Is the UK becoming the new Switzerland?

The UK’s diplomatic response to the Ukrainian crisis has been tepid to say the least. While William Hague has made many statements of support for Ukraine the UK seems to be very much sitting on the side-lines when it comes to discussing sanctions.

The civil service document that was photographed seems to show that the Governments primary concern is to insulate the City of London from participating in any sanctions taken by the EU. With the rise of emerging economies and the political and tax difficulties of doing business in the USA, The City of London has quite literally become the world’s financial centre over the past decade.

In many ways this gives the UK an increasingly powerful diplomatic leaver. The devastating impact of just financial sanctions against Iran shows how difficult it is for any nation, even a rogue state to operate outside of the international financial system. Even Russian arms shipments to Syria were turned around simply by removing the insurance on the container ship through the Lloyds insurance market.

However as uncle Ben said to Peter Parker “with great power come’s great responsibility”. Its one thing to use such measures against the odd rouge nation however taking financial sanctions against Russia may be something else. How long would it be before the likes of the Chinese or Arabs quietly began to withdraw their own funds from the UK for fear of future sanctions?

I’m not sure if this argument holds water. The major reason for the City’s success is the complete lack of competition. Any other EU country would take the same sanctions, The USA is the last place anyone wants to put money and most offshore financial centres are UK overseas territories, they are little more than offshore extension of the City of London. Switzerland is far too small to accommodate hundreds of thousands more workers from the City and Singapore has an entire list of issues in becoming the world’s financial centre. I can’t imagine anyone ever being willing to park billions or Trillion’s anywhere near China which kind of rules out Hong Kong or Shanghai.

However as the UK increasingly relies on the City as its main economic driver even the threat of a reduction in business in the City is probably enough to alter the UK governments policy. For a nation like Russia that relies on selling its natural resources to feed its own people being cut out of the international financial system would be devastating. However the fall out to the City of London could also be equally devastating, at least in the longer term.

Destabilising Russia could also have unintended consequences for Europe and the UK.  Refugees and even rouge nuclear weapons could all end up heading west.

Will this mean in the future that the UK is increasingly unable to take action against aggressor nations and thus forced to take on a neutral stance to protect its status as a world financial centre? Obviously it’s easy for the USA to talk of sanctions as America does little business with Russia. The economic impact on America would be very little as would the effect on Russia. I wonder if the USA would be so keen for sanctions against Mexico?

Hosting the world’s financial capital boost’s the UK’s soft power however it is at best a two way sword and any cuts imposed on others will cause us to bleed as well.

As the world becomes more interconnected the use of sanctions becomes increasingly effective. Indeed almost devastating. However does their increasing effectiveness as with nuclear weapons make them increasingly more difficult to use. What’s the point in dropping a bomb on someone if the fall out lands on your own soil?

Is the power of the City in setting UK foreign policy a further symptom of the UK government’s inability to look past the Watford Gap when setting UK policy? The Bank of England has for decades used the City as its major metric in setting UK economic policy. Is the Foreign office now subject to the same considerations?

Are we as a country prepared to surrender our foreign policy and the ideals which cost us so much in the last century to keep office towers in Cannon street full? Are we as a nation ready and willing to adopt the stringent neutrality and the lack of participation in world events that the Swiss have over the past century to maintain our financial dominance? Is our culture even capable of taking a neutral stance when we see atrocities being committed elsewhere?





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March 7, 2014 8:59 am

Britain is not a great power. A larger European nation but it is no great power.

It’s response to the Russian annexation to the Crimea has been tepid for precisely that reason, Germany is the leading power in Europe and Russia is it’s largest trading partner, a major component of that being energy supply upon which the German manufacturing export model is dependent. Germany is thus unwilling, and courtesy of its mad decision to shut-down its nuclear reactors probably unable, to impose the sort of sanctions that would actually hurt the Putin regime.

There are substantial capital flows from Russia into the UK- they help to prop-up the London property market (a crucial component of most MPs personal wealth) and BP holds a 20% stake in Russian oil and gas firm BP forming a major part of many UK pension funds share portfolios.

The UK is weak in this scenario not because of the influence of the City- that is no different to economic considerations related to any other industry in other countries, the UK is weak because it is an increasingly minor power and must follow the lead of the most powerful European nation- Germany.

Think Defence
March 7, 2014 9:15 am
Reply to  Derek

The UK is weak over the Ukraine because quite frankly, it doesn’t need to be strong.

To be honest, I think Putin is off his meds and is very far from being the great bogeyman strategist everyone thinks he is.

Long term, this has weakened Russia

Also, I sympathise a lot with Russia, we need closer ties not weaker ones.

What our leaders could do with understanding the value of shutting one mouth, empty and hypocritical rhetoric just makes us look weaker than we actually are

A phrase I have used before, we now seem to be masters at

Speaking loudly and carrying a small stick

March 7, 2014 9:31 am

Putin is an under-educated ex secret policeman, you only have to note the way he invokes ‘facist’ and ‘right-wing’ as the basis for his arguments. Not forgetting that after the 1950s and the death of wishful thinking among young Englishmen, the Oxbridge educated crowd in MI 6 ran rings around his lot. That said dealing with congenital thugs is never easy.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
March 7, 2014 9:41 am

Whichever way you look at it, it is a pretty compelling argument to diversify the economy….then it gives us options, rather than closing them down…

Won’t happen though, because as you rightly observe the political class can see nothing beyond the M25….with the exception of their Cottages in the Cotswolds.


March 7, 2014 9:42 am

‘Putin is an under-educated ex secret policeman’

I would not say under-educated is an indication of lack of intelligence, he uses right wing themes precisely because he knows his audience. He also ran rings around the West on the issue of Syria.

Ace Rimmer
March 7, 2014 9:44 am

“Is the UK becoming the new Switzerland?” – does this mean we get to vote on whether we have a new fighter aircraft?

I believe that the UK’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis is more about the opportunity for Putin bashing, and less about Ukraine’s sovereignty. Given the split along ethnic lines, dividing the country may be a positive thing, as it may avoid a civil war. I’d be very surprised if we did anything substantial at all.

March 7, 2014 10:03 am

This has xefinitely weakened Russia in the long term:
– fewer friends on its immediate borders
– active xiversificagion away from the biggest power lever – gas
– thereby less hard currency export receipts… Even if 80 % of those proceeds never get as far as Russia, it is that part of the state coffers that pays for modernising the armed forces. There is a long way to go from the 24 modernised bde’s to the target 100, not to mention the capital intensive AF/ navy.

March 7, 2014 10:05 am

The first thing the rebels in the Ukraine did was outlaw official use of Russian.

There are some fascistic elements in the new order in Kiev.

The Don Bas and Crimea were part of Russia within living memory. The populations on both sides whipped up by psycho looser can’t stand one another.

If we intervened on behalf of the new government in Kiev we could rapidly find ourselves with a very nasty needy friend.

We have no interest here.

And yes we are turning into Switzerland. Good

March 7, 2014 10:36 am

‘The west did not intervene on Syria because of Russia trickery but because it did not want to’

The politicians wanted to, but the message they were getting from the public was that they did not. Putin saw the opportunity and grasped it, why was the option of handing his weapons over or else not offered by the West to Assad to begin with? Because we thought that we could TLAM another dictator because another politician drew a line in the sand?

March 7, 2014 10:46 am

‘Obama certainly did not want to interven and nor do I believe David Cameron’

I agree, but the line had been publicly stated so we were driven to do something, just look at the comments about it just being a shot across the bows etc to try and placate the general public. It was too much like Iraq to the West and once Putin realised this he acted. International perception of Putin was of the man who struck the bargain.

March 7, 2014 10:47 am


There is no need to get upset. Its just the reality of the situation, Britain is now a minor power with very little influence. Germany is the key power in Europe followed by France and Russia is considerably more important than the UK too.

March 7, 2014 10:49 am

GNB – trust me there is no grace or favour from the corridors of power to the ordinary folk in the south either; as noted before we here are swamped by commuter-belt self-important people who have far more expendable cash than normal folk and turn us into second-class citizens in our own land. For example I have noticed down here that housing prices over the past 12 month have lifted perhaps as much as 20%, a fact that reflects someone-big-in-the-city commuter buying power, not a rise in mere mortals’ wages…

Incidentally, I can’t help noting self-determination of nationality in the Crimea bad, self-determination of nationality in Scotland good? Are we at risk of double standards based on ‘our side, their side’ partisan lines?

March 7, 2014 11:01 am

Its not all gloomy:

Institute for Government
Soft Power Index 2012

Rank Country Score
1 UK 7.289
2 USA 6.989
3 Germany 6.484
4 France 6.472
5 Sweden 5.752
6 Japan 5.613
7 Denmark 5.598
8 Switzerland 5.553
9 Australia 5.534
10 Canada 5.417
11 South Korea 5.350
12 Norway 5.327
13 Finland 5.267
14 Italy 5.186
15 Netherlands 5.161
16 Spain 4.981
17 Brazil 4.675
18 Austria 4.650
19 Belgium 4.556
20 Turkey 4.263
Rank Country Score
21 New Zealand 4.249
22 China 4.237
23 Portugal 4.217
24 Ireland 4.160
25 Poland 3.817
26 Singapore 3.759
27 Mexico 3.590
28 Russia 3.564
29 Israel 3.437
30 Thailand 3.347
31 Czech Rep. 3.346
32 Chile 3.285
33 Greece 3.260
34 South Africa 3.117
35 Argentina 3.062
36 India 2.776
37 Malaysia 2.606
38 UAE 2.416
39 Egypt 2.351
40 Indonesia 1.739

British Council report/Demos 2010

Ian Skinner
Ian Skinner
March 7, 2014 11:04 am

in my more cynical moments; I wonder if the UK government’s response is influenced by the thought that they might have to seize Faslane from an independent Scotland

March 7, 2014 11:25 am

I’m a bit on Chris’s side in this issue. The big problem isn’t really Russia, it’s the fact that Ukraine itself is of 2 minds on this issue, and add the fact that parts of Ukraine has been “Russian” long enough for a significant fraction of the people to identify themselves as such means that any decision will be “wrong” in the view of a significant fraction of the population save that of splitting the area.

If a vast majority wants to leave the CIS, no amount of Russian armour can stop that. But what happens when you get go/no go/yes/no/yes/no signals from everywhere? It’s a mess no doubt about it. And be honest, Russia has a much much bigger stake in this than any other country. You are talking about seceding an area long seen as Russian, not to mention what are they seceding to? An independent country called Ukraine? The EU is not a country, it is an economic alliance. You join the EU as a trade bloc, not a federation of countries. There is no “United European Federal Government”, so if Ukraine wants to leave the Russian Federation, it will have to do it as an independent country.

