Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)



  100. Yes, yes.
  (Dr Allin) Some do. First of all, I share many of your sentiments. I think maybe to try to represent some of the American positions, I should add that at the time of the treaty of Versailles and the American abdication after Versailles, and I agree with your characterisation of it, of course Europe was the central theatre and the central security problem and that is no longer so, so it is not entirely unreasonable for some American strategists or officials to say that the American interest in NATO and in European security was fundamental, it was huge. It involved not allowing, among other things, a hostile hegemonic power, be that Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union or even imperial Germany, to achieve hegemony in Europe. But that is no longer the problem facing Europe. Europe is doing pretty well, thank you. That is not of itself an anti-European or anti-NATO sentiment. I think someone like maybe a leading intellectual light of this administration, someone like Paul Wolfowitz, just believes that the threats and the responsibilities facing the United States—and this is even before September 11—are in Asia, are in the Middle East. They ask what can NATO do for them in meeting these responsibilities. I personally am not sure what the answer to that is. It is not obvious because of disparities in military power which are least extreme when it comes to the United Kingdom but are pretty extreme none the less.
  (Professor Heuser) Mr Chairman, do you not think that you are a little bit too pessimistic here in drawing that parallel because nobody is suggesting any longer, as the French did after the end of the Cold War, that NATO should be dissolved. Nobody is suggesting that the Americans are going to withdraw their support for SHAPE planning organisations and all the infrastructure of NATO. The tool is going to remain there. Again, looking at an analogy from business theory, if you think about it, the guarantee by Britain and France to Poland in 1939 was not credible at the time, although it was implemented later, because there were no tools available for the defence co-operation of these countries actually to do something about the defence of Poland. As long as NATO, the tool remains in place, if a situation emerges in which the tool is needed then it can be activated quite quickly. As long as you keep the tool, polish it and keep it running, and it does not have to be run by the best brains and the best military people, you can send your third rate people to this organisation, as long as it is kept running and the knowledge of how to reconstruct it remains there, I think you do have a useful tool that will protect Europe from surprises. I do not think the analogy is quite as horrifying as you make out.

  101. I am not certain how long an organisation could last if what decisions are made are made by four countries, if Americans are pretty indifferent and do send third rate people along, people who will say, "Why bother? Look at the Europeans. They were right all along. The Americans are not interested", and will throw us into the tender hands of those who have a perspective which is different. I am a little bit nervous on that front and feel that the crisis is avoidable. If we only thought of what would undermine NATO, one never assumed that the United States would figure in that list of countries who were threatening to undermine the alliance. You can think of all sorts of other countries, like France and Greece and what the Soviets would do and what the non-Soviet countries would do and you throw in Denmark and a few others, but I never calculated that NATO would be dealt a fatal blow by the United States.
  (Mr Grant) In the light of what you say, Chairman, it is interesting that there is a group of people in Washington in the administration who are trying to, as they see it, save NATO by giving it a new military role in the fight against terrorism. Dana will have a very good view on how powerful this group is but there are people now who are pushing forward the view that NATO should once again, as was suggested before, become an out-of-area organisation that can go after bad guys in caves. I have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand if, by being an anti-terrorist organisation you mean an organisation that is involved in the intelligence sharing which is required to combat terrorism, then clearly NATO is not well suited to that. It is a large, leaky, multi-bureaucratic organisation with journalists milling around and probably full of spies and it is really not the right body. If you mean, however, simply that NATO could deploy combat troops to fight alongside the Americans in the caves of Afghanistan or wherever, that is more interesting and there is an idea now being discussed in Washington and also in Europe for a European strike force. The idea is that NATO would provide to American commanders packages of European forces, not the same as the ESDP, the headline goal which is really about peacekeeping, but would be more like the paras or the marine commandos, packages of forces who would be very useful to the Americans, the high intensity warfare which they think is so important, and rightly so, and if NATO could develop such a capability, that would be a way of showing to sceptics in America that it is a very useful organisation and America should take it seriously.
  (Dr Allin) That is obviously one answer which is in a sense at the margins but probably makes sense and Charles is right: there is a lot of talk about this strike force and the argument that in fact, if you were smart about it—and it is not a subject I know a great deal about—this does not really require all that much extra European defence spending. It can be very targeted and so forth. The other question, and we simply have not spoken about it yet this evening, is whether the NATO allies, the United States and its European allies, should be less reluctant to accept a division of labour. There are huge peacekeeping tasks in Afghanistan and potentially in Iraq, and I think it is fairly obvious what division of labour I am referring to. There has been a lot of resistance to this idea, for good reasons, but I think it is an issue that is not going to go away.

