Academic Forum

and Europe:
A Time For
Unity, A Time
For Vision

21-22 Feb. '97

Panel Three: Sharing Hopes and Ambitions: The New Atlantic Alliance

"Institutional Foundations of Western Security"

Executive Summary

Both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) are committed to adding new members from Central Europe. NATO intends to admit its first tranche of new members by 1999. The EU may admit its next tranche of members by the middle of the next decade. The expanding geographic scope of both organizations raises important questions about the future characteristics of the military forces of the member states and how those forces are to be organized. These questions are raised as a result of three factors.

First, while the immediate threat to the territory and political independence of member states is presently much reduced, NATO (explicitly) and EU states (implicitly) acknowledge that they must hedge against the development of such threats, irrespective of their source. At the same time, however, both NATO and the EU believe it is necessary for them to consider and undertake political-military initiatives- including the deployment and employment of armed forces for low- to medium-intensity operations- both within and beyond the geographical space occupied by their members. Second, the resources available for the reconstruction and modernization of members' military forces is considerably reduced relative to Cold War levels. Third, the cost of modern technology, even for the reduced force levels contemplated by most members, is prohibitive relative to available financing.

In an effort to offset the inevitable tensions created by an increasing number and variety of missions for their armed forces, shrinking budgets and the demands placed on resources by the "push" and "pull" of technological developments, both the NATO and the EU have sought to use organizational innovation to offset shortfalls in capability and to increase the flexibility of their existing forces.

The continued credibility of NATO and EU members' forces is critical to both institutions. NATO's claim to be able to "project stability" rests ultimately on its capacity to tailor military forces to support diplomatic efforts in a fluid and complex environment. The prospects for the EU to establish and develop a common foreign and security policy (CFSP) that reflects members' interests both in Europe and beyond depend in no small way on its ability to raise, equip, train and deploy military forces organized to support members' NATO commitments as well as their particular EU interests.

This short paper will outline the impact of changing military concepts on the requirements for credible military forces, briefly describe the efforts being made to meet those requirements, survey organizational innovations being adopted or explored. It will conclude with a short discussion of issues that might affect the prospects for cooperation among NATO allies and EU members as they struggle to maintain a credible defense.

New Mission Constraints, Tighter Budgets and Advanced Technology

One of the ironies associated with military force requirements for the post-Cold War era is that despite the more limited role envisioned for military forces, the technical level of performance demanded for those forces has increased substantially. This is due in some measure to the persistence of a post-Cold War phenomenon, "technology pull." That is, new methods of accomplishing familiar tasks become available and, as worn out or obsolescent equipment is replaced, the new technologies are inserted in the force. This phenomenon is known to every owner of a personal computer seeking to maintain a balance between his hardware and software as the technology related to both continues to evolve. As this phenomenon occurs across forces originally designed in the 1970s and early 1980s and procured in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the entire force is slowly but inexorably "upgraded."

A second contributor to the increased demand for high performance weapons and systems is related to mission effectiveness. As the overall size of the armed forces of most nations decline, the need for systems that can accomplish a number of tasks, or provide a substantial multiplier effect in the performance of a given task, increases. Cost factors also come into play; older systems are more expensive to maintain as they age and, although new technology systems always cost more, their promise of increased performance and reduced maintenance costs over a smaller inventory is a persuasive argument for new procurement.

These technical factors behind the increase in demand for higher performance weapons systems are compounded by-a third factor- the mission profile that is being imposed on military forces. The desire to limit the role of military forces in turn creates a demand for limited operations- limited objectives, limited (i.e. rapid) response times, limited duration commitments, limited casualties among friendly forces, limited collateral damage, etc. These demands, singly and in combination, place increased performance requirements on the force that can only be met by high technology systems. A brief review of the critical capabilities set of a modern military force bears out this point:

  • intelligence collection, data fusion, information analysis, estimate distribution, etc., are essential to develop and exploit strategic indicators of adversary intentions. They are needed to provide strategic warning, support operational-level planning and command and control and to provide tactical level leaders with critical situational awareness- the location and status of their own forces and those of the adversary.

  • strategic and operational-level response forces capable of responding quickly and precisely to the needs of the political leadership. These include not only the highly visible long-range strike assets able to deliver precision strike munitions on targets both large and small in size and in either case likely to be hardened against the effects of such munitions, but the tankers needed to support aircraft in flight, the intelligence and operations centers able to quickly plan and execute a mission, the personnel to service and equip both the delivery platforms and munitions, etc.

