Meaning of Brexit: Hitchens’s Story

Meaning of Brexit: Hitchens’s Story


Seeking a meaning of the Brexit vote is not primarily about arguments for or against Britain leaving the European Union; neither is it is about trying to explain why people voted for Leave (or Remain). It does not concern the consequences of the vote, rather it is a question that should be asked before going to the vote. Before we decide whether to be in or out of the European Union, says Peter Hitchens, we should find out what the European Union actually is. If we know what it is or how it works, we can understand what it means to Leave or to Remain.

Hitchens himself arrives at his own particular answer to this question by telling a story which is based primarily on a historical analysis. Hitchens’s story is truth-seeking, unlike the mainstream story which is committed to propaganda. Of course, there are other stories which are committed to truth, and in a future post I will consider a second story that concurs in some respects with Hitchens, but draws a fundamentally different picture of history and the relations between Germany, Britain, Russia and the United States.

It is worthwhile to listen to Hitchens’s talk (3:15 – 29:05, afterwards Q&A). He begins with a critique of the dominant view of history. To give meaning to the Brexit vote, we have to understand history, but the British have a wrong and skewed perception of their history. They see the First and Second World War through the prism of Versailles and what happened in the West. But the real struggle was and continues to be in the East – in the Ukraine and Russia.

The following graph is intended to illustrate the structure of the story and analysis of Hitchens. The focus is on three historical moments: the First and Second World War and the present conflict in the Ukraine, always with Germany and Russia as protagonists and the US and Great Britain in the background. As driving forces, there are two long-term processes which produce their effects over the entire period from 1871 to today. First, the “Drang nach Osten” or Germany’s desire to push eastward, and second Angloamerican geopolitics, which in its core is focussed on preventing the emergence of a rival who might challenge US primacy. This means doing everything to forestall an alliance between Russia and Germany.

[T]he primordial interest of the United States over which for centuries we have fought wars, the first, second and cold war, has been the relationship between Germany and Russia. Because united they are the only force that could threaten us, and to make sure that that doesn’t happen. Source: George Friedman. Europe: Destined for Conflict? The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. February 4, 2015

[W]e have every reason to assume that the infamous policy of containment, led in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today. They are constantly trying to sweep us into a corner because we have an independent position, because we maintain it and because we call things like they are and do not engage in hypocrisy. But there is a limit to everything. And with Ukraine, our western partners have crossed the line, playing the bear and acting irresponsibly and unprofessionally.” Source: Vladimir Putin’s declaration on March 18, 2014, speech before accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation was enacted.

Although Hitchens does not elaborate on this, we are at the center of the geopolitical vision of Halford Mackinder (1904, 1919). It served both British and US foreign policy as an overall concept. Mackinder’s Heartland Theory influenced Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and George Friedman. I will return to this matter later. But at this point, let me mention a well-known quote from Mackinder:

Source: Mackinder 191, map: 100-101, quote: 194
The Two World Wars are seen by Hitchens as German attempts to establish their domination over Europe and to destroy Russia for good, taking over large parts of its territory. The driving force in all of this was the German ambition to expand eastwards, particularly into the Ukraine.

Both attempts failed; they were defeated by the resistance of the British (WW1) and the Soviets (Stalingrad, WW2). Britain entered the war in 1914, foolishly says Hitchens, as an ally of the Russian autocracy. “In 1941 we were forced into an alliance with a Russian murderous dictatorship under Joseph Stalin whitout whose aid we would not have survived. (…) And the debt which we owe (…) to the Russian people for the battle which they put up at Stalingrad remains unpayable. They were the ones that made sure that Hitler did not in the end dominate Europe.”

After 1945 the German great power dream did not disappear, but it had to be pursued by other than military means. What happens today in the Ukraine has to be seen in this context; in many ways, it echoes German imperial politics in WW1 and WW2.

In 1917, during its conquest of the Tsarist Russian Empire, Germany discovered that she could create nations with “limited sovereignty” and use them as instruments of war. She created puppet states, among them the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR). In order to undermine Russia from within, the Germans promoted an Ukrainian nationalism, which was fueled by hatred and fear of Russia. They expected that the Ukraine would provide them with desperately needed foodstuffs and raw materials. The Donets Basin was incorporated into the Ukrainian state because Germany needed coal. As a consequence Ukraine contains large Russian populations who never wanted to be subject to Kiev.

