Roundup: Our top five posts on the migration crisis

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The recent influx of refugees into Europe–the worst refugee crisis it has faced since World War II–has left the continent reeling and other countries either scrambling to find a solution or secure their own borders. What, exactly, is the EU doing about it, and what should they be doing? You can find out the following articles. For more, check out the live recording from our event on the topic last week here.

Assessing the EU and Britain’s Response to the Migrant Crisis: Time for a Foresight Approach?: Edward Wanyonyi looks at the EU and UK’s reactions to the refugee crisis and suggests an alternate approach.

While the British society is quick to celebrate the achievements of Mo Farah, a citizen of migrant heritage, the current Tory leadership has not been shy to assert and defend its disdain of immigrants irrespective of the reasons- poverty or conflict. To them, Britain’s ‘way of life’ is threatened by the ‘swarm of immigrants’ as David Cameron recently remarked while in a tour of Vietnam in response to the Calais crisis. More recent pronouncements have presented the position that ‘migrants think Britain is lined with gold’ and therefore Her Majesty’s welfare system is a strong incentive. Such a position has often served to legitimise the current militarised response to the crisis that is flawed on two conceptual errors. First, the EU and Britain have nothing to do with the ongoing conflicts and state of deprivation, poverty in source countries and second, throwing money- in this case, the use of aid to establish micro enterprises will provide a stronger incentive for potential migrants to stay in their countries. Nothing could be further from the truth and here is why.

The Migration Puzzle: In this article, PS21 fellow Jack Goldstone explores the conundrum that Europe faces in responding to the migration crisis as well as possible solutions, noting that this is not a new problem and will not let up any time in the near future.

The experience gained now in screening, settling, and integrating migrants will pay off in the future. Someday the wars in Libya and Syria will end. Yet the population of Africa is set to grow from just over one billion today to almost three billion people by 2060; the populations of the Middle East and Central and South Asia, from Iraq to Afghanistan, will similarly grow by hundreds of millions during this period. Given the poor quality of government in these regions, and likely future wars and climate disasters, Europe will continue to see millions seeking to enter its relative security and prosperity every decade in the years to come.

EU’s Response to Migration Crisis is Too Little, Too Late: Similarly, Katie Rashid explains why the EU’s response to the crisis isn’t good enough, and presents an option that has worked well in the past.

The question we are left with is why the EU has been so late to take action. With more than 430,000 asylum applications filed back in 2013 and the same conflicts raging that have brought in a steady stream of refugees for years, the European Union should have seen this coming. That the EU is only now scrambling to find an approach to this situation with no agreement in sight is just one more disturbing reality of the migration crisis.

Meanwhile, in Australia: The Other Migration Crisis: Australia has also seen a huge influx of refugees in the past year and–like the EU–is not handling it very well. Cecilia Diemont sheds light on this important but underappreciated topic.

Whereas European media is inundated with new policy developments and opinions concerning the recent influx of asylum seekers arriving at Europe’s borders, you rarely read about the controversial immigration policies of Europe’s ally down under. While Australia may be known more for its beaches, barbecues and backpackers, what is happening to asylum seekers attempting to reach Australia by boat should not escape the debate.

Asylum seekers who embark on the ocean journey to Australia, often setting out from Sri Lanka or Indonesia but in some cases coming from as far as Syria, Iran and Afghanistan face one of three fates. None of these three fates involve asylum seekers reaching Australian shores. Instead they are met at sea, often still in international waters, by an Australian naval or customs ship that forcibly intercepts them.

I Don’t Know You, I Don’t Like You: The Rise of Anti-Immigrant Movements in Europe: Finally, for a little context into what refugees face upon actually reaching Europe, check out this article by Sandy Schumann.

Both UKIP and Pegida are supported by the general public for its anti-immigrant policies.  What is surprising though is that these supporters are primarily living in regions where there are very few migrants or foreigners. UKIP (Image 1) received most endorsement in constituencies with a low proportion of immigrants. And in Saxony, the German State where the Pegida movement started, only 2.2% of the population are foreigners.

The Migration Puzzle

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Jack Goldstone is an expert on revolutions at the Woodrow Wilson Center and George Mason University and a global fellow at PS21. He is the author of “Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction.” Follow him on Twitter at @jgoldsto.

Europe has a problem with immigrants.   That is hardly news – it has been true for decades. But the problem has now become more acute and unmanageable because throughout those decades Europe refused to admit it had a problem. Rather than recognize that Europe’s future would involve ever more immigration, and make comprehensive plans to integrate and advance their immigrants, benign neglect or efforts at multiculturalism prevailed alongside a generous asylum policy. Europe’s immigrants were thus in, but not fully part of, their new societies.   Such policies were bound to create trouble; for when immigrants are seen as a threat to be kept at a distance, and hence are excluded and marginalized, they become a threat. It would have been wiser, when immigrants were still arriving in modest numbers, to more vigorously set up good quality schools and apprenticeships, and plan for their integration into neighborhoods and workplaces.

For it was just a matter of time before a truly major humanitarian crisis in the Middle East or North Africa, which have teeming and youthful populations, put hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in motion. Now that crisis conditions, due to brutal civil wars and religious extremism, have embraced both North Africa and the Middle East a predictable flood of asylum seekers has sought to take advantage of Europe’s generosity and the proximity of her shores.

The numbers, though larger than Europe has been accustomed to, are not overwhelming. The European Union population of 500 million should be able to absorb 5 or even 10 million refugees, increasing its foreign born population by 1 or 2%. After all, the foreign-born population of the United States is 11% of the total; in Canada it is 19% and in Australia it is 22%. By contrast, in all European Union countries excepting only the Baltics (with many Russian-born residents) and Croatia, the non-EU born population is 10% or less.   In France, Spain, the U.K., Belgium, the Netherlands and Greece it is just over 8%; in Italy and Germany closer to 7%. In Hungary and Romania it is less than 1%.

These low numbers indicate that Europe is still new to large-scale immigration. Indeed, in the 1970s the number of non-Europeans in most European countries was minimal – like that in Hungary today. But since then the growth of immigrants, especially Muslims, has been rapid. In the 1970s, France and Germany had only a few hundred thousand resident Muslims; today they both have several million. That ten-fold growth has been alarming, leading to panic that if such growth continued Islam would take over. But that is wholly an illusion from growth starting from a very small base. If you have a country of 60 million, such as France, and the Muslim population grows from 300,000 to 3,000,000 that ten-fold increase represents an increase of 2.7 million; but it still leaves the Muslim population at just 5% of the total population. Another two million immigrants seems large, but it would not even double the existing Muslim total, and would still leave the total Muslim population at under 10%. That is a significant minority, of course, but certainly not enough to swamp the remaining 90% of the population.   In Europe, the percentage of Christians is falling fast but that is not mainly due to the increase of the Muslim population — rather it is being driven by the large increase in the number of those unaffiliated with any Church who have left Christianity; but that is another story.

Can France, Germany, or other European nations manage to move forward with a foreign-born population of 10%, and their children? Of course, if that 10% have access to language training, good schools, and support in finding jobs. No, however, if that 10% is pushed to the margins, struggles to be accepted, faces job discrimination and inferior schools.

Some would claim that immigrants can never be integrated if their values or religion are too different from that of their host countries. History and experience, however, say otherwise. The large Arab populations of Detroit and Melbourne, the vast Korean population of Los Angeles, and the huge Japanese population in São Paulo are just a few examples of populations that have overcome vast gulfs of language or religion. It is only when discrimination and exclusion focus on a particular group – even of the same language and religion as the majority, as with Blacks in the United States or Irish in Northern Ireland – that integration fails. Integration is a matter of successful policies and political leadership, not inherent differences.

Moreover, most Europeans do not realize that the immigrants seeking asylum from Syria and Libya are not the most wretched members of their societies. Rather, they are professionals and students: engineers, architects and doctors and skilled workers. They are those people with the savings to pay smugglers, and whose lives and futures have been most severely stripped away by the conflicts in those nations. These immigrants are a potential resource for the receiving societies, as they have been for Australia, Canada, the U.S. and other countries of immigration.

It is sometimes argued that Europe should welcome immigrants because European-born populations are aging, and immigrants of working age will help offset that trend. But this is both wrong and misleading about the contribution of immigrants. First, it is wrong because an increase in the foreign born population of 1% or 2% of the total population will not have an appreciable impact on the age structure of the receiving societies.   And it is misleading to think that the contribution of immigrants depends on their replacing older people. Australia, Canada, and the U.S. have benefitted from the economic contributions of immigrants for decades, even when they had much younger populations than Europe has today. This underlines a basic fact about immigrants: if they are given support and access to economic success, they will contribute to economic growth in their new home; if they lack that support they will make a smaller contribution. This fact holds regardless of the average age of the host society. It is policies that matter for immigrants’ success, not demography by itself.

While some individual countries have been far more generous and supportive of immigrants than others – Sweden for one, and Germany has improved enormously in the last two decades – the core problem is that Europe does not have a single authority to screen, process, settle, and support refugees. Instead, it has more than two dozen national authorities, some inside the EU and some outside. The result is that some countries have become countries of transit while others are targets for asylum. Borders where immigrants can cross, or will be accepted, constantly shift, leaving refugees swarming over various arrival points in chaotic fashion.   Instead of a safe and orderly process to move refugees from danger to safety, and to spread the burden of settlement and integration fairly among nations according to their capacity and means, the complexity of multiple national policies exposes both asylum seekers and European nations to greater dangers and anxiety. At best some countries will be exceptionally generous leaving their populations to ask why, while at worst some countries will try to shift the entire responsibility to others and substitute razor wire for thoughtful immigration policies, with usually poor results.