Best case I can see for this is Mainland Ukraine goes West, Crimea goes East. And never the twain shall meet. And whoever wants to go either direction can immigrate.

PS: Peace martin, peace. We’re all entitled to our nihilstic and cynical moments. It passes. Sometimes.

March 7, 2014 12:24 pm

Martin said “I don’t think the UK gives two f**ks about what Berlin thinks in anything other than EU reform where they are a key potential allie but certainly not the ones holding all the cards.”

That’s the trouble. Until we have another Thatcher in office the UK is going nowhere fast. We need a PM, whether you think the UK should be in the EU or not, who is prepared to take on Berlin.

Everywhere else in the international system it seems rising powers get taken seriously just by flashing the “rising power” card. They just point at various academic projections for the next few decades and everybody takes notice. A bit like at work when the new guy suggests reorganising the biscuit barrels and the boss listens even though the whole department has been suggesting the same changes for months. (Not that I am bitter about it. Honest.)

For that reason now is not the time to let our military lead in Europe slip. For that reason we need to be serious about education reforms. We need to continue to build on our industrial strengths. (As we all agree on here the UK is strong on manufacturing we just need to push, push, and push to do more.) And lastly though times have moved on we need a PM who looks out to the Commonwealth again. The Commonwealth isn’t a direct replacement for Europe, shouldn’t be seen as such, but it should be seen as an area where we could revitalise relationships. (And another reason not to let out military capabilities slip.)

We are in a good position. We just need a good leader. And there doesn’t seem to be one on the horizon.

Now if we are becoming Switzerland where’s my SIG556 and chocolate?

PS: By military capability obviously I mean ships……..of course.

March 7, 2014 12:52 pm

@ Observer

Bless your cotton socks but you haven’t a clue what you are talking about have you?

The eastern half is Russian. It isn’t a question of them being part of Russia long enough for them to be Russian. It wasn’t a case of tzar undertaking a programme of Russification in the east of Ukraine say 200 years ago and the indigenous people began to the think of themselves as Russian, they were Russian. The west of UKraine was a different country up to 1939. And in the redrawing of INTERNAL Soviet borders in 1954 and we have the mess we have now. What we are seeing now is a resetting of boarders long overdue; something that should have happened back in the 1990s.

For somebody half a globe away to offhandedly call the EU just a trade bloc points to ignorance on the issue. Go do some reading. The EU stopped being the European Economic Community a long while back. Trade bloc don’t have foreign ministers or social programmes. We are seeing here in Europe a programme similar to that of what occurred in Nazi Germany where national institutions are starting to compete with “federal EU” institutions. Would you like me to start making half arrsed comments about Singapore rejoining Malaysia?

March 7, 2014 1:11 pm

x, go on right ahead. I’ll just ignore it. :P

Rocket Banana
March 7, 2014 1:12 pm


“Best case I can see for this is Mainland Ukraine goes West, Crimea goes East. And never the twain shall meet. And whoever wants to go either direction can immigrate.”

I like your thinking. Can you come over hear and sort our Northern Ireland the same way please. Just get all 1.8 million of them to move to the UK and give NI to Eire.

Job’s a good’n?

Aubrey's Shadow
Aubrey's Shadow
March 7, 2014 1:16 pm

Germany isn’t the dominant power in Europe, but London is the capital of Europe, by most measures. Angela’s economic chickens have yet to come home to roost, and in the meantime the population continues to leak away, the immigrants favour Blighty, and she slowly wrecks the once-mighty economic powerhouse she inherited.

TD is spot on – we (more accurately politicians – so perhaps a triumph of hope over experience) need to learn to say less, when there is no need to pontificate; walk tall, carry a big stick behind our backs AND, just occasionally use it. Influence is like a savings account; the more you us it, the less you’ve got….

So, when we see a periscope in the Clyde that isn’t ours, ram it – hard – and ask questions later. Whilst Putin and his cabal are just looting thugs, they do occasionally have some legitimate concerns, and whilst I am no lover of, nor apologist for the Russians, we need to remember that a little support when sensible, can go a long way.

It is true that the more strike capability we develop though the City, the less easy it is to deploy, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t there or that we couldn’t use it. It is important too, that others know we could and would use it, if pushed hard enough.

So we need more credibility and less waffling on in Euro-nonsense style. There is little point at the moment in getting bogged down in hollow threats over Ukrainian issues, and I prescribe a nice portion of subtle isolation, and letting the Europeans crack on with cancelling Mistral orders and shutting off the gas imports first. Don’t hold your breath. Stay close with Uncle Sam, of course, but we all know that you bank about as many favours with them as we would with the Russians.

It’s not that difficult really – just about being grown-up, listening more than talking and having a nice set of balls when needed.

Ace Rimmer
March 7, 2014 2:07 pm

@Aubrey’s Shadow, I disagree, I believe that Germany is the dominant economic power of Europe both economically and politically. London maybe the financial capital of Europe but that’s more for historical reasons, along with regulators turning a very blind eye to most of its activities, (thanks to Gordon Brown wanting to compete with New York on the global financial scene). On a political level, the UK appears to have a more parochial attitude to Europe compared to our German cousins.

Also, during the industrial revolution the North of England outstripped London financially by a significant margin, due to its large manufacturing output, something we need to re-establish if the UK is to compete with Germany as the economic powerhouse of Europe.

March 7, 2014 2:07 pm

re; Germany as the pre-eminent power of Europe,
The reality is that when Obama or Kerry visits Europe it generates more press in the US when they stop by to meet Merkel than when they meet Cameron. The undisputable fact is that right now Germany is a larger economy (almost 50% larger) with more sway among European nations than the UK. Meetings between Germany and France generate more headlines in political and financial circles abroad because they are seen as the heart of the European Union and their decisions are seen to be more reflective of the overall movement of the EU over the long term, compared to us here in the UK. Militarily we have now cut back to a level much closer to the Germans and French, though we’re more considered more “active”. That’s just how it is right now.

Re; Putin in Syria,
He moved because he had to save his regional ally, protect his naval base and demonstrate that Russia can be an effective guarantor on the International stage against the US. Letting the US bomb Syria, especially so soon after Libya would have been another slap in the face for Russia on the world stage. He did what he had to do, persuading Assad to give up his chemcial weapons in order to stave off potential defeat for Assad and further embarassment for Russia. He salvaged something from a bad situation, which is very different from being the master puppeteer. I think most people on the international level recognise that.

Re; self determination of Crimea and possibly Eastern Ukraine,
Lots of people who identify as Russian down there. The legality of a vote though is highly questionable. It would be like us rocking up in Catalonia and then declaring a vote was going to take place. The difference with Scotland is that we authorised a referendum. In the long run though, it’s probably for the best if they (Crimea etc) do split away, then they can all get on with their preferred approaches to government etc. Providing the border crossing permits people to freely move back and forth for a while, which might require some kind of monitoring.

March 7, 2014 2:10 pm

Oh please, Britain is a feeble third rate country and increasingly irrelevant in global foreign affairs. Germany is Europe’s first power and France its second. Britain just falls in behind.

Ace Rimmer
March 7, 2014 2:33 pm

Derek, “Germany is Europe’s first power and France its second. Britain just falls in behind.”

By your rationale, that makes the UK third in line in Europe, which given the size of Europe is pretty good going, being third doesn’t make a country third rate.

Where would you place the economic and political strengths of Spain and Greece, or would they be above the UK in your book as well?

The Ginge
The Ginge
March 7, 2014 2:59 pm

Dear TD,

I note with respect that your article really does hit the nail on the head over the Ukraine. I also think it has wider implications for the majority on this blog who see defence as an important subject, if not the overriding first objective of the State. I apologise for my long reply.

After watching Question Time last night and reading a number news commentary pages I have come to the conclusion that the effect of Tony Blair’s wars has been to turn British public opinion into one of complete indifference and rabid isolationism. I never thought in my lifetime I would see appeasement in action as displayed by the good people of Barking last night.

Looking at your own article and comments.

I would disagree with your conclusion that the UK doesn’t need to be strong.

Exactly at this time in the development of the next European war is the time when being strong may prevent the long list of developments and pain that will follow. We stand now in about 1936, when Great Britain decided not to stop the reoccupation of the Rhineland by Nazi Germany, as the economic impact would be to severe and we thought Germany too strong (which it turned out was incorrect)militarily to stop. Mr Putin had his first attempt in 2008 and got away with it, now he’s gone for something bigger in the Ukraine.

You’re second statement regarding Mr Putin himself. Let’s be honest neither Hitler, Stalin nor even the Kaiser were exactly stable individuals. Yet they went on to rule vast countries with the appetite for conquest and expansionism. At least if we assume Mr Putin has been on Meds or is a great strategist it assumes we can negotiate with him on logical terms. If he’s off the meds or just plain crazy then we don’t have a chance. Because either fear or self-interest has enough people following him for his ideas to be executed.

Next your comment “long term this has weakened Russia” or “we need closer ties”. I fail to see how this has weakened Russia at all. Since the “West” are not prepared to act Russia has lost nothing, not a single market, it has seen that it can control the EU through Gas and every dictator or repressive regime has seen that Russia is back in the game. Buy Russian arms and spout Russian propaganda and Mr Putin will make sure that the international community or the UN can do little to stop you. As indicated by the success of Syria. President Assad just saw his long term future greatly increase, as have lots of other leaders and regimes. What do we gain with closer ties? Do we gain political influence with Mr Putin, nope the man respects strength not snivelling subservience. Do we gain increased economic wealth? Nope a few in the city may, but most of them will not be British and will even be tucking away their profits overseas and not paying taxes. Does Russia hold mineral, gas or oil stocks that we need access to? Not really as long as we use fracking and other sources we don’t need Russia at all.

We have so much to lose economically in the city that taking any action would be catastrophic to our economy? Absolute poppy cock. People trade in London precisely because it’s open, safe and secure. Your money doesn’t disappear to some oligarch or communist party flunky as in China because a new tax or law is passed. London doesn’t have the arrogance of America in seizing assets at the drop of a Federal Investigators hand. Finally most of the profits made on Russian trade in London are made by overseas banks not UK ones. There are only a limited number of people in London who would feel some pain; obviously these individuals have the ear of Michael Heseltine and the rest of the conservative party.

