The UK must define its place in Moscow's new world order – or follow blinkered Brussels, says Stephen Hill
Putin's Eurasian empire took another major step last week. He is changing the map before the man in the White House can even twirl his desk-side globe. It's time to remember that the Eurasian landmass goes all the way from Lisbon to Shanghai, via Moscow, and contains over half the world's population, before the land-links from MENA to Africa are even counted in. Putin reminds us that the European Union is only a peninsula to a far greater continent, and the EU looks increasingly overshadowed and underpowered.
And what was this major advance? The launch of the AIIB infrastructure development bank by China and Russia, with the US trying to persuade its European NATO allies not to join. But they're not listening, they're lining up to join, led by the UK, and now dragging France and Italy with. The AIIB will deal in trillions, while the EU's European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in mere billions only.
Just follow Putin's strategic planning route: in 2002 Russia and China signed up the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation as an economic trade bloc; China votes in the UN in 2010 for Russia's support for Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria; in 2013 China chooses London to launch the renminbi on the world's FX markets; in 2014 Russia signs a landmark energy deal for pipelines to China and gas-handling facilities in Vladivostock. And now the SCO's AIIB…
The SCO is a highly credible compact of minerals, energy, manufacturing and defence. And its leading Russian and Chinese gas currencies are increasingly backed by more gold than any other. The AIIB will finance pipelines, airlines, railway lines, road transport links and (closely-monitored and censored) broadband capacity.
Obama's disinterest in geopolitics isn't exactly paying off: the US has been comprehensibly outmanoeuvred by Putin, who has split NATO and left the EU for dead in the water, while the NATO allies seek economic revenge over his armed incursion into East Ukraine, as much as it might hurt itself doing so.
And the SCO is now plotting the demise of the dollar and its replacement by an SCO rouble-renminbi as the world's gas-and-gold-backed reserve currency.
Where is all this leading to for the UK? 'If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea,' advised Sir Winston Churchill. Unless the EU is reformed along democratic lines as opposed to bureaucratic rules – which seems most unlikely – it will be time to leave the EU's socialist-ridden policies.
We will thereby reinforce our membership of NATO and our special relationships with the US and with France – the vital Atlantic alliance – but also leave ourselves free to trade with the burgeoning Eurasian empire, and what's left of the declining EU – but on an intra-governmental treaty basis, not the current supra-national ever-closer-union one that we live in subjection to these days.
The UK needs to define its Open Seas Policy and its place in the increasingly Putin-driven new world order. Europe is beginning to look strangely irrelevant for our future, as we need a wider vision and role across the open seas, beyond blinkered, bureaucratised Brussels.