The U.S. and Canada and Australia can manage immigration better (although they certainly are not without problems) because they have one immigration authority and one immigration policy, not dozens. To avoid the current chaos, Europe will have to similarly find a way to develop a common asylum and immigration policy, and a method to facilitate processing and settlement of asylum seekers and immigrants that reduces the profits of smugglers and the risks to refugees. Certainly, different procedures and rights will have to accrue to economic migrants from Morocco and Lebanon than war refugees from Libya and Syria. Yet the wars in the latter countries are not ending anytime soon, and condemning the victims of those wars to languish in terror and loss when they could be rebuilding their lives is neither moral nor wise. A comprehensive asylum policy should be developed and implemented as soon as possible; anything less will be a permanent shame to Europe and a repudiation of its values.

Moreover, it is utterly irresponsible to promise asylum to refugees who reach Europe, but then provide no legitimate means for refugees to get there. The result is to make people dependent on smugglers, who reap hundreds of millions of dollars that refugees would gladly pay for legitimate processing and travel to Europe, while putting the lives of those refugees – whom the asylum policy is intended to help reach safety – in the greatest danger.

The experience gained now in screening, settling, and integrating migrants will pay off in the future. Someday the wars in Libya and Syria will end. Yet the population of Africa is set to grow from just over one billion today to almost three billion people by 2060; the populations of the Middle East and Central and South Asia, from Iraq to Afghanistan, will similarly grow by hundreds of millions during this period. Given the poor quality of government in these regions, and likely future wars and climate disasters, Europe will continue to see millions seeking to enter its relative security and prosperity every decade in the years to come.

In the last few decades, politicians pandering to people’s fear of immigrants have in every way made the problems of immigration worse. By criticizing immigration, they have marginalized immigrants and discouraged efforts to invest adequately in integrating immigrant populations and improving their education and job prospects. The failure to create institutions to manage immigration as a positive resource has left migrants within Europe and especially their children discouraged and often hostile and estranged; at the same time the lack of preparation has left Europe to wallow in chaos when a massive tide of immigrants arrives. The experience of the last decade should have proved that immigration pressures cannot be wished away simply by criticizing them.

If European leaders can work together to manage an orderly process that treats immigrants as a potential resource, just as Australia, Canada, and other countries have done, Europe can adjust to being a region of immigration and benefit from it. But if Europe continues to resist, and believe it can somehow avoid being a region of immigration, its failure to deal with reality will lead only to more chaos on its borders and discord and violence within them.

There is a right way to think about the migration puzzle. It is to realize that Europe does not have an immigration problem; it has an integration problem. Most European nations already have significant immigrant populations. Even if Europe were to somehow halt all immigration tomorrow, it would still have to deal with the millions of foreign-born already there, and their children and grandchildren. Those millions need to become productive and harmonious members of European society, or they will be a liability and source of conflict.

If Europe can solve its integration problem then the number of immigrants will not be a problem. That number, currently five to eight percent in most countries, is modest and can still grow without causing problems if immigrants have clear paths to becoming integral and prosperous members of their new societies. Immigration pressures will not go away, no matter what Europe desires. The real choice is whether to respond to those pressures well or badly. Making the right choice, to focus on supporting orderly integration and treating immigrants as a resource rather than a threat, is the only way that Europe can secure its borders and its future.

PS21 is a non-national, non-ideological, non-governmental organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.

Assessing the EU and Britain’s Response to The Immigration Challenge: Time for a Foresight Approach?

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Edward Wanyonyi is a Security, Leadership and Society Fellow at University of London-Kings College. He can be reached on edward.walekhwa@kcl.ac.uk 

The recent pronouncements by British Home Secretary Theresa May and France minister for interior Bernard Cazeneuve in Calais distancing the EU from the unfolding immigration crisis and placing it on external factors- fragile and stateless societies in Africa and Asia has sparked fresh debate on whether the neglected approach of foresight can be more suitable.

The meeting comes at a time when Calais is the scene of unprecedented numbers of immigrants seemingly overwhelming border police and assorted deterrence barriers while the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called for an extraordinary summit in September for global heads of states to deliberate on appropriate responses to the 50 fold increase of deaths of migrants attempting to get to EU.

While the British society is quick to celebrate the achievements of Mo Farah, a citizen of migrant heritage, the current Tory leadership has not been shy to assert and defend its disdain of immigrants irrespective of the reasons- poverty or conflict. To them, Britain’s ‘way of life’ is threatened by the ‘swarm of immigrants’ as David Cameron recently remarked while in a tour of Vietnam in response to the Calais crisis. More recent pronouncements have presented the position that ‘migrants think Britain is lined with gold’ and therefore Her Majesty’s welfare system is a strong incentive. Such a position has often served to legitimise the current militarised response to the crisis that is flawed on two conceptual errors. First, the EU and Britain have nothing to do with the ongoing conflicts and state of deprivation, poverty in source countries and second, throwing money- in this case, the use of aid to establish micro enterprises will provide a stronger incentive for potential migrants to stay in their countries. Nothing could be further from the truth and here is why.

On the first response, the EU and Britain specifically, occupy an important place in the global architecture of power- hard, soft and smart as renowned political scientist Joseph Nye has reminded us. The combined gravitas in the UN Security Council by Britain and France for example means that both countries have sweeping powers over decisions of early intervention in countries at the cusp of conflict before borders of neighbouring states start swelling and transnational smuggling rings set shop. A vote for early intervention in countries that are clearly on the verge has a greater multiplier effect than increasing border police in Calais and definitely, reduced presence of humanitarian agencies operating in the Italian coast of Lampedusa and Sicily. However, the Britain and France have showed an uncharacteristic aversion for early intervention akin to the cold war period when the UN Security Council was the stage for super power interests assertion and defence. It is not a surprise that most countries that are descending in war or mired in post conflict insurgency lack UN led stabilisation operations. While the excuse has been the need to respect local ownership of post conflict reconstruction, the obvious lack of a centralised authority and growing public security gap in countries like Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger, Tunisia and Syria clearly shows a security council that is selectively aiding and abetting the immigration crisis. Moreover, countries that have authoritarian regimes further in the South such as Eritrea, Sudan, Morocco have security and defence pacts with EU countries especially Britain and France and therefore, this doctrine of authoritarianism and the tools thereof are not just home grown. It is therefore crucial to appreciate that the EU and Britain are part and parcel of the crisis and not just victims.

Second, the announced set of proposals by Theresa May in Calais that present a raft of monetary allocations to support micro enterprises in source countries fails to acknowledge that in most of these countries, autocratic regimes have a far and wide reaching means to divert the allocated funds in order to maintain the status quo. Also, which criteria will be used to identify a potential migrant? Will all young people be subject to the allocations of ‘soft loans’ in order to launch their entrepreneurial ideas? What about the other mitigating factors such as security, climate change, reliability of power which affect the scalability and sustainability of entrepreneurship? It therefore seems that this proposal partly inspired by the Department of International Development, takes the neoliberal approach of reforming economic development in countries at risk or emerging from conflict. However, the neoliberal approach has been the subject of criticism as it fails to acknowledge the everyday realities of these societies that although unstructured from a Western perspective are actually highly structured with social networks that straddle across ethnic and religious lines producing unique economic, political and social systems and processes.

Perhaps, it is high time that the EU and Britain considers a scenario planning approach. The former approaches borders as defences, citizenship as pristine and multi culturalism as a threat to ‘our way of life’. The latter frames the crisis as a set of challenges that can be turned into opportunities when the response is brought to a shared understanding of the transitions in source countries and the drivers of transnational organised crime. Scenario planning uses foresight techniques to remind decision makers that intractable problems are not solved by distance but by a careful analysis of possible scenarios.

Therefore, any solution to the ongoing immigration crisis must not only be bold in terms of the financing muscle but it must It undertake a major scoping exercise of the current ‘jobs as a conflict deterrence’ intervention with a view of identifying possible black swans. Only then can the EU and Britain develop possible scenarios based on extensive conversations and not just representatives of DFID funded NGOs and opinion shapers in academia or political spaces.

PS21 is a non-national, non-governmental, non-ideological organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.

EU’s response to migration crisis is too little, too late

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, March 2014. (Photo: European People's Party)
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, March 2014. (Photo: European People’s Party)

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Katie Rashid is a writer specializing in the Middle East and International Migration. She has an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics and formerly worked for the Arab Studies Institute and Northwestern University’s MENA Program.

The refugee crisis splashed across the news daily is not new. While it has certainly taken a new turn—the International Organization for Migration estimated 350,000 detected migrants at the borders of the EU between January and August of 2015, up from 280,000 in 2014—it is rooted in years of violence and war around the world. It did not start a few months ago with the increase in the number of arrivals and an increase in capsizing boats. Refugees fleeing from war, violence and repression in Syria, Eritrea, the DRC, Afghanistan, Iraq and Nigeria, just to name a few, are all victims of conflicts in unstable states that have been raging for many years.  According to Eurostat’s May 2015 report, there were 431,000 asylum applications filed in the European Union in 2013, and 626,000 in 2014. In 2014, asylum applications from Syria alone reached 122,000. From 2000 to 2014, the IOM reported that 22,000 migrants died in an effort to reach Europe.