For Germany there are other Gas sources Norway, UEA etc that could as part of concerted effort over the summer relieve Gazprom of its power. Remember Germany is sitting on 6mths of Gas reserves in storage.

So to answer your question, no we are not Switzerland. They have a long tradition of neutrality. We have become Germany prepared to let other people sort out our problems whilst we try and profit from it. All for the God mammon.

In the long term I can see little point for a new MPA or to bring in a second aircraft carrier. Upgraded armoured personnel carrier, no we don’t do that type of war thing anymore, why do we need those nasty war like things, our soldiers are for filling sand bags on the Thames. The military should be glad it has what it has, as I would not be too surprised if SDR2015 doesn’t significantly cut defence spending. Last night I heard the words “Nato is the problem here, all these agreements that mean we go to war for somebody else” if I was Poland I would be afraid very afraid. We spend billions in aid helping people fleeing dictators instead of removing the problem; we’ll deal with the symptoms its cheaper and easier.

I now never wish to hear the statement “we must do something to stop this and help these poor people”.

The world has now become a dangerous place; The Baltic States, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland are now in play hence their request under Article 4. In the Far East Japan really needs to get the USA to commit more troops and ships because the West doesn’t stand by its agreements if it becomes too hard or costs someone a few pennies. How long before the standing carrier deployment to Japan ends?

If I was in South East Asia I would be looking at making accommodations with my Chinese population and start talking to China about agreeing a minor share of the oil/gas/fish stocks in the South China Sea as nobody is going to help you.

Finally as Israel has already begun, look at hitting Iran’s nuclear programme because Israel has seen Crimea and lost all faith in the EU and the USA.

Crimea in and of itself was never going to be a war, but the ripple effect from Russia’s actions and the EU/USA’s lack of will to stand up to that action will be felt for many years and in the body count around the world. My advice if you are Jewish, Gay or any other minority is to bug out of Eastern Europe and probably try and get in to America.

Personally I am looking at Canada as the EU slips under the Russian yoke and ends up in a full shooting war in the next 10yrs.

Putin has realised that he is going to die, he probably has 10 to 20yrs at most, his wish is to leave Russia as the man who reinstated its position in the World as a Super Power controlling Europe.

As Edmund Burke said “All it takes for evil to succeed is for a few good men to do nothing…” and we just watched the EU 300 million men turn the other way.

Peter Elliott
March 7, 2014 3:08 pm


I think you overstate the case. I see your scenario as a ‘possile’ rather than ‘probable’ or ‘certain’.

But I agree with the overall tenor of your analysis. And would initiate a limited and precautionary re-armament accordingly.

In terms of our own domestic politics the unkown factor is UKIP. Could go either way. But if Cameron (or Osbourne or Johnson) is forced to do a deal with them any time in the next 3 years then we might see a more hard headed attitude from the government of the day.

Ironically just about the only politician of the current mob I would trust to think straight about the situation is Hammond. So we are perhaps lucky to have had him as SoS D. And may yet be lucky to get him in a higher level role next parliament.

March 7, 2014 3:23 pm

@Derek (and &Chris B). No one has any problems with you have opinions, but you are not presenting any FACTS to support said opinions, which can be quite frustrating for people. Relative economic size set out below for your reference –

GDP (PPP) $Billion
Germany $3,167bn (82 million people)
Russia $2,486bn
United Kingdom $2,313bn (63 million people)
France $2,238bn (64 million people)
Italy $1,813bn

Think Defence
March 7, 2014 3:42 pm
Reply to  Nigel

Ginge, look at the author of this article mate!

March 7, 2014 3:55 pm

Is there a problem with the uk becoming Switzerland if that is so desired?

The UK should be looking after its own industry interests when making decisions and let’s be clear this is not just about the city of London. The aerospace industry is heavily involved with Russia with significant investment in material ores for example

“On 27 December 2007 US Boeing and VSMPO-AVISMA created a joint venture Ural Boeing Manufacturing and signed a contract on titanium products deliveries until 2015, with Boeing planning to invest 27 billion dollars in Russia over the next 30 years.”

They are not the only ones heavily invested there the uk operation is here

March 7, 2014 4:05 pm

@ Nigel,
” but you are not presenting any FACTS to support said opinions”

— I can’t speak for Derek, who I think is taking things to the extreme, but my personal presumption is that if someone is capable of using TD then they’re capable of using Google, which means it should take them all of about 10 minutes to go and double check the numbers.

GDP per capita is largely irrelevant to this discussion, unless you think the likes of Monaco, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands are world players. The reason Germany would be rated over the UK for many issues is that Germany is simply a much bigger economy, to which a big chunk of the performance of the European economy is tied. The German government has more of a sway in Europe as a result, and because the Germans are committed to the European Union while we are not so much.

It’s not a huge margin, but the reality is that in many regards they’re seen as more important than the UK on a variety of economic and political matters right now.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 7, 2014 4:38 pm

Germany is definitely the leader within Europe due to its position and close ties within the rest of mainland Europe. The UK is seen as something of a powerful outsider and occasionally a disruptive influence.
In world terms the UK is miles ahead of Germany, Our UN security council seat, our relationship with ex colonies gives us far more relevance with countries in Africa and Asia as well as India.
Our Military being active both in the headlines and behind the scenes with training tasks exerts influence in the ME and E Africa that the Germans just do not have. This combined with our relationships with the US, Canada, Australia and America give us a circle of world influence that the Germans simply do not and never have had.

March 7, 2014 4:43 pm

“This combined with our relationships with the US, Canada, Australia and America give us a circle of world influence that the Germans simply do not and never have had.”

Except briefly in the early 1940s :)

March 7, 2014 5:22 pm

The French ride on the German’s coattails. This crisis actually shows just how the French, Italians, and Spanish are on the periphery and that Europe’s centre of gravity is shifting. It is so much about whether the likes of Poles have more money or military influence more that they sit between the two most active drivers of events, Germany and Russia. I would say that zone stretches from the Baltic former Soviet republics to the tip of Balkans and Orthodox Greece.

The question for me isn’t whether Germany is Europe’s leader or not (because they are unquestionably) it is whether we see, or the rest of the world see, us within that group. We seem to be Washington’s poodle, Europe’s punchbag, and the forgotten head of the Commonwealth. There is no direction from No 10. Just keep the plates spinning. Lets keep everybody on side. And ultimately that will be too our detriment. You can’t be everybody’s friend.

March 7, 2014 5:35 pm

@ Martin,
“I think the press are the ones who give this perceived economic dominance of Germany over Europe. The figures just don’t support it.”
— Germany has the largest GDP in Europe, almost 50% large than ours. They do a huge amount of their exporting to fellow European nations. The value and stability of the Euro relies in a large chunk on the economic prospects of Germany, as well as a number of leading European nations. They are absolutely and utterly at the heart of the European economy.

“Merkel has neither the political nor legal mandate to increase European aid to other nations and with the loss of any such mandate she has nothing to offer them and thus no control over them. She can threaten to leave the Euro but a German exit of the Euro would be a net positive for the rest of the Eurozone and a big negative to Germany”
— The European Union listens to Germany because of its dominant economic position. Germany absolutely has a massive sway over the European Union, because so much of the long term success and stability of this organisation is tied to the success and stability of Germany and its economy.

As for the Euro, if Germany left that currency then it would probably collapse. The value would plumment, while whatever currency Germany took on in its place would climb to above the current levels of the Euro, now that Germany had been unchained from having to accomodate smaller nations and acting as a guarantor for countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain. A German threat to leave the Euro would be immensely powerful.

@ Apats,
By and large it could be argued that in a military sense the UK is light years ahead of the Germans in terms of influence etc. But the reality is that Germany is a much larger economy on its own and represents the beating heart of an economic union that surpasses the United States for total GDP on many peoples books. While we might be able to curry more favour with certain African leaders, when it comes to the major players of the world Germany is indisputably seen in a more important light. Politics is economics, and in economic terms the Germans are well ahead (for now…).

March 7, 2014 5:38 pm

david blair had a good article that addressed this question:

“The City has always presented itself as the former. Fair enough. But if the City is a genuine British national asset, that must mean more than simply being a source of jobs, salaries and tax revenues. A real national asset is also an instrument for exerting national power. And, in extremis, that must mean closing the doors to a country which damages British interests in a significant way.”

i agree with it.

March 7, 2014 5:43 pm

I think Chris B talks sense.

Re: German power and hegemony versus UK, Chris could have been writing in 1871, 1913, 1938 etc and his argument would still be true.

There’s a lot to be said for lying slap bang in the middle of the most advanced and richest continent on Earth and being rich, big and competent yourself.

March 7, 2014 5:44 pm


Germany’s power has nothing to do with the ECB and everything to do with its much larger economy. I understand that you still have visions of British grandeur but those days are gone. Germany and Russia are the major powers in the region of Europe- Britain at best is a middling power.

March 7, 2014 5:55 pm

Germany’s main problem is the Euro. To gives its economy more momentum it has the rest of Europe buying its goods with a fragile currency (Euro) and using another fragile currency (the US Dollar) as its reserve. There is lots of talk for and against the US Dollar especially compared to the Yuan. I think it depends on much the US can reshore production and the speed of its energy independence drive. (I would love to say agriculture there too but it is too far down the US list.) I think we may be hearing for a sort of two reserve currency system.

A poorer (that is relative term, they would still be rich) Germany with the Deutsche Mark would be a more credible power. Europe’s economy is like an aging star; it is at the burning helium stage.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 7, 2014 5:59 pm


Politics is economics, and in economic terms the Germans are well ahead (for now…).

Yes but German economic influence in the same way as their Political influence is limited once you get outside of a very limited European sphere. they have relatively little influence or interest in many parts of the world where we are still major players. Do not mistake selling VWs for influence.
Germany hugely influential in Europe, far less so outside.

If anything Germany has become Switzerland, a country becoming more and more neutral over the years, not prepared to exert any influence it may have and more concerned with making money and doing nothing to hamper this regardless of what happens around it.

March 7, 2014 6:43 pm

Well, whenever Germany talks about intervention, for some strange reason, people around them start getting, no, not nervous, but antsy, with media comparisons to certain time periods in history.

@Et al

We may see Putin as the source of all evil who was spawned by Satan himself in a drunken orgy and chewed through his mother to give birth, but how do the Russians see him? Remember, he is the official of Russia, not of Germany, France or the EU. If seen from Russian eyes, is what he is doing now right or wrong to the Russian people? And do they have a point?