According to Hitchens, the experience of 1917 was revived in an extraordinary fashion in the events in Kiev 2014. These events were misrepresented and misunderstood by most Western journalists and politicians. “What took place in February 2014 in Kiev was a naked Putsch.” It happened with the support and under pressure of Germany and the US, embodied for all to see in the German and US politicians on the Maidan, who openly called for the overthrow of the legally elected government. People like US Senator John McCain and the German MEPs Elmar Brok and Rebecca Harms.

Senator John McCain on Maidan

Why is the Ukraine so important?

The struggle for the future of Ukraine takes place on different, interconnected levels. There are internal power struggles and there is a struggle for economic influence and control between Russia, Germany and the US. However, the decisive struggle is a geopolitical confrontation between the US and NATO on the one hand and Russia on the other.

Ukraine is a geopolitical pivot between Europe on one side, the Caucasus, Russia and the Middle East on the other. The energy supply of Europe with Russian gas runs mostly through pipelines in the Ukraine. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the US and the EU try to pull the Ukraine into the western camp. This would enable them to weaken Russia by interrupting the energy supply between Gazprom and Europe. Without the control of Ukraine, according to the Heartland-Theory, Russia would lose its position as a major power. Conversely, there is the fear that Russia could become once again a powerful eurasian empire, if it dominates Ukraine.

“For America, the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia. (…) America’s global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effective its preponderance on the Eurasian continent is sustained.” (30)

“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. (…) However, if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as its access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia. (46)
Source: Zbigniew Brzezinski. 1997. The Grand Chessboard.

The struggle for Ukraine is an energy war, and so is the struggle for Syria. Both conflicts become understandable in the context of the Grand Strategy of the US, which aims at controlling the production and distribution of oil and gas on a global scale; those who control energy distribution control the economic future of energy-dependent countries. The intervention of Russia in the Ukraine and Syria opposes and disturbs the Grand Strategy for a unipolar world.

“It’s always crucial to stress that Syria is an energy war – with the “prize” being who will be better positioned to supply Europe with natural gas; the proposed Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, or the rival Qatar pipeline to Turkey that would imply a pliable Damascus.”
Quote: Pepe Escobar. Is There a US-Russia Grand Bargain in Syria? Sputnik 17.03.2016.
Graph: SIPER Swiss Institute for Peace and Energy Research
The struggle for the Ukraine has its roots in the 1990s; it did not begin with the “secession” or “annexation” of Crimea, as western propaganda wants us to believe. The following quote of Viktoria Nuland makes it clear that regime change in Kiev was prepared well in advance and supported by the US:

Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the United States has supported Ukrainians as they build democratic skills and institutions, as they promote civic participation and good governance, all of which are preconditions for Ukraine to achieve its European aspirations. We’ve invested over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in these and other goals that will ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine.

Source: Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Remarks at the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation Conference, December 13, 2013, Washington, DC.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, an opportunity arose to break with the geopolitical constraints of the Cold War, and to build a peace settlement based on co-operation and disarmament, a “Common House of Europe”, as proposed by Mikhail Gorbachev, instead of the block confrontation. But the US establishment saw America as the winner of the Cold War and decided to pursue a strategy of global primacy, with the US as the only global hegemon.

WASHINGTON, March 7— In a broad new policy statement that is in its final drafting stage, the Defense Department asserts that America’s political and military mission in the post-cold-war era will be to insure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territory of the former Soviet Union.
Source: Patrick E. Tyler, New York Times March 8, 1992

The top priority of this strategy is to stifle the emergence of a rival power. Thus national sovereignty, wherever it develops, must be destroyed and replaced by a relationship of dependency. This applies in particular to Russia, but it also concerns Germany (or a united Europe); both are potential rivals and in the geopolitical imagination of the United States the worst would be if these two powers join together. Another nightmare is the emerging strategic alliance between China and Russia. As can be seen, the pursuit of global hegemony and “Full Spectrum Dominance” (Engdahl 2009) never leads to a peace order. Therefore, those who aspire for US world domination (neocons and neoliberalcons) can be identified as a war party; their “realism” today has the form of a paranoid megalomania, it is destined to be smashed on the rock of reality. However, the danger is that this failure will take apocalyptic forms.

