Category: Europe

Will Montenegro become a NATO member in 2016? (update)

This question has come back to life as a result of NATO’s immanent signing of the accession agreement with Montenegro. But what does this mean for the question of whether Montenegro will become a member of NATO before 2017 begins? “Diplomatic sources say they expect it will take the 28 member states some 18 months to ratify the Montenegro accession accord, which Russia has condemned as another case of NATO encroaching on its strategic interests,” one media outlet tells us[1]. That would put Montenegro in NATO near the end of 2017, much later than Vesko Garčević, Montenegro Coordinator for NATO membership, has suggested[2]. So why 18 months? The outlet doesn’t say. Thanks a lot, dude. Other outlet who report this piece of news don’t mention the amount of time that they expect the ratification process to take[3]. So I’m inclined to think the reporter pulled the number out of his butt. By the way, Garčević’s Twitter feed is full of encouraging retweets from the likes of Denmark[4]. Really adorable stuff.


[2] (translated from the original German by Google).

[3] One exception is the Daily Star, but it repeats the Defense News article almost word-for-word, which means one is cribbing off of the other or both are just taking dictation from a source who wants to stay off the record, probably the latter –



Will a majority of voters in Britain’s upcoming referendum elect to remain in the European Union? (update)

A number of folks here have drawn out attention to a recent article at the Guardian in which one is told about

a widening disparity between phone and Internet polling, with one producing a 10-point lead for remain and the second reporting that the leave campaign is ahead by four.[1]

What to make of this? One possibility is that both of these polls are outliers. An unweighted average of polls this month has both “stay” and “leave” at 43%, with “undecided” at 14.3%. That’s close to the April numbers: “stay” = 44.43%, “leave” = “41.71,” “undecided” = 12.38%[2]. The Guardian phone poll has “stay” at 47 and “leave” at 39 (which is an eight-point spread, not a ten-point spread as the quote above says, I must have missed something), and that’s about 1.5 standard deviations from the mean for “stay” and about the same for “leave.” The Internet poll was less out of line with the numbers we see elsewhere, with only “leave” more than a standard deviation away from the mean. I don’t know enough about the merits of phone vs. Internet polling to have an informed opinion, but my best guess is that we don’t yet have enough experience with Internet polling to speak to its accuracy in any reliable way[3]. Maybe I’m too pessimistic; who knows?

So that was something of a dead end, I think. But another way to try to get traction on the Brexit question is to look at party membership. The same Guardian piece gives us the following breakdown of UK party membership:

  • UKIP: 13%
  • Torries: 36%
  • LibDems: 7%
  • Labourites: 34%
  • ScotNats (SNP): 5%
  • Greens: 4%
  • Other: 1%

Let’s assume – why not? – that voters turn out for the referendum in numbers proportional to their party membership. (Will they? Probably not. But it’s not a terrible working assumption.) I’m willing to bet that UKIP is all in for breaking with Brussels, so that 13% for “leave.”

What about the ScotNats? This is a trickier question than I imagined. It might seem like a no-brainer for members of the SNP to vote for an exit to the EU and then follow that up with a second referendum on Scottish membership in the UK[4]. But SNP leadership is painfully aware that (i) losing a second referendum so soon after losing the first would probably cripple the independence movement for a generation (see Quebec) and (ii) the ScotNats might not yet be in a position to win[5]. In fact, some who favor Scottish independence would like to see it be part of the EU! (That’s not as odd as it might sound. Scotland has a long and troubled history with England, but that doesn’t mean the Scots wouldn’t want voluntary shared governance with other European powers.) So there’s no clear reason (that I can see) to think that ScotNats will vote overwhelmingly for Brexit. Indeed, one recent poll suggested that the Scots (who are not the same as members of the SNP, of course) favor remaining in the EU 3-to-1[6]. That gets us up to 15.5%.

The Tories seem deeply divided over Brexit – another anglophone conservative party in jeopardy because of a populist uprising[7]? Take these numbers for whatever they’re worth, but according to one recent poll, “45 per cent of voters said [pro-Brexit Troy Boris] Johnson was “more likely to tell the truth about the EU than [anti-Brexit Tory David] Cameron, while 21 per cent said the opposite”[8]. Boris has, as we know, said some extraordinary things of late:

Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically. The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods.

For reals, ya’ll. That’s the voice of truth, according to 2 out of 3 Tories. Well, suppose they do break for Brexit in slightly lower numbers – say 3-out-of-5 Tories vote “leave.” That gets “leave” up to 37.1%.

The Greens look like a pretty solid bet to vote “stay,” since EU environmental protection and regulation is bound to be much better than anything you’re likely to get in the UK alone[9]. The same is true, mutatis mutandis, for bankers and their City cronies, who are no friends of the Party of Kermit [10]. Suppose then that the Greens go overwhelming for “stay” but a few vote “leave.” That gets “leave” up to 37.75%.

