Like vultures to carrion, foreign-policy elites have descended upon the Brexit results and, picking through them, have been finding evidence of a grave national-security crisis where none exists. According to what passes for serious analysis among their number, the Brexit was caused by a wave of Trump-like xenophobia and/or Vladimir Putin and/or President Obama’s “failure” to follow through on his wondrously ill-considered “red line” pledge regarding Syria. Give credit where it is due, the neocons and liberal interventionists alike have been particularly inventive in dreaming up ways to condemn the Brexit.
Consider these examples from only the past few days. On Friday, a George W. Bush under-secretary of defense, Dov Zakheim, fretted that, should Scotland vote to leave the UK, “the submarine base at Faslane may no longer be available to the Royal Navy, while the United States would find that it no longer would have access” to the base on an “emergency basis.” What kind of “emergency” Zakheim is envisioning is unclear, but perhaps he believes the day is not far off when the United States will be called upon to thwart a Norwegian invasion of the Shetland Islands. No, what worries Zakheim is Russia. “With the reemergence of an aggressive Russia,” he writes, “the inability to operate from Faslane would be a major cause for concern for Washington, London and, more generally, NATO.”
One prominent neocon analyst fretted in the pages of the New York Daily News that Vladimir Putin is “unquestionably delighted that the largest military power in Europe, and its strongest proponent of democratic freedom in Europe’s east, has decided to call it quits.” Leaving aside the fact that the “largest military power” in Europe, outside of Russia, is France, the UK did not vote to leave NATO. It voted to leave the EU. Yet even if it did leave NATO, why should we automatically assume that that would be some kind of catastrophe? If the UK left NATO, combined NATO defense expenditures would drop from roughly $900 billion to $840 billion annually. This would still be well over 10 times the amount Russia spends on defense per year.
And according to the foreign-policy establishment, there is little doubt that it is Russia who lurks behind the Brexit result. Predictably, Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum complained that “Russia has spent years pumping money, overtly and covertly, into eurosceptic parties and media all across Europe. Now it can reap the reward.”
Another leading neocon, the McCain Institute’s David Kramer, went a step further and claimed that “One can almost hear the clinking of vodka glasses in the Kremlin.” While one can’t help but marvel at Kramer’s auditory powers, the Russian president protested over the weekend that the Russian government “never interfered, never spoke about this, and acted, in my opinion, very properly.” Putin also noted that he does not believe the Brexit will result in the removal of EU sanctions against Russia.