Robin Niblett, former director of Chatham House: "Peace in Ukraine cannot be the peace of losers" | International

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Robin Niblett (61 years old) has been in charge of one of the most prestigious institutions in the analysis and debate of Foreign Policy for 15 years: the London Royal Institute of International Affairs, known throughout the world as Chatham House. It was there that the so-called “Chatham House rule” was established in 1927, which is used today, both as a jargon and as a working method, throughout the world. Basically, the agreement by which what is expressed between its walls can be reproduced, provided the source is not revealed. A way to ensure free debate in politics, and some transparency.

Niblett has visited Spain to participate in the conference that the Aspen Institute has dedicated to analyzing the world situation in 2023. Before that, he spoke with EL PAÍS in the British capital.

Question. What has this German tug-of-war revealed over the shipment of Leopard tanks to Ukraine?

Reply. I think it helps to reveal or confirm something: that Germany is in the middle of a very difficult political and economic journey. A journey whose origins were the idea of ​​seeing Russia as a country that needed to be integrated into a "broad European home", partly to achieve the long-term strategic security of Germany, and partly as a consequence of historical remorse for all that had happened. happened during World War II. The turn by which Russia is now viewed as an enemy is brutal and abrupt. She has been forced to sever economic ties built on that long-term strategic security commitment. And on the other hand, Germany, like Japan, is politically more pacifist. All this confirms that the country is going to have to undergo very complicated political adjustments.

The final decision to send the tanks, in any case, now ties Germany more closely to the United States, the United Kingdom and the entire bloc of Central European countries. It will take longer to restore the economic and political relationship with Russia, even after Putin is gone.

P. Will the US and the EU keep their commitment to Ukraine?

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R.. I think they will keep their commitment to the end, but the nature of that commitment will change as the military situation changes. Right now, there is no sign that Putin is open to any kind of acceptable negotiation. I believe that neither Washington nor most of the European capitals are currently looking at the prospect of a negotiated peace, at least until the spring, until both parties have proven their resistance.

Although it is generally accepted that a negotiated solution will have to be reached, it will necessarily have to be from a position of strength. In both the United States and the United Kingdom there is a conviction that Ukraine can do even better than it is doing. After all the support, money and political effort poured into it, it can't be a bad peace, a peace for losers.

P. Was it about curbing Putin's ambitions or something else?

R.. Putin had a vision of his own historical legacy, achieving an enlarged Russia, which he has been unable to achieve through economic or political success. That is why he has tried to reach it through military might. Most European leaders agree that allowing this to happen will set a terrible precedent for the future of Europe and its security. Especially if one thinks of more vulnerable countries like the Baltic republics or Moldova. But it can even be seen from the special perspective of the United States. If it is allowed, not only is its biggest ally in the world weakened, which is Europe, but a precedent is established in the Pacific and East Asia region: that a nuclear power uses its might to acquire the territory it wants.

P. You have spoken of the existence of an "unlimited deal" between China and Russia. Does it hold up to date?

R.. From what I see so far, it fully holds up. China has never had allies historically. That was not his approach. First, because she's too powerful to need allies. Second, because it has always focused on its own size and scale, and on securing its territory. And third, because the danger of alliances, as the United States knows, is that they drag you into wars you don't want.

But what China understands only too well is that the United States sees its rise as a threat to its own strategic security. And that Washington will always try to undermine or contain it. That is why she needs to have Russia on her side, she cannot afford to have Russia against her as well. China is not going to provide Putin with military support or with material support that provokes new sanctions. But the most important thing that it is doing is defending that the reason given by Moscow to start this war - the reaction to a supposed intrusive advance by NATO - is justified. Because that is a message to the rest of the countries that do not want to be involved in this conflict. He is giving them the green light to continue trading with Moscow by assuring them that the war is justified.

P. Let's focus on the UK. Brexit was to make possible the dream of a “Global Britain”, a new and independent foreign policy. What has happened to that?

R.. Between the problems of the pandemic, and the problem created by Boris Johnson himself by closing a false and ridiculous agreement that put an end to the delicate constitutional situation of Northern Ireland in exchange for completing the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, what It is true that the Conservative Party has had very little time to develop a new foreign policy. Three goals were pursued: an ability to act faster, and probably more aligned with the United States; reach large trade agreements with the areas of the world with the highest growth; and return to that nostalgic and imperial vision of the United Kingdom as the world champion of free trade. But Russia has reminded us how integrated we remain in Europe, just as she has reminded the continent that, as much as they want to break ties with the UK entirely, they, too, have a certain dependency.

P. Some economists already speak clearly of a new decline in the United Kingdom, like those before the end of the Empire or the years after World War II.

R.. It's hard to pin down. On the one hand, it is clear that the UK has some domestic flaws. We have not yet been able to figure out how to be a country with relatively low taxes, and at the same time, with high social spending. Simply because it is impossible. We have a National Health Service that is one of the most generous and inclusive in the world, but we do not want the tax burden to exceed 35% of GDP, while in continental Europe it reaches 45% and 52%. We have been caught between the Thatcherian revolution of deregulation and the desire to be a social market economy, like continental Europe. For this reason, with a war like the one in Ukraine, and the environment that emerged after the pandemic, with an accelerated rise in interest rates, economic weakness has been exposed.

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