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17 Oct 2002 : Column 517continued
Mr. Jenkin: No. Of course, diplomacy can function in the war against terrorism only if it is ultimately backed by the threat of military force. Both diplomacy and military action depend on broad international support and unity. I am surprised that the Secretary of State made little reference to the upcoming Prague summit. It is the drifting apart of the Atlantic alliance that is by far the most dangerous diplomatic development since 11 September last year. That could be seen as a principal objective of rogue states and terrorist organisations. How they must rub their hands with glee when they see Europe and the United States falling out about how to deal with the problem of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. I remind the House of one of the principles of counter-insurgency warfare: to co-ordinate all one's actions to a strategic plan. How can we achieve that unless we have an active and sustainable transatlantic alliance? That is why the NATO summit in Prague next month is a defining moment in the war against terrorism and for NATO itself.
There are three issues that need to be addressed. The first is to reform the structure for developing a joint understanding of threats and how to deal with them. That is what NATO did during the cold war. At the beginning of the cold war, NATO was a shadow of what it is now. It did not have the integrated command and military structure allowing senior military officers to sit down and discuss what the threats are, what the necessary responses are, and what national defence policies are needed to deal with those threats. That process in NATO must be revived.
Secondly, we need to develop military capabilities relevant to the modern threats. The Prague capability initiative will be a vital part of bringing the west together in the war against terrorism. Thirdly, we need to find the political will to act as an alliance to deal with those threats.
The Government should welcome the Rumsfeld proposal that there should be one or many NATO rapid reaction forces. We need forcesNATO forces, coalition forcesthat are fast, lethal, superior to anything that they are likely to encounter and deployable way beyond our traditional borders. The UK, which developed the expeditionary concept in the defence review of the 1990s and in the strategic defence review, should be leading the initiative. Our armed forces are the best example of that initiative.
What will be the UK's contribution to the debate? The dangers that we face stem from the growing disparity between the United States' and the rest of NATO's military capabilities, which threatens NATO cohesion. For example, the United States currently provides 100 per cent. of NATO's standoff jamming capability, 90 per cent. of the air-to-ground surveillance and reconnaissance, and almost 80 per cent. of the air-to-air refuelling tankers necessary to conduct operations. There are 250 long-range transports available to NATO from the United States, while the rest of the alliance can provide merely 11. The United States has no more fighters and bombers than the European NATO members, but only a tiny fraction of the European fighters and bombers have precision-guided weapons while 100 per cent. of American fighters and bombers have such weapons.
The third issue that needs to be addressed is finding the political willthat is the other threat to cohesion in NATOand how that will has been sapped by the European security and defence policy! How sensible it would be if we could get back to the XBerlin plus" arrangements that were approved in 1996 to create a European security and defence identity within the NATO alliance. The final communique of that Washington summit is littered with references to a European security and defence identity within NATO. It was to provide
The Nice treaty annexes provide for EU military forces that are independent of and autonomous from NATO. They provide for planning for military operations outside NATO; that the EU will decide on military operations and only Xconsult" NATO; and that the EU will retain full political and strategic control throughout any operation independent of NATO.
Since then, the EU has established an EU Political and Security Committee outside NATO, and an EU Military Committee, exactly mirroring and duplicating the NATO military committee, outside NATO. It has replicated the NATO military staffs in the EU military staffs and other organisations outside NATO, with a membership approaching 200 in a brand new building in Brussels. Finally, there is the commitment to a European rapid reaction force outside NATO, an embryo European army.
I noticed the Secretary of State muttering through all that. Does he deny it? Will he address it at the NATO summit? We know that the four non-NATO EU members will be attending the NATO summit. When will the disagreement between NATO and the EU that the Government have created be resolved?
Dr. Julian Lewis: My hon. Friend gave us a long list of new offices and institutions that have been created on behalf of the EU rapid reaction force. Has the new EU rapid reaction force led to the addition of a single soldier, warship or aeroplane to Europe's defence capability?
Jim Knight: But surely that is the point. The notion of a European army is a fallacious misinterpretation, as we are not talking about creating a new set of soldiers and capability; we are talking about existing capability. If, for example, the United States does not want to act in our back yard, the EU is capable of doing so. If a European army is a way of bringing France into the foldit is currently a little semi-detached from NATOthat is a good thing. If it is a way of giving us a capability and cranking up European capability that has been so slow to develop under NATO, surely the hon. Gentleman must welcome it.
Mr. Jenkin: All those things could have been achieved within the XBerlin plus" framework. The ESDP adds nothing to that framework; it only creates capabilities outside NATO. I shall tell the hon. Gentleman why it is a bad thing. First, it is wasteful of resources. It duplicates institutions and creates extra offices and ambassadors, more chauffeur-driven cars and more waste when we should be spending that money on additional military capability and not on bureaucracy.
Secondly, in times of crisis military planners provide options to political masters, which is what they do at SHAPE. Options a, b and c have certain sets of forces with certain risk factors. That is what they do in NATO. Why do we need to replicate and duplicate that capability when it is so dangerous to do so?
Thirdly, we do not want the European Union to decide that it wants battalion x when D-SACEUR has already assigned battalion x to another operation in another theatre. If there is to be military planning, it should be conducted under a single organisationNATO. I am quoting liberally from the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Joseph Ralston, so these
Finally, I want to address the new chapter of the strategic defence review that reiterates the Government's commitment to the expeditionary concept for our armed forcesa concept to which we are fully committed. I shall not dwell at length on overstretch, nor shall I engage in cheap political claptrap about increased expenditure in which the Secretary of State indulged. He will not admit the truth, which is that, even after three years, real terms expenditure will still be #1 billion a year less than the Government inherited from the previous Conservative Government. There is an anxiety that we are trying to obtain the same defence from less capability. I note that he skilfully timed the announcement of the decision about the short take off and vertical landing carrier capability just half an hour before he addressed the Labour party conference in Blackpool. The letter that he sent me told me that he was making that announcement for Xcommercial reasons". I shall not inquire what those reasons were, but it was awfully convenient for the right hon. Gentleman to be able to make such an announcement at such a time.
Why did the right hon. Gentleman not also announce the plans for the existing surface fleet? Why did he not tell the Labour party conference that difficult choices had to be made? He has now written to me, a week later, to say that HMS Sheffield is to be withdrawn from service. I do not know whether he has plans to reduce the surface navy by 10 ships, but we get a stream of documents from the Government that tell us the good news but not the bad news. At least when we produced defence reviews, they were full of bad news and good news. That may have been unwelcome for the armed forces at the time, but at least it was honest. Why do not the Government give us the good news and the bad news? Why do they not let us have a proper debate about how we should spend the limited resources that we have for the armed forces, instead of smuggling out announcements as though these things were not really happening?
We have the best armed forces in the world. They have a significant role to play internationally, particularly in the war against terrorism. Judging by the way in which the arguments tend to be conducted, however, it is small wonder that so many armed service men have become so cynical about politicians. The least that we should promise them is a proper debate. Moreover, the capabilities required for our defence and