  • operational and tactical level capabilities to find, fix and neutralize adversary opposition quickly and with little collateral damage. These operational and tactical level operations can span from providing a presence with small units to the extraction of nationals or the support to a local government under assault by rebel forces, from traditional peacekeeping to more recent peace enforcement operations, and from pre-emptive and punitive raids to traditional combined arms operations of short duration but potentially high intensity, including opposed entries into the combat theater or zone.

In addition to these capabilities, a credible military force will need to exert a deterrent effect through the threat of nuclear retaliation in response, at a minimum, to nuclear threats to or attacks on home territories. (To date, a consensus on the efficacy of a nuclear deterrent relative to other weapons of mass destruction has not emerged.) Such a force might also need ballistic missile defenses to protect its deployed forces and, most likely, to guard against limited attacks against homelands as well. And, finally, it will need competence in the still emerging world of information warfare.

The means for obtaining these capabilities have shrunk markedly. Among the European members of NATO defense spending (in current dollars) has fallen from 3.6% of aggregate GDP in 1980-84 to 2.5% in 1996. Since the mid-1980s the spending of the United Kingdom and Germany has declined by 26% and 28%, respectively. That of France remained constant over the same period, but it has now embarked on a significant reduction in defense spending as it attempts to modernize and "downsize" its military forces and supporting infrastructure and industry. In the US, the defense budget has dropped from nearly $400 B in 1990 to about $270 B in 1995 (in 1995 dollars). The procurement account alone has fallen by nearly 60%. The inescapable conclusion, drawn in the US and in Europe, is that new organizational approaches are required in light of the increased cost and diminished resources available to maintain credible military forces into the future.


The new approaches to organization may be divided roughly in two categories: industrial and military.

Industrial Reorganization

Beginning in the late 1980s, US defense firms began the process of consolidating their assets. By the mid-1990s only three major, "prime" contractors remain- Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing- in the aerospace sector. This sector of industry delivered 54 aircraft of all types in 1995. The US no longer produces new tanks. It has reduced its shipyards for nuclear naval construction to two. Its shipyards delivered four naval ships in 1995. This process of consolidation and downsizing has resulted in a reduction of 1,000,000 jobs in the civilian industrial defense sector (from a base of ~3.5 million). (Military and civilian defense employment has been reduced by ~700,000.) At the same time, defense downsizing has enabled American industry to compete on a world-wide basis with European firms and provided a base on which to withstand the heavily subsidized efforts of the Russian and Chinese armaments industries.

In Europe, the need for industrial reorganization is recognized, but progress toward consolidation is hampered by the interplay of political and economic motives among the European members of NATO and the EU. Of the major European powers, the UK has been the most successful in rationalizing its defense industry. But it is limited in this process both by its desire to maintain national competencies in critical sectors- avionics, for example- and the need to sustain a working relationship with its EU partners, France and Germany.

French and German industry- directed by national armaments ministries- have launched a number of joint efforts in the past years. Few can be counted unequivocal successes. The major exception, of course, is the civilian Airbus, which after a considerable period of development and (according to US experts) subsidization, has emerged as a serious competitor to the US airline industry. But in the military sphere, success has been difficult to come by. Aircraft, ship, armored vehicle and satellite programs have all fallen prey to differences in military requirements and culture, funding constraints and domestic political constraints.

These setbacks have not deterred either the French or German governments in seeking greater collaboration and integration. Most recently they have signed an agreement for a new armaments ministry within the EU context. What gives hope for the success of this endeavor is that the advent of monetary union (EMU) will have an independent effect on decision making. That is, as currencies are integrated so too must budgetary, fiscal and monetary policies. Defense spending is a major component of the first two. Moreover, as the flow of business, labor, capital and information is facilitated by a combination of new EU regulations and the EMU, officials in both Paris and Bonn anticipate that industrial reorganization will be rendered easier.

Military Organization

In an effort to economize on budgets and to rationalize procurement, European states have been quite active in seeking new organizational approaches to combine and integrate national forces. Germany and France led the way in this effort with the creation of the Eurocorps in the early 1990s. That effort has subsequently been joined by countries like Belgium and Spain. The Netherlands and Germany have formed an integrated corps. France has been active in creating headquarters arrangements with Britain to support air expeditionary forces, and with Spain, Portugal and Italy to provide land, sea and air force capabilities for contingencies in the western Mediterranean. Under the leadership of Denmark, states in the Baltic region have formed the so-called BALTBAT (Baltic battalion) which is slated to increase in size over time to a brigade from the current single battalion.