Earlier this month, the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker called for the implementation of a quota system in which each member state would be responsible for resettling the 160,000 people currently in Greece, Hungary and Italy. According to this plan, the number of people accepted would be based on each country’s current population, economic strength, unemployment rate and the number of asylum applications approved over the past five years. In his State of the European Union speech on September 9, Juncker warned, “Do not underestimate the urgency. Do not underestimate our imperative to act.” Yet, despite Juncker’s strong call to action, Germany so far has been unable to persuade Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland to accept the system.

The question we are left with is why the EU has been so late to take action. With more than 430,000 asylum applications filed back in 2013 and the same conflicts raging that have brought in a steady stream of refugees for years, the European Union should have seen this coming. That the EU is only now scrambling to find an approach to this situation with no agreement in sight is just one more disturbing reality of the migration crisis.

Furthermore, whatever the EU comes up with will be just that—an approach. A plan that will allow for its states to simply “do something” with the thousands upon thousands of migrants crossing their borders. Once the EU comes to an agreement on where these individuals should go and how many should be sent, they will then face the even larger task of supporting the refugees in the asylum and integration processes, both immensely complex systems in their own rights.

By reading the signs and anticipating the influx, a sufficient approach could have been constructed years ago that would allow for the support of those seeking refuge. Instead the opposite was done. A glaring example is the termination of Italy’s Operation Mare Nostrum in October 2014. Responding to the death of 300 migrants off Lampedusa in October 2013, the Italian government initiated Mare Nostrum to prevent further migrant deaths at sea. A true search and rescue mission, in its single year of operation it was estimated to have saved around 150,000 people and covered about 70,000 square kilometers of the Mediterranean.

Battling its own recession and trying to absorb what it could of the people landing on its shores, Italy simply could not afford the 9 million euro per month that Mare Nostrum cost. Thus it pulled the reigns and Operation Triton, conducted by Frontex, was implemented in its place. In contrast to Mare Nostrum’s expansive coverage, Triton extends only 30 nautical miles from the Italian coast and has a budget of 2.9 million euro per month. It is meant not to be search and rescue operation but merely a border protection system. Within the first few months of 2015, Triton saw a dramatic rise in deaths at sea. In April, the EU heads of state attempted to bolster the operation, tripling its financial resources and adding more vessels, but its impact still cannot be compared to that of Mare Nostrum.

The equation is simple: those fleeing war and escaping conflict and human rights abuses at home will continue to arrive in Europe as long as these dangers persist. However, rather than anticipating the increase in refugees seeking safety via a perilous journey at sea, Italy and the rest of the EU replaced an operation that saved about 150,000 lives throughout its life cycle with one that has a much more limited capacity. Lessons were clearly not learned from the migrant influx at Italy’s southern border over the past two years, and they were certainly not passed along to the rest of Europe.

Now, with the problem exacerbated into a true crisis, Hungary has responded by building a razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia and Germany is instituting temporary border controls with Austria. All the while, EU ministers scratch their heads. Perhaps the EU’s inability to plan for this crisis is a precursor to what will happen in the coming weeks and months—continued chaos at the hands of inadequate policies, a lack of unity and more unnecessary deaths.

PS21 is a nonpartisan, nongovernmental, nonideological organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.

When Vladimir Putin looks in a mirror, does he see Syria’s Assad?

DAVOS-KLOSTERS/SWITZERLAND, 28JAN09 - Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation captured during the 'Opening Plenary of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2009' at the Annual Meeting 2009 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 28, 2009. Copyright by World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Photo by Remy Steinegger
Photo: World Economic Forum/Remy Steinegger

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Peter Apps is the executive director of Project for Study of the 21st Century. He tweets: @pete_apps

As Russia ups its game in Syria — apparently supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime with tanks, naval infantry and air defense systems — Vladimir Putin is deliberately putting the West in a very difficult position.

Moscow and Washington have been at loggerheads over the conflict since its beginning. At its heart is not just spiraling geopolitical rivalry, but a deep-seated ideological division.

The result has been the 21st century’s answer to the 1930s Spanish Civil War between Fascists and Communists that presaged World War Two, a grinding, unending conflict fuelled by larger states that just wouldn’t compromise.

Ever since he rose to prominence in the late 1990s, Putin’s style of government — and his political pledge to the populace — has been relatively simple. Chaos — whether the conflict in Syria now, or the free-for-all and economic collapse that followed the end of the USSR — is dangerous and must be avoided.

That strategy, Putin has always made clear, takes strong leadership and a willingness to sometimes be brutal. It is an approach that, he and many Russians appear to believe, was successful in Chechnya and will now work against Islamic State.

The view from Washington — particularly the White House and State Department — could hardly be more different. Particularly since the “Arab Spring,” the U.S. government has argued that dictatorship and a lack of accountability is the problem in Syria. Given all those he has killed, the White House contends, Bashar al-Assad must go.

The problem, of course, is that Washington’s policy on Syria has been an unmitigated failure — a position that many current and former U.S. officials now concede. The rise of Islamic State was bad enough. Now, hundreds of thousands of Syrians are voting with their feet, fleeing the packed refugee camps of the Middle East and creating another new crisis in Europe.

Exactly how much the West is to blame for events in Syria is open to argument. Even as violence flared in late 2011, some Western diplomats were concluding that their nations had made matters worse. By encouraging anti-Assad protesters, particularly in the aftermath of the civil war in Libya, they felt the United States and its allies had created an unrealistic expectation that the West might intervene. Signaling that that was not going to happen, they felt, might have taken the edge off the protests much earlier and ultimately saved lives.

For others — particularly in the United States, itself a post-revolutionary country — such talk misses the point. It was Assad and those around him who chose to brutally crush dissent, they say. Assad’s survival in office cannot be endorsed. Even if a major military intervention against him is politically and perhaps practically unworkable, supporting a moderate opposition is the only real option.

The problem, of course, is that that approach hasn’t worked. Islamic State has taken over much of the country. And while U.S. and allied Arab jets and drones pound Islamic State positions, Assad’s forces are using much greater — and much more indiscriminate firepower — against other rebel groups.

For Moscow, the situation in Syria offers both opportunity and danger. Through dramatically stepping up their support for the government in Damascus, they can strengthen their geopolitical hold on their only real ally in the region. It’s yet another chance to embarrass the West.

Behind that, though, Russia is more worried by Islamic State than almost any outside nation. If Islamic State gets too much of a hold in the Middle East, Moscow fears, it could help reignite the conflicts in the Caucuses crushed more than a decade ago at such great human, financial and military cost.

For Putin, the ideal would be for Russia to play its part in a broad anti-Islamic State alliance. Under those circumstances, every power would play to its strengths. U.S.-led forces could launch strikes against Islamic State leaders and others. In Iraq, Russian military support — primarily in the form of equipment such as fighter jets — already fits in with support from Iran and Washington. In Syria, Moscow could give new backbone to government forces as those forces did the things Washington would rather not know about.

In Iraq, to some extent, this has already happened. Russian military supplies — particularly Su-25 Frogfoot jets — already bolster the Iraqi military alongside support from the United States and Iran. When it comes to Syria, however, any talk of a broader anti-Islamic State alliance has gone nowhere.

If anything, Washington has stepped up attempts to stymie Russian action, lobbying first Turkey and now Greece to deny Moscow military over flight rights.

But there are some awkward, awful truths. Such action might simply wind up prolonging the war. In the 15 years of the 21st century, Western states have had little or no long-term success with a counterinsurgency strategy based on targeted strikes and attempts to establish rule of law. Several other nations, however, have proved more effective with much more brutal tactics. Russia did it in Chechnya. Sri Lanka did it against the Tamil Tigers.

I covered the Sri Lanka war for Reuters. It was horrible. The government used a strategy of overwhelming indiscriminate firepower backed by human rights abuses. But it’s hard to deny it worked and that the war is over.

Moscow seems to have concluded that in Syria, only the government has the capability and will to win.

It’s hard to imagine large numbers of Russian troops going on the offensive in Syria. But after Chechnya and now Ukraine, the Russian military has no shortage of specialists who understand the darker side of modern conflict. They could be embedded in a similar way to U.S. advisers in Iraq — but with much less of a tendency to urge restraint.

The West has little moral high ground here. In Yemen — before a withdrawal earlier this year — officials privately say Western special forces deliberately avoided embedding too closely with government troops to avoid being implicated in the inevitable human rights abuses. And in Iraq, Shi’ite militia loyal to the U.S.-backed government have committed so many atrocities that some regional experts say Sunni populations would often rather see Islamic State stay.

For now, the Obama administration is unlikely to switch its Syria policy during its final months in office. Nor is it likely that a President Hillary Clinton would switch policy radically from her time as Secretary of State to allow Assad to stay. Given the ongoing confrontation in Ukraine — with U.S. advisers now working to train Ukrainian forces while Russian troops fight a few hundred miles away — the chances of doing a deal with Moscow may get even slimmer.

For several years, some Western officials have held out the prospect that Russia might sign off a deal whereby Assad leaves but those around him stay. Increasingly, though, officials in both Washington and Europe whisper that keeping him in place might be the simplest option. Earlier this month — shortly before the scale of Syrian migrant numbers prompted Germany to tear up the Schengen Agreement and re-establish border controls — German Chancellor Angela Merkel conceded it was necessary to talk to Moscow about Syria. The Russians may be hoping for more slippage to come.

That would suit Putin fine. He has no interest in a precedent that authoritarian leaders should stand down just because they have been in power too long or killed too many.

This article originally appeared on Reuters.com on September 21, 2015. 

