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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 8th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

Europe

Without Scotland, Premier Says, Britain Would Be Less ‘Great’

LONDON — Marking the formal beginning of the British government’s campaign to preserve the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron made an emotional plea to Scots to vote in September to remain in the union, saying on Friday that without Scotland, Britain would be “deeply diminished.”

“We want you to stay,” said Mr. Cameron, an entreaty that signaled a shift from the current pro-union campaign, which has featured dark warnings about financial and legal difficulties for Scotland should the Scots vote for independence. With seven months to go until the vote, he said, the outcome is up in the air.

Mr. Cameron does not want to be the prime minister who lost Scotland and began the breakup of the United Kingdom, even as he has promised Britons a similar referendum during the next Parliament on remaining in the European Union. Without Scotland, Great Britain would be considerably less great, he argued, and would be faced with new problems about borders and income, even about where to base its nuclear submarines.

            The British prime minister, David Cameron, speaking in east London on Friday.
Carl Court/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Cameron chose the velodrome at the Olympic Park in east London for his first major intervention in the Scottish referendum campaign, trying to appeal to the national pride that surrounded the highly successful Summer Olympics here 18 months ago. Then, Scots were prominent in what was known as “Team G.B.,” and one of the local heroes of the Games, the Scottish tennis player Andy Murray, is known to favor remaining in the union.

Excerpts from the speech were provided to British political journalists overnight, ensuring two days of news coverage. “For me, the best thing about the Olympics wasn’t the winning,” Mr. Cameron said. “It was the red, the white, the blue. It was the summer that patriotism came out of the shadows and into the sun, everyone cheering as one for Team G.B.”

Mr. Cameron focused on the importance of the “powerful” United Kingdom brand and how much it mattered in the world, and how it could be damaged. Scottish independence would “rip the rug from under our own reputation,” Mr. Cameron said, arguing that “we matter more in the world together” — the same argument used by Britons who want Britain to remain in the European Union.

Mr. Cameron said that while the decision was up to the Scots, “all 63 million of us” — in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — “are profoundly affected.”

“We would be deeply diminished without Scotland,” he said.

He pulled out all the Scottish stops, citing the Scottish Olympian Chris Hoy, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his own West Highland heritage. He also mentioned Scotch whisky, saying it “adds £135 to the U.K.’s balance of payments every single second,” which in another context might be an incentive for Scots to vote for independence. However, with Britons anxious about making ends meet, Mr. Cameron did not mention Adam Smith, the Scot famous for his theory of the “invisible hand” of the free market.

About four million people over the age of 16 and living in Scotland will be able to take part in the referendum, promised by the governing Scottish National Party, on Sept. 18. Scots living outside Scotland cannot vote.

Early opinion polls have shown a large plurality of Scots intending to vote to remain in the union, but the numbers are soft. In some recent polls, greater numbers have said they intend to vote for independence.

Given the unpopularity of Mr. Cameron and his Conservative Party in Scotland, which is dominated by the Scottish National Party and the opposition Labour Party, Mr. Cameron has been wary of intervening too much in the debate, fearing a counterproductive effect. The pro-union campaign, which is meant to be nonpartisan, is led by Alistair Darling, a Labour member of Parliament from Scotland and former chancellor of the Exchequer, who had a cabinet post during the entire Labour reign from 1997 to 2010.

Mr. Darling and his team have been emphasizing questions about whether an independent Scotland would have to reapply to join the European Union, whether it could continue to use the pound or adopt the euro, whether it would have a truly independent central bank, and even whether oil and gas revenues from declining production in the North Sea would be enough to fund Scotland’s budget.

The immediate response from the Scottish National Party to the excerpts — the “preaction,” as one BBC radio announcer put it — was predictably critical, accusing Mr. Cameron of being afraid to come to Scotland and debate the party leader, Alex Salmond.

Mr. Salmond called Mr. Cameron “a big feartie,” or coward, for refusing a face-to-face debate.

Scotland’s deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said in a statement, “This is a cowardly speech from a prime minister who uses the Olympic Park in London to give highhanded lectures against Scotland’s independence but hasn’t got the guts to come to Scotland or anywhere else to make his case.”

Touching on Mr. Cameron’s image as an elite, Eton-educated southerner, she said, “David Cameron, as the Tory prime minister, is the very embodiment of the democratic case for a ‘yes’ vote for an independent Scotland — and he knows it.”

She argued that using the Olympic Stadium on the day the Winter Olympics formally opened in Sochi, Russia, “seeking to invoke the successes of London 2012 as an argument against Scotland taking its future into its own hands,” only “betrays the extent of the jitters now running through the ‘no’ campaign.”

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Leaked Recordings Lay Bare E.U. and U.S. Divisions in Goals for Ukraine.