Mr Hancock

  102. I apologise for not being here earlier, I was tied up in the Chamber—literally I think—by a Government Minister with a very long silk tongue but I was interested in what you said that there was at least a strand of the American administration which felt that NATO had a role to play. I would be interested to know how that is going to materialise, if it is going to materialise. I would be interested to know also if you think the deployment of the Royal Marine Commandos in Afghanistan was in any way discussed at NATO before the event? I would think not myself. I am a little confused about your suggestion that the Americans did see a role for NATO when all the evidence says is that all the Americans are really interested in is bilateral arrangements which allow them to call the shots and deploy troops at their command.
  (Mr Grant) Well, of course, there are many different factions within the current administration in Washington but there is certainly a group in the Pentagon who rather take the view that you are outlining. There are certainly senior figures in the NSC who do believe NATO is important and I have heard some of these people say more or less this about the Pentagon, that the Pentagon ran the Afghanistan war very well but the mistake it made was not taking up European offers of help. One of the reasons perhaps that they did not take up many European offers of help is not just that the Europeans have useless capability, because actually that is not true, at least in certain areas, but it is because perhaps these offers were directly from national governments with which US commanders did not have a lot of knowledge or contact. So the idea I referred to earlier, the so-called strike force, is that NATO would act as a kind of portal through which American commanders could go and get packages of forces that are kind of pre-arranged in a NATO friendly way. One of the points of this idea is to make it easier for American commanders to call upon NATO forces, make them more comfortable. The second point of the idea that I have referred to is simply that it is another way of getting the Europeans to think more about capabilities, perhaps to spend more on defence to reform their armed forces. There are certainly people in Washington who do take NATO very, very seriously. There was a public lecture delivered two days ago by Richard Haass, head of Policy Planning at the State Department, it is an on the record lecture he gave to our think tank on Monday. He was saying that NATO is important and we are committed to it. Now, of course there are many views in Washington which are different but that is at least a view that comes out of Washington.

  Chairman: Anything further on this? Military structures in rather more detail. Frank.

Mr Roy

  103. It has been suggested that the United States will be pressing at Prague for more mobile joint headquarters and more high readiness commands. Do you believe that at the moment, for example, NATO's command structures remain valid for the task that they have at the moment and that lie ahead? Further to that, if you do not, are there too many command structures at the moment which differ too much between countries, between America, between Germany, between the United Kingdom? For example, next year SACEUR will have an American in the lead, DSACEUR will be a United Kingdom or German admiral The Chief of Staff of SACEUR will be a German admiral, the deputy Chief of Staff will be a United Kingdom admiral. Is that valid? Do you think this is a time to make changes to those command structures?
  (Dr Allin) I think I will have to pass on this.
  (Professor Heuser) I think a lot of the command structures as they are now continue to be valid particularly in the navy area. I think there is more flexibility already built into the system now: far, far, far more than the old Cold War structures had. There have been a lot of ad hoc arrangements with, for example, France, Spain, Italy, for the Mediterranean, etc. I think particularly those that concern the rapidly deployable forces and naval forces are probably pretty good and have been the end result of very long negotiations so probably it would not be a terribly good idea to go over that again in view of the political stakes in that. Tentative answer.