PS21 is a non-national, non-partisan, non-governmental organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.

The neuroscience of Jeremy Corbyn

Photo: Chris Beckett
Photo: Chris Beckett

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Robert Colvile is a freelance journalist and global fellow at PS21, formerly head of comment at Telegraph and news at BuzzFeed UK. He tweets at @rcolvile.

There’s a simple theory which helps explain why he won — and why he’ll probably lose.

As I listened to the Labour leadership announcement on the car radio, there was a sentence that jumped out at me. It wasn’t from Jeremy Corbyn, in his victory speech, but from his new deputy, Tom Watson.

‘In the Tories’ second term, Labour is the last line of defence for the millions of people who suffer in their hands,’ said Watson. ‘Only Labour can speak for the real Britain… on behalf of the millions who need us, we are the guardians of decency and fairness, justice and equality in the United Kingdom.’

Who suffer in their hands. That single phrase helps to explain so much about British politics — and why the Corbyn insurgency happened in the first place. Because it reflects a critically important difference in worldview.

To put it bluntly, Tories believe that Labour supporters are stupid, and Labour supporters believe that Tories are wicked.

You can see this in your typical op-ed or leader column. A columnist on the Right, writing about Corbyn, will generally structure the argument as follows: ‘He is obviously a decent man, who has devoted his life to his beliefs. It’s just that those beliefs are completely wrong.’ His Left-wing equivalent, writing about David Cameron, will instead say: ‘Can no one stop this horrible man doing these horrible things?’

This isn’t an original insight: Daniel Hannan, for one, has been banging this drum for a while. It’s also, inevitably, a generalisation. But I think it’s a useful one. It explains, for example, why many on the Left feel quite so comfortable being quite so rude about their opponents: as Tim Montgomerie recently wrote on CapX, ‘because many on the Left feel they are doing the work of God (or Marx) they feel even the worst of behaviour is ultimately in service of a good cause’.

It’s in this context that the Corbyn victory makes perfect sense. Most Tories couldn’t believe Labour could be so stupid as to actually pick someone with so many glaring electability issues as their leader. But when you’re fighting a religious war, who do you want in charge — someone who promises to lay about the infidels with a flaming sword, or someone who accepts that they have a few good points about past overspending?

This also, of course, explains why picking Corbyn is such a terrible strategy electorally. Castigating the Tories as heartless monsters certainly whips up your base. But it’s also saying to anyone who’s voted Tory in the past (and especially those who switched from Labour in 2010 and 2015) not that they made a regrettable and understandable error, but that they made a deal with the devil.

There’s actually some interesting neuroscience behind all this — as laid out in the book Hannan refers to, The Righteous Mind by the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt.

Haidt argues that there are six key values people look for in political leaders: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and purity/sanctity. The evidence shows that those on the Left are motivated primarily by care and fairness: they want a more just and equal world, they stand up for the oppressed and the underdogs. Those on the Right often share those concerns, but balance them against others: for example, the need for personal freedom, opportunity, social order and moral decency.

One consequence of that is that it literally makes it harder for Left-wingers to see Right-wingers’ point of view than vice versa. The result, as William Saletan says in his New York Times review of Haidt’s book, is that ‘liberals don’t understand conservative values. And they can’t recognize this failing, because they’re so convinced of their rationality, open-mindedness and enlightenment.’

This is a pretty good way of thinking about politics. When the Tories made themselves unelectable in the 1990s/2000s, for example, it was because they doubled down on liberty, loyalty, authority and above all purity/sanctity and forgot about the other two. And Labour are now making their own version of precisely the same mistake.

To see this at its most explicit, all you need to do is compare Corbyn’s victory speech yesterday with Cameron’s from 2005.

The most obvious thing is that Cameron’s is much better as a speech: it’s much shorter, it’s got a beginning, a middle and an end, a structure and an argument.

It’s also explicitly aimed at agnostics rather than believers. As he says in his conclusion: ‘To those watching at home, if you have a passion for positive politics, come and join us. If you want to build a modern, compassionate Conservative party, come and join us. If you want me and all of us to be a voice for hope, for optimism and for change, come and join us. In this modern, compassionate Conservative party, everyone is invited.’

But what’s equally interesting is how many of Haidt’s psychological buttons Cameron presses. He talks about looking after the elderly, family breakdown, the need for more women MPs, but also about safer streets, school discipline, people’s duty to the community. The only value he doesn’t stress is ideological purity/sanctity — precisely because the public were fed up of hearing Tory leaders bang on about them. Corbyn, by contrast, is operating in a much narrower spectrum.

The great irony of all this is that, a few months back, many Tories I talked to had convinced themselves that the 2020 election was Labour’s for the taking.

The flipside of the wicked/stupid thing is that Labour, even under Ed Miliband, were still viewed as well-meaning — what let them down was their perceived ability to govern, and especially to run the economy. But the Tories, even after 10 years of Cameron, still haven’t shed the ‘Nasty Party’ tag: their schtick is competence, not compassion.

So yes, the argument ran, the Tories had a great election. But it relied heavily on the unique threat of the SNP, and the unique uselessness of Ed Miliband.

All Labour had to do was to appoint a new, competent-looking leader who apologised for the economic errors of the past and promised not to repeat them — Chuka Umunna, say, or Dan Jarvis — and they’d be competitive again: compassionate and competent, just like under Tony Blair. In other words, they’d tick all the Haidt boxes.

Instead, they went for Corbyn. Good luck with that.

This article originally appeared on Medium.com on September 13, 2015.

PS21 is a non-national, non-governmental, nonpartisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.

PS21 Report: Beyond the SDSR

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  • Process likely to become rapidly politicised, tied to procurement decisions already made.
  • UK still fundamentally uncertain what role it wants to take in the world.
  • Confusion over balancing great power threat from Russia and broader priorities such as terrorism.
  • Challenges in adapting to changing nature of warfare, globalised/technology-rich world.
  • Retention, career structure a major challenge.

On July 29, 2015, the Project for Study of the 21st Century (PS21) held a discussion on the UK Strategic Defence and Security Review to be published this autumn.

Please feel free to quote from the report below citing PS21. Contact PS21Central@gmail.com if you wish to reach any of the participants.

London: 29 July 2015

Chair: Peter Apps: executive director, PS21

Patrick Bury: former Captain, British Army Royal Irish Regiment, now PhD candidate at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute

Philip Thicknesse: former head of futures, UK Defence Concepts and Doctrines Centre

Tom Bruxner: former British Army officer, Defence Concepts and Doctrine Centre

Josh Arnold-Forster: former special advisor to John Reid MP, defence secretary 2005-2006, now strategic advisor at Hanover

Bob Judson: retired Air Vice-Marshal, Royal Air Force, previously Director Joint Warfare and Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Operations)

By its nature, the SDSR will suffer from both high- and low-level political interference both from the individual services and top of government. Already, Prime Minister David Cameron’s comments on spending more money on drones and special forces risks prejudging the process. The level of resources available for the offence has already been set in stone by the Treasury. None of these problems are new.

Thicknesse: My first Defence Review was 1981 when I was in HMS Fearless. [That ship] was deleted by the review and yet we found ourselves fighting in the south Atlantic some three months later. One is scarred by that experience.

For me, you can always get really good guidance from [Prof Lord] Peter Hennessy, who produced 10 rules for defence reviews. I won’t produce all 10 but here are a couple: they are quickly overturned by events; governments find it difficult to sustain the logic of their own reviews; they are inevitably underfunded; they happen when the balance between commitment, capabilities and resources are lost; and they are constrained by capability decisions taken immediately beforehand — in this case, carriers, maritime patrol aircraft, F35 etc. This has set the scene for what is going to be a deeply frustrating and absolutely un-strategic defence review. Fasten your seatbelts.

Bruxner: I worked as part of the DCDC Futures Program until the early part of this year, specifically on paper on the Future Operating Environment in 2035 which was in theory one of Defence’s context for the SDSR. What struck me very quickly is how politicised the process was, even down to the lowest level.

Because the review included Security and Defence, its remit is now so wide that it includes most Whitehall departments. This makes it harder to come to any meaningful conclusion and increases the intra-governmental politics of the product because government departments wish to defend their own pots of cash. This is mirrored within Defence where inter-service rivalry is stronger than ever, despite the Levene Reforms.

For those in the MOD contributing work for the SDSR, there is really very little room for any freethinking because you get told very clearly by the chain of command what you are required to say and if you don’t provide that, it gets discarded.

At the end of the day, the politicians making the decisions are often driven by the relatively local political concerns which often trump genuine strategic imperatives.

Arnold-Forster: Politics is about the art of the possible and all defence reviews always have to take into account the fact that there are actual jobs that politicians take a close personal interest in. The great thing about the defence budget is that it doesn’t have to follow EU competition legislation and so national governments can hand out contracts however they want — and Ministers will take advantage of this.

Still, I’m prepared to defend politicians to this extent — they are trying to react to the way in which they think the world has changed. Some will have the best of intentions and some will have the worst.

For more than a decade, the UK military has seen the world almost entirely through the prism of Iraq and Afghanistan. In terms of logistics and some of the technical capabilities, it now stands well behind developments in the private sector.

Bury: Just sitting there as a civilian, you find yourself going: “hmm, I’m not sure if this were DHL we’d be doing things in the same way”. The cross-organisational knowledge can be very limited. You get the sense that they don’t have the deep specialised, more professional knowledge base.