Back to Hitchens

In the Ukraine the US and EU are in the same boat, trying together to replace Russia as the power that dominates the region. Hitchens asks, why the EU is doing this. And he thinks that the answer is perfectly obvious: Germany wants to fulfill its dream of becoming a major power. According to Hitchens, we have to understand the following: The EU was fundamentally designed to contain Germany, in peace and prosperity. Behind the whole plot stands the US, which insists that Europe should be one political entity under its control. The idea of a special relationship between the US and Great Britain is a fantasy, in reality it is between the US and Germany. We must finally recognize that continental Europe is bound to be dominated by a powerful Germany. As long as we fail to understand this, our policies and diplomacy in Europe must fail. We must understand that the European Union is a German creation, and that we will be part of a German Empire, wherby our sovereignty will be limited, or we can leave the EU alltogether and say, that we wish to be independent, but there are no two ways about it. Membership in the EU implies to be run by the EU. The EU is a very important, powerful, and quite aggressive project, which has caused already two wars (Kosovo and Ukraine). Before we decide, whether we want to remain in the EU or leave it, we must answer the question, what this EU actually is and how it works.

For Hitchens the answer is crystal clear: “The European Union is the extension of Germany by other means”. It is yet another attempt of Germany to dominate Europe and to destroy Russia, this time by using the European Union.


Dreaming of Being a Superpower

The importance of Ukraine for Germany and the EU makes sense in the perspective of a strategy for turning EUrope into a world power. Such powers create their own sphere of influence, a “Grand Area” or Empire [1]. The EU is doing this through eastward enlargement and through Association Agreements within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which integrates the southern and eastern neighbouring states not as equals, but as dependent members into the European regulatory order. The primary objective is to enforce a neoliberal economic agenda, with the aim of strengthening the competitiveness of the EU; to get new investment opportunities and access to new markets and natural resources.

Obviously, this desire for great power necessarily leads to a conflict with Russia. Geopolitics is a guide to perpetual war. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy: it creates the reality, which then is used to justify the theory. Geopolitical analyses look at the world from the perspective of winning or losing power and tend to neglect other perspectives.[2] In order to prepare people for war, an enemy (today: terrorism, Putin …) and intensive propaganda is needed, even an education for war, saying: we are good – they are evil.

The dream of Germany as a World Power is presently dreamed in Berlin and Brussels as a dream of EUrope as a World Power. Germans have long hesitated to openly show ambitions to become a major power. The country, through its economic success, has become a major power without wanting it – a “world power against her will”. Germany’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier writes that his country did not seek its new role as a world power. However, Germany had to shoulder its responsibilities, carry the burden of leadership and do everything to preserve the unity of the EU (Foreign Affairs, 15.06. 2016). Germany must be ready “to provide a substantial, decisive and early stimulus to the international debate, to accept responsibility, and to assume leadership” (White Paper 2016, 22). New power brings new responsibilities, that is the mantra of German foreign policy. “More responsibility” means in plain text to exercise more power, to defend the national interest by any means, being ready not only to threaten with military means but also to deploy them and to go to war (see Neue Macht – Neue Verantwortung 2013). This necessitates rearmament and the creation of a miltary-industrial complex, arms manufacture and export. Militariness should no longer be taboo and this idea was expressed brutally by high-ranking Americans and put on the cover of the Spiegel (Nr. 47/2006): “The Germans must learn to kill again.”[3]

Global economic power goes hand in hand with geopolitical responsibility – Europe cannot avoid this task. Europe’s partner expect – rightly – that Europe is taking on this responsibility and that the economic superpower will also become a geopolitical superpower. Source: Schulz 2013 (my translation)

It is striking, that the eastward enlargement of the EU proceeds in lockstep with the eastward expansion of NATO; first, accession to NATO, followed by membership in the EU. The expansion of the European sphere of influence is therefore also an expansion of the American sphere of influence. USA and EU are pulling in the same direction and want to expand their influence at the expense of Russia. “Nato remains the anchor and main framework of action for German security and defence policy” (White Paper 2016, 64).