We treat his decisions like they are coming from a western mindset and from the western perspective. It might do a bit of good to flip the table around and see the picture from the other side. For example, if a mob of ex-East Germans, fed up with the EU bailouts for other countries, stormed the German Parliament, ousted Merkel and demanded inclusion in the Russian Federation due to “People’s Power” and the caucus belli of “EU blood sucking”, and Merkel were to call upon the UK and France for help to regain power as the official elected representative of Germany and the ex-West Germans, being fairly content with the western leaning alliance and less happy with the idea of being part of the CIS, protests the sudden shift to the East.

How should the UK react? And how would the reaction be different from Russia’s current actions?

Besides “we are the good guys and they are the bad guys” that is. A reflection in a mirror can sometimes put things into an interesting perspective.

Peter Elliott
March 7, 2014 6:57 pm


I don’t blame him at all. He’s being perfectly consistent in persuing Russian objectives in a Russian way.

It was probably worth trying to draw Russia into the Western diplomatic and commercial system in the years after 1991. But it hasn’t worked. So we now need to consider Plan B.

What we need is to to take warning, and act now to secure our energy supply, military capacity and capability for the medium term, while not getting our knickers in too much of a twist over what’s going on right now.

March 7, 2014 7:26 pm

It always amuses me when people say the UK is a “minor power”, as if there were a host of countries with more diplomatic, economic and military power than the UK.
I suspect with most people who take that view, it is more a case of wishful thinking.
The UK has a lot of diplomatic clout, has a large economy (only slightly smaller than France), and is a significant military power, just compare the UK’s force projection capabilities to those of Germany, Russia, or even France.
Germany is strong economically, weak military, and has limited diplomatic power, except with the Euro countries that it has bailed out!
Germany would have to dramatically increase it’s defence spending, be more engaged globally (for want of a better word), and not sit on the fence in every crisis, then it maybe considered a “Great power”.

March 7, 2014 7:28 pm

I’d just like to point out that Switzerland pioneered the recce bicycle (adopted later by the Japanese for unconventional infiltration towards Singapore, if that is not an urban myth) and has exciting plans for Alpine Kevins involving motorways and collapsible Armco. And although she will be nearly 46 by now, a proper Marquise who has a wet soft spot for the right British Cavalry officer.

Oh, and Toblerone.

That is all.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
March 7, 2014 7:33 pm

“We now need to consider Plan B”…my personal Plan B is to find a bookmaker who will take a monkey on Putin annexing one or more of the Baltic States between now and 2020…resulting in rapid succession in the disintegration of NATO (because they will not act)…and the EU going the same way because the Mighty Germany referred to elsewhere will be seen to be in thrall to Russia (for energy and markets) to such an extent that the cre….dibility of the enterprise will be fatally undermined.

At which point we will be very pleased to have both CVF in the water, and…hopefully…the continuing basis for a close relationship with the Cousins…and I will be very pleased with my winnings…

An oddly optimistic if somewhat dystopian Gloomy

March 7, 2014 7:33 pm


“Yes but German economic influence in the same way as their Political influence is limited once you get outside of a very limited European sphere”
— The Germans are a major economic force in their own right. The US imports twice the number of goods from Germany in value than it does from the UK. But that’s not where Germany’s real power lies. It lies in them being the core of the European Union, an economic and political body that has a combined GDP equal to the United States. Sealing a deal with the EU is the equivalent of signing a trade pact with the United States. It’s massive.

Germany is the key to unlocking such deals. They have by far the most sway over the European political body. They are central to it. Their economy is a major factor in underpinning it. Thus Germany has significant influence by virtue of being the de facto gatekeeper to the EU. If you want to crack the European market then the first people you have to talk to are the Germans. It’s why Obama, Putin, Hollande and others spend so much time talking to (and in some cases pandering to) Merkel, but not so much Cameron.

All the biggest players, all the people that matter, all of them want the ear of Merkel because of what (they hope) she can deliver. Does the head of the German Navy have the same access to the head of the Indian Navy as the head of the Royal Navy would? Probably not. But Merkel has more sway with the Indian political elite because she can offer so much more than Cameron can.

Angus McLellan
Angus McLellan
March 7, 2014 7:38 pm

Switzerland is it? Funny you should say that. This op-ed in the NY Times tends to agree, but not in a nice way: London’s Laundry Business.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
March 7, 2014 7:40 pm

@RT – surely that Japanese bicycle recce business is more a jungle myth? :-)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 7, 2014 7:42 pm

“But Merkel has more sway with the Indian political elite because she can offer so much more than Cameron can”

Only on economic matters because the Indians know that Germany would never back them even Politically because they may put another trading partner out and only care about making money. As I said before do not mistake signing a deal to sell VWs for influence.
I would argue that Merkel does not have the same access to the head of the Indian Government that Cameron does or to Obama. at the end of the day when the shit hits the fan or you need backing you do not phone Tesco, trade deals will keep till Monday ;)

March 7, 2014 7:45 pm

GNB, if I drank enough to persuade me that Putin really was as mad as a box of frogs, desired old style Russian hegemony, etc (so perhaps a small sherry would suffice), in my drunken stupor I’d be thinking:

So, we’ve got their attention on Ukraine, lots of useless diplo-blather going on. I’ll hit all 3 Baltic States side on with a combined forces attack. Be over in 2 days for the initial conquest piece. No chance at all for NATO to react. Then I’ll roll up Eastern Ukraine with a separate Army Group.

Must stop posting from the pub.

March 7, 2014 7:47 pm

Actually, I sort of see the UK and Germany as on par with each other, though the Germans do have a slight edge with their reputation in efficiency.

RT, not a myth, there are some old photos, films and battle reports of the Malayan bicycle advance still in existence. There were a few times the advance came to a bad end as the Japs tend to bind their rifles to the handlebars for transport, and sudden contact, especially with the Aussies, left them unable to untie the rifles in a timely manner, leaving them temporarily weaponless. Unfortunately, there always seem to be more of them to follow up.

March 7, 2014 7:50 pm

Germany is pretty neutral about the Ukraine issue. There was limited support for the protests.
From a German perspective, the Eastern European countries are the ones trying to create a tough stance against Russia. The Germans are aware, that among the EU members they have the strongest economic connections with Russia and are preparing for defensive measures in case Russia attacks economically, while they support solving the issue through negotiation.
The Crimea has always been a very special land with an ethnic composition that differed from the surrounding area. Crimean autonomy within the Ukraine would be a possible outcome. Neither is this the first time Russia and the Ukraine mobilized troops to solve the issue. But ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine has been a failing state.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 7, 2014 7:51 pm


last years NATO reaction force exercise was a Baltic states scenario. Luckily Russia does not quite have the same number of army groups to fling about as the old USSR.

March 7, 2014 8:05 pm

@Angus McLellan

That open ed is pretty cutting, in some ways you can see where he’s coming from. although ‘This is what it boils down to: Britain is ready to betray the United States to protect the City of London’s hold on dirty Russian money’ I’m pretty sure it was the Crimea that has been invaded not America.

March 7, 2014 8:15 pm


What does Russia gain by annexing the former Soviet Baltic republics? Nothing.

A Ukraine in both NATO and the EU is an entirely different matter.

The US pushing to encircle Russia is a bit provocative. Look what happened when the US put missiles into Turkey in the 1960s……

We can only hope somebody within the Ukrainian elites realises that Finland model is the way to go. Our collective safety here is worth more than Ukrainian politicians drowning in EU funds or Ukrainians getting access to our labour markets (probably leaving their supposedly beloved country to flounder without enough professionals.)

We have been a going concern since 927 AD; easily discernable on a map But I am growing less sure with each day as to what is actually meant by the term “Ukraine”. The only thing I am sure of in historical terms it is a transitory……..

March 7, 2014 8:18 pm


So the CDU isn’t involved with the payment of student protestors in Ukraine?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 7, 2014 8:27 pm


Now look at the map again and see the Baltic states and Belarus as “Russian”.

March 7, 2014 8:49 pm


That has to be more to it than just colouring a map red, white, and blue……..

There has to be some gain. Access to the Baltic? They already have it. To seal off an avenue of attack? Who exactly wants to invade Russia? Nobody. Gain a land route to Kaliningrad? Why bother? You might as well as ask if Finland is safe. Russia isn’t sure of space, either so…….

Militarily Ukraine is an entirely different proposition.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 7, 2014 8:59 pm


Putin wants to reinstate the old USSR and will do so by taking it back a piece at a time, do not transfer our logical thinking to him. Each new “acquisition” allows pressure to be put more closely on the next.
Belarus which would not require much more than an invitation would create a border with Moldova and specifically the pro Russian semi autonomous region of Transnistria. Also help to cut off western Ukraine.
The Baltic states would create a border with Northern Poland.

March 7, 2014 9:12 pm


No particular surprises then that the most vigorous and urgent meeting going on at the moment is of what we could call the New Intermarum (Google that, plus some fairly good academic monographs on the diplomacy you can skim on Google Books, good times): Scandinavia in toto (or at least in “I Hear The Rains Down in Africa” — it is Friday night in the old country

March 7, 2014 9:17 pm

What can you say to all this….

Putin has been opportunistic and used Ukrainian turmoil as a pretext, it isn’t the first step in a grad plan to rebuild something akin to the old Russian Empire.

Russia does have a few old scores to settle after the haste of the Soviet collapse in 91 and they have always had a bit of an obsession with the Crimea but i sympathize (to an extent) with their concerns over strategic access to the south, the large ethically Russian population and the historic ownership they had over the region up until Khrushchev gifting it away in the 50s.

We in the UK are so used to a cohesive sense of self with a firm national identity not impinged by the ebb and flow of borders, but a lot of the world hasn’t had it so clear cut. In Europe alone look at Alsace-Lorraine, Schleswig-Holstein, the whole mess of the Balkans, the issues with Catalonia and the Basque country. What’s happening in the Ukraine isn’t particularly unusual when put into a wider context.

As for the UK being the new Switzerland, please!

The UK may not field the level of hard-power it did until recently but it still has a spectrum of capabilities a lot of others nations can only look upon with envy. Soft power really shouldn’t be understated either, as well as trading and economic influence.

Is the UK a superpower? No it isn’t. Is the UK still a continental leader and significant world player? Yes i’d say it still is.

March 7, 2014 9:19 pm


Yuo pretty much listed all those “willing”
– who are close to being basket cases
– so what would be the value of annexing?

Keeping my count:
US 1 bn in dollars, EU 15 in that same currency
Gazprom has already called the outstanding 1.5 bn euros, so well over 10 % straight into Putin’s pocket.