To address these, the UK military establishment needs to look at some of its preconceived systems, particularly the rank structure, pay at the speed with which personnel particularly officers are rotated through jobs.

Bury: Do we need to rotate people every two years? This debate has been going on for ages — but it is knowledge destroying. You need experts to be rapidly deployable. Officers get posted for 18 months and as soon as they get to actually know what they’re doing they get moved on.

The speed of military decision-making — primarily using the OODA (observe, orientate, decide and act) loop — is now much slower than many of those used by adversaries. The military has simply not moved at the speed of technology.

Bury: We are still teaching officers in Sandhurst to go through their “seven questions” and come up with a plan. The point is that if you’re an insurgent group you can do this on Whatsapp. This process can be very, very slow in comparison to what our adversaries are using.

They need to change the mentality. Just throwing it out there, you could have a personal display unit on your wrist that really speeds things up.

Fundamentally, many of the strategic decisions facing Britain go well beyond that which can be tackled by the MoD alone.

Judson:  Fundamentally, the challenge we face is the government-level rhetoric about U.K.’s aspirations of the world. We have dramatically shrunk our presence but not our mission. That generates the tensions that have been described. I don’t think that’s going to go away. Fundamentally, we have to square that circle, though, cutting our cloth according to our means. We’re not being honest about what our means are allowing us to do.

Thicknesse: It’s a national choice. The number one question is about our membership of the permanent five in the Security Council. There are costs and benefits to belonging but can you imagine any prime minister saying they no longer want to be a part of it?

The broader implications of the 2013 parliamentary vote against military action in Syria are not yet clear.

Bruxner: It seems to be a bit of a game changer. Whether or not it’s permanent is to tell. Whilst in theory the PM can still exercise Royal Prerogative, it does seem to have become a norm that Parliament is consulted before we deploy anywhere. That creates a very strange dynamic, which is very difficult for Defence planners.

The modern media environment can generate demands to act — for example, over the #bringbackourgirls campaign in Nigeria or the hunt for missing Malaysia airliner MH373. The world, however, remains a large place and getting out and doing things at that distance can be expensive and challenging.

Fundamentally, the UK still does not believe it faces any existential threats. As such, it is in a very different position to countries such as Japan or Sweden which identify one overwhelming threat such as China or Russia.

With Russian submarines and aircraft challenging UK territorial airspace and waters, there is a range of opinions as to how seriously the UK should take Moscow compared to other potential threats.

Arnold-Faster: It’s very interesting. It’s worth looking at the Treasury documents because the Treasury is saying that Russia is potentially a much bigger risk for our prosperity than global terrorism. They are looking at the potential for energy supply disruption, loss of investment in Eastern Europe etc.

Russian submarines have continued to probe the waters off Scotland, home to the U.K.’s nuclear deterrent submarines. More broadly, Ukraine complex has showcased both the levels of conventional firepower Moscow is willing to use as well as its less conventional capabilities.

Thicknesse: While we lazily took the peace dividend, the Russians didn’t. They have retained a small cadre of extremely professional nuclear submariners whose job is to probe and to see just how close they can get.

Arnold-Forster: They also have a whole contingent of various special capabilities and they are using them all the time. You look at eastern Ukraine and you see people for whom this is their second or third conflict on behalf of their Russian masters. These people don’t see the distinction between wartime and peacetime. It is a continual struggle.

The conflict in Ukraine has involved the use of heavy artillery — 120 mm, 155 mm, thermobaric. We don’t know whether our infantry can withstand that kind of bombardment now

While both the Ukraine and ISIS wars show the growing importance of social media, PSYOPS and “indirect approach” to warfare, they have also showed the importance of fighting on the ground.

Bruxner: At the lower level, it is still pretty conventional. The black arts/black ops informational message is going on at the operational and strategic level. I’m worried generally about the UK taking the message from recent years that actually all we need to do is put up the right message on Twitter and we won’t need to fight at all. I think this is a fantasy similar to Liddle Hart’s ‘indirect approach’ which thought there was always a way around the flank. I think war will always involve fighting and much of it will still be attritional.

Actually, what Russia is doing is demonstrating that there is real benefit to being actually there on the ground and digging trenches. Informations operations are supporting this.

The war with ISIS has also demonstrated the limits of British capability — something which so far has barely entered the political discussion.

Bury: To my mind, you have a 30 year war in the Middle East and the question is whether you want to get involved in that the problem. Can we really control the second or third order events if we get involved? What can we shape? Are we better just containing certain areas?

With more capable adversaries, the UK is simply not used to facing that kind of conflict against significantly well trained and equipped nations.

Judson: Russia is one of those, North Korea is one of those and Iran might become one of those. We do not have current practice or skills and capability against really capable enemies. We’ve been very good for a long period of time now at engaging in conflicts where there is a relatively benign environment where we could operate with air supremacy very quickly. You don’t face a high attrition rate against you.

We have a government rhetoric that says we can go in and do anything we want, whatever we want. That’s just misplaced. Against a high end opponent, to suggest that we could do it even in coalition is questionable.

Indeed, the whole way in which the UK views its strategic approach to the rest of the world is open to question.

Arnold-Forster: I’m sure Cameron wakes up and thinks: “what am I going to do about North Korea?” But he doesn’t seem to have the machinery to think about that in a particularly coherent way. There is no Imperial General Staff examing in depth and detail what’s going on in the world.

This, in some respects, is little different to the days of the British Empire — which was itself described as being “acquired in a fit of absence of mind”. What is different now is that Whitehall often believes it has a role to play in events that the rest of the world simply does not see.

Still, the long-term future is unknowable and therefore no British government — for now at least — is likely to seriously be willing to abandon the nuclear deterrent.

Thicknesse: It’s a very political thing… which Prime Minister is going to cite this thing off and go down in history as the man or woman who opens us up to some ghastly threat in 30, 40 or 50 years.

The total cost of the Trident successor through its life is something like £97 billion. The budget for the NHS this year is 114 billion. HS2 (the high-speed London-Birmingham rail link) is something like 50 billion. In those terms, Trident costs nothing.

At the other end of the spectrum, however, there is a growing challenge of retaining good quality personnel, both officers and enlisted.

Thicknesse: I think there are enough people seduced by the idea of adventure to join the services so recruitment is probably not that big a problem. Retention is.

The services are hampered by highly centralised pay policies so all of them have found it impossible to retain certain skills. In the Navy’s case, nuclear engineers haemorrhage into the civil nuclear program. The Royal Navy is the only organisation training: nuclear engineers in the country. I don’t see how these services can break the dead hand of the Treasury to get the freedom to pay people what it takes — we have always been hampered by this relationship between rank and pay.

And yet it can work: sometimes the highest-paid officer in many military units is the doctor and people understand that.

Bury: The military has some innovative leaders now, certainly General Houghton (CDS) and General Carter (CGS). They’ve picked up in terms of getting a higher number of females, they’ve picked up that that’s one of the issues they need to address if they’re going to recruit and retain. They are looking at flexible hours. If you’re battering away on a keyboard, do you really need to be in barracks?

I think we also need to look at some kind of GI Bill (mimicking the US legislation which entitles those who serve as enlisted men for several years with financial support to go to university).

In some fields — cyber, transport, health services — the “sponsored reserve” model whereby personnel become military during times of conflict or crisis may work. In others, it may struggle.

Report by Peter Apps. Transcript by Claire Connellan and Rhea Menon.

Not with a bang, but a white paper: How British power could fall apart this autumn

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and and former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg speaking at a joint press conference (photo: Cabinet Office).
UK Prime Minister David Cameron and and former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg speaking at a joint press conference (photo: Cabinet Office).

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This article was written by a serving military officer from a NATO member state. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not reflect the position of any organisation or government.

Britain is not under attack, but its place in the world is under fire. The semi-official Chinese Global Times has denigrated the United Kingdom as ‘an old declining empire’ which engages in ‘eccentric acts it takes to hide [its] embarrassment’. The Russians are brazenly flying bombers close enough to its airspace that the Royal Air Force has to scramble fighter aircraft to deal with them once a month, prompting the Scottish National Party to claim that the North Sea is now defended by ‘fishing vessels and social media’. British commentators are accusing their own government of behaving ‘like Belgium’. Even its cherished Special Relationship with the United States appears fragile, as it turns out that America’s heir apparent, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was chuckling at ‘decline and fall of the British Empire’ jokes as recently as 2009. Fareed Zakaria has summed up the current consensus in Washington: ‘After an extraordinary 300-year run, Britain has essentially resigned as a global power’.

All is not lost, however. In the Queen’s Speech in which the new Conservative government outlined their agenda in May, they promised that this year’s quinquennial Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and the complementary National Security Strategy (NSS) would ensure that Britain ‘remains a leader on the world stage’. The NSS will outline Britain’s role in the world, while the SDSR will provide a definitive statement about the planned strength of the British forces for the next five years. The review is now being conducted by a small team in the Cabinet Office, and will be published in the fall.

On its face, ensuring that Britain remains a global power should not be a challenging task. Despite narrowly avoiding dismemberment in September, when 45% of Scots voted to leave the United Kingdom, and an impending referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union, the quantitative foundations of British power are solid. The UK has the fifth-largest economy in the world and remains one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Militarily, it appoints NATO’s second-in-command and has the world’s fifth-largest defence budget, nearly £40 billion in 2014. The British people, in the words of pollster YouGov, remain ‘instinctively internationalist’ and although most of them want severe reductions in Britain’s bloated foreign aid budget, they also support high military spending and continuing global engagement.