Mr Roy

  104. For example, should SACEUR always be an American or should that rotate between SACEUR and DSACEUR, between the Americans, the Germans and other NATO allies?
  (Professor Heuser) The problem is the present command structure is the outcome of so, so, so complicated negotiations and national flag waving etc that undoing every single one of those packages would be very, very difficult because it has always been a case of agreeing that there is one German post here in return for one UK post here in return for one French post here. It is a very complicated game in which everybody is trying to gain so many posts.

  105. You think you can have that more high readiness command structure and still keep the structure you have got at the moment?
  (Professor Heuser) I think you can do that. Tentative answer.
  (Mr Grant) I would not have a lot to add to that but clearly there are a lot of fixed headquarters because every country wants fixed headquarters on its land and not very many mobile ones. It seems that ideally NATO would have sort of three large headquarters of the magnitude of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) headquarters which could go and command a big mission like in Kosovo. It has the ARRC, the British led ARRC, then there is the Euro corps which is semi-mobile but perhaps not mobile enough and then perhaps we need a third one. If it had three then that would be rather useful for all these peacekeeping missions all over the world.

  106. Would you have a special forces command?
  (Mr Grant) At the moment it does not, NATO does not have the special forces command, as far as I am aware.

  107. It is a possibility?
  (Professor Heuser) Yes.
  (Mr Grant) Maybe it needs to think about that. On the command structure, I think the French should be encouraged to rejoin. Chirac decided to rejoin when he became President in 1995.
  (Professor Heuser) Now is the time.
  (Mr Grant) He very nearly did. It was a diplomatic cock-up by French and American diplomats with some blame on both sides in my view. I think the French military would love to get back in. It obviously makes the whole thing more effective and more efficient if you have one of the most important military countries a proper member rather than sort of added on at the last minute for each of these missions which happen.

  108. Do you think the military would like back in?
  (Professor Heuser) I think now is the time with the current French election results.
  (Mr Grant) Yes, it could be a good moment to revisit this.
  (Dr Allin) On the American SACEUR, I think there were a lot of times in NATO's history when it made sense to think about a European SACEUR, but this is not one of those times. This strikes me as one of the least plausible times when we will have this discussion in the air that we have about America's interest. In the end if things develop perhaps in some of the pessimistic ways that we have considered the argument will be revisited at the end of that tunnel but at this point I think both the symbolic and the practical signal that would send in terms of American participation in NATO I do not think is what makes sense right now. It made sense arguably at a time when the American interest was undeniable and unavoidable.

Jim Knight

  109. Very briefly, because I think you have largely touched on it, you have talked a little bit about the merits of the burden sharing and the special forces. Just to finish that conversation off, do you think we should be developing a special forces capability in NATO? Would that be valued by the United States as something tangible which can add value which will be appreciated in Washington?
  (Professor Heuser) Very much so. Mr Grant has already come out in favour so I will just add my voice to that.
  (Mr Grant) Yes.
  (Professor Heuser) The question is only would you put it under NATO or would you keep it separately and just put it under a NATO command structure in case of an emergency?

  110. European NATO members developing that. When we were in Lithuania, for example, and the other Baltics, we were very impressed with the potential for them to develop that kind of capability. It is not necessarily high tech, it is not necessarily expensive, it just needs good training and good soldiers. They seemed very good capable soldiers who were up for it.
  (Professor Heuser) There are two questions. One is always going to be is NATO going to be the organisation that most easily oversees such a deployment and the other one is going to be will you get the consensus in NATO for this to be a NATO operation or is it going to be a coalition of the willing that uses certain parts of NATO which are double hatted which can be taken out of NATO again and then called a purely British component or purely French component.

  111. Yes.
  (Professor Heuser) The question is then do you want to tie yourself to the need to establish consensus in NATO before you can use them or are you going to make flexible arrangements which will use some NATO resources, as I said, in a dual hatted way.

  112. Given one of the functions of NATO is interoperability and fully interoperable special forces—
  (Professor Heuser) If you prepare and train them.

