Wry & Dry

Brexit reaction hides real issue: Russia

All the words written this week have missed the Brexit mark.

The concern is not the economics.  Although, to W&D's mind Europe will miss the UK more than the other way around.

The simple fact is that the UK is Germany's most profitable export market, bigger than France and 25% larger than China.  The UK is France's third largest export market, after Germany and Spain.  And so it goes on.

But, to W&D's mind, the unspoken concern is the 'long game'.

As is this generation's want, everything is now.  Or near now.  Twenty years from now, well, doesn't matter.  Somehow, it will be all right.  Which is why, for example, our political leaders and most voters don't care about the budget deficit.  Because by the time we run out of money, it will be another generation's problem.

But smarter people who read and understand history and comprehend geo-politics know that the EU is both an economic union and a geo-political union.  

The geo-political matter that unites Europe is a fear of Russia.  And Russia fears Europe's push eastward. 

This is all about geography.  Essentially, half of Europe is a plain, running in an arc from the Pyrenees*, across western France, Belgium, Netherlands, northern Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and Ukraine to... Russia.  With hardly a hill worthy of the name in between.

For centuries foreign armies have strolled back and forth across this plain, from Paris to Moscow, impeded only by weather and a belligerent local militia. Cities, towns and villages in between have been occupied by different foreigners for at least once in a generation for three thousand years.

The map of Europe was set after World War II.  But then the Soviet Union fractured.  And six former Soviet satellites have joined the EU.  And three more, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia have ratified a European Union Association Agreement**, much to Tsar Vlad's fury.  Russia's influence is shrinking.  And it doesn't want a united Europe on Russia's doorstep - preferring an arc of interposing and independent countries.

EU membershipWhich is why it keeps Belarus in its pocket, causes instability in Ukraine and intimidates the Baltic States.

And which is why Tsar Vlad wants to see the EU disintegrate.  And as a forerunner to NATO's dismemberment.  And why Vlad is cheering for Donald Trump - but that's another matter.

For now, Tsar Vlad will probably sit on his hands and not prod Europe.    

And the EU will somehow keep the UK in Europe, but not formally in the EU.  Europe needs the UK.

*  The mountain chain that separates Spain from France. 

** The first step in joining the EU (green on the map).  The second is applying for membership (Bosnia and Herzegovina has - light blue); The third is having accession negotiations (Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey - darker blue); the fourth is formal candidature (Albania, Macedonia - darker blue).  Frozen applications are marked in orange, and the withdrawing country is in pink.

Things can move slowly, Turkey has been negotiating since 1987.

Note:  map source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlargement_of_the_European_Union.