So, why is there so much cynicism about the future of British power? Part of the problem is hopefully fleeting: the British government today has proved politically impotent, and has sat out negotiations over Ukraine and played a diminished role in the EU as the referendum looms. The far larger issue, however, is the one which this SDSR is seeking to address: Britain’s status as a global military power, which is part of the bedrock of its place in the world, is rapidly diminishing. This is not because Britain has chosen to decline—Albion is simply stumbling into irrelevance. Here are three reasons why:

The British government doesn’t do strategy.

Strategy is, roughly, the process of using ways (processes) and means (material) in order to achieve political ends. Although British politicians have never struggled to communicate ambitious ends, the British government is awful at cohering ways and means to achieve them. Almost no one expects the ‘strategic’ reviews released in the coming months to be very strategic at all. British commentators have been acerbic about this. In the words of retired Major-General Jonathan Shaw: ‘I judge that Britain is incapable of doing a Strategic Defence and Security Review; it lacks the culture and institutions required for the task’. Most agree that this is because ‘strategy’ itself is a lost art in Britain, and has no accepted definition within the British government.

Most informed commentators instead forecast that this review will be driven by the dictates of Her Majesty’s Treasury, whose Chancellor, George Osborne, has little sympathy for the armed forces, and which can be expected to seek significant cuts. Since Osborne took office in 2010, promising significant reductions to overall UK government spending, British defence spending has been cut in real terms by about 20%. In July, after significant American prodding, the government committed to spending the equivalent of 2% of Great Britain’s Gross Domestic Product on defence through 2020, an amount required of all NATO members (although most do not meet it). This does not represent a significant shift, however, as it was only accomplished with what Professor Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute has called an ‘accounting trick’ in which the definition of defence spending was significantly expanded. Existing defence programs will still face significant cuts. Osborne has also expanded his control over security and defence by establishing a £1.5 billion Joint Security Fund from which departments compete for funds, with the Treasury adjudicating. Simply put, financial considerations will drive this SDSR more than any other factor, and these will likely overwhelm strategic concerns.

To make matters worse, much of the money that is still spent on defence will in fact further domestic political aims, rather than foreign policy ends. As Britain becomes increasingly insular, the old adage that ‘all politics is local’ is asserting itself. British Defence Minister Michael Fallon has already promised to ‘spare’ Scotland any significant defence cuts, and that is an astrategic promise that the ascendant Scottish National Party will force him to keep. Some politicians are also now asking the army and navy to prioritise addressing a burgeoning domestic refugee crisis (the police commissioner of Surrey specifically demanded Nepalese Ghurkas). Even when Britain tries to think globally, it seems only capable of acting locally. Although Prime Minister Cameron has labelled the Islamic State an ‘existential threat’ to Britain, the UK’s contribution to fighting them in the Middle East has been tiny, and Cameron has instead focused on countering extremism within the British isles. This is not how a world power acts—but without the ability to do strategy, we should expect no better.

Britain’s huge defence budget has a huge ‘value-for-money’ problem which puts Britain’s military capabilities at risk.

Britain gets less value than it should out of its defence spending, and as long as this remains the case, the SDSR can do very little to help staunch the decline of Britain’s military might.The British armed forces today are peerless in only one area: inefficiency. In 2012, for example, Britain had basically the same military mass as French, but spent about 25% more to sustain them, only in part because the French are more willing than the British to plan to rely on allies for logistical assistance for sustained operations.

Comparing the UK and the US is even more illuminating, as the UK military desires ‘global reach’ and thus seeks similar capabilities to the US. Britain spent about $54 billion on defence in 2014, whereas America spent about $578 billion. America, however, got much more ‘bang for its buck’. On land, the US maintains about 2,400 M1-series Main Battle Tanks in its Army, most of which are new models purchased since 2010, and another 400 or so in its Marine Corps (the International Institute for Strategic Studies says the US has 2,785 MBTs in total). The UK, meanwhile, has only 227 aging Challenger 2 MBTs in service, which have the most outdated main gun in NATO and vintage optics. At sea, the US Navy has 273 warships afloat, while the Royal Navy is barely treading water with 19. In the air, the US Air Force and Navy have about 14,000 combat-ready aircraft, while the Royal Air Force has a mere 700. To sum up: the US spends about 11 times as much as the UK on defence, but for this amount it gets 12 times as many tanks, 14 times as many ships (it will probably be 16 times as many by the end of the decade) and 20 times as many planes.

This comparison inevitably admittedly papers over some important differences. The British defence budget, for example, has had to deal with higher inflation since 2008, can take advantage of fewer economies of scale, and, despite its tendency to emulate American capabilities, has somewhat different strategic imperatives, such as the need to maintain a stable of 485 horses for ceremonial duties. But it also hides the fact that British military equipment is generally older and less versatile than American gear. Fundamentally, it highlights Britain’s numerical and managerial problems: even if Britain had a strategic narrative for what its armed forces should do, it no longer has the tanks, planes and ships to act like a global power.

The most apparent cause of the value-for-money problem is the gross mismanagement of the British defence budget. According to the Gray report, by 2009 the defence equipment budget had become severely ‘overheated’, ‘with too many types of equipment being ordered for too large a range of tasks at too high a specification’ based on too little strategic thought, if any. The cuts imposed after the 2010 SDSR nearly broke the overheated system. Between 2010 and 2015, according to Ben Barry of the IISS, the 8% budget cut resulted in the evisceration of 20 to 30% of the UK’s conventional military capabilities. Mismanagement, then, had a much larger impact than the cuts themselves. The most embarrassing foible was the appearance of a still-mysterious £38 billion ‘black hole’ of unfunded requirements in the defence equipment budget in 2011. It had to be filled with massive cuts from the rest of the defence budget.

There are also much deeper problems in the British defence acquisitions establishment. A 2013 MoD white paper argued that its key failings were mismanagement by an institutionally weak Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) activity and poor oversight of single-source contracts. In June, a report published by the think tank Civitas argued that the more fundamental problems are the British tendency to seek the illusion of military power rather than real strength (more on that below), over-engineering of defence equipment leading to runaway defence inflation, and outright abuse of single-source contracts by mighty prime contractors (the most powerful of which, BAE Systems, accounts for .5% of UK GDP and 1% of all UK exports). The MoD, while aggressively denying some aspects of the problem, has engaged in a handful of reforms. It has sought to fix its financial management practices with the Levene reforms since 2011 and was empowered to improve or replace DE&S and revamp its single source contracting practices by the Defence Reform Act of 2014, prompting Armed Forces Minister Penny Mordaunt to claim British defence spending in no longer a ‘basket case’. However, this has clearly not been enough–according to the Financial Times, another black hole is already gaping.

The SDSR provides the British government with an opportunity to start down the path to more efficient defence spending. Unfortunately, there are no signs the government will take it, as the Treasury remains remarkably unconcerned with the value-for-money problem, instead prioritizing keeping spending down at irrational cost. To really promote efficiency, the SDSR team would have to ‘address the key question as to what volume of investment in security will generate the highest overall value to the UK,’ in the words of the Civitas report, and have the freedom to cut inefficient and expand useful programs within the defence budget. As it stands, it has neither power. As the chair of the House of Commons Defence Committee, Julian Lewis, has noted, the government has already released its budget statement, so the SDSR will play no role in determining the size of the defence budget—arguably the most profound strategic question the UK must address. Even as it tries to prioritize cuts to promote efficiency, moreover, the SDSR team will be hamstrung, as the Prime Minister, the Conservative Party and other officials made numerous promises to preserve specific capabilities while running for reelection earlier this year. In the analysis of Professor Michael Clark of RUSI, Cameron declared 80% of the defence budget off-limits on the campaign trail. Under such conditions, the SDSR may as well be an exercise in throwing money away.

Britain’s leaders remain reluctant to provide significant forces to support globally important missions, putting Britain’s leadership role in NATO at risk.

Britain is a minor player in global military operations today. To wage what Prime Minister Cameron hyperbolically labelled ‘the struggle of our generation’ against IS, the UK has deployed a grand total of eight 1980s-vintage Tornado jets, which are only allowed to strike targets in Iraq. As a February report by the Defence Committee noted, this is a smaller force than those deployed by Australia, Germany, Spain and Italy. To ward off Russia, the UK has sent four Typhoons to help defend the Baltic, roughly in line with what other NATO states have sent, and artificially inflated its role in NATO by providing 1,000 staff officers and enablers to ‘lead’ NATO’s new high-readiness task force. However, its land forces sat out two major NATO exercises in June, leaving allies wondering: where has the British Army gone?

The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, is probably wondering the same thing. The Army he leads is a shrinking force, and it is currently has 4,000 fewer soldiers than it should. As part of the Future Force 2020 plan which the SDSR is likely to re-affirm, it will form up as a force of 82,000 regulars and 30,000 trained reservists in the next five years. This will supposedly provide a ‘deterrent’ with a division-sized ‘reaction force’, as well as an ‘adaptable force’ which will lead defence engagement efforts overseas. Unfortunately, the link to the British Army’s strategic narrative, which is supposed to justify this structure, is broken, both digitally and figuratively. Efforts to ‘fully integrate’ reservists into the regular force have gone poorly. The idea that Britain’s lumbering armoured force will be a deterrent is laughable, and the United States is already preparing for the British reaction force to be significantly smaller than the promised armoured division. The British seem to be as well: the Guards Brigade is about to head to Texas to practice operating under American divisional command.