March 7, 2014 9:25 pm

APATS, always a bummer if you don’t have enough Army Groups to fling around. Never seems quite the same if you go at it with lots of Kevins, or dare I say, many Andrews. :(

I think the whole thing is 50:50. Should Putin inexplicably go balls out, he’s got us hoisted. Interior lines, look at the road and more importantly rail connections, he’s got NATO over a barrel. But that would involve proper war, which comes with economic sanctions, and he will probably lose those. We hope.

In purely military terms, which it never is, we are shafted. Fait accomplit in 2 days.

March 7, 2014 9:26 pm

How true is the old saying that Ukraine is the breadbasket of the Soviet Union nowadays? If it still holds true, then you might want to add food security to the list of reasons why Putin does NOT want Ukraine to go West.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 7, 2014 9:34 pm


He would have to move some serious troops and that is pretty noticeable, the Russians do not have that many MBTs available less in the Western Theatre of ops than the Poles, Germans and French (allegedly). They also split these between 2 commands.
Anyway have to be very careful but as I pointed out it is no secret what last years major exercise was and I shall just say that it is in no way Fait Accomplit and we have all seen what air power does to armour.

March 7, 2014 9:39 pm


Belarus is a different issue. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that there is a Belarusian Subordination Party with a slogan “Love Belarus, Capitulate now!”

Your intel briefings are better than the ones I get. :)

I know the Russians have a history of truly bonkers leaders. But reconquering the Soviet (Tsarist) Empire? I just don’t see it. Readjust the borders a bit, Stake a claim if there is potential money to be made. But refound the USSR? Um. No. The Russian elites are all about the money. China grabbing the Russian Far East is a more pressing problem I would suggest than antagonising the West over three postage stamps next to a small enclosed or to create depth for an invasion that probably won’t come.

March 7, 2014 9:54 pm

Bugger– comment engine ate half my entry. Where was I ? New Intermarum: Scandies, Poland, Slovaks, Romania, etc. The border countries apparently own maps. Interesting one of the clearest and sharpest voices about all this comes from Sweden, who’ve rediscovered their military in the last couple of years and made some useful steps towards reform (including culling large numbers of time serving senior officers) and none of it with gallivanting round Africa in mind. I would say that here the question “is this the next phase in Europe’s natural fault lines reemerging after the center-south/west debt split?” has been asked and answered.

March 7, 2014 10:01 pm


Hope you’re broadly right. You’ve certainly been in the wardrooms on this one. And the Russians do have more limited resources (I count two armoured bdes and six motorists infantry, plus one at least of those pocket airborne divisions pointed readily west but at the moment likely ties down by Ukraine related maneouvres, that’s just shy of five hundred MBTs if they were at full establishment.) But exercises have a mixed relationship both with reality and with command decisions when faced with reality. The Russians get more vote than most on challenging air sueriority if mostly by weight of decent numbers and respectable ADA. Good if the crabs noticed now that, absent a major US contribution the Typhoons are by far the most important thing they bring to the fight (until Son of Vulcan comes along) rather than trying to steal a small batch of multiple jets out from under the FAA so the Air Marshals can relive their Tonka-driving youth….

March 7, 2014 10:02 pm

APATS, despite coming from a recce/armour background, I don’t ascribe anything less than a degree of cunningness to Ivan than a Wiltshire fox who is a Professor of Cunningness at the University of Cunningness in Oxford (to completely paraphrase Blackadder). In short, I trust the bastards as far as I can throw them. Which is the case of T-80s, is not that far. :(

Anyway, convince me that Ivan hasn’t a hope in the Baltics, and I’ll believe you.

March 7, 2014 10:05 pm

That should be “multirole jets” near the end but it won’t let me edit :(

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 7, 2014 10:12 pm

I am not arguing they do not stand a hope, I am merely pointing out that funnily enough the possibility that they may try something has not escaped the combined brains of NATO and we may even have gone as far as exercising the possibility and even drawing up contingencies.
Contingencies based on up to date threat assessments/intel and very aggressive red cell modelling.
Unfortunately convincing you would have a few issues.
1. This is a public website.
2. I like my job.
3. You are no longer employed by HMG.

So I will simply leave it at, the possible event has not escaped notice.

March 7, 2014 10:16 pm


I’m thinking the Belarusian Subordination Party might have some *very* interesting pub crawls of a Friday evening, especially on their repeated fact finding visits to Hamburg….

March 7, 2014 10:21 pm

Who else are NATO going to war game against if not the Russians?

March 7, 2014 10:26 pm

The Russian air force seems to be scrapping a significant number of their older aircraft, the figures are just from wiki which is obviously not a very credible source, but I thought it was worth posting anyway.

This is the list of Russian combat aircraft on wiki a year ago, around 1,600 fast jets.

226 MiG 29
218 MiG 31
293 Su-27

newer aircraft

9 Su-30
9 Su-35
25 Su-34

strike aircraft

534 Su-24
286 Su-25

The updated list on wiki

245 MiG 29
122 + 68 in reserve MiG 31
225 Su-27
25 Su-30
38 Su-34
34 Su-35
280 Su-24
195 Su-25

The Bomber force has been whittled down slightly as well, old figure in brackets

107 Tu-22M (116)
58 Tu-95 (63)
12 Tu-160 (16)

So the fast jet fleet has dropped from 1,600 to around 1,160 on paper at least.

I suppose they have either scrapped a lot of fast jets over the past year, or wiki go some more up-to-date info.

If the downward trend continues, and they are not ordering huge numbers of new aircraft, I wonder what the list would look like in 2020?

March 7, 2014 10:28 pm

‘Who else are NATO going to war game against if not the Russians?’

The baby boomer generation, f***king leaches :-)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 7, 2014 10:31 pm


Exercises are nearly always brown vs orange or some made up name vs another made up name but using specific geography, entails use of actual logistics routes, geographical constraints and time zones and things as simple as real time testing of linking into local telecom networks.
Am sure RT will back me up but it is generally the little things that trip you up.

March 7, 2014 10:36 pm

I thought that since 2010 we were the Netherlands ;)

March 7, 2014 10:36 pm

RT – indeed – the one time I met (ex-) Soviet servicemen was when the Russians sent an Udaloy to Portsmouth’s festival of the sea. The ship’s company couldn’t speak English and my Russian vocabulary runs to about ten words, but it was clear these lads were not mindless apes but sharp disciplined and patriotic (or at least very proud to be part of their Navy). The view in the west was that only Officers had minds capable of tactical decisions and the enlisted men could only blindly obey their direct orders; I think that view quite false. Perhaps I wouldn’t use the term cunning though, I think ‘fully committed’ or ‘idealogical’ might better describe the mindset – troops prepared to do whatever it takes to support their state and their comrades. Even now I suspect the example of the soldiers’ commitment in the siege of Stalingrad is one the modern Russian soldier would hope to emulate should the situation arise.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 7, 2014 10:46 pm

2005 and do you think that the Levchenkos crew was a true representation? Let alone those that were allowed ashore?

March 7, 2014 10:50 pm

Chris, I believe that RT was referring to their ability to mass troops on the border without notice. Personally, I think it is possible, barely, and requires a large degree of “Just in time” equipping where a group of “civilians” enter a warehouse and come out wearing green. How to do that for armour might be a bit trickier. Maybe a Ro-ro ship stuffed with T-90s? That would have to be the kick off point for the op though, hard to hide tanks once they get going.

Either way, all of this is really out of our hands. We just have to wait and see how it all turns out.

March 7, 2014 10:52 pm


“At the end of the day when the shit hits the fan or you need backing you do not phone Tesco,”
— So you think they would phone the UK instead? Interesting. And what do you think the Indians would ask for? And what do you think Cameron can realistically offer?

Economics is everything. It pays for the military. It pays for the fuel in peoples cars. It pays for the electricity that lights their homes. A few years back the Indians and the Germans had a bit of a love in to celebrate 60 years of economic cooperation. In India they called it “The Year of Germany” and invited Merkel to come and open the celebrations with a speech at some big event.

When was the last time India held a “Year of Great Britain”?

If that’s not “influence” then nothing is. Germany helps to make the Eurofighter. It makes submarines and warships for many nations around the world. It’s a key partner in several European joing defence projects. It’s home to more than just Volkswagen dealers. Companies like Siemens, who have a ridiculously impressive portfolio. Economic cooperation can mean more than just a few people getting rich. It’s technology transfer, infrastructure development, communications advances. It’s Indian missiles launching German satellites. It’s German engineers sharing their secrets….

Things that are more valuable than the promise of an extra division of soldiers, a task force of ships, or a wing of jet fighters, providing you can convince Parliament to authorise it.

March 7, 2014 10:54 pm


I know opfor are never given a real name. But as I said who else are NATO going to game against? Apart from Russia where is the potential peer enemy within reach?

The only other problem which shares a border with NATO is Iran.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 7, 2014 11:01 pm


Have you discovered Italics ;)

Yes given a heightened Political situation India would phone Cameron long before Merkel because he has a UN veto come on Chris. Merkel has a Greece default, not exactly handy.

German engineers sharing secrets? MM really, what really hot secrets have they shared that India could not work out on their own?

“Things that are more valuable than the promise of an extra division of soldiers, a task force of ships, or a wing of jet fighters, providing you can convince Parliament to authorise it.”

You actually believe it is that simple? In fairness I probably once did too. It is about somebody being prepared to back them politically, use a Un veto, speak out, coerce allies etc. at the end of the day Tesco(Germany) will not /cannot do that but they will still want to sell to you on Monday.


After Libya you may have thought that NATO would replicate a similar scenario to utilise lessons learnt but we went Baltic, you do the math.

March 7, 2014 11:05 pm

Apparently if you phone an EU trade mission anywhere in the world the answering voice on the other end of the phone will invariably have a German accent……..

March 7, 2014 11:23 pm

APATS – ref ‘do you think that the Levchenko’s crew was a true representation?’ – I cannot tell; I have met no others (knowingly). But given that the fellow who (by sign language) was one of the Helix’s aircrew was not of the typical Soviet/Russian Hero type (eg but slightly fuzzy at the edges, in need of dark glasses, and apparently couldn’t find his razor that morning, I’d say that these were not specially selected model naval officers but normal ship’s crew. Despite the signs of vodka induced headache, the aviator was still civil and courteous to the raft of foreigners shuffling past his helicopter.

