One of the early claims in the referendum campaign, even
before the campaign started in earnest, is that Britain is “safer IN. Let’s have a
look at these claims.

There are two aspects to the claim. The first of these is
militarily, the second is in terrorism the third crime. The focus of this piece is on the military
security between nations, follow ups will consider terrorism and crime.

In attempting to assess the principle threats to Britain, it is
worth taking a brief look back at history.

One of the main arguments about security has been made for
decades, that we have averted wars in Europe
since 1945. Indeed, one of the aims of the founding members of the EU was to
link economies to an extent which made countries interdependent.

Both world wars had their origins in Europe, even though for
the second, Japan and China had been
in conflict since 1937. War in Europe came from German expansion into
neighbouring countries, starting with Poland in 1939, with fluctuating
alliances.

In 1941, the war extended, Germany
invading the Soviet Union and with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.
The conflict became global. The allied victory came in 1945. Settlement in
Europe meant division, the East being controlled by the Soviet
Union. Until 1989, the Communist ideology was seen as perhaps the
biggest threat to peace in Europe.

After 1945, a range of international treaties and groupings
evolved. Immediately, the League of Nations
was established, now the United Nations. NATO followed in 1949 with the Warsaw
Pact established in 1955, its demise coming from 1989 to 1991 as countries on
the periphery of the eastern bloc sought freedom. The Soviet
Union also disbanded in the same year.

It is true that there has been no military conflict between members
of the European Union since 1945, despite there being other conflicts on the
continent of Europe. Whether relative peace
can be attributed to the existence of the European Union is open to debate. The
UN and balanced alliances of NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries may have been factors.

It is also true to say that there have not been conflicts
between members of NATO.

The European Union had been involved in a variety of
operations in different parts of the world, in fact 30 since 2002. These have
inevitably included a British presence. In Europe these have included the
former Yugoslavia,
monitoring missions which included Gaza
and policing missions.

There have been no large scale operations, however, some
have been linked to trade protection, such as piracy off Somalia. Perhaps the most
significant operation was EUFOR in Libya in 2011, largely an airborne
campaign.

So where are the threats?

Led by Cameron, the IN crowd would have us believe that
Putin would be the happiest if Britain
voted for OUT. Does that mean that Russia
are a threat to either Britain
or the European Union?

For a moment, let us assume that Putin might consider an
attack on the United Kingdom.
What would he face?

Britain is ranked 5th -6th globally
amongst military powers depending on criteria, more or less alongside France,
behind USA, Russia, China and India. The above, as well as North Korea and Pakistan have declared possession
of nuclear weapons. Retaliation could be apocalyptic.

It is true that Russia’s
volume of military assets is far greater than those of Britain.
However, as members of NATO, an attack on one country would be seen as an
attack on all. A declaration of war would trigger a combined response, not
least from USA military
assets within Europe.

During the Syrian crisis, a Russian aircraft was shot down,
allegedly encroaching Turkish air space. Turkey are also members of NATO.
The lack if a military response from Russia might be seen as a clue to
Russian intentions and sensibilities. It is barely conceivable that Putin would
take on NATO in the European Union area.

Certainly, Russia
has flexed its military muscle in the annexation of Crimea.
Ukraine
is not a member of NATO. The European Union response has been limited to trade
sanctions.

Whilst Putin may be presented as some sort of pantomime
villain by Cameron’s cronies, it is worth reflecting for a moment why Russian
forces have been deployed in Syria,
or from another perspective, why they have been deployed against ISIL.

Initially at least, the campaign declared in support of
efforts to counter terrorism. Later, a Russian passenger aircraft was shot down
over Sinai with ISIL claiming responsibility. The campaign intensified.

It seems fair to say that Russian, and indeed USA approaches differ to Britain’s view
on “collateral damage”. There is certainly a case to challenge other
superpowers’ less discriminate activity. Both Russia
and America
have bombed hospitals in war zones. It is hard to argue that Putin has
destabilised the Arab world any more than Bush, Blair, Obama and Cameron.

Of course, British forces have been deployed in conflict
zones, during this century. The first of those was in Sierra Leone
without external support. The next was Afghanistan,
led by USA as a NATO
campaign with EU support coming from France,
Germany, Poland, Italy,
Romania, Denmark and Spain, by no means all 28 nations.

