Moscow is pushing populist movements to bring real security threats to Europe: Report
Matthew Schofield, AP, Jan 9 2017
Moscow is encouraging a wave of populism that extends from the election of Pres-elect Donald Trump through Brexit and rise of nationalist politics in France and Germany to bring about “real security threats to Europe,” according to a report in a new NATO journal. The report, in the January edition of the NATO Review online magazine, was put together by Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations, Prague. He points out:
A powerful driver has been a perceived and not entirely unjustified belief that a Brussels elite is committed to a project of political unification out of step with the interests and ambitions of national constituencies. Many in Brussels who desire a federal Europe are viewing Brexit as an opportunity to push their agenda, which is not shared by many Europeans. And this means the EU today is not only victim of the populist wave, it is also cause.
If there is one crucial lesson in the current discussions about Russia’s way of war, whether we call it hybrid, non-linear or asymmetric, it is that conflict in the twenty-first century is just as much fought in the realms of politics, morale, economics and governance as on the battlefield. Especially as it faces the loss of Britain, with Europe’s biggest military budget, the EU needs to focus on two, parallel priorities: firstly, increased ‘non-kinetic’ security, improving common counter-intelligence and financial and political protection measures; secondly, encouraging member states to devote adequate resources to their own national militaries. However, if the EU breaks apart or simply pales into irrelevance, then individual nations will in the main be far less willing and able to address these needs.
The article points out that the EU, with a collective GDP that is just shy of that of Pindostan, commits to defense only a third of what Pindostan spends. It also notes that even this low level of European defense spending is more than four times what Russia is now spending. The piece argues that the Russian push for populism in Europe feeds a mood favoring “self-sufficiency.” Galeotti notes a 2016 Pew Research Center survey indicating that two-thirds to three-fifths of Greeks, Hungarians, Italians and Poles think that “other countries should be left to deal with their own problems. He wrote:
It can hardly be a coincidence that populist governments are in place in three of the four, while in Italy, the Five Star Party is, as of writing, neck-and-neck in the polls with the Democratic Party. The populist message is essentially hostile to alliances and mutual commitments.