March 7, 2014 11:30 pm

APATS said “After Libya you may have thought that NATO would replicate a similar scenario to utilise lessons learnt but we went Baltic, you do the math.”

I am not disputing that NATO went to exercise in the Baltic. I think it is RT disputing that NATO sees Russia as a credible threat not me.

What I am saying is that it is understandable that NATO would practice defending its border. It is immaterial whether Putin has any real intentions towards the Baltic states. Russia isn’t on our team therefore she is a potential threat. Defence organisations need threats or there is nothing to defend against and so no reason to be. Not sure what level of threat Russia is to NATO; I am sure somewhere in Brussels there is a little cell that collates information and produces some sort of metric. I should imagine at the moment it is quite high. Next year it may be lower than before this lot blew up. But NATO’s job is defend its territory. The staff work has to be done. Exercises both with and without troops carried out. But to say that is evidence of Russian intent is questionable because there is no gain for Russia. Just as when Russia exercises in her west it doesn’t mean she is about to invade NATO; just that NATO isn’t on her team and so is a potential threat (and the level of that threat to them must vary too). If they were that big of threat we wouldn’t be cutting the Army, we wouldn’t be pulling out of Germany, etc. and so on. There would be little bits of evidence which those of the like who come here would pick up on and would indeed comment on.

If you are saying different lets hope GCHQ doesn’t monitor your comms, can’t trace your IP because you are telling us WW3 is on its way. And somebody in your job at your rank wouldn’t be that careless would you? You just wouldn’t. You are very professional in how you relate the workings of your service.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 7, 2014 11:36 pm


I never ever post anything that is not in the public domain, please try and tell me how my post justifies your last paragraph.?

March 7, 2014 11:49 pm


It’s just me using hyperbole, its late……… :)

I explained how view NATO’s exercise in Baltic. You said earlier Putin is out to refound the empire. I explained why I believe the latter to be unlikely. And then you told me to do the maths.

And as I explained I know you are very, very, very careful about what you say here, I know how you guys talk.

I am a realist. I expect armed forces to exercise. But being a realist doesn’t automatically means I think military action is an option in every crisis or even on the table.

March 8, 2014 12:10 am


“Have you discovered Italics “
— I’ve discovered that you need to double check that you’ve closed them ;)

“Yes given a heightened Political situation India would phone Cameron long before Merkel because he has a UN veto come on Chris”
— As do the Americans. And the Americans have more of an interest in the region and appear to have developed closer ties to India. There is nothing Cameron can do that Obama can’t.

“German engineers sharing secrets? MM really, what really hot secrets have they shared that India could not work out on their own?”
— So if India has it all figured out then why aren’t they the economic powerhouse of the globe? Apparently they have the knowledge, so why haven’t they applied their huge pool of low paid labour to perform a Chinese-esque revolution? Maybe this explains why that have trouble maintaining a consistent power supply to their factories and businesses, because they’re all too busy doing advanced tech research? They need money and they need expertise, two things which zee Germans have in abundance.

“You actually believe it is that simple? In fairness I probably once did too. It is about somebody being prepared to back them politically, use a Un veto, speak out, coerce allies etc.”
— Germany says all the right things politcially so that’s no issue. They can speak out too. The much closer ally the US can provide the veto. And which allies are the UK going to coerce? With what means? Meanwhile Germany has a massive voice in the EU (which people listen to), a huge trading bloc that has the economic power alongside the US to make people think twice if needed.

The economy has become the latest version of the big stick. The ability to threaten someone with being shut out of the two biggest markets in the world is quite the tool. Like I said earlier, just look at how people outside of Europe view us. When Obama meets Merkel, it’s a big deal. When American analysts talk about Europe they talk about Germany, not the UK.

That’s not to take things to the Derek extreme and start howling about the UK being a minnow, which is clearly going way over the top. But our influence on the global stage has clearly been reduced over recent years and the Germans have clearly become the pre-eminent power (perhaps we need a better word?) in Europe, of greater significance to the world than the UK. For now at any rate.

Think Defence
March 8, 2014 12:22 am
Reply to  Chris.B.

Economic power is an interesting stick to wield but in a radically more interconnected and interdependent world it is a stick that has two sharp ends.

Power and influence has many faces

You know my theory on cultural influence, I want Simon Cowell on the National Security Council :)

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
March 8, 2014 12:51 am

My concerns are not now, nor have they ever been with the judgement and preparedness of HMAF and anyone they consider a trustworthy and reliable ally in extremis…although I am a little perturbed as to who is still on that list in neat block capitals as opposed to brackets with a question mark…and I think we have lost capacity, but I am Gloomy not despairing even on that front.

However I am deeply concerned about the continued capacity of the political class to see the world how they would like it to be, rather than as it is…so they see an essentially safe and stable environment in which they might amuse themselves by fighting wars of choice if they get the impression that enough of the electorate believe that “something must be done!” to secure votes thereby…but within which the real trick to securing office is by devising very slightly different methods whereby the electorate can be bribed with their own money, and the corporates kept on side to pay some of the bill…and I just do not believe that the political pygmies who operate like that are really capable of understanding what we are (possibly) looking at, much less dealing with it

For my money the trouble started with an idiotic tome called “The End of History” by a scholar called Francis Fukuyama which popped up in the years after the wall was torn down who assured all daft enough to listen that the age of serious ideological or national competition was over and we could all advance cheerfully together into a liberal, democratic and essentially free-market paradise within which politics would become a branch of consumerism. This was such a delightful idea to the political pygmies that in their heart of hearts they all really truly believe it to be the case…and no amount of evidence that various others did not get the memo…like the bearded loons of A/Q…or the implacable mandarins of the Middle Kingdom…or as now the swashbuckling Cossacks of Holy, Eternal and Mother Russia…makes a blind bit of difference to them.

Because they know, they just know that whatever is going on if they close their eyes tight enough, stick their fingers in their ears deep enough and go LALALALALALA loud enough everything will just be lovely and ordinary and they will be able to return to students union politics as usual in their lovely cosy Westminster Bubble…

A loquacious and very slightly sermonising Gloomy.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 8, 2014 1:02 am

You make the classic mistake of assuming it is as easy to ask any nation for something as another. Remember my point about former colonies etc, guilt, familiarity and even cricket go a long way.
China has not had a revolution it has simply abandoned part of IRS populace.
Germany days what suits it politically it is becoming an untrustworthy ally and back in the real world that is a huge issue.
You continually compare a fractured divisive corrupt inefficient EU to the US. Seriously?
Of course Obama meetingetkel is a big deal. The US President and aUK PM speak so often it has become routine. Analysts analyse what they cannot depend on. Fact.
The Germans are the European powerhouse but outside. Not so much. Good on an industrial basis but geo politically irrelevant.
No UN security vote and incapable of forging a single EU position mixed with no Nuclear capability and an unwillingness to get involved equals Germany who?

March 8, 2014 3:50 am

Chris, regarding India, they actually have some very good people and ideas in the tech department. Their problems in economics stem not from tech but from their rampant corruption, massive political infighting and general lack of concern for the lower class. It’s a pity but most of their best and brightest actually work outside of their country due to lack of opportunity, not due to lack of brains. They work in other countries, then remit their salary as a source of income back into India. There was a term for this kind of expat workforce economy that I can’t quite remember currently, and no, it’s not outsourcing.

March 8, 2014 6:55 am

Russia’ announced modernisation/ rearming prgrm to 2020 is 500 bn euros.

Set this against the following: oil and gas account for two thirds of export receipts and a huge 50% of Federation-level tax takings. Imports are geared a lot to the needs of the elite: cars, gadgets, luxury end of food and drink…

Not accounting for ghe possibility that takings might actually go up in the short term, if there is a degree of panic and a price spike, what do you think will be paired back first if energy exports are curtailed: the comforts of the elite (that Pugin depends on (even the securocrats have grown fat, if not lazy) or the speed of rebuilding the armed forces?

March 8, 2014 7:03 am

The only other good thing about Switzerland, apart from Toblerone, the recce bicycle, and the dramatically pneumatic and raven haired Marquise, is the fact that they are sensible enough to not be buying any carriers. ;)

APATS, I’m convinced that NATO will be exercising. No need to give any secrets away, which rightfully you won’t. My only observation from having participated in dozens and dozens of such exercises is that there is nearly always a “hopeful” mindset by the planners, or possibly more accurately an inadvertent and unchallenged assumption that OPFOR thinks like we do, and often the whole basis for the exercise is flawed as a result.

Examples are legion, but van Riper comes to mind. There’s probably a whole academic field of study in it, but “groupthink” might sum it up.

March 8, 2014 7:15 am

Groupthink showed through when a number of national-level simulation frameworks were integrated for larger scale ” desk” exercises.

They were so similar that it made the job easy; however, there was not much “cross-pollenation” in the way of ideas and facilities to bring them into play.

March 8, 2014 8:19 am

how powerful is germany?

can anyone back up a better answer than this:

what is the biggest threat to british power?

power = capability + will

with the fourth largest defence budget, bent more exclusively to high-end power-projection than any comparable nation, capability is not the problem.

will is the problem!

March 8, 2014 8:36 am


The rank order is not far off. It also explains why China and India are busy getting carriers and building amphibious capabilities (not counting 5th gen fighter-bombers, trending towards bomber fighters, that are equally useful locally and in power projection).

March 8, 2014 8:59 am

RT – ref institutional optimism – I have never been involved in decision-making on matters of national importance, but have sat in corporate meetings where bid strategies and teaming arrangements were being thrashed out. The same mindset applies – it goes like this: “We employ the most intelligent people. We have better insight. We are sharper businessmen. We can predict with absolute certainty that team members and subcontractors will not be able to outsmart us. Our (potential) customer loves us and is in awe of our brilliance. We can predict with absolute certainty that the customer will not be able to outsmart us. We can predict with absolute certainty our competitors are way less intelligent astute and capable than us and that they will not be able to outsmart us. So. knowing all that, what mediocre underfunded half-baked product can we get the customer to buy, and what’s our cheapest strategy to get the team members and subcontractors to fully support us while taking all the risk?” I have yet to work for an organisation that doesn’t genuinely believe they are supreme, beloved by all customers, revered by all competitors, adored by all subcontractors, faultless in strategy and peerless in product design. Presumably the same glorious superiority complex applies to all institutions engaged in strategic struggles against competitors. I suspect RT this is what your ‘groupthink’ results in?

