It’s the geopolitics, stupid

by Anne Applebaum | 08.06.2016

If this were 1996 – with the Bosnian war causing Europe’s greatest crisis, the United States the only superpower and a British army of 250,000 – then I might say: yes, Vote Leave, if you are willing to pay the economic price.

But this is 2016. The West no longer dominates the international political system. Western – or rather British – ideas about democracy, the rule of law and competitive markets are in retreat around the world. American influence is waning.

Donald Trump advocates torture, mass deportation and religious discrimination. He cares nothing for Nato, the Special Relationship, or security guarantees. He says of Europe, “their conflicts are not worth American lives. Pulling back from Europe would save this country millions of dollars annually”.  Whatever the election outcome, a weaker US military presence in Europe is possible.

Anyway, the greatest challenges to Western democracies are not strictly military. To the east, a revanchist Russia seeks to undo the liberal order and undermine Nato by funding radical parties and manipulating social media. To the south, fanaticism, violence and poverty have transformed Europe’s hinterland. Populist advocates of protectionism, xenophobia and authoritarianism are growing loud and powerful.

These are not merely problems for people in faraway countries. The murderers of Lee Rigby, or the 2005 London terrorists, didn’t cross any EU borders to get here. The advocates of crony capitalism are here too. Russians, Kazakhs, Chinese and Arabs in Britain lobby to mould our laws and customs to support tax evasion and money laundering.

Nato will not protect us from these economic, political and ideological threats, or tomorrow’s hybrid wars. Nor will the World Trade Organisation or the United Nations security council. The only international institution committed to both democratic government and rule-based markets in Europe is the EU – which we helped shape, and which promotes our view of the world.

With our European allies we can impose effective sanctions on Russia’s most corrupt oligarchs, share experience and information on counter-terrorism, and react if our people or products are discriminated against.

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    Outside Europe, we are on our own. The US is negotiating a free trade deal with the EU, and has no interest in a separate one with us. The Chinese like negotiating with weaker partners – but a country which steals intellectual property and commercial information will not uphold British notions of “rule of law” or “fair play” in trade.

    Leaving the EU will strengthen protectionism and xenophobia on the continent. France’s Marine Le Pen – and radical parties in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, central Europe and even Germany – are eager for the EU and Nato to fall apart. Continental eurosceptics are not our allies. Free trade is a bulwark against the authoritarianism they want to build. They want to destroy the EU of markets and the rule of law.

    Brexit helps them. The result would be a Europe from which Britain is excluded, with our views and values radically diminished. The world could end up less democratic, less law abiding and less free – while Britain could be less rich, less happy, and less powerful.

    This article is a shortened version of one which previously appeared on InFacts and in the Standard.

    Edited by Michael Prest

    2 Responses to “It’s the geopolitics, stupid”

    • NATO accounts for 70% of global arms expenditure.
      With that magnitude of threat, it’s more likely to fan the flames of resentment and encourage militarisation of countries outside the organisation.
      We cannot negotiate with each other down the barrel of a gun.
      The only way is for our democratically elected representatives to sit around a table and come to mutually beneficial agreements.
      We already do this.
      It’s called the European Union.

    • I see the current situation as pandering to Nigel Farage’s Utopian ideals. It’s like the whole nation has been hoodwinked.
      HELP!!! Who will save the country from #Thegreatfaragehypnosis?