Germany’s security is inextricably linked to that of its allies in NATO and the EU. The transatlantic alliance is vital to the security of Europe. Only together with the United States can Europe effectively defend itself against the threats of the 21st century and guarantee a credible form of deterrence. Germany was able to rely on the solidarity and readiness of the Allies over a period of almost forty years during the Cold War. It therefore recognises its duty and responsibility to contribute to collective defence on the basis of solidarity. Source: White Paper 2016, 49

However, the economic interests of Germany and the US are different. The sanctions imposed on Russia are particularly detrimental to Europe. They serve to create hostility between Russia and Europe; such a policy promotes war, not peace. This is no coincidence, but follows a plan; just listen, for example, to the ever cynical and grinning George Friedman, playing Mackinder’s geopolitical game of dividing Russia and Germany, pulling Pisudki’s idea of an Intermarium out of his magic box, suggesting that Poland becomes a regional leader of countries caught between Russia and Germany, the pitch of his voice telling when he was lying and bootlicking his Polish audience:

“This last piece is advice that sounds archaic. How can you speak of General Pilsudski? How can you think of the Intermarium? How can you think of Polish leadership? The answer is, how can I not? When I see what has happened to NATO, when I see what has happened to the Euopean Union, when I see how Poland is developing. How could I not think this way? Europe is returning to history. The great party is over. 1991 to 2008 was wonderful, it will not return. A future now has to be made and for 2000 years the future of Europe was built on states. You are living in one of the most dynamic and important states in Europe, and you can help shape it, not by writing position papers and going to meetings, but far more importantly, taking steps to protect your sovereignty and to assert your power. It is not that what I’m saying is archaic, it was that the period of 1991-2008 was anomaly, it was not real, it merely happened, and now is over. Step back, take a look at your country, take a look at the chaos around you in Europe, and take control of your fate, this is what the next 50 years will look like, and you will be a leading power in it.(Friedman 2015)
The conflict about who should be in the new Ukrainian government, people favored by the US or by Germany, illustrates that there are conflicts between the EU/Germany and the US. Viktoria Nuland made it known that the US preferred Arseniy Yatsenyuk for Prime Minister, Germany supported Wladimir Klitschko. The result shows, that American interests take precedence.

Ukraine: 1917 equals 2014?

Ukraine in 1917 compared with 2014, what was equal? 1. Ukraine is a state with limited sovereignty, a puppet state. 2. Ukraine should be a thorn in the flesh of Russia. The idea is to weaken Russia and to replace it as a regulatory power. 3. Germany/EUrope wants to establish itself as a great power. 4. It is a matter of conquering new markets, obtaining access to natural resources and controlling energy flows (pipelines).

What is different? 1. The conquest of Ukraine is no longer based on military means, rather it happens by using an Association Agreement and NGOs that undermine society. However, the Agreement contains a military dimension. 2. Germany itself is not a sovereign state, but dependent on the US – ideologically and militarily (the US maintains military bases in Germany and dominates NATO). The driving force in the Ukraine are the US, that is, the ruling neoliberal and neoconservative forces; for a long time, Germany or the German foreign policy elite was driven rather than a driving force, but in the last few years a new narrative has been launched based on the notion of “responsibility”, reflected in the increasing militarization of Germany.

According to Sabine Lösing and Jürgen Wagner (2013), EUrope is developing a coherent imperial strategy whose aim is to establish EUrope as a world power. They point out the extent to which the expansion of the EU follows the ideas of James Rogers, a co-founder of the Group of Grand Strategy. Rogers emphasizes that the EU can survive the struggle between the great powers only if she has the political will and the military strength of a great power.

We must now ask ourselves whether (…) we are prepared to accept diktats from other countries. If the answer to that question is ‘no’, we must ask ourselves what we can do to give us the means to resist. In this sense, Europeans currently face two futures: a future of power or a future of ruin. There is no alternative: we can either remain the rulers, or become the ruled. We Europeans (…) are at a juncture where we can either throw in the towel or take a qualitative leap towards further unification. A failure to integrate may lead to disintegration on all fronts and an unravelling of the certainties and luxuries of the past sixty years – with potentially devastating consequences for both Europeans and the wider world alike. Source: Rogers and Simón 2011.

Peter Hitchens knows Russia from his own experience. He does not participate in the demonization of Putin and finds that actually NATO and the EU are expanding and not Russia. As long as Russia under Putin crawled on the ground, the West applauded. But when Putin began an independeent foreign policy and insisted on defending the national interests of his country, the West began to speak of Russian aggression. The New Cold War had actually began in 2001, when Putin dared to interfere with the policies of the West – and Saudi Arabia – in Syria. The putsch in Kiev was a punishment for this, said George Friedman, and Hitchen agrees. And the seizure of Crimea he sees as a reaction of Russia to the putsch, for fear of losing the naval base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol to NATO.[4] What Putin had announced in his speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007 became a reality in Ukraine and Syria: Moscow said “this far and no further!”