Which is why I noted above that on very limited contact I’d advise it best *not* to assume Putin’s Russia lacks intelligence, capability or determination; that while the priorities and mindset might be different the Russian forces are not uneducated farm labourers uncertain which end to hold an AK47. Very wise not to underestimate other nations’ forces, nor to overestimate our own superiority in strategy or tactics, nor to predict with absolute certainty what other nations’ forces will do. In my opinion.

Think Defence
March 8, 2014 10:07 am
Reply to  jedibeeftrix

Jedi, interesting piece, I note though that the cultural index did not include the X Factor, surely some mistake!

The influence of British culture; arts, the language, education, films, tv and music is very high

Peter Elliott
March 8, 2014 10:20 am

What you say strikes a chord. Any orgnaisational culture has a Jekyl and Hyde aspect to it. A dark side of that often directly mirrors but flatly contradicts the official company message.

The key point is that almost everybody knows about the bad side: the autocratic decision making, the corner cutting, the naked short termism, but it bcomes a powerful kind of taboo to talk about it. You can see it in their eyes and in their behaviours, and in certain brief moments of “why the hell did they just tell us to do this?” camerarderie. But if you speak openly about it in a formal setting people will look at you as if you just shat on the carpet.

Its a rare an valuable thing for an organsisation to analyse its own weaknesses honestly and consistently. And it often comes down to the personalies of the top few people, imprinted consistently on the organisation over very many years.

What is more ususal is that things build up and build up over a period of years until a tipping point is reached. Then a critical event will happen. Often a new team at the very top. And the festering issues finally get acknowledged and tackled. To borrow from Bob Dylan there actually is a limit to “how many times can a man turn his head Pretending he just doesn’t see ?”

I am hoping that NATO in general and the UK in particular is now at such a point over Russia and the costs and condition of our armed forces. But time will tell.

March 8, 2014 10:33 am

@ ACC – agreed, and very similar to my own attempt a few years back

@ Admin – well, maybe not X Factor, but they did allow for a number of cultural factors:
Soft Power Survey 2012 score
Top 100 universities 2013
Millions of tourist arrivals (2011)
Number of Best 100 Global Brands
Number of countries speaking a country’s native language

the soft power factors I used were:

Pop (m) – List of countries by population.

Lang (m) – This list, based on the 16th edition (2009), aims to count first language speakers only. Used as a measure of how accessible your culture is in other parts of the world.

Nation Brand – The concept of measuring the global perception of a country in several spheres has been developed by Simon Anholt. Used as a modifier to adjust other indicators.

Patents – Various patent statistics as a measure of how much a nations technological prowess affects the rest of the world.

Create $ (b) – Value of the creative economy as a measure of how much a nations cultural prowess affects the rest of the world.

March 8, 2014 11:20 am


A good point about patents. I would look under chemistry and materials science for the trend in the last 10 years
– you don’t necessarily need to invent
– as long as a nation you can apply, adapt and scale up in production.

March 8, 2014 11:47 am

Chris, agreed. I sometimes wonder if it is a pre-condition for continuing to be paid by HMtQ, as it is very prevalent among senior service people, and adored by their more junior lackeys.

I wonder if it is positively part of junior career courses in the single services, such as RGO or RSO in the Army, or PWO in the Andrew, or QTI in the RAF.

March 8, 2014 12:11 pm

: one thing about Russia is that they have never lost focus on “General War”, even if they are spending lots of time doing COIN in Chechnya and the like. Since the end of the Cold War we’ve persuaded ourselves that the likes of Iraq 2003 were aberrations, which is flat out foolish.

I’ve sure the British Army is superb at the company level and below, after multiple tours all round in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s the higher levels that have not been exercised in the same way, and even actively avoid thinking about the hard questions that attend when the likes of Putin starts throwing their weight around.

For example, have we thought about how to move an armoured brigade to say Latvia, while key locations in the UK are under cruise missile attack and minisubs are dropping mines around our ports? It’s hopefully unlikely, but exercising the option both forces the Russians to reconsider doing a Crimea with Kalingrad in a starring role and getting our own people in the mindset that air and sea superiority are things that have to be fought for, not taken for granted.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 8, 2014 12:26 pm

@ Chris

I think you probably would have been correct a decade ago and certainly back in RT days of service.
I have seen quite a change in my time with people always looking at the enemies most dangerous course of action rather than what we would prefer them to do.
This combined with bringing in some very clever people to play OPFOR and Red Cell. Nothing sorts arrogance out like having your ass kicked.
At the same time a certain confidence in your capabilities is essential.

I would suggest that in your scenario we are no longer containing the conflict in the Baltic.

March 8, 2014 12:31 pm

Jedi said “power = capability + will

Triumph des Willens…………….?

March 8, 2014 12:51 pm

@ Martin – “One interesting point is the ability to deploy and sustain a force of 40,000 troops. I wonder how SDSR 2010 cuts will affect us.”

Well, it was made in the knowledge of the updated FF2020 plans so I imagine it is factored in.

@ ACC – “you don’t necessarily need to invent – as long as a nation you can apply, adapt and scale up in production.”

true, but my figures couldn’t capture what I was really after, which is the level of high-value patents cited in third party research. we have about 13% of the world total, but i don’t have comparative figures for other countries.

@ X – “Triumph des Willens………………….?”

Lol, thanks for that. But no, simpler; merely public acceptance to the use of elective warfare as a tool of foreign policy.

March 8, 2014 12:56 pm

@APATS: you are betraying your COIN mindset right there. Where is the immutable rule that says our enemies won’t strike our home base? The Taliban have very limited capabilities, so they cannot. But state actors do, and there is no good reason to assume that Russia will somehow never dare is wish fulfillment. What are we going to do, nuke them? Right now, Putin doesn’t even believe we’re going to impose *sanctions*, let alone do anything else.

I suggest your Red Team are a little constrained!

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
March 8, 2014 12:59 pm

@x – “Triumph des Willens” was an astonishing piece of cinema, in a rather unnerving way…but personally I preferred the one where the rather athletic beauty got her kit off next to an alpine lake…I have low tastes…

A slightly salacious Gloomy

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 8, 2014 1:11 pm

I am betraying nothing beyond a simple statement that mining UK harbours and cruise missile attacks on UK infrastructure means the conflict is no longer contained in the Baltic.
That is what I said, exactly what I said. I made no other statement so do not try and put words in my mouth or do my thinking for me.

John Hartley
John Hartley
March 8, 2014 1:20 pm

I see America has sent 6 F-15 to Poland. Could not the RAF send 6 Typhoon to Poland? Not to declare war on Russia, but just to show a bit more backbone than Camerons widely mocked phone selfie.

March 8, 2014 1:47 pm

wf, APATs is right, there are different “levels” of war. Right now, what is happening in Ukraine is more along the lines of a bushfire war while what you are describing is Total War where the knives are out, the bombers are fueled and every country’s ABM defence commanders are chewing their nails to the bone.

There is a thing as graded response. You don’t use a CR2 to arrest a mugger, as amusing as it may look to onlookers nor do you use TLAMs on a drug interdiction mission. (Bet the next month’s trafficking rates go down by half if you do though. :P )

March 8, 2014 1:51 pm

@ Jedibeeftrix re public acceptance to the use of elective warfare as a tool of foreign policy

Yep. As I have said elsewhere I have considered that as military power loses utility it may actually open it up to being used more. Even if it as Putin has done and just moved some men about with rifles without a shot being fired. If you know your neighbour can’t invade you and he knows you can’t invade him then there is no risk as such of escalation. Using cruise missile against key infrastructure leaves you open to the same. Let’s put nukes to one side. But on a like for like basis perhaps……….

I have been reading some pretty wild stuff that some of the sniping in Kiev was actually undertaken by the opposition and even perhaps agents provocateur from outside.


Alpine lake and low tastes……….. :)


Are you starting to regret mentioning NATO and the Baltics? :)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 8, 2014 2:03 pm


Yes, somehow pointing out that it had escaped nobodies notice that the Baltic states were vulnerable to the point that we had actually spent the money on s major exercise scenario has led to.
1. RT deciding that is useless as he knows we do not credit the OPFOR with any intelligence. Then Chris joins in. 2. WF opens a Tom Clancy book and decides Russia would launch cruise missiles at the UK and I am fixated with COIN.
Lovely :)

The Other Chris
March 8, 2014 2:06 pm


Re: Baltic Air Policing

The USA are currently on rotation in the role. This is why they are the ones who have sent more aircraft and tankers.

Poland are scheduled to take over later in the year.

March 8, 2014 2:07 pm

“You make the classic mistake of assuming it is as easy to ask any nation for something as another. Remember my point about former colonies etc, guilt, familiarity and even cricket go a long way.”
— Except that the US has spent a lot of time, energy and money cultivating its relationship with India in order to build a strong ally to oppose China in the Indian Ocean and to provide a strong counter weight to both Pakistan and China on the Asian continent.

“China has not had a revolution it has simply abandoned part of IRS populace”
— It has indeed abandoned large chunks of its population. But it has also invested a lot of money in developing expertise in a number of fields and trying to modernise large chunks of its Eastern seaboard.

“You continually compare a fractured divisive corrupt inefficient EU to the US. Seriously?”
— Only in the sense that the EU is an economic bloc with an equivalent GDP to the US. Thus cracking a trade deal with the EU is the equivalent of cracking a trade deal with the US. That potentially means a huge income boost, depending on what sort of deal you’ve brokered.

“The Germans are the European powerhouse but outside. Not so much. Good on an industrial basis but geo politically irrelevant.”
— Well, that’s the first time I’ve heard Germany described as being geo-politically irrelevant, sitting as it does right smack bang in the middle of one of the most contested continents in human history. I guess that’s why the other European leaders, and people like Putin and Obama spend so little time worrying about Germany then.

Oh no wait, they do don’t they? My mistake. The hand that manipulates the puppet strings of Europe has the potential to dominate the med, the north sea, north africa, the western barrier of the middle east and the western approaches to Russia. This being the same Germany that caused two world wars and was the center piece of the cold war. Irrelevant though I guess….

@ Observer,
“Their problems in economics stem not from tech but from their rampant corruption, massive political infighting and general lack of concern for the lower class.”
— It’s certainly true that those factors play heavily, especially the corruption issue which has reached chronic levels over the last decade. But there is also a good reason that they’re looking for domestic construction contracts and full transfer of technology, because they still have much to learn in many important areas.

@ Martin,
“I seem to remember those same German engineers doing a pretty shitty job is selling Typhoon to India. How much leverage did Merkel bring to the table on that day.”
— Clearly they couldn’t match the French offer of erm, how do we put this, “management fees”?