The Western European Union has undertaken efforts to upgrade its own planning and intelligence capabilities. The former is closely associated with changes being made by NATO and that will be discussed below. The latter draws on the joint Franco-German-Italian program to place optical, infrared and radar satellites on orbit to provide a surveillance and reconnaissance capability for European states that is independent of US sources. The center is located at Torrejon, Spain. In addition, the WEU has committed itself to developing the capacity to conduct so-called "Petersburg" missions- search and rescue, humanitarian relief and classic peacekeeping- under the aegis of the EU.

The most significant effort at creating new military organizations is to be found in the NATO context. Since 1989 NATO has substantially reduced the number of commands such that, following the 1997 summit it will consist of two supreme commanders- SACLANT and SACEUR- for the Atlantic region and for Europe, and two regional commands, one north and the other south of the Alps. A special command will exist for the rapid reaction force. Component force commands- air, land, sea- will continue as well. But the point is that the new organization will be both more compact and far more flexible.

In addition, NATO has agreed to the US concept for the creation of combined joint task forces. This concept is designed to permit the WEU to make use of NATO assets- e.g., intelligence, command and control, logistics- to conduct WEU missions. Headquarters staff for the WEU missions would be drawn from European members of NATO staffs up and down the NATO integrated command structure. These officers and enlisted personnel, in cooperation with their American counterparts, would plan for a wide variety of contingencies as they do today. A CJTF headquarters would be activated if an alliance member, e.g., the US, decided that it did not wish to take part in a given mission that had the support of other allies. Under such conditions, after authorization by the North Atlantic Council, the Deputy SACEUR, who will be a European general officer, would take command of the headquarters staff and the forces to be assigned to the contingency (provided they were not committed to an on-going NATO mission) and conduct the operation on behalf of the WEU. At the end of the mission, both headquarters and operational personnel would return to their ordinary peacetime status.

Independent of, but complimentary to, the CJTF concept is NATO's Partnership for Peace (PFP) program. The PFP was designed by the US in 1993 to permit prospective NATO applicants to enter into a political dialog with NATO and each other and to provide their military forces with a standard against which to initiate reform and modernization programs. Under PFP it is possible for a member to participate in NATO operations, as is the case at present in the former Yugoslavia. In addition to NATO members, 14 PFP members have participated in IFOR. Following the 1997 summit PFP it is likely PFP will be "enhanced" so that partners will be able to actively participate in allied discussions leading up to a NATO or CJTF commitment as well as take part in its planning from the beginning. In addition, partners likely will be permitted to engage NATO officials with the aim of rationalizing their own force modernization goals and programs with NATO requirements and standards.

Russia is a PFP member and currently participates in its activities. It has a contingent operating under a US commander in Bosnia. It also has a flag officer at SACEUR's headquarters to coordinate Russian military affairs and to provide national oversight of the Russian forces in Bosnia. The prospective "Charter" to be negotiated between NATO and Russia might add new military organizations to those that have been developed in recent years and/or result in Russian forces combining or integrating with those in existing commands.

Issues Affecting a Credible Defense

How will the transatlantic defense industrial base be rationalized? The requirement for technically more capable forces is inescapable. Command, control, communications, computation, intelligence, targeting, transport, logistics, precision guided munitions delivered by air, sea or land forces, as well as the items of equipment that enhance the effectiveness and survival of individual personnel- small arms, body armor, night vision goggles, GPS receivers, non-lethal munitions- are all needed irrespective of the mission. Allied forces in Bosnia today are employing intelligence fusion and communications technologies and techniques that were not available during the Gulf War and are superior to those that were. The NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions were able to limit collateral damage because of their precise targeting. Even stealthy aircraft are needed across the spectrum of conflict. Not every conflict needs a stealthy B-2, but the proliferation of radar and other surveillance techniques means that UAVs and fighter-bombers will need stealth attributes if they are to contribute in a meaningful way to political-military operations.

