berlin and London "want to maintain very close ties” in the field of armament and military policy.[1] In July 2017, Britain's defense ministry announced that an agreement had been reached on a "Joint Vision Statement" for future cooperation, which will be signed officially by the German side after the new government is formed.[2] Following her meeting with her British counterpart Gavin Williamson, in late February this year, von der Leyen confirmed Berlin's desire to continue cooperation.[3]

The New Entente Cordiale

On the European continent, however, UK military policy is relying primarily on cooperation with France, rather than with Germany, also because, for many years, Berlin has strictly followed the plan to establish an EU-Army demanding military deployments in regions of Germany's interests - the first being in contradiction to British, the latter to French strategy. Due to the conflicting interests with Germany, London and Paris were seeking to open alternative options for military policy and military cooperation and signed the Lancaster House Treaties on November 2, 2010, initiating a close bilateral cooperation in armament and military policy. This cooperation was put to a test in the aggression against Libya, mainly led by France and Great Britain. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[4]) The new British-French cooperation soon began to worry Berlin. The German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), for example, wrote in an analysis that "a new Entente Cordiale" is obviously being formed in the West - alluding to the 1904 British-French alliance during World War I.[5] Since then, Germany attached increasing importance to close ties with France. In mid January 2018, however, the UK and France consolidated their armament and military policy cooperation with a new agreement. In their joint communiqué they alluded to the First World War, "when our troops fought side by side in defense of our shared belief in freedom and resistance against aggression."[6]

World War Allies

Alongside the bilateral cooperation agreement with France - hitherto the only one with an EU country - Great Britain has concluded a bilateral treaty on military cooperation with Poland in December 2017. This treaty not only includes defense industry cooperation but also cooperation in areas such as joint military training and intensive information sharing.[7] It also includes cooperation in enhancing cyber security and to launch a joint propaganda war against Russia, which will also be directed against Belarus: London and Warsaw announced their support for the improvement of Belsat, a Polish-funded TV channel, providing pro-Western orientation for the Belarusians. London is placing its treaty with Poland also in a historical context: "We will never forget the Polish soldiers who fought with our troops in North Africa and on mainland Europe in World War II, nor the Polish pilots who braved the skies alongside us, standing up for freedom and democracy in Europe," Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement on the signing of the treaty.[8]

Old Strategies

The new military agreements also reflect old basic elements of British strategy. On the one hand, Great Britain has always sought to prevent the emergence of an integrated continental power, which could pose a basic threat to the British Islands. On the other, London has always sought to prevent a close German-Russian cooperation that could also pose a threat to the UK.

Under British Leadership

The Salisbury poison assassination attempt offers London the possibility of rallying the support of EU powers behind its foreign and military policy, in spite of the impending Brexit. Immediately following the attack, the British government called on its EU and NATO partners to declare their solidarity and systematically intensified the pressure with unprecedented accusations against Moscow. "The allies' reaction" has been perhaps "the most important (side-?)effect of Britain's resolute stance," according to an editorial of a leading German daily. Berlin, Paris, the EU and Washington quickly backed the government in London. "A joint foreign policy approach of the West under British leadership," that is more than London could have dreamed of in Brexit times."[9] Great Britain has thus become the "West's new front-line state."

The First Counterpoint

Berlin is maneuvering: On the one hand, it is closing Western ranks against Moscow and, on the other, it is unwilling to cede leadership of EU foreign policy. Whereas London is escalating its accusations against the Russian government - regardless of the fact that the Salisbury poison attack has not yet been solved - German heads of state and government are already again signaling to Russia the possibility of some extent of cooperation. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was the first western head of state to congratulate Vladimir Putin on his electoral victory. "The bilateral relations between our countries have traditionally been close, relying on a solid foundation," he wrote. "We have always seen close cooperation between Russia and Germany ... as an important pillar for common European efforts to establish and strengthen a long-term common world order on our continent."[10] He "hopes and wishes," Steinmeier writes, "that we will be able to counter alienation on our continent." This marks the first counterpoint to the current, presumably only short-term, British leadership in EU foreign policy.

 

Please read also: More Aggressive.

 

[1] Patrick Donahue, Matthew Miller: Germany Forging Post-Brexit Defense 'Road Map' With the U.K. www.bloomberg.com 19.02.2017. See also A Dangerous Game.

[2] Andrew Chuter, Sebastian Sprenger: Amid Brexit, Germany and UK to expand defense cooperation. defensenews.com 21.07.2017.

[3] George Allison: Germany seeks 'stronger defence relationship' with UK amid German armed forces crisis. ukdefencejournal.org.uk 28.02.2018.

[4] See also The New Entente Cordiale.

[5] Ronja Kempin, Jocelyn Mawdsley, Stefan Steinicke: Entente Cordiale. Eine erste Bilanz französisch-britischer Zusammenarbeit in der Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik. DGAPanalyse No. 10. August 2012. See also The New Entente Cordiale.

[6] United Kingdom-France Summit Communique. Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, 18 January 2018.

[7] PM announces landmark new package of defence and security cooperation with Poland. gov.uk 21.12.2017.

[8] PM press statement in Poland: 21 December 2017.

[9] Jochen Buchsteiner: Die Würde der Demokratie. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 21.03.2018.

[10] Bundespräsident Steinmeier gratuliert Wladimir Putin. bundespraesident.de 19.03.2018.