Updated: 23-Oct-2000 Ministerial Communiqus


23th May 1975

Ministerial Guidance 1975

  1. NATO procedures call for Ministers to give guidance for defence planning every two years. The guidance reflects the political, economic, technological and military factors which could affect the development of NATO forces during the next planning period. The guidance, being a major policy document endorsed by Ministers. provides a reference point and directive for all defence planning activities, at both the national and international level, in NATO.

Long-Range Defence Concept

  1. Previous editions of Ministerial Guidance have covered the seven-year period of the NATO Defence Planning Cycle. However, lengthened timescales for the development and deployment of sophisticated weapon systems together with increased costs of military manpower and equipment now make it necessary to establish a more comprehensive framework for defence planning. To take account of these factors a Long-Range Defence Concept has been adopted, which places increased emphasis on co-operative measures within the Alliance and on the establishment of rigorous priorities.

  2. The current international security situation and trends for the future underline the inescapable necessity for NATO to maintain a capability to deter aggression or the threat of it, and if deterrence fails, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area. The members of NATO are seeking improvements in relations with the East and the reduction of forces on a mutual and balanced basis, but negotiations are slow. Meanwhile the military capabilities of the Warsaw Pact nations continue to expand. Continued maintenance of NATO's defensive strength will furnish a secure basis from which to negotiate in addition to providing a bar to aggression or threats of aggression.

  3. The long-range defence concept supports agreed NATO strategy by calling for a balanced force structure of interdependent strategic nuclear, theatre nuclear and conventional force capabilities. Each element of this Triad performs a unique role; in combination they provide mutual support and reinforcement. No single element of the Triad can substitute for another. The concept also calls for the modernisation of both strategic and theatre nuclear capabilities; however, major emphasis is placed on maintaining and improving Alliance conventional forces. NATO has already achieved a large measure of success in this regard. NATO has fielded the basic ingredients for a stalwart conventional defence. However, disparities between NATO and the Warsaw Pact conventional forces remain. The Allies must reduce these disparities and provide a stable, long-term basis for attaining and maintaining adequate conventional forces.

  4. The essence of the long-range defence concept is that NATO can provide an adequate force structure for deterrence and defence if the Allies maintain the forces already in existence (or foreseen in plans currently declared to NATO) and continue to modernise an improve these forces and their supporting facilities. This will require some modest annual increase in real terms in defence expenditures; the actual increase for each country will vary in accordance with its current force contribution, its present efforts and its economic strength. It also requires the optimum use of resources available for defence through the rigorous setting of priorities and a greater degree of co-operation between national forces within the Alliance.

  5. This long-range defence concept will help to provide a more comprehensive basis for NATO planning with both the flexibility to absorb effects of political, economic and technological changes, and with the stability in national defence programmes to prevent sudden and uneconomic fluctuations.

The need for defence

  1. The Allied governments have successfully engaged the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries in discussions and negotiations on several issues of defence and security, e.g. on the limitation of strategic arms (SALT) and on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions. But although the atmosphere in East-West relations has improved over the last decade, it remains a fact that the Warsaw Pact continues to maintain a military capability much greater than that needed for self-defence. In the strategic nuclear field the Soviet Union, having already attained rough parity with the United States, now seems to be seeking to attain a strategic advantage through the development of more sophisticated and powerful missiles. Improvements are also being made in the quality and quantity of Warsaw Pact conventional forces, particularly in the offensive capabilities of aircraft, tanks, artillery and missiles. At sea the expansion of Soviet maritime forces over the past decade and their world-wide deployment have added a new dimension to their capabilities which are now such that, independently of a land/air attack on NATO territory, Soviet maritime forces could be used against NATO forces at sea or against our maritime lines of communication in order to interfere with the economies and vital supplies of NATO nations.

  2. The basis of the North Atlantic Treaty is that the common defence of the Alliance is one and indivisible. The Allies would consider an attack on one or more of them an attack against all. The essential solidarity of the Alliance depends upon the political resolve of individual nations and the scale of effort they are prepared to devote to the common defence. Should weaknesses in either cause the Warsaw Pact countries to doubt our readiness to withstand political pressure or our determination to defend ourselves by all the means at our disposal against aggression, they might come to believe that they could use their military power against us for political or military ends without undue risk; accordingly the defence posture of NATO should be so constructed as to take into account the deployment, capabilities and possible objectives of the Warsaw Pact forces.