It’s hard for me to suss out exactly what the LibDems are up to. Some of their leadership has made noises up the increased strain on the NHS if the UK leaves the EU[11]. LibDemster Tim Farron has called pro-Brexit thought leaders “downright pathetic”[12]. Suppose the LibDems go for “stay” in roughly the same numbers as the Tories go for “leave.” That gets “leave” up to 40%.

What about the Laborites? “Nearly two thirds of Labour voters say they are likely to vote to Remain – around six million people,” according to one source[13]. That sounds pretty good until you realize it also means that one third of Labour voters say that they are likely to vote to leave. Even if Jeremy Corbyn is able to step up – no sure thing as he’s rather ambivalent about Brexit [14] – that still means you’ve got 51% voting “leave.” So…wow…goodbye to all that.

Or not. All that was very back-of-the-envelope. But it’s not crazy. I might have (okay, I’m sure I do have) some of the numbers wrong. It’s been almost a decade since I lived in England, so I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of the UK. Still, this seems like a model I can work with, even if I have to modify the numbers a bit. Suggestions?

For now, I’m lowering my forecast for the UK remaining in the EU to 61%.


[2] The numbers from April and May are taken from



[5] and and more recently

[6] and









Will Montenegro become a NATO member in 2016? (update)

“Montenegro [expects] to become the 29th member of the Alliance this year” (i.e. 2016) according to one source[1]. However, the article provides no evidence for this claim, and is mostly concerned with another question – namely, whether or not Georgia will ever become part of NATO. Still, I think it’s worth mentioning this only because it suggests there’s still a healthy difference of opinion among people who are (or ought to be) well informed about this question. This question is rather different from a lot of the GJ questions I’ve given some thought over the last few months. Here it’s not so much a matter of how do I analyze and weigh all of the data that I have; it’s a question of what don’t I know yet, and how might I shed some of my ignorance.


Will Montenegro become a NATO member in 2016? (update)

Yet more of what we already know from NATO: “Later this month, NATO Foreign Ministers are due to sign Montenegro’s Accession Protocol. Montenegro will then become an ‘invitee’ and will be able to attend almost all NATO meetings, including the Warsaw Summit, as an observer. Every NATO Ally must then ratify the Protocol in their national parliaments in order for it to become a full member”[1]. At least this confirms my understanding of the matter.

A little more interesting is this: “Montenegro has agreed a new contract with the Washington-based firm Orion Strategies to advocate for the country’s accession bid, according to a US Department of Justice filing. The firm will provide strategic communications, PR and advocacy around issues and news relating to Montenegro in the US and Europe and around the country’s bid for membership of the Western military alliance. Orion Strategies will receive $150,000 for services delivered over a 12-month period ending on February 1, 2017″[2].

A few thoughts about this latter nugget: First, I wouldn’t want to make too much of the 2017 termination date. It’s probably just a result of when the contract was signed. Second, $150K doesn’t seem like much. How much value are they going to get for that kind of money. This would get you two experienced IT guys, if you’re lucky. That’s all you’re going to spend on lobbying the US gov’t? Perhaps Montenegro’s gov’t doesn’t think much work needs to be done. Third, who the hell are these Orion guys? Though the article refers to Orion as “Washington-based,” it looks like it’s actually located in West Virginia[3]. I’ve sent them an email asking for clarification. It’s not a big deal, but why would you wire a WV firm to lobby in DC? Honestly, Orion seems a little bush league. Again, I’m not sure whether Montenegro’s gov’t thinks that this one is in the bag or whether they’ve just made some bad choices, and their accession protocol is going to receive ratification more slowly than it otherwise might have.

As of this writing, no NATO member has, to the best of my knowledge, approved the accession protocol for Montenegro.

[1] – also reported on in the “New York Times,”



Will Montenegro become a NATO member in 2016? (update)

Here’s a little nugget: NATO Secretary General Jens “Stoltenberg…noted that the Alliance [i.e., NATO] will take an important step next month, with the signature of the Accession Protocol for Montenegro”[a]. There’s at least one source confirming this: “A protocol on the accession of Montenegro to NATO will be signed on 19 May”[b]. So what happens next? Glad you asked: “Then you want to start in the NATO member states to ratify the accession agreement, [Vesko] Garčević [Montenegro Coordinator for NATO membership] said. My conclusion is expected by spring 2017 Representatives of Montenegro will be enabled immediately after the signing of the Protocol, the NATO meeting to attend, including the taking place in July NATO summit in Warsaw”[c]. By the way, Vesko Garčević has a Twitter account[d]: @VeskoGarcevic. That might be a good source of information. Wish I’d thought of it before, though on closer examination, he tweets a surprising number of cat gifs.

