The arrival of the Trump political circus has Europe’s diplomatic and military networks in a bit of a lather. The first performance will be at the NATO HQ in Belgium on Wednesday with a ritual kissing of “Snow White’s” ring by NATO’s 28 Dwarves. The finale next Monday is the anticipated and for some much-dreaded Trump-Putin Summit in neutral Finland.
The ideological character of NATO has indeed been truly transformed since the demise of the Soviet Union. The communiques and press releases are normally full of “shared values”. If that’s the spin pumped out by the NATO press office this week then the likes of the BBC will indeed have put aside any notion of critical analytical journalism. I will leave it to the readers to decide whether or not the British Broadcasting Corporation is up to such a challenge.
One of the key features of this NATO summit will be distinct lack of “shared values” across the wider NATO membership.
On the other hand, there will be the opportunity for one group within NATO to show off their shared values. The June 2018 NATO Summit could well feature a Parade of the Populists, led by Snow White herself and at least 4 of the NATO dwarves.
There is already speculation that Trump’s ideological soulmates in NATO’s growing populist battalion will get preferential treatment. Who will get the biglyest hug and smile? Will it be Hungary’s Orban or Poland’s Morawieck? Maybe it will be Italy’s Conte?
My moneys on the man who is compared with Suleiman the Magnificent by fawning elements of Turkeys domestic media Recep Tayyip Erdogan. I wouldn’t put it past President Erdogan to present President Trump with a boxed set of all 139 episodes of Turkey’s hugely popular historical drama Magnificent Century.
Corbynista’s who favour “strong” defences and Trident retention should note that its Greek fear of an Ottoman rather than Russian resurgence that led Tsipras’s SYRIZA, even when Varoufakis was its Finance Minister, to thole a well above NATO average defence expenditure.
The demise of the Soviet Union led to a debate over the continued relevance of NATO. With the advent of populism surely there is a need for another debate. What are the supposed “values” that all NATO members share? Where does these values sit in a calculus that concludes that Russia is an existential threat?
On the other hand, if these iterations of populism, some of which verge upon populism with fascist characteristics, are acceptable amongst our “friends and allies” as Scottish MP’s of all stripes seem to be prepared to accept, what’s so objectionable about Putin that it requires significant further increases in defence expenditure?
Even if one accepts the Novichock theory of FSB incompetence we know there is not a snowballs chance in hell that the terrible incidents in and around Salisbury will result in boycott of the remaining rounds of the World Cup by NATO members so when shove comes to push a sense of proportion, of sorts is maintained.
Yet the “Resurgent Russia” trope is now orthodoxy across almost the entire Westminster parliamentary political spectrum and the consequences are already manifesting themselves.
The supposed security requirements of a post Brexit Still Even Greater Britain wrapped in the rediscovered cloak of splendid isolation, has already, in my view, become the rationale for a further significant hike in defence expenditure.
It’s notable that the recently published Defence Select Committee report “Beyond 2 Percent” called for a huge increase in conventional defence expenditure. As far as I can ascertain there has been no significant push back in Westminster, by any party, other then the Greens.
The “shared values” phrase may be thin in this week’s NATO press releases not so its close relation the “we live in a dangerous and uncertain world” strapline.
Some parts of the world are dangerous and unstable but not all the world all the time and certainly not 21st Century North Western Europe.
I’m not claiming Scotland has the geopolitical stability of say New Zealand or Canada but on the other hand we are not a former territory of Tsar Nicholas’s empire of a slice of the Sikes Picot carve up.
Is it not a fact Mediterranean migration is a fraction of what is was a few years ago? source UNHCR.
Is it not a fact that Russian Defence Expenditure is one seventeenth of that of all the NATO countries combined? (source Rand Corporation, purveyors of data, raw and processed, to the US Department of Defence for decades).
The skilful use of fake news has played a crucial role in the development of populism not only out- with NATO but within NATO and NATO itself continues to be a leading proponent of its manufacture and use, not only abroad, but crucially within its own territory targeting its own people.
If NATO desisted from bombarding its own citizens with fake news, then its own citizens might develop a resilience to fake news. On the other hand, how interested are those who profit from NATO really interested in providing security and stability for the citizens it purports to defend?