The Iraq
war was again led by USA
with EU involvement also including Poland
and Denmark.
The Libya
campaign was largely a NATO led enforcement of a no-fly zone, naval blockade
and civilian protection. The main EU participants were Britain, France,
Denmark, Italy and Sweden.

The ongoing campaign, involving 9 EU states currently, is
against ISIL. The terrorist battle in Europe
will be the subject of a further piece. However, it is clear that the EU does
not necessarily contribute unanimously to each military intervention. It is
also clear that UN involvement tends to ensure that the risk of expansion is
limited.

A partial explanation of different levels of contribution
may be the resource allocated to defence. NATO’s recommendation is 2% of
national income, a figure that is currently only matched by Britain and Estonia. France
and Poland are not far
behind with around 1.95% whilst of the other larger nations, Spain is less than 1%, Italy and Germany at 1.32% and 1.23%
respectively.

At 22.7% of total defence expenditure, Britain’s is
the largest financial contribution. It is clear that Britain’s military power enhances
the European Union. The bigger question for the referendum is how much does the
EU strengthen Britain?

In practice, NATO forces undertake joint exercises. In conflicts
undertaken, the more active participants obviously deploy more resource than
the less active. If those activities are of benefit to EU members, it stands to
reason that those who contribute less gain benefit at the expense of others.
Put another way, Britain
contributes more than she gains, other nations gain more than they invest.

There are other threats to British interests. We can take
two simple but linked examples, the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar.
The Falklands were invaded by Argentina
in 1982. Argentina maintains
their claim, supported by Spain.

In 2013 a European Parliament delegation visiting Argentina led by Spanish MEP Luis Yanez-Barnuevo
Garcia declared that “British sovereignty over the Islands,
as such, is not accepted”.

During a recent trip to Argentina,
Spanish Foreign Secretary José Manuel García Margallo said: “Our two
countries, Argentina and Spain,
wish resolutely to put an end to the two colonial situations”. Interestingly,
Spanish control of the North African enclaves of Ceuta
and Melilla
are not seen as equivalent.

Were there to be a further attack by Argentina on the Falklands,
it is clear that support from EU countries would not be totally forthcoming. It
is hard to see how that would change by either remaining or leaving the EU.

The situation could be further confused in the longer run.
The prospect of the creation of an EU army has been floated before. Most recently,
in 2015, EU Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker, said “a common army
among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about
defending the values of the European Union.”

Similarly, Tony Blair stated in January this year “I would
argue that in the medium term, there will be a growing requirement for Europe to build defence capability.

Only this month, the Financial Times (not the express or
Mail as Cameron’s cronies claim) reports on a white paper to be put forward by
the German government which allegedly claims “It is therefore necessary that
military capabilities are jointly planned, developed, managed, procured and deployed
to raise the interoperability of Europe’s defence forces and to further improve
Europe’s capacity to act”. According to the FT, proposals include plans to “create
a joint civil-military headquarters for EU operations, a council of defence
ministers, and better co-ordinate the production and sharing of military
equipment”.

Credibility is given by comments last year from German
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leye along with the Dutch 11th Airmobile
Brigade and 43rd Mechanised Brigade coming under German command
between now and 2019. Dutch and German submarine operations were integrated in
2013.

Clearly, if British armed forces were to be integrated in
the long term under the umbrella of the European Union, Britain’s ability
to protect those who have chosen to remain British might well be subject to
compromise.

In other pieces on this site, the direction of “reform” has
come into question. There are other threats from within the EU to stability and
British interests. Unrest and protests have been seen in Mediterranean countries
suffering from austerity measures. It is yet to be seen how far that unrest
will spread.

The question is whether Britain really is “safer in”. In
order to answer, we have to question what the real threats to Britain and British
interests really are. We also have to question the direction of reform in the
EU. Ultimately, we have to ask if we believe that Britain’s
nuclear deterrent remains in British control or whether it will pass into the
hands of a President from Luxemburg,
Slovakia, Germany or
indeed any other country.

The British government is asking us to decide for the first
time since 1975. It is up to them to now give clear guidance on how British
interests are safeguarded. Merely stating a subjective opinion is not enough.

Cameron and his cronies have from now until 23rd June
to convince us.