“meanwhile gulf nations are buying of BAE just because the UK asked them to”
— I have some magic beans I’d like to sell you. Premium quality, guaranteed growth (no refunds). Which oddly enough is probably a lot like how the conversation went between the BAE reps and the Saudi officials. I wonder if magic beans are tax deductable?

“In terms of a German euro exit can you please tell me why having a drop in the exchange rate of the euro is bad for its non German members”
— You mean other than the spiralling cost of borrowing money and a sharp rise in the cost of imports like food and energy? No you’re right, I can’t see how that would be bad for any of those countries.

“You obviously have that funny German economic text book that tells of the evils of inflation and the need to keep your currency high”
— Normal levels of inflation are fine. Rampant inflation is not.

“In brief a German exit of the euro is best all round as it would allow the euro to depreciate, avoid deflation and boost exports. with Germany leaving an German euro bonds would be converted into DM’s and would not be classed as a default. The German economy would slow considerably and their inflation would reduce. “
— Avoid deflation is not quite how I would put it. “A massive rise in inflation” is probably more appropriate. France, Italy, Holland and Belgium would be left as the guarantors of countries like Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Cyprus. Considering the state of France, Italy, Holland and Belgium, that is not a good mix.

“Bad result for Germany cutting its self off from a currency union with 90% of its exports but good result for the rest of the eurozone not being locked into a currency union with a nation obsessed with current account surpluses. “
— Actually I suspect the whole lot would be in trouble. On the plus side though, Germans would enjoy record low prices for food imported from around Europe, and would probably see their energy prices drop considerably, at least in the short term.

March 8, 2014 2:53 pm

Aw come on APATS – I didn’t ‘join-in’ anything. What I did point out is that every corporate entity I have ever seen from the inside credits itself with superior insight and superior judgement and higher standing in the marketplace than all its competitors. You only have to pick up the corporate newsletters or witness corporate briefings (in which ‘buzzword bingo’ is often played – ticking off the likes of ‘World-Class’ and ‘Best of Breed’ and ‘World’s Leading Company in XYZ’ in the otherwise meaningless corporate eyewash). Having seen it first hand in industry, and having read through the likes of Preview and Desider newsletters at Abbey Wood, I speculate this ‘we’re better than everyone else’ mindset is as prevalent in MOD as it is in its suppliers.

March 8, 2014 3:21 pm

Chris B, if the US was trying to raise India as a buffer against Pakistan, they sure went about it the wrong way! :)

The US upgraded Pakistan’s artillery while with M-109s while India is still stuck in red tape. Personally, I would think that if you wanted to raise someone as a buffer state, you don’t go supplying their opposition.

Historically, other than South America, the US has never let anyone else fight their wars for them. Not sure if it is an overestimation of themselves, an underestimation of their allies or just them being control freaks. They don’t usually go for buffer countries, not without themselves being involved in the shooting. I don’t see this in India. And India will also never allow the US to intervene if they can handle the situation, their pride won’t allow it.

March 8, 2014 3:48 pm


Are you familiar with the plot of the film Billion Dollar Brain…………..?

A couple of things occurred to me while staring at the map of Europe last night (yes I am sad) is that the three Baltic states may be small in terms of Russia, but in terms of Western Europe and with respect to population density quite big chunks of real estate and quite sparsely populated. And of no value to anybody apart from those who live there; many of whom want to live somewhere else!

March 8, 2014 4:15 pm

@ Observer,

You only have to look at some of the more recent purchases. Poseidon. Globemaster. More C-130. Apaches. Chinooks. M-777 Howitzers. They’re helping the Indians to tool up with decent kit and they’ve taken a much greater interest in joint exercises with the Indians over the last decade or so.

“Historically, other than South America, the US has never let anyone else fight their wars for them.”
— Maybe not so much the shooting wars, but they’re certainly not afraid of tooling people up for cold wars. See the proliferation of US kit across the world.

John Hartley
John Hartley
March 8, 2014 5:47 pm

TOC I understand the Americans have also sent 12 F-16 + a C-135 to Poland. More than just Baltic State air policing, I think.

March 8, 2014 6:11 pm


I picked the category where China has consistently been n:o 1 as for the flow of new patents
– why bother with he rest (industrial espionage cheaper, as long as you can apply/ adapt/ scale up)
– and they can, as we sent our industry East (and the Americans to their far West)… so we practically paid for it, too

March 8, 2014 6:41 pm

@ Martin,

“Exactly all of which would produce inflation in an area crippled by debt and deflation.”
— So you’re solution to turning around countries that are heavily debt laden and that rely on debt to stop their economies completely tanking into dust is to…. increase their cost of borrowing? Hmm, odd choice that. Not sure how you think that’s going to work. A slight level of inflation (the ECB target is 2%) is fine. A significant amount more than that is not. Which is what would happen if you extracted the German economy from the Euro. Now if you want to get Greece out and let them devalue their own new currency then that’s not so much of a problem.

“I’m sorry can you advise me of which treaty exactly has the Germans guaranteeing anyone’s debt in Europe”
— Germany is the driving force behind the Euro. Their presence keeps it as strong as it is. Without it the currency will begin to tank and everyone will start getting very nervous. They’ll start demanding higher rates of return to invest in other Eurozone country bonds. Or completely laugh said bonds off. Germany provides the Euro with its best source of long term stability and loans to help other eurozone countries keep aflot, thus indirectly the German economy is seen as guaranteeing the debt of places like Greece.

“Without Germany the Eurozone would still be the second largest economy in the world”
— It would lose almost 25% of its combined GDP and drop to third within months. More to the point, it would lose its best source of growth, jobs and finance. The tanking of the Euro would also quickly begin to erode its advantage over Japan.

“Many nations such as Greece would be in fiscal surplus if they could have the same interest rates as Germany, the USA or the UK”
— Hahahahahahahahahaha. No. And your plan would make their interest rates worse.

“Yes and they would also see a dramatic rise in the cost of their exports and a rise of unemployment”
— They would see a modest rise in costs, but unemployment would probably not budge much. The main advantage for them would be the lowering of import costs for food from EU nations, so you’d expect to see a rise in retail employment and a braking effect on the need to increase wages. Cheaper energy imports would also help them balance currency strengthening regarding industrial exports. If we can manage it, the Germans certainly can.

“The benefit for the rest of Europe and indeed the world is it would remove Germans artificial trade surplus allowing markets to restore balance”
— What’s artifical about it? If the Euro didn’t exist then they would see weaker exports to a degree into neighbouring markets, but the effect wouldn’t be that profound. A lot of their exports are expensive, high end stuff that will always attract buyers to a certain degree. The German trade surplus is helping the Euro and their ability to bail out countries like Cyprus is what is keeping many of these smaller economies ticking over.

March 8, 2014 7:25 pm

Most of these super rich end up schooling their children in the UK, who subsequently end up Anglicised. Its their kids who will more than likely consider England as their home , hey presto we have just sucked hundreds of billions, possibly trillions by then of wealth into the UK economy.

Sure there is the issue of the wealth being offshore , but within 15-20 years tax avoidance on the scale we have now will be a thing of the past.

NYC is extremely jealous of the wealth gap with London and knows its days as an equal are quickly coming to an end.

Peter Elliott
March 8, 2014 7:53 pm

The Eurozone was always a political project not an economic one. Ever closer union. It was also a fork in the road. Those who went in are now stuck with it and will gradually lose control of their own economies. What is uknown is how long and how messy the process will be to establish propper fiscal transfers (like the US Treasury pays to Alaska) and some level of democratic oversight. As long as it remains a fudge of nominal nation states Germany will hold the power. But politically this will not be sustainable for either them or the periphery. So some form of elected EUZ Finance Minister will eventually have to appear.

Given how shallow the democratic roots are in parts of Europe and how uneven and awkward the integration proces is still likely to be I am very glad we stayed out.

For UK the fork in the road has now passed. We will never join the Euro and so never be sucked into the EUZ state. For better or worse we remain semi-detatched. Holding a watching brief offshore but in control of our own destiny. Which is not so bad.

Peter Elliott
March 8, 2014 8:03 pm

Its about the only thing I ever thank Gordon Brown for. That idiot Blair would have taken us in if Brown hadn’t stopped him.

March 8, 2014 8:33 pm

Peter Elliott said “Its about the only thing I ever thank Gordon Brown for. That idiot Blair would have taken us in if Brown hadn’t stopped him.”

Hitler liked dogs………

I sometimes wonder if Brown only opposed the Euro because Blair was for it. Some view the EU as a “Catholic” project and with Brown being the son of a minister of the Kirk he may have had other reasons. Apparently his father’s middle name was Ebenezer; shame his son didn’t act more like the Dickens character of that name when it came to spending public funds.

March 8, 2014 10:57 pm

Hopefully, this will be the only ship that ends up at the bottom of the Black Sea!

I’ve just seen the last episode of the Beeb’s 37 Days. I hope William Hague has better luck the Sir Edward Grey!

jon livesey
jon livesey
March 9, 2014 2:49 am

Lurking behind this column is a big begged question. If the City was not the World’s financial centre, and the British economy depended on brass gears and buggy whips, would our policy towards Ukraine really be any different?

Ukraine was created to be destroyed. Stalin and Kruschev made sure that Ukraine contained a large minority of Russian speakers and ethnic Russians precisely to ensure that if Ukraine ever left the Soviet Union it would be a divided and unstable state that would behard to keep together.

And here we are. Stalin wins, Ukraine is unstable and breaking apart, and Putin the opportunist is taking the part he wants. OK, so what? Does the UK have an essential interest here? Our signature on the Budapest Memorandum is an embarrassment, but if it can be shown that Crimeans will really vote to rejoin Russia, is the UK the proper authority to tell them that they can’t.

Oh, and another begged question. If the City was less dominant, how effective would financial snactions be? If the World had several large financial centres, and London wasn’t one of them, what could we do anyway?

March 9, 2014 10:20 am

@ PE – “The Eurozone was always a political project not an economic one. Ever closer union. It was also a fork in the road. Those who went in are now stuck with it and will gradually lose control of their own economies.”


What makes the eurozone a reductive factor in european power, rather an an addititve one, is that its biggest cog is constitutionally unable to allow that political integration, and its populace is unlikely to accept it either if the country went for a referendum to adapt the constitution.

A political union which is politically unacceptable, and thus unable to provide the legitimacy required for an economic union to function.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 9, 2014 10:53 am

I think the key word you use is speculate. At least RT used to be involved even if it was a long time ago :)