Updated: 25-Oct-2000 Ministerial Communiqus


December, 1978

Final Communiqué

Chairman: Mr. J. Luns.


Review of defence capabilities in light of conclusions of last Heads of State and Government Council Meeting in Washington - Concern at Warsaw Pact capability to mount offensive operations at short notice - Soviet nuclear threat with longer-range systems including SS-20 mobile missiles and Backfire bomber - Soviet defence expenditure - Review of initial steps to implement the Long-Term Defence Programme (LTDP) - Importance of national undertakings to increase annual defence expenditures - Needs of Portugal and Turkey - MBFR - Eurogroup - Standardization and interoperability - Approval of AWACS programme.

  1. The Defence Planning Committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization met in Ministerial Session in Brussels on 5th and 6th December. 1978.

  2. Ministers reviewed developments in NATO's defence capabilities in the light of the conclusions reached by the Heads of State and Government in Washington in May 1978. They recalled that Alliance leaders at the Summit had agreed that, until such time as it proved passible to achieve a satisfactory military balance at lower levels of forces through realistic and verifiable force reduction agreements in pursuit of detente, the Allies will continue to devote all the resources necessary to modernise and strengthen their own forces to the extent required for deterrence and defence. Ministers took stock in particular of progress towards the achievement of the selected short-term measures agreed in 1977, the current NATO Force Goals and the interrelated and complementary Long-Term Defence Programme, a major co-operative undertaking designed to assist the Alliance in adapting to changing needs of the 1980s.

  3. Ministers received a briefing, introduced by the Chairman of the Military Committee, on the balance of forces between NATO and the Warsaw Pact and an appraisal of the principal current defence issues by the Secretary General.

  4. Ministers reiterated their concern at the growing military capabilities of the Warsaw Pact, in which emphasis continues to be placed on maintaining and improving a force posture which would permit offensive operations with little military preparation at a time and place of its own choosing. They noted that the Soviet forces already exceed those required for defensive purposes and that their enhanced global military capabilities are the result of increased force levels and the introduction of highly sophisticated weapon systems of improved quality.

  5. Ministers also expressed their concern at the continuing strengthening, despite the long-standing restraint shown by NATO in this field, of Soviet nuclear capabilities facing the Alliance, particularly in their longer range systems. These developments include the introduction of the SS-20 mobile intermediate-range ballistic missile with multiple warheads and the Backfire bomber, systems capable of striking targets in the whole of Europe and beyond from locations also far in the interior of the Soviet Union. These developments require close attention within the Alliance, with due regard to all factors of importance in this context.

  6. Ministers recalled that the Soviet Union continued to allocate between 11-13% of its Gross National Product to military purposes, and that in the present decade Soviet defence spending has risen in real terms by an estimated average of 4-5% a year at a rate higher than the growth in the economy.

  7. Ministers considered, in the light of a report on the 1978 NATO Defence Review, the degree to which national force plans responded to the medium-term Force Goals for the defence of the Alliance over the next five years. They noted with satisfaction that, during 1978, there had been some significant improvements in the quantity and effectiveness of NATO's defence capabilities for all three services. They welcomed the completion of most of the short-term measures adopted in 1971 which have brought about improvements in NATO's defence against armour, certain war reserve stocks and readiness and rapid reinforcement capabilities. Ministers noted that the coming to fruition of national plans during the period 1979-1983 should lead to further enhancement of NATO's defensive capabilities in a number of priority areas.

  8. While recognising the value of these improvements, Ministers expressed their concern that in a number of areas serious deficiencies persisted. The areas concerned include, for example, inadequacies in low-level air defence, an overall shortage of naval vessels and maritime patrol aircraft and, despite improvements, continuing deficiencies in reserve stocks and manning levels.

  9. Ministers reviewed and expressed satisfaction at the initial steps taken to implement the Long-Term Defence Programme, in which emphasis is placed on major co-operative efforts to strengthen the defences of the Alliance and help adapt it to the changing needs of the 1980s. They reaffirmed the importance of vigorous follow-through action including the necessary organizational support, and recognized that this would call for continued efforts at both the national and international levels of the Alliance.

  10. Ministers noted with satisfaction that almost all nations had reaffirmed their intention to adjust their financial plans for defence in accordance with the aim, as stated in the 1977 Ministerial Guidance, and endorsed at the Washington Summit, of an annual increase in defence expenditure in the region of 3% in real terms. They underlined the importance of this undertaking and of its implementation throughout the planning period. They recognized however that countries to various degrees continued to face resource problems in their efforts to achieve more fully the interrelated and complementary Force Goals and the Long-Term Defence Programme measures adopted by the Alliance in the Spring. They further agreed that, as a means of contributing to the response to the challenge posed by the growing Warsaw Pact military capabilities, more effective use should be made of defence resources through increased co-operation and rationalization of defence efforts.

  11. Ministers noted the urgent needs of Portugal and Turkey for further assistance from their Allies to enable them to improve their forces in accordance with NATO objectives. They agreed that special efforts should be made to achieve a more positive response with the widest possible participation by Allied countries. They noted with satisfaction that, in addition to these efforts, action was being considered in the Alliance, following an initiative at the Washington Summit, to promote the cause of economic assistance for the less prosperous members of the Alliance.

  12. Ministers reviewed developments in the negotiations on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions that had occurred since their last meeting. Ministers reaffirmed the importance they attach to these negotiations and to the principle that NATO forces be maintained and not reduced except in the context of an MBFR agreement which must in no way diminish the collective security of the Alliance. They were also informed of recent developments in the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks between the United States and the Soviet Union and reaffirmed the issues arising from these talks.

  13. Ministers noted with interest a statement by Mr. Willem Scholten, Defence Minister of the Netherlands and current Chairman of the Eurogroup, on the outcome of the Group's discussion in Ministerial Session in Brussels on 4th December, 1978. They welcomed the attention he had drawn to force improvements planned by the European members of the Alliance and the concrete progress made in furthering co-operation on a wide range of practical issues. They reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen NATO by ensuring a cohesive European contribution to the Alliance.

  14. Ministers agreed that armaments co-operation can offer not only the military advantages of standardization and interoperability but opportunities for obtaining a better return for money spent within a given level of resources made available for defence. In this context, Ministers noted a report by the Conference of National Armaments Directors setting out the progress made in co-operation on a number of equipment projects, many of which are related to the Long-Term Defence Programme. They welcomed the recent signature of several multinational memoranda of understanding for the furtherance of collaboration in particular equipment areas.

  15. Ministers welcomed the proposals, in the context of the transatlantic dialogue, for a shared approach to closer and more balanced equipment collaboration