APPENDICES TO THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE |
TAKEN BEFORE THE DEFENCE COMMITTEE
Letter from the Defence Attaché,
French Embassy (28 March 2001)
As you have been told by the Secretary of State
for Defence yesterday afternoon, the paper issued by The Daily
Telegraph the same morning could completely mislead its readers
about the French vision on the EU/NATO relations. Please find
herewith attached the script taken during General Kelche's interview,
where the Select Committee will find a fairly different vision
of what the DT pretends.
I remain at your disposal for any comment you
would like about this question as well as about any other Defence
General Kelche Transcript: rough, edited
It has appeared to many Frenchmen that the Anglo-Saxons
have been backtracking on EU defence ever since Nice, with Lord
Robertson publicly insisting that the Alliance retains an effective
veto over EU defence, and the Prime Minister telling the Canadians
that there would be no separate EU planning structures.
General Kelche: "We have always said that
we do not want to duplicate NATO assets, but if Europe wants to
assume its responsibilities in the field of defence, it must improve
its key capabilities. European ambitions remain limited, today,
to coping with Petersberg tasks. We already have the European
forces for this. We are not going to earmark some of our forces
as exclusively European. The same forces will be used in a NATO
or an EU framework. There are improvements to be made in this
field: we have identified them".
The controversial issue is defence planning.
"European politicians need to know what is going on. They
need to be able to select among various options and then conduct
operations, both from a military and political point of view.
These are reasonable ambitions.
I do not see how this could damage the Alliance.
On the contrary, the US Congress has been asking us, for a long
time, to do more. It would be silly for them to discourage us
precisely when we make efforts in this field . . . The debate
might well hinge upon the capabilities which will enable European
defence to be autonomous.
There are two kinds of planning: Pre-decision
planning, and planning after the decision has been made. I cannot
imagine any European military not being able to propose a variety
of options to politicians. The European approach consists in trying
to start managing crises as soon as possible, using all means,
including non-military approaches. So why should we have to go
through NATO to select an option?"
Although the EU will therefore have to be capable
of military planning, the General denies that the EU will need
to build a huge planning organisation in Brussels.
"We simply need to use existing capabilities,
mainly in the European countries. But if a heavy crisis were to
emerge, why should we not ask the Alliance for assistance? We
can easily ask NATO to help with planning. Similarly, we can ask
individual European countries to do the same. When things get
bad it is always better to have two sources of advice. Then you
can compare them, and reflect. There is no need for exclusivity.
After decisions have been taken about how to
act we move on to operational planning. The operational commander
can ask the troop contributing nations to come up with planning.
If the action is to be conducted with NATO assets, it is clear
that the operational planning will be done by the NATO European
chain of command. But if it is a very small operation, why should
we bother SHAPE with it? Any European country is capable of planning
an operation using 10,000 troops. When we were planning Operation
Alba with the Italians we did not involve NATO.
This is not a military problem. It is simply
Q: How big will EU Military Planning Centre
"Need to understand how it works. The politicians
say, `OK, we've studied the options and choose this one'. Political
instructions will go to the EU MS. There, a small team will send
directives to the European countries, and requests to SHAPE. The
same team will receive the results, study them, and either recommend
them or not. I could not tell the President that he should commit
troops to an operation if I were not sure that the planning had
been done properly. In more complex crises, I would be pleased
to have access to help from NATO. But, as the consumer, I would
examine what was on offer and decide whether I liked it or not.
Planning is a mechanical process. You get the result you ask for.
But if you change the parameters, the answer will change. So,
whoever does the planning, the Europeans will have to define the
parameters. That is vital.
If they agree that the result conforms to the
requirements, they will sign up to it. This is exactly how it
works in the Alliance already. It is not the whole structure that
decides. In the end, it is the CHODS. So there is no fundamental
General Kelche said that he was not yet sure
whether or not there was going to be a quarrel with the Americans
over defence planning. "We'll have to wait, explain things
over again. As I have just explained, I don't see any grounds
for a quarrel."
Q: UK cooler than other Europeans about defence.
Will this change after the election?
"We have come a long way. Look at where
we were 18 months ago. We have made considerable progress at 15.
Without the UK this would not have been possible.
The Alliance has worked well for 50 years. We
are not going to give up on it now. We simply say that we need
a better balance. If Europe becomes more serious about improving
its capabilities it will earn the right to greater influence within
When we ask Americans, especially in the new
administration, whether they believe that future crises will be
Article 5 contingencies, they always say that they expect non-Article
5 crises. This is common sense.
Then we ask them, `if there are non-Article
5 crises, will you still come?' The answer is `no'. They are sincere.
I understand them. So all that we are trying to do is to give
both Europe and the US greater freedom of action. The Europeans
will be capable of managing a crisis if the Americans decide not
to come. Or, the Europeans could start managing the crisis, using
their own, not necessarily military, assets. If the situation
does not improve they could decide to conduct a military operation
to resolve it. At that stage there would have to be discussions
with the US. The Americans might say, `you began handling the
situation, you carry on'. There is no question of a right of first
refusal. If the EU does its work properly, it will be able to
start working on crises at a very early stage, well before the
situation escalates. Where is the first refusal? NATO has nothing
to do with this. At a certain stage the Europeans would decide
to conduct a military operation. Either the Americans would come,
or not. If they want to come, they will always be welcome. They
are powerful. We recognise that there are things we cannot do
without them, today. Later, we must be able to act alone. Europe
is an enormous economic power, but not yet a mature military power."
