Foreign policy is ultimately about war and peace. Countries which pursue strong foreign policies need armies and navies to defend them. The politicians who decide and pursue the foreign policy need to carry their whole country with them if their policy entails taking up arms. Sending our military personnel into conflict requires the loyalty and consent of the public in a democracy.
That is why I do not want the EU to have a foreign policy. I am pleased to say that Baroness Ashton cannot yet command armies and navies. The EU’s foreign policy only has force behind it if the main military powers in the EU are prepared to commit their forces. The danger in the current situation is that the EU will become more and more assertive in foreign policy until the point is reached where member states will be expected to commit forces to support their policy or correct their mistakes. Who then will want to fight for a cause which unelected officials in Brussels have pursued, loosely organised by member states who may have disagreed about the policy at the time?
Let us take the case of EU policy towards the Ukraine. Many people in the UK and doubtless elsewhere in the EU think the EU overreached itself by supporting the uprising against an unpleasant elected President. The EU pushed for a wide ranging Association Agreement between the Ukraine and the EU in a way which was bound to provoke Russia. The result of the EU’s rash action was entirely predictable. Russia had the force, the EU had none in the area, so the Crimea was taken over easily by Russia. Many people in the Crimea were willing supporters of this move, as they had been alarmed by the pro EU Ukrainian interim government’s stated wish to ban Russian as an official language in the Ukraine, before that idea was withdrawn. The EU now complains about how it was done after the event. Why wasn’t it able to foresee the likely outcome before it blundered in?
Maintaining support for our armed forces and committing them where there is agreement about the national interest in so doing is a crucial role for a democracy. The UK has shown in recent years that where consent breaks down, as it began to with the war in Iraq, our forces are placed in a difficult position and our democracy strains to adjust. How much more difficult if in future our forces could be expected to pick up the pieces from some crass foreign policy error made by the EU when many UK voters disagreed both with the policy and with the body undertaking it.
I do not detect much willingness to fight for the EU amongst most of my electors. Having a Foreign Policy Supremo and an EU foreign policy is many bridges too far for me. I am afraid that the EU will end up drawing its member states into ill thought through conflicts where there is insufficient loyalty and support for the policy.