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Vladimir Putin: The Russian President poses a threat to European security that will only grow if Britain leaves the EU (©

Whatever the outcome of the June referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, history will almost certainly record that both of the woefully hurried campaigns failed properly to prepare voters. This intellectual vacuum is not surprising. It is almost impossible to impose hard logic on the question. Both the Leave and Remain campaigns face the same problem: neither of them really know what the future they are trying to sell will look like. A vote to leave would simply be the starting point for negotiating how Britain, free of its EU shackles, would then live alongside Europe in economic, political and security terms. The difficulty for the Prime Minister and the Remain campaign is that the EU’s inability to provide meaningful reform in the face of multiple existential threats means that they cannot point to a positive programme of reform. Instead, their campaign is based on fear of the unknown. As a result, the debate has so far failed to engage with the more fundamental security consequences of Brexit.

Despite this the critical questions of European security have rarely been in greater need of attention. In announcing his withdrawal from Syria, Putin has once again out-manoeuvred the West. Much as with Ukraine and the start of the Syrian campaign, Western governments appear not to have received warnings from their intelligence agencies. This in itself is cause for concern. Far worse, the reality is that Russia will not entirely withdraw. As in Ukraine, Putin has been allowed to create a frozen conflict. This time it has occurred in the midst of a Western military operation. No one should be surprised by this repetition of Russian strategy, creating chaos in order to change facts on the ground in support of its strategic interests. Rather than hastening peace this will probably lead to the balkanisation of Syria. Europe and America have set a poor precedent for protecting vulnerable nation states in the region. In contrast, Russia sends a message of triumph to other despotic allies.

The West remains mired in its conflict with IS, Russia having contributed nothing but countless civilian deaths. This shows how fragile international security has become under Obama’s stewardship. Last month he gave an unprecedented insight into his worldview in a long interview with the Atlantic magazine. The main force of his comments underscores America’s retreat from global hegemony. As America refocuses on Asia, Obama has sought to create regional balances of power. This is as true in Europe as in the Middle East where Iran is now set against Saudi Arabia. Obama railed against America’s allies as “free riders” on American security. Particular scorn was directed at David Cameron for the Libya debacle. Obama clearly sees the world in terms of regional spheres of influence. Nowhere is this clearer than his suggestion that in Ukraine was always going to matter more to Russia than to Europe. With one comment he ended the post-Cold War vision of Europe, accepting geographic and normative limits dictated by Putin. Moldova can now be added to the list of post-Soviet states that have had their vulnerability to Russian invasion explicitly spelt out by Obama. While Nato still provides protection from direct invasion, the Atlanticist security blanket which enabled the EU to discuss membership with Ukraine two years ago can no longer be taken for granted.

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Remi van Dongen
May 19th, 2016
8:05 PM
Putin wants the UK to stay in the EU. And I can prove it! LOOK: The EU divides Europe, EU-Army divides NATO, don't forget media and politicians are on EU pay-roll, but Mr. Putin wants the UK to stay in the EU. Divide and Conquer he thinks... FACT. See:

Alan Burdon
April 23rd, 2016
9:04 AM
There appears to be a huge black hole at the centre of this piece. The effects of mass migration, and largely Moslem migration at that are barely mentioned, yet it is this that is promoting the 'unraveling' of Germany. So to talk about loss of culture whilst avoiding mention of that which is substantially involved in the undermining of that culture ignores the major weakness in today's Europe. Britain is already well on the way to Islamification with the demographic time-bomb ready to explode within its institutions within twenty years. That can only be addressed from outside the EU and the glib assertion that mass migration into Britain would continue after a Brexit would not be born out if Britain's government acted to deal with it. Recent history indicates that such actions are unlikely, but we live in hope. The comment that UKIP failed to have an impact at the last election ignores the 12% of the electorate who thought otherwise. It is only the unrepresentative electoral system that prevented these votes being turned into seats. Britain was a member of NATO for 24 years before it was a member of the EU. I don't recall it being any the less influential as a result. It would still be the biggest armed force in Europe and so would retain its influence because of that. Your perpetuation of the demonisation of Russia and Vladimir Putin, with a sideways stab at Hungary, ignores the fact that many Europeans despairing of sanity in their leaders look increasingly to the east to find those leaders who address legitimate concerns about the demolition of national identities and reject the insidious promotion of Open Borders and other social activist agendas with their Frankfurt School underpinnings. These millions of disregarded denizens of the EU probably do not see Putin as a threat but as a potential saviour. Perhaps you might factor that into any future security analysis. It changes things.

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