NATO Strategy

  1. The aim of NATO's strategy and military planning is to ensure security through deterrence. The primary aim is to deter an attack before it is launched, by making it clear to any aggressor that any attack on NATO would be met by a strong defence and might initiate a sequence of events which cannot be calculated in advance, involving risks to the aggressor out of all proportion to any advantages he might hope to gain. In an era of broad strategic nuclear parity deterrence to all forms of aggression cannot be based upon strategic nuclear forces alone: it must be provided by the overall capabilities of all NATO forces. The Alliance must be able to respond in an appropriate manner to aggression of any kind: the response must be effective in relation to the level of force used by the aggressor and must at the same time make him recognise the dangers of escalation to a higher level.

  2. Should aggression occur, the military aim is to preserve or restore the integrity and security of the NATO area by employing such forces as may be necessary within the concept of forward defence ant flexibility in response. NATO forces must be prepared to use any capabilities at their disposal (including nuclear weapons) for this purpose. This determination must be evident to the aggressor.

NATO Forces

  1. In order to implement this strategy of deterrence and defence NATO needs conventional land, sea and air forces, a capability for the effective use of nuclear weapons for tactical purposes, and strategic nuclear forces. These elements of NATO forces should each possess a credibility of their own, and should combine to produce an interlocking system of deterrence and defence. Specifically:

    1. the conventional forces should be strong enough to resist and repel a conventional attack on a limited scale. and to deter larger scale conventional attacks through the prospect of an expansion of the area, scale and intensity of hostilities which could lead to the use of nuclear weapon. Nevertheless, should large-scale conventional aggression occur, these forces should be capable of sustaining a conventional defence in the forward areas sufficient to inflict serious losses on the aggressor and convince him of the risks of continuing his aggression:

    2. the purpose of the tactical nuclear capability is to enhance the deterrent and defensive effect of NATO's forces against large-scale conventional attack, and to provide a deterrent against the expansion of limited conventional attacks and the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons by the aggressor. Its aim is to convince the aggressor that any form of attack on NATO could result in very serious damage to his own forces, and to emphasise the dangers implicit in the continuance of a conflict by presenting him with the risk that such a situation could escalate beyond his control up to all-out nuclear war. Conversely, this capability should be of such a nature that control of the situation would remain in NATO hands;

    3. it is the function of the strategic nuclear forces to strengthen flexible response options, to provide the capability of extending deterrence across a wide range of contingencies, and to provide an ultimate sanction for the overall strategy.

    These principles of deterrence and defence apply to aggression at sea as well as on land.


  1. Until there is a downward trend in Warsaw Pact force levels, possibly as a result of MBFR negotiations, NATO's present force capabilities vis-à-vis the Warsaw Pact will at least have to be maintained. This implies the maintenance of the levels of forces already in existence (or foreseen in plans currently declared to NATO) and the regular replacement and modernisation of major equipments. This is the basic principle which should determine the annual and long-term allocation of resources for defence purposes in all countries. Defence budgets should therefore compensate in full for necessary or unavoidable increases in operating and maintenance costs, including costs of personnel, e.g. those caused by inflation; moreover, in most countries the proportion of expenditure devoted to the provision of major new equipment needs to be substantially increased.

  2. It is essential for the solidarity of the Alliance that each member nation should be seen to be making a contribution to the common defence which is commensurate with the role it has assumed in the structure of the Alliance and its economic strength.

Alliance Co-Operation

  1. NATO defence programmes are organized for the most part on a strictly national basis. The existence of sovereign governments and national systems of finance are bound to place limits on the degree to which integration of common programmes can be achieved; nevertheless there are a number of possibilities for co-operative effort where a more active approach is now urgently required, e.g.:

    1. Rationalisation. This means the adjustment of tasks and functions both within national force structures and as between nations; such adjustments must not involve any diminution of the overall capabilities of NATO forces or any reduction in national defence efforts.

    2. Flexibility. This requires the elimination of all obstacles to the optimum employment of all forces available.

    3. Standardisation. The standardisation (or interoperability) of equipment makes it easier for forces of different nations to operate effectively together. It simplifies training and logistic support.

    4. Co-operation in the development and production of military equipment is a particular form of standardisation which can exploit the benefits of scale and reduce unit costs. Co-operation between North America and Europe in this field should become a two-way street.

  2. The fullest use should be made of existing civil assets in support of military plans. Detailed planning is also needed in the civil sector to prepare for a rapid transition of national economies to an emergency footing.


  1. In light of the above considerations, Ministers established guidance on the levels and characteristics of forces, the scale of resources, the nature of the co-operative efforts, and the criteria for the determination of priorities to be used in all defence planning in NATO both national and international, for the future.

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