The British Army has also utterly failed to sell its unique value to the nation, and has in fact undercut its own role at a time when the British public is unsure about the value of its armed forces. Instead of emphasizing the need to hold and control territory by killing people and breaking things—its unique capability, called landpower in the rest of NATO—it has instead established and lauded 77 Brigade, which is responsible ‘for the delivery of all non-lethal and non-military effects’. General Carter constantly bangs on that ‘ends, ways and means are not enough’. That may be true, but without them, the British military may prove to be what’s no longer ‘enough’.

The Royal Navy, meanwhile, is on the verge of sinking. It continues to desperately cling to the fantasy that it has strategically significant global reach, and plans to deploy two new aircraft carries by the end of this decade and three new Trident nuclear missile-launching submarines in the 2030s in pursuit of this end. However, as a US Army War College-sponsored analysis recently noted, the massive costs of these projects have prevented maintenance of even enough escorts for both carriers, and in the future, ‘a declining number of surface combat­ants will bedevil its ability to remain globally pos­tured and will contribute to naval missions of a more constabulary nature’. Like the Army, the Royal Navy is bad at selling itself. In the words of the campaign to Save the Royal Navy, the public ‘is largely unaware of what the Navy does for them’.

The Royal Air Force may be faring the worst of the three services. The Tornado squadron that is bombing IS was scheduled to disband in March, but got a new lease on life because, according to General Sir Nicholas Houghton, the Chief of Britain’s Defence Staff, the UK has reached ‘the very limit of fast jet availability and capacity’—by deploying only a dozen planes on actual operations. This is because only eighteen RAF Tornados are fully combat-ready. Although the British air base at Arkotiri has been a great asset to the broader Western campaign, the simple fact is that the RAF lacks the capability to play a serious role.

British politicians have proven artful at hiding these problems while exaggerating Britain’s contributions. Cameron has dismissed accusations of British strategic shrinkage as ‘nonsense’, while Fallon has insisted that Britain’s ‘global reach is as extensive as ever’ and that ‘no other country is Europe is playing such a strong global role’. Meanwhile, he emphasized niche capabilities which make Britain look unique and important, if not exactly powerful. The US has also helped Britain look good, with President Obama calling the UK America’s ‘best partner’ and US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter saying that the UK ‘has the ability to act independently, to be a force of its own in the world’.

Although some of these claims are factually true, the rhetoric is still dangerous, as the real, long run decline in British military capabilities is continuing unabated. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘you can’t fool all of the people all of the time’. Even if Britain has achieved a politically acceptable force level that appeases its American allies despite its strategic and managerial deficits, the current British approach to international affairs is a plan for costly decline. The greatest significant near-term risk is that Britain’s relationship with NATO will far apart. Ever since the UK abandoned NATO’s Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan and left Italy, Turkey, Germany and the US to pick up the slack, NATO staffers have been extremely suspicious of the UK’s dedication to the organization. They are not fooled by Britain’s contributions of staff officers and support troops, which only serve to mask its minimal contributions of combat power. A growing number of them would like to see the second-in-command slot at NATO become a rotating position that rewards significant troop contributors, rather than an eternal reward to Great Britain for fighting WWII.

They are unlikely to make that happen this fall, but in the long run, unless Britain makes serious changes to the way it does business, it is almost inevitable. This fact should provide an important inflection point for British defence thinkers as they ponder the ongoing SDSR. Although a new strategic narrative alone will do nothing to address the severe strategic and managerial deficits which have left Britain so feeble, it might help guide Britain in the right direction. Above all, a renewed dedication to NATO is essential, as is a renewed dedication to real strategic thought and efficiency within the British government which can underpin it in the long run. Unfortunately, almost no one expects this out the ongoing NSS and SDSR effort.

PS21 is a non-national, non-ideological, non-partisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.

When markets meet geopolitics: an interview with Emad Mostaque

On September 2, 2015, PS21 interviewed Emad Mostaque, strategist at Ecstrat, on the implication of the stock market crisis in China and Greece’s sovereign debt crisis on the global economy. In the video above, Mostaque looks at the role of national and global monetary institutions and the levers emerging markets.

The structural factors that have contributed to both the Greek and the Chinese crises have been brewing for a while, but one of the key things is that they’ve effectively come to the end of their rope in many ways. Greece came to a point whereby it basically needed a bailout. In China’s case, it basically came to the point whereby the government can no longer refinance its economy through the stock market.

The Deflation Shock: Geopolitical Ramifications of the Global Commodity Price Drop

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David Murrin is the author of Breaking the Code of Historythe culmination of decades of personal research across a wide range of disciplines. David compellingly argues that human behaviour is not random, but determined by specific, quantifiable and predictable patterns fuelled by our need to survive and prosper. He has called this cycle The Five Stages of Empire, which due to its fractal nature is applicable to empires, all the way down to the cycle of the individual. According to David, to resolve the issues confronting us today we cannot merely study the past. The human race will need to understand this precise algorithm of behaviour that has caused us to re-enact the same destructive cycles in ever-greater magnitudes, in order to change our future. He is also a Global Fellow at PS21.

We have for quite a while now been predicting a sharp period of deflation from 2015 to as late as 2018. This prediction has been based on the Kondratieff cycles’ second phase, which corrects the first impulsive stage of commodity inflation. We maintain our view, despite the assurances of various central banks, that this is only a short-term dip. Indeed, the ongoing decline in global commodity prices suggests that these deflationary dynamics will accelerate in the next 12 to 18 months.

One of the interesting questions about the Kondratieff cycle is that its price history has–until the past decade–been based on the cycle of the Super Western Christian Empires as these were the dominant industrial powers across the globe during the past two centuries. With the current dip in Chinese demand, we are now able to confirm that the rising Super Asian Empire has phased its commodity demand cycle with that of the West.

Why? Because this deflationary cycle has to a large extent been driven by the loss of demand within the Chinese economy. As such, we should expect to see that loss of Chinese demand continue for the next 12 to 18 months and the Chinese authorities wrestle with increasing economic dislocation.

Deflation driven by loss of global demand like this is not easy to combat, as the Chinese are now realising. For commodity prices to be where they are now, it is clear that the world as led by China is suffering a slump in demand, which suggests that economic growth is much lower than the world’s stock markets are trying to reflect. This suggests that an imminent and very large asset reprising will take place in the months ahead.

My concern is that this event will represent a global financial shock of greater magnitude than 2008 and possible of a similar magnitude as 1929. The Western Central Banks had financial levers to contain the shock of 2008, which are now no longer available, so the impact will be much greater. Indeed, the use of the printing presses in what we know as QE has inflated stock and asset prices to completely unrealistic levels, and the gap below to reality is probably greater than ever before. Hence, we should expect not only very deep price drops, but moves that are very powerful.

In Breaking the Code of History, we discussed the concept that shocks such as this deflationary shock affect every economy simultaneously and usually with the same magnitude. However, what differentiates the strong from the weak nations is the speed of the recovery and whether that recovery subsequently reached new highs.

Although this shock started in China, this is not the all clear signal that the Chinese challenge is ending, as I would anticipate that they recover faster than any other nation. Conversely, I reckon that the greatest losers will be the weaker Western nations. Certainly the EU is top of that list, but close behind is America. Thus, I would expect this shock to accelerate the power shift from West to East.

In addition to the effects associated with the long-term five stages of empires cycles, changes in the commodity cycle create geopolitical shifts in power of smaller cycle degree. In assessing the oncoming ramifications of global deflation, the first nations to consider are the commodity producers themselves.

Russia

Russia has been hit threefold with economic mismanagement, Western sanctions and lower oil prices, which have placed it in a very precarious situation. On one hand, there are the forces of economic implosion that might lead to civil unrest against Putin, but on the other hand, there is the argument that the West caused the problem via sanctions. Putin could use any external event to trigger a war to unite his people in a common cause to save himself. This situation needs to be carefully monitored and managed and is a very high-risk scenario.

The United States

The effect of the price decline on America as a high-cost oil shale producer seems to have been neglected with the ramifications of a massively shrinking nation’s shale oil industry. America will be forced back into the geopolitical sphere of oil importation and dependence on the Middle East and thus will have to show a greater engagement against ISIL. The boost to its economy from lower oil prices will not counter the overcooked price levels of the stock markets hyped on QE. However, in the long term the inactive oil shale fields will act as a national hedge for America as they could be reactivated when the oil price goes up again after the bottom has been reached.

Government subsidies would enhance this process. Politically, this shock will ensure that Obama’s popularity plumbs new depths and that he will go down in history as the most unpopular president ever, almost guaranteeing a Republican winner the next time round. As per 1929, American investors will be forced to withdraw their overseas capital to shore up the onshore balance sheets, especially in the emerging markets. This will create future opportunities for Chinese investment and increased influence.

Middle East

Saudi Arabia and Iran will once more become important due to the low cost of their oil. However, the civil war in the Middle East is expected to continue and intensify in complexity, especially if nuclear proliferation takes place.

Africa

Growth in Africa has been driven by the investment boom in commodities coupled with indigenous demographic expansion. The latter is powerful enough to maintain growth on its own, although at a lower level without the commodity boost. However, nations such as Nigeria with dependence on oil production will undergo considerable economic stress compounded by poor governance.

Meanwhile, the importer of commodities might not find lower prices as beneficial as one would have expected.

China

China will undergo a phase of significantly lower growth and retrenchment with the demand gap. However, this period of economic uncertainty should not be used to argue that a central demand economy does not work and will fail, but rather be seen as a similar dip to the Asian crisis and a healthy retracement. We would not expect to see no change in the aggressive expansive Chinese foreign policy, indeed it may become more so, in balance to its internal economic weakness. In addition, the Chinese will use this commodity dip to keep buying the best assets at the lowest prices, as they maintain a long-term view of their own growth just not present in the West.

