Brexit, the wholly unpredicted vote of the British electorate to leave the European Union, faces Europe with its greatest political challenge in half a century. Less headlined is that Europe looks to be facing the biggest threat to its security over a like period. The NATO summit opening tomorrow (July 8) will be dominated by a single topic: how to defend the alliance’s Baltic members against Russian attack. The gathering in Warsaw will be the most consequential for NATO since the ending of the Cold War.
In a journalistic life that began as teenager I have covered some mega stories: from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Kennedy assassination to Watergate and 9/11 among others. Perhaps, then, it is not a surprise that one story had slipped out of my memory chamber, only to be revived by Brexit.
Even Donald Trump seemed sobered by the overnight verdict of the British people when the Republican presidential contender flew into Scotland to count his golf courses on Friday and spoke blandly and in relatively measured tones to the media at Turnberry. "Basically they took back their country."
When Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness greeted Queen Elizabeth on a visit to Belfast earlier this week, the atmosphere in the room was oddly warm, bordering on jovial. “Are you well?” asked the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister McGuinness. Now in his mid-sixties and white-haired, he is remembered by many as the youthful, curly red-haired, fierce Irishman at the helm of the staunchly republican, nationalist Sinn Fein party and its militant wing, the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The seven plus decades of twists and turns in the "special relationship" between the United States and United Kingdom have long been fodder for commentary between London and Washington. But it has taken the British referendum on its membership in the European Union to demonstrate that the sometimes mythologized U.S.-U.K. bonds still run as strong or stronger than ever in Washington's think tanks.
© COPYRIGHT THE EUROPEAN INSTITUTE 2009
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