Updated: 24-Oct-2000 Ministerial Communiqus


17-18 May


Ministerial Guidance - 1977

NATO Objectives

  1. The overall strategic concept of NATO is to preserve peace and to provide for the security of the North Atlantic Treaty area primarily by a credible deterrence effected by confronting any possible threatened or actual aggression with adequate NATO forces, within the concept of forward defence and flexibility in response.

Recent Developments in the Threat

  1. The Warsaw Pact forces are increasingly offensive in posture and capable of projecting Soviet power on a global scale. Soviet nuclear forces continue to improve with the appearance of new nuclear missile systems equipped with multiple warheads, including the expected deployment of the SS-20 mobile intermediate range system capable of striking targets in the whole of Europe and beyond. It is in the conventional field, however, where the growth of the Warsaw Pact capability has been most pronounced. In particular, the Warsaw Pact ground forces have the capabilities to stage a major offensive in Europe without reinforcement. The improved offensive and deep penetration capabilities of the Warsaw Pact tactical air forces now permit the Warsaw Pact to conduct the initial stages of an air attack to a greater extent than hitherto, with in-place forces. The capabilities of the Soviet Union to exercise sea power all around the world have been enhanced by the introduction of new and improved ships, submarines and aircraft.

  2. The steady growth in military power is backed in the Soviet Union by an allocation of resources for defence estimated at between 11% and 13% of gross national product (nearly three times the NATO average) and by an annual increase in real terms in defence expenditure of about 5%. The heavy investment by the Soviet Union in military research and development has begun to erode the qualitative advantage in military equipment long enjoyed by NATO.

Implications For NATO

  1. The Allies are undertaking significant equipment replacement and modernisation programmes. However, many deficiencies remain in NATO forces and the disparity in conventional military capabilities between NATO and the Warsaw Pact continues to widen. This adverse trend points to certain areas of critical importance that should be taken into account in both national and NATO planning.

  2. NATO Strategy and Crisis Management. NATO's strategic concept for deterrence and forward defence remains valid. However, if NATO is to retain the ability to carry out this strategy and to avoid the need to use nuclear weapons at an early stage of a conflict a balanced force improvement programme should be carried out with emphasis placed on conventional force improvements. While NATO should be capable of dealing with the entire spectrum of possible Warsaw Pact aggressions, particular attention should be paid to NATO's ability to respond to an attack by ready forces after very little warning. For deterrence as well as defence NATO governments need to be able to take prompt political decisions in times of tension, so that NATO can deploy its forces in a timely and orderly fashion.

  3. NATO Forces. The enhanced ability of the Warsaw Pact to launch an attack at short notice places additional emphasis on NATO's need for adequate, fully trained and exercised in-place forces. Reserve forces should be capable of being deployed rapidly as organized, equipped and sufficiently trained units. Systems for rapid call-up should be maintained and exercised. Reinforcement and augmentation forces should reach an area of potential conflict before an aggression takes place or, if warning time is very short, early enough to affect the initial course of hostilities. Special emphasis should be placed on prestocking, on the timely provision of sea and airlift capabilities and an adequate reception facilities. All the forces committed to NATO should he brought up to standards established by the Major NATO Commanders as soon as possible.

  4. Defence Against Armour. Although the Alliance has improved its anti-armour capabilities, a gap persists between these capabilities and the threat posed by the Warsaw Pact's armoured forces and more anti-armour weapons should be acquired.

  5. Maritime. If the Alliance is to maintain the ability to cope with the emerging threat at sea, and to protect the sealanes for the timely reinforcement and resupply of Europe, it is imperative that the rate of improvement of NATO's maritime forces be increased.

  6. Air Defence. The increasing offensive capability of Warsaw Pact air forces emphasises the need to improve NATO's air defences over land and at sea. To enhance the survivability of NATO forces, the Alliance's integrated air defence system needs to be expanded and modernised.

  7. Regional Aspects. The defence of the North Atlantic area is indivisible. On the flanks an adequate allocation of forces and a balanced military effort must be assured; continued efforts must be made to strengthen local mobilisation capabilities, advance the arrival times of external reinforcements and improve reception and other logistic arrangements. For some countries assistance from external sources is required as well as the need for improved reinforcement capabilities.

  8. New Technology. Efficient application of modern technology, while not offering any inexpensive solutions, can provide opportunities, if applied through co-operative and timely efforts, for substantial improvement to the deterrent and defence capabilities of the Alliance.

Alliance Co-operation

  1. NATO resources can be employed to best effect if, in the development of national plans and programmes, greater account is taken of the collective needs of the Alliance, recognising that the prerogatives of sovereign governments and national systems of finance are bound to place limits on the pace and degree to which integration can be achieved. Some progress has been made but there is still much room for a better allocation of defence resources, especially through greater Alliance co-operation. This process would be greatly facilitated by the establishment of a more comprehensive framework for defence planning incorporating a longer term approach. Only thus would it be possible to establish in a timely and orderly way the necessary requirements, set the priorities, reconcile demands on resources for co-operative efforts with those required for national efforts, and identify areas for co-operation.

Armaments Planning

  1. The trend for the cost of equipment to increase disproportionately in relation to most other defence costs has continued. In many cases the cost of major defence projects is beyond the capability of most member nations to finance alone. The cost of equipment is also of major importance for potential buyers among Allies because of the budgetary impact on their defence planning. Interested countries should therefore be involved in relevant projects as early as possible. Separate research development and production of different weapon systems for similar roles has led to problems of non-standardization and the lack of interoperability between forces and equipment of member nations.

  2. Ongoing studies should therefore be pursued with a view to harmonising national defence equipment planning procedures and developing NATO long-term armaments planning. The aim of these efforts should be standardization and, where this is not possible, full interoperability. In pursuing these objectives, a better balance in the traffic in the "two-way street" between Europe and North America in weapons and equipment procurement will be necessary.

Resources for Defence

  1. In developing more rational procedures for NATO's long-term planning for defence the Alliance must seek to harmonise planning mechanisms for the various co-operative and supporting programmes, and to dovetail the results of this effort with the present NATO force planning procedures into a comprehensive approach for Alliance defence planning; the need for early identification of the resource implications of major co-operative projects will be of special importance. The activities of regional groups, such as the Eurogroup, will have an important contribution to make in this context.

Impact on NATO Planning

  1. Against the background of adverse trends in the NATO-Warsaw Pact military balance and in order to avoid a continued deterioration in the relative force capabilities, an annual increase in real terms in defence budgets should be aimed at by all member countries. This annual increase should be in the region of 3%, recognising that for some individual countries: - economic circumstances will affect what can be achieved; - present force contributions may justify a higher level of increase. Specific target figures for each country will need to be determined in the normal course of the Defence Planning Review. Nations should provide full compensation for the inflationary impact of rising pay and price levels to ensure that planned real increases are achieved. It is, moreover, imperative that nations increase the cost-effectiveness of their defence expenditures, in particular the percentage of such expenditure devoted to major equipment, but without detriment to combat readiness. The effective use of resources will depend to a large extent on progress in Alliance co-operation.


  1. Priority should be given to those capabilities which contribute directly to deterrence and to NATO's ability to withstand the initial phases of attack and, in particular, to measures which will enhance readiness and reinforcement capabilities and promote a collective approach to equipping, supporting and training Alliance forces.

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