Anyway, let’s not bury the lede. If Garčević doesn’t expect doesn’t expect Accession to occur until early 2017, I don’t think I should either. Lowering my forecast accordingly.


[b] (translated from the original German by Google).

[c] Ibid.

[d] -NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) also has a Twitter account:


More on the Renwick Effect

In response to my last post on this topic, rjfmgy writes

Not to call into question the Renwick effect, which I am neither competent nor inclined to do, but when it comes to voting for actual people, Bill Clinton’s political guru Dick Morris said the opposite of what Renwick said about referendums. Morris said that, all things being equal, late deciders will vote against the incumbent, his thinking being if they don’t like the incumbent already, they’re not going to decide at the last minute that they like the incumbent. I don’t know if that applies in this case; just mentioning it.

I think there’s also a matter of what the “status quo” is in this case. Is a pro-Brexit vote against the status quo, or was UK accession to the Common Market a temporary disruption of the status quo that ought to be reversed? What Britons voted for in the 1975 is not the same as what they have now. So was the status quo that Britons adopted 40 years ago disrupted by the expansion of the powers of the Common Market, transforming it into the EU? The real question is, what vote do average Britons feel is the expression of the natural and legitimate political order?

Thanks, rjfmgy. Great thoughts and questions!

As I understand it, the Renwick effect only applies to referenda, not to, e.g., incumbent politicians. Why? Hell if I know. I don’t recall Renwick discussing the matter, but he probably should. If I were forced to guess, I’d say that swapping a new politician for an an incumbent politician is seen as a pretty small change when compared to swapping, say, the uncertainty of national autonomy for the certainty of several hundred years of being part of the UK (to take the most recent referendum I can think of as an example). In other words, the Renwick effect might be thought to apply only in cases where the change from the status quo is of a very large scale (and/or a potentially irrevocable). But as I say, I’m just guessing.

I completely agree that there’s a question about what counts as the status quo in the Brexit case, and I worried about that somewhere or another on the GJ site. Here, I think[a], but maybe somewhere else. What I said, IIRC, was that (obviously) Britain’s connections with the EU are less deep than Scotland’s connections with the UK or Quebec’s connections with Canada. So if the historical roots of the change away from the status quo is what matters, then we’d expect to see far less in the way of the Renwick effect. But there might be other things that matter. A move away from the EU would be highly disruptive to economic life in Britain. If that is what makes the status quo important, then the Renwick effect should come into play. It’s also worth noting that the average age of a UK voter in the last parliamentary election was less than 35[b]. Britain’s been moving toward the Europe for the entire lives of these voters. Of course there are still voters around who remember fighting a bitter war against a German-dominated Europe, but they’ll be in the minority. That said, if the opponents of EU membership manage to frame the issue primarily in terms of whether Britons feel like legitimacy flows from Brussels, then I think it’s rather unlikely that the UK will remain in the EU. The status quo ante just won’t matter if that’s the question.



Will a majority of voters in Britain’s upcoming referendum elect to remain in the European Union? (update)

Are there do-overs in this league? After a bit of reflection on my last forecast, I think further revision is in order. The central thesis of my last forecast was that, if we squint really hard, we can probably see the beginning of the Renwick effect[a]. I now think that I was mistaken. We might or might not see the Renwick effect in the future, but we’re not seeing it yet. Or at least I’m not seeing it yet, which is a somewhat different proposition.

Why the change of mind? Using the metadata from “The Financial Times”[b] we see that

  • The average results for the Brexit polls in April (so far) are as follows: stay=42.75, go = 40.83, don’t know=14.58.
  • The average results for the Brexit polls in March were as follows: stay=42.87, go=40.50, don’t know=18.75.
  • The average results for the Brexit polls in February were as follows: stay=43.38, go=39.38, don’t know=15.77[c].

I grant you that I’m taking all of this data at face value and not attempting to weight for the reliability, size, or temporal proximity of the polls. I leave that to smarter folks. But I just don’t see what I thought I saw: the beginning of a shift toward the status quo (i.e. stay in the EU) that the Renwick effect predicts. In fact, we see a very slight movement _away_ from the status quo, though I think that the size of the shift is too small to mean much. What’s most remarkable to me is the stability of the opinion polling data over the last 3 months. (It would be super-freaking-awesome if someone tried to determine whether this level of stability prior to the referendum predicts a greater or lesser degree of variability in the final weeks before the referendum, but the low sample size might render this information less than fully helpful.)

You know, this one might be a nail-bitter, folks.



[c] So “stay”+”go”+”don’t know” doesn’t always equal 100% in the average of polls because it doesn’t do so in some of the individual polls that the FT reports. That’s odd; this seems like an exhaustive trichotomy, but I don’t think it makes too much of a difference to the outcome.