Europe

The failed economics of Europe will make it most vulnerable to the effects of deflation and asset price depreciation. This will most probably provide the catalyst for the restructuring of the EU, with further knock-on effects for global markets.

Thus, in summary, we expect the months ahead to produce both large economic and geopolitical stress globally. Astute consumer nations should use these price dips to acquire cheap assets and reduce future dependency on importation. However bad the deflationary period may be, the ensuring inflationary period will bring its own significant geopolitical changes.

Earlier versions of this article originally appeared on DavidMurrin.co.uk on Monday, August 24, 2015 and Wednesday, August 26, 2015.

PS21 is a non-national, non-ideological, non-governmental organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.

Two World-Changing Deals: Greece and Iran

A demonstration outside the Greek parliament protesting the Greek accord, July 2015.
A demonstration outside the Greek parliament protesting the Greek accord, July 2015.

Jack Goldstone is an expert on revolutions at the Woodrow Wilson Center and George Mason University and a global fellow at PS21. He is the author of “Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction.” Follow him on Twitter at @jgoldsto.

After endless, and sometimes seemingly hopeless, negotiations, diplomats have produced two new multinational deals that go a long way toward righting what’s been going wrong in the world: one on nuclear development in Iran and the second to keep Greece in the euro.

Both of these deals provide better outcomes than failed negotiations would have. They demonstrate that dedicated diplomacy can still achieve positive solutions within an integrated global system that is more or less still functioning. The Iran nuclear deal announced Tuesday is good for everyone, even — despite the vituperation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — for Israel. Today, the world has an angry, isolated, and very nearly nuclear-armed Iran. That Iran has been dangerous and untrustworthy and therefore was put under strong sanctions by the U.N. and U.S. That is not a situation that can be maintained indefinitely. Under the status quo, Iran will eventually get nuclear capabilities, and will be ever more angry and isolated when it does. That is not a good outcome for Israel or the region or the world.

Under the new deal — although not all details are released yet — Iran will become less isolated as sanctions are ended. In return, Iran will be forced to earn trust by limiting its stockpile of nuclear bomb-capable materials and opening its nuclear program to international inspections. The deal will change the status quo by making Iran less isolated and less likely to achieve nuclear weapons capability within the next decade. That is a better outcome than the status quo.

Of course, the deal could still go badly wrong. One of the first things needed immediately now is to start negotiating cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia against the Islamic State. The Iran-Saudi enmity must be managed and reduced to limit hostilities in the region. If the Shi’a-Sunni split continues to polarize the region, Iran will want to accelerate its conventional arms programs and its nuclear research so that when the deal lapses Iran can leap to become a nuclear power. So it is vital that the next 10 years see conventional arms agreements and peacemaking to reduce Iran’s perceived security needs for nuclear arms.

Iran will not abandon its desire to be an influential great power. But that can be useful as a counter-balance to Russia in the Middle East (one of America’s original reasons to ally with the Shah of Iran decades ago). And since Iran’s goal of sanctions relief is to rebuild its economy, and a major war will return it to isolation and undermine that economy, we can hope that Iran can be induced to undertake a peacemaker’s role in the region, rather than a troublemaker’s role, once the deal is concluded. Hardliners in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard may attempt to use incoming funds for their own, less noble, purposes but President Rouhani—who campaigned on economic revitalization by getting sanctions lifted—has serious political incentive to ensure the economy is not disrupted by conflict. Continued work by diplomats on implementing the deal, to ensure it meets its goals, is vital. We cannot pat ourselves and our colleagues on the back and walk away. The deal is a starting point—and only that—for improving security and peace in the Middle East and needs vigorous follow-through. Yet it is a vital starting point and improves the odds for better outcomes in the next few years.

The deal on Greece was also vital. The European Union remains the best hope for showing the world that nationalism can be overcome and that diverse peoples can coordinate their political and economic policies. If there is ever to be global integration and government, the EU has to lead the way. So showing that even when facing a crisis the EU can function to preserve unity is enormously valuable in itself. What lesson would have been sent to Ukraine or Moldova, or to Turkey or even China, about dealing with the EU if the union would turn on one of its own and expel them for failing to live up to certain economic standards? The EU has always moved forward by accepting countries that did not meet its desired standards for democracy or economic stability (going back to Spain and Portugal) and urging them forward and helping them reach higher.

Moreover, as the U.S. government found with Lehman Brothers, the consequences of allowing even a small piece of a deeply interconnected financial structure to fail can be enormous and much greater than expected. Who knows for sure how the global financial system would have fared if Greek bankruptcy also brought down several German banks or caused a run on emerging market assets? Better to preserve the system than risk a sudden change that, even if small, could be the proverbial straw that break’s the camel’s back.

Will the deal be ideal? Of course not. A sensible deal would include explicit debt relief and a plan to return Greece to economic growth that would restore prosperity. It would include — as the current deal does to some degree — external oversight of Greek’s taxing and spending, which have been riddled with corruption, fraud, and waste. And it would include continued engagement and flexibility to ensure a path to financial health is maintained. In short it would work very much like U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy plans, whose goal is not to punish companies that run into financial trouble and cannot meet their obligations, but to make the best use of remaining assets while lifting the burden of unpayable debts, and putting the company on a new path to growth.

The actual deal on Greece is not quite that sound. It has no explicit debt relief (although creditors say they don’t expect to be fully repaid); the external oversight is concentrated on sales of states assets; and there is still a tendency to want to punish Greece for its financial sins, rather than prioritizing easing the suffering of the Greek people. It will be up to the Greek leaders and European leaders to try to nudge the deal in this direction as it is implemented. The U.S can play a role here, educating Europeans about its very successful and flexible bankruptcy programs, explaining why such programs are a good idea and how they work, and suggesting them as an alternative model to “punitive” actions for Greece.

Both these deals are far better than no deals would have been. And they give hope at a time when the world needs so many additional deals — for peace among nations in the South China Sea; for cooperation on global climate change; for refugees and asylum-seekers in Europe; on Cyprus; on South Sudan; on Afghanistan to name just a few.

The diplomats and leaders have now taken the first step in doing their jobs. Let us hope they follow through to make sure that the potential benefits of these deals, so hard-won, are realized.

This piece originally appeared on POLITICO.com on July 14, 2015.

PS21 is a non-national, non-governmental, non-ideological organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.

Roundup: Our top 5 posts on society and politics in Europe

Venice, Italy.
Venice, Italy.

With the UK election, the crisis in the Mediterranean, and the Greek deal, it’s certainly been an eventful summer for the European Union. Below find some of our best articles on recent events and trends in the region.

Italicum: what price are Italians ready to pay to achieve governability and deomocracy: Giulia Pastorella examines Italy’s new electoral law and its potential effects on the country’s governability and democracy.

It is laudable that Italy strives to have governability and majoritarian laws, hoping to achieve some sort of bipolarity. But Italicum does not seem to be the appropriate means to this end. It was supposed to ensure that the majority prize is given to a party that enjoys the confidence of enough citizens, and that citizens have the ability to choose their preferred candidates in their constituencies. It has achieved only partly the latter, and even less the former. One wonders whether a balance between democracy and governability will ever be possible in Italy.

What does this election tell us about modern Britain? PS21 executive director Peter Apps looks at the current state of UK politics and potential outcomes of the election this past May.

The true importance of the election, then, may be simply what it tells us about 21st-century Britain and politics in general. The two-party divide in Britain in which a single main party invariably ruled seems gone for good. The rise of smaller parties seems to mean coalition governments — almost unheard of in recent history — are the new normal.

The country also looks more sharply divided. In many of its cities, almost no-one votes Conservative. In the countryside, almost nobody votes Labour. And Scotland looks more than ever under the control of an entirely separate political bloc.

I Don’t Know You, I Don’t Like You: The Rise of Anti-Immigrant Movements in Europe: Sandy Schumann explains the conditions in which anti-immigrant groups like UKIP and Pergida have recently become more popular.

Both UKIP and Pegida are supported by the general public for its anti-immigrant policies.  What is surprising though is that these supporters are primarily living in regions where there are very few migrants or foreigners. UKIP (Image 1) received most endorsement in constituencies with a low proportion of immigrants. And in Saxony, the German State where the Pegida movement started, only 2.2% of the population are foreigners.

The New ‘Long War’ with Russia: Commodore Philip Thicknesse explores the current situation in Russia and Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin’s relationship with the West.

It is much better to have Putin if not actually inside the Western tent then at least not outside it pulling out the guy ropes and causing chaos. Russia ultimately has a far greater problem with militant Islam than the West, it understands Iran and Syria better than the West and has to deal with China in quite a different way. For all concerned, better a messy peace than a nasty descent into a wider and wholly avoidable conflict, be it long and ambiguous or short and horrific.

PS21 Report: Eurozone clinches deal, serious strains remain: Finally, check out our report on the Greek deal, with comments from Sir Michael Leigh, Giulia Pastorella and Peter Apps.

Leigh: The continued readiness of both sides to seek a compromise rather than slam the door is encouraging. The result, though, is a muddle-through which Greece and the creditors will find hard to sell to their constituencies. The improvised series of finance ministers and summit meetings demonstrates the lack of a dependable system of Eurozone governance and the prevalence of short-term political thinking over sound economics.