Radek Sikorski on British Indispensablity, a comment by Political Observer

Mr. Sikorski has a penchant for declaring nations indispensable:

‘At the depth of the European sovereign debt crisis in November 2011 Sikorski went to Berlin to “beg for German action”, in commentator Barry Wood’s later words. Europe, Wood paraphrased, stood at a precipice. “The greatest threat to Poland,” Sikorski said per Wood, came not from Russia, but from “a collapse of the euro zone,” of which Poland was not then yet a member. Sikorski labelled Germany as Europe’s “indispensable nation” and said it must lead in saving the euro.’


Mr. Sikorski offers this example of his argument: of his advocacy of Britain as having that status of indispensability:

Fortunately, there is an area where the UK could shine, where the EU clearly needs British leadership and Britain is uniquely qualified to provide it — namely, foreign policy. Not so long ago a Briton, Catherine Ashton, the former EU foreign policy chief, created Europe’s diplomatic service, ordered a military strike on Somali pirates, initiated talks with Iran and mediated between Serbia and Kosovo.

But then in the very next sentence comes this compellingyet contradictory argument about political chaos in neighboring states :

‘Since then, neighbouring countries have collapsed into chaos — Libya and Syria in the south, Ukraine in the east.’

British indispensability works only in the countries which are direct beneficiaries of British leadership? Stabilizing the neighborhood was not accomplished in Libya,Syria or Ukraine.  The next sentence asserts that British leadership will be vital to stabilizing the EU’s neighborhood.

The EU needs the professionalism of British diplomats and the global outlook of its elites. The kind of EU worth belonging to needs to be able to secure its external borders and stabilise its neighbourhood.

One wonders at Mr. Sikorski’s muddled argument, as perhaps a clumsy attempt to curry  favor with the British, but the why of it is confusing- but if one thinks strategically, as a politician pondering his return to power; then the British indispensability gambit is wholly understandable, even admirable in a Machiavellian sense, of the Prince not of The Discourses.

All is revealed in the last paragraph, as Mr. Sikorski takes his cue from the most canny of emigre courtiers Isaiah Berlin:

Preventing the continent of Europe from uniting to the exclusion of Britain was a principle of British foreign policy for half a millennium. Wars were fought over it. The world would gasp in disbelief if the British now voluntarily excluded themselves, and this over social benefits for people who do not want them. Having lost an empire, the British have been at a loss for a new role. There is another nascent empire, just across the water, yearning to be led. If only the British would realise it.

Political Observer



About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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