In the face of budget realities the US and its NATO and EU allies and friends will need to balance the demand for new capabilities against resource constraints. At the same time, all will have to weigh the desire to retain independent means for conducting military operations with the harsh realities of the need for cooperation to compensate either for one's own technical shortcomings or an adversary's peculiar political or military advantages. For the moment neither the US nor its allies and friends are prepared to sacrifice independence until it has been proven to be impossible.

In the case of the US, this proof may be a long time in coming. At present and for the next two decades at least the US is likely to possess in technical and quantitative terms the means it requires to meet its military commitments. This is a consequence of the advantages conferred by its Cold War legacy of weapons system and basic R&D and the lack of a "peer" competitor to threaten its interests. As a result, its inclination to surrender its independence in theaters outside of Europe- what others might see as unilateralism- is likely to be low. And even within Europe, American industry will insist that it be allowed to compete for sales to allies as well as those in the EU and in Central Europe irrespective of European desires and efforts to establish a fully competent Euro defense industry.

In the case of Europe, present circumstances persuade many that independence is not a practical option. Not only have European states failed to consolidate their defense industry, it is argued, the US has stolen a technical march on Europe in terms of fielded equipment. Others, particularly France and to a lesser extent Germany, believe that over the intervening twenty years Europe can make considerable gains in industrial consolidation and in combining and integrating Europe's forces. This vision is what rests behind France's decision to reorganize its military and defense industry, to sacrifice so much to make itself a strong member of the EMU, to rejoin NATO military structures and to pursue vigorously in cooperation with others programs like Ariane, Airbus, Eurofighter, Helios and Horus. European firms, and not only French firms, believe that it is essential that they compete with the US on the world market, to include in the US, to generate the revenue necessary to support a credible defense industry.

This raises for the US and Europe two important issues. First, how will they approach the world market? In particular, how will they approach the modernization of Central European military forces? Nations in that region represent a reasonable market and one that is already being contested. This in turn raises an even more ticklish issue: to what extent is the US prepared to transfer technology to European firms either for the purposes of allowing them to join US firms as partners or in the interest of sustaining US-European interoperability of advanced technology forces. The Gulf War demonstrated how debilitating to coalition operations a lack of technical parity can be. How far is it in US interest to avoid an increased gap in capability; does Europe believe it needs to sacrifice any independence now to assure interoperability with the US in the future?

This leads to the second issue. Does the US need, or should it seek in any case, the active partnership of European allies in political-military affairs in regions of interest to the US beyond Europe? Conversely, how far are European states, individually or via the EU, prepared to press claims of interest in the Middle East, Southwest Asia, Southeast Asia and Northwest Asia to the point of demanding a role in political-military operations in those regions? The answers to these questions illuminate the issue of US-European global partnership. If global partnership is desirable, then it needs to be made feasible through a combination of industrial, organizational and political arrangements. If it is seen as undesirable or unnecessary, then the scope of concern for concluding industrial, organizational and political arrangements might be confined to Europe alone. But in a global market and interdependent world, how would that be possible?

How far will US and European interests continue to coincide in Europe? The CJTF concept allows for the assignment of NATO forces to the WEU to conduct missions by and for the WEU and, most likely, the EU. It is concept designed to permit the US to avoid entanglement in every European operation while providing the basis on which allies could develop a European defense identity (EDI) within the alliance. This latter point is cheered by the US because it means that no military system other than NATO, in which it exercises substantial influence, will take root in Europe. It is also cheered by Europeans because it means that the US will remain committed to Europe even as the Europeans develop the military means to complement the evolution of the EU toward its goal of representing members interests in a common foreign and security policy (CFSP).

For all of its benefits, however, the CJTF concept creates a mechanism by which allies can agree not to find a way to compose their differences on an issue of the application of military force in the European region. While this is a matter of little concern at a time of stability and harmonious relations, it might be well to recall that the history of the alliance is littered with fractious arguments among allies. The debate over alliance policy toward the former Yugoslavia in 1993-1995 was the most recent. It is worth reflecting on the course of the war there, the evolution of the alliance and the relationship between alliance members and the US had the WEU in 1993-94 been able to mount a CJTF operation. It can be argued that such an approach would have hastened the development of the an EDI as well as brought the war to an earlier conclusion. But would it have engendered more or less cooperation between the US and NATO; would it have been able to incorporate the contributions of Central European states; would it been able to accommodate Russian participation; would it have encouraged the cooperation between NATO and the EU?

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