Natural gas has become the favored “clean energy” source for the 21st Century and the EU is the world’s largest growth market for gas, a major reason Washington wants to break the Gazprom-EU supply dependency to weaken Russia and keep control over the EU via loyal proxies like Qatar. Source: Engdahl 16.03.2016

Hitchens’s thesis is that the Ukraine-crisis is “yet another outbreak of the old German push into the east”, carried out this time not with military means but under the flag of the EU. He sees this as the continuation of a struggle that in many respects had began already in 1870 with the Franco-Prussian war.

Second Reading

In the EU, based on her economic strength, Germany has achieved a dominant position, which she failed to achieve by military means in the two world wars. German elites are dreaming again of turning EUrope into a world power under German leadership. Their “Neighbourhood Policy” aims to expand the European sphere of influence; this is linked to a militarization of society. This makes a conflict with Russia inevitable.

German dreams of being a superpower are dreams of the leading elites, not of the majority of the population. Ordinary people want peace, they do not welcome the Ukraine as a member of the EU and NATO, and certainly they do not agree to supply weapons to Ukraine or to send troops to the Russian border.

The most important contribution to peace policy is: Get out of NATO. It was never what it pretended to be. (…) In 1989 NATO lost its purpose. And suddenly the organization reveals what it always wanted: to globalize the hegemonic claims of the US, without stopping, without limits, for the enforcement of capital interests. Source: Drewermann 13.12.2014 (my translation)

However, Germany is not a sovereign state, but in many respects dependent on the US and NATO, militarily, ideologically ajnd with regard to surveillance and the systematic influence on German companies. Brzezinski calls Germany and Western Europe a protecctorate of the USA; when Europe is expanding, also the US sphere of influence is widening (Brzezinski 1997, 57-61). The German/European dream of being a superpower is to be realized under the direction of the US and NATO.

We can ask ourselves to what extent the German desire for great power is self-determined and to what extent it follows a script written and directed by others. Is Germany an autonomous actor who pursues an aggressive geopolitical agenda or is this policy possibly a trap in which Germany is to be caught? Germany as a chess piece on the Grand Chessboard, in a game to safeguard the supremacy of US corporations and the transnational elite, to prevent the rising of an Eurasian power, to diminish not only Russia as a potential rival but also Germany, not least by creating antagonism between the two?

A part of the German elites has embraced the dream of superpower. If necessary, military means should also be used to realize this fantasy. This happens within the framework of NATO, that is under US tutelage. German national sovereignty is not on the agenda. Rather the German “Drang nach Osten”, the dream of being a superpower, is to be used as an instrument to realize the neoliberal project of a New World Order. In this perspective one could conclude: Germany has fallen into the geopolitical trap twice, why should it not happen a third time?

If the Germans want to remain part of NATO, they must play along. They must not take part in international missions to defend German security, but in a militarized foreign policy to protect mining rights, to secure oil, bauxite, uranium and open sea routes. That is what US hegemony wants. But the German public is not supposed to understand this drama. One has still noble justifications: we must intervene for humanitarian reasons, we must help the helpless and help developing countries onto their feet. Source: Drewermann 17.12.2014 (my translation)

Germany to be sacrificed as a pawn in the grand geopolitical game of chess? This question has no place in Hitchens’s story. He tells us that Germany is responsible for the two world wars and at present is trying a third time to destroy Russia and to dominate Europe. The US does not play the lead role. And what is striking is that Britain remains completely in the background; Hitchens says: in 1914 Britain joined the war, extremely foolishly, as an ally of the Russian aristocracy; in 1941 Britain was forced into an alliance with a Russian murderous dictatorship; these are two essential facts, which we seldom stare into the face; in 2014, when that conflict broke out again, the government and the media are taking the wrong side, because they do not understand what is going on.

In Hitchens’s story Britain remains in the shadow, in a passive role, unnoticed, and this reminds me of a statement by the Finnish historian Heikki Ylikangas, who said that the greatest power is to be found at the place of the greates silence.


[1] German-Foreign-Policy.Com. 2012; Wagner 2011; Wagner 2015.

[2] Ritz 2013.

[3] Theo Sommer. Deutschland vermag allein nicht viel. Zeit Online 04.02.2014

[4] Peter Hitchens: A (not so) Brief History of Crimea; It’s Nato that’s empire-building, not Putin

[5] Nachdenkseiten 18.11.2016. Verkehrte Welt.


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