Q: Any sympathy for UK military who have
reservations about European defence?
"I have never heard of any of them express
reservations" But, when you have a system that works well,
in a sphere as sensitive as defence, you should always be cautious.
You know what you have, and you know what you might lose if you
change the system. But we are not talking about change. We are
talking about reinforcement. What are the risks? We want to reinforce
Q: How can we persuade Turks to lift their
block on work on Berlin Plus?
"We are worried about this. We have wanted
to organise the EU-NATO relationship, in the defence field, for
a long time. The Turks want more assurances, and greater involvement
than they have so far been offered. The EU has made various proposals,
and the ball is now in NATO's court. NATO is incapable of hitting
the ball back and sorting this out. Everyone is trying to convince
the Turks that their position is not productive. I hope that they
will succeed, but I have no miracle solutions. EU decisions have
to be taken at 15, not 16. It is as if NATO were told that Alliance
decisions were to be taken by non-NATO members. No one would agree
to that. Either you belong or not. It is obvious that if a major
crisis were to arise in Europe, especially in Southern Europe,
the Turks would be consulted, and informed of what was going on.
They would be associated with the action. We couldn't say that
it was simply the affair of the 15. European security is everybody's
Q: So will EU be forced to declare itself
operational, if the Turks do not lift their block?
"Of course. Goteborg will probably
be too soon. But at Laeken, certainly. We have our own timetable.
If everything is blocked in NATO, it is not our fault. It is clear
that by the end of this year the EU must declare that it has an
operational capability. Otherwise, we will simply be held hostage
by the Turks. Everyone, including France, must try to persuade
the Turks to be more co-operative. Otherwise, we will reach the
end of the year without agreement with NATO. This will not be
the fault of the EU."
Q: How can European MoDs persuade politicians
to increase defence spending?
"I am not certain that we need to increase
expenditure . . . maybe I shouldn't say that. What is important
is that each European nation should look very closely at its expenditure,
in order to increase efficiency. The more common projects we have,
the more effective our defence spending will be. Some nations
will move faster than others, but we are all moving more or less
in the same direction, economically."
Q: Ever tempted by the British solution of buying
American kit, to increase value-for-money?
"A nation's defence capability is not exclusively
based upon its Armed Forces. It also has to be able to equip the
troops, and to have some freedom of choice over procurement. There
are limits to buying off-the-shelf. We have an armaments industry
in France, and there is also a European armaments industry which
must be preserved. Technologically, it is doing very well. The
only problem is that it is sometimes more expensive than the American
equivalent, because production series are smaller. So, if we could
get together more, on European projects, it would be easier and
Q: Are you tempted to buy missile defence from
"We need to know what the new administration
intends to do. They have announced that they will do nothing without
serious consultation with their Allies. Until we know what the
project is, how they are going to create this capability, which
is no longer referred to as National Missile Defence, it is difficult
for us to say much about it. The US timetable is now looser. They
have started an overall reflection on this issue. We await their
decision with interest."
Q: Is the idea of extending the shield to
cover Europe credible?
"To do what? Against what? Where is the
threat? Would it work? 100 per cent? Could it be bypassed? What
would it cost? How independent would it be? Where would the money
come from? Which budget? Would we buy this instead of conventional
equipment? It's hard to say. These issues are far too important
for us to make quick decisions. It's a major question.
"This would mean abandoning non-proliferation
regime. It is a hard decision. Until we know more we cannot proceed.
"Even on the threat, there is no common
view. There is a distinction between a risk and a threat. A threat
encompasses both risk and hostile intention. This distinction
is lost on the Americans. For them, any risk is a threat.
As France professionalises the Armed Forces, how
can you avoid the current difficulties facing the British Army?
"We are watching what is going on in the
British Armed Forces very carefully. This is a serious and interesting
experience. The size of the Armed Forces is roughly comparable,
and we have had many exchanges on this. But this is a sociological
question. We cannot simply transpose the British solution to France.
The problems are different, so the remedies should also be different.
I think that what is important for the French forces is to maintain
the quality of its public image, which is very high. No other
organisation in France, except perhaps the Paris Fire Brigade,
enjoys similar respect.
"The second key to recruitment is retraining
personnel leaving the Armed Forces. We need to convince the mothers
of the long-term advantages of a military career. Soldiers without
civilian qualifications are the most important here. When it comes
to retraining, those who have a purely military skill need priority.
They do the toughest jobs, and yet without help will leave the
Army with nothing. If that happens, they become negative agents
for the Army.
So, thirdly, everybody who leaves must have
a positive attitude towards their time in the Armed Forces.
"It is not a question of pay. Nobody joins
up for the money. They join up for the way of life. Take a data
processor. An NCO will earn one third what he would as a civilian.
But he will stay because he likes the Army and enjoys the life.
Otherwise he will leave. This is the logic of a professional army."
Equipment is also important, according to General
"A professional soldier will look at what
the nation gives him to do his job. Do we believe in him and in
his mission, or not? If he only has old equipment, he will assume
that neither the government nor the military leadership cares
about him. He will ask himself what he is doing in the Army, and
"The adventure, for us, will really begin
in 2002, when the forces will be entirely professional.