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Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany issued a sharp statement denouncing the American diplomat’s remarks on the political crisis in Kiev. John Macdougall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BERLIN — “Really Pretty Stupid” was the headline chosen by the august Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Friday to describe an editorial on the latest eruption between the United States and Europe, this time over who should take the lead in trying to calm the crisis in Ukraine, and how to do it.

The headline spoke to the tensions that flared this week over the release of a recording in which a top American diplomat disparaged the European Union’s efforts in Ukraine. On Friday, a second recording surfaced in which European diplomats complained about the Americans.

But it was also a reflection of the disarray that has marked much of the West’s dealings with Ukraine since late November, when President Viktor F. Yanukovych spurned a pact with the European Union. He then turned to Russia for a $15 billion aid package that the Kremlin has since suspended because of continuing antigovernment protests in Kiev, the capital.

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Ever since Ukraine became independent as the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991, the United States and Europe have had different aims for the country, a large, troubled nation of 45 million whose very name means “on the edge.”

Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for European affairs, said her leaked conversation was “pretty impressive tradecraft.” Gleb Garanich/Reuters

With strategic considerations uppermost in American diplomacy, the United States helped, for instance, to rid Ukraine of old Soviet nuclear weapons. Europe, meanwhile, saw opportunities for trade.

As the European Union expanded eastward with the inclusion of Poland and Romania, the perception grew that neighboring Ukraine needed formal ties to regulate commerce and legal systems to facilitate the growing cross-border transactions. In 2012, Poland and Ukraine were even joint hosts of the continent’s premier sports event, the European soccer championship.

Russia, which has centuries of shared history with Ukraine and under Vladimir V. Putin has grown ever more painfully conscious of its loss of Soviet empire, looked on with mounting suspicion, and now seems to be intent on exploiting Western disarray.

The release of the recordings has further roiled the waters. In the first one, posted anonymously on YouTube, Victoria Nuland, the American assistant secretary of state for European affairs, profanely dismissed European efforts in Ukraine as weak and inadequate to the challenge posed by the Kremlin.

On Friday, a second recording was posted that featured a senior German diplomat, Helga Schmid, complaining in her native tongue to the European Union envoy in Kiev about “unfair” American criticism of Europe’s diplomacy.

“We are not in a race to be the strongest,” retorted the envoy, Jan Tombinski, a Pole. “We have good instruments” for dealing with the crisis.

Yes, replied Ms. Schmid, but journalists were telling European officials that the Americans were running around saying the Europeans were weak. So she advised Mr. Tombinski to have a word with the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, the man whom Ms. Nuland was talking to in her recorded conversation.

While the Obama administration accused the Russians of making mischief by recording and then posting the Nuland conversation, neither the European Union nor Germany blamed the Kremlin for the second recording.

Illustrating how testy relations with Washington have become, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, earlier the target of American monitoring of her cellphone, issued an unusually sharp statement saying that Ms. Nuland’s remarks were “completely unacceptable.”

Germany, as befits its status as Europe’s largest economy and a country with centuries of dealings with lands to its East, has been heavily involved in the crisis over Ukraine. In a speech to the German Parliament on Nov. 18, Ms. Merkel, herself raised in Communist East Germany, emphasized that the Cold War should be over for everyone, including countries once allied with Russia but now independent. She made a forceful case for Ukraine to sign the European pact.Julianne Smith, a former national security aide to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. who is now at the Center for a New American Security, said there was a structural tension between the European Union and the United States because the Americans can speak with one voice and grow impatient waiting for decisions from a union with many voices.

“They all have different sovereign issues, different threat perceptions, different priorities,” she said. “As a result, there has always been this longstanding deep frustration on the part of the United States with the inability to get quick answers, quick responses and broker some sort of U.S.-E.U. agreement on whatever the issue of the day might be.”

The back-and-forth this week illustrates how many interests are a part of the mix in Ukraine — a mix that Western diplomats seem unable to keep free of their own differences.

In the editorial with the headline “Really Pretty Stupid,” Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger, the newspaper’s foreign editor, noted how the latest issue had been stoked by months of “bad blood” with Washington. “You can certainly criticize some parts of European policy toward Ukraine, but it is not as if American diplomacy has found the font of all wisdom. In fact, they can’t think of anything more than a few mini-sanctions against the regime in Kiev.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Frankenberger said, Mr. Putin “should certainly be laughing himself stupid.”

“If a top American diplomat could not care less about the Europeans,” he added, “then he will certainly bear more easily their absence from the opening of the Olympic Games in Sochi. And he will see in Ms. Nuland’s remark, which Moscow presumably disseminated, a confirmation of the bad opinion he already has of Europeans.”

The moral of the tale? “No disparaging remarks about partners on the phone.”

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