  113.—and then you might have your interesting ways of saying "No, not this time" however you described them earlier, constructive abstention, was it not, now some people may say "Well not for us" but you have got the interoperability, you have got the capability there and one assumes that will be inevitable. The other question was the concept of Combined Joint Task Forces. There does not seem to have been much progress on that. Why do you think NATO has failed to make progress on that concept?
  (Dr Allin) It seems to me that the first, if I remember the enthusiasm for this concept correctly, was really based on the idea that European countries would come together to do things that the United States was not really interested in doing for whatever reason. It still is a possibility, maybe even a probability in the Balkans, although the Balkans again are becoming less demanding. I think it only makes sense in that scenario. If we are talking about some of these more demanding missions, it seems unlikely that it will be without the United States still.
  (Mr Grant) Some people have argued that the IFOR and SFOR missions in the Balkans were Combined Joint Task Forces. While the bureaucrats and the politicians were arguing about the theory the concept got stuck, the practitioners just went and did one, they sent a force to the Balkans which did not probably have every NATO member involved. In that sense it was a Combined Joint Task Force. What have we got in Macedonia today? We have a force of soldiers with no Americans involved. I think there is one American who is a press officer so essentially that is really a Combined Joint Task Force and maybe the Kabul peacekeeping mission, although it is not technically a NATO mission, it is again a sort of de facto Combined Joint Task Force.

  114. Could it have currency in post September 11 operations?
  (Professor Heuser) A wider term for it is to say it is a coalition of the willing. It is a way of packaging that and putting it in NATO and then saying it is Combined Joint Task Forces. Effectively any such coalition is something very similar to what was negotiated in very particular terms as the Combined Joint Task Force. I think this is a classic example of where change comes about when there is enormous pressure to make change and bring about change, to create change by events and by circumstances and by a crisis situation calling for change. While we theorise about what would be good etc., our views tend not to have any impact. There is not the need for them until there is a crisis.

  115. Yes. Dr Allin, you are suggesting that perhaps the United States might not take the same view in the area of currency but you still need the United States' capability in order to make the thing work beyond back up?
  (Dr Allin) I did suggest that, I suppose. I think I was focussing really on extra European issues and as a matter of fact—and I sort of corrected myself at the end—in European terms the Balkans is a place for all sorts of things which may not fit entirely what the original scheme was but it is pretty close.

  116. Do you see a role specialisation that is more along the lines of the Americans being interested in war fighting and leaving peacekeeping to the Europeans?
  (Dr Allin) Yes, it is a matter not simply of interest but of capabilities, yes I do.
  (Mr Grant) I agree with Dana there, it is completely against what everybody in the Foreign Office and the MoD here says and thinks and the same for the French and probably the German ones because of the experience of Bosnia. I absolutely agree with Dana. It may be sub-optimal that we have this division of labour which stems from different capabilities. Let us try and look on the bright side. The bright side is that we can do something in Europe, namely peacekeeping, rather well and it is a fact that the Americans are not very good at peacekeeping, at least in some respects they are not. It is a fact, also, that we do not like spending lots and lots of money on very high tech weapons systems and the Americans just do, it is part of their culture. We are never going to spend the money that they would spend on missile defence systems in my view anyway. In a sense this difference creates mutual dependence and that is good if you want the Alliance to stay together. It means that the Americans need us.

  117. Do you think they value peacekeeping so much that they would say "Well, that is second division stuff, who cares?"
  (Mr Grant) We will cook the dinner, you do the dishes, yes.

  118. "You do the job that you have got to do and we will get out" and if they want to mop up the pieces, then fine, we will leave them to it.
  (Mr Grant) I think people on the hard right of the Republican party probably think peacekeeping is for wimps but serious people in Washington who take part in seminars at serious think tanks and serious people in the State Department, even the Pentagon, and certainly the White House, do understand that once you have won the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan somebody has to keep some peace in Kabul. I think Americans do appreciate that.

Patrick Mercer

  119. Is that thinking not going to become terribly blurred in the light of Operation Anaconda? Whatever way you choose to put it, whatever tag you give it, Anaconda was not peacekeeping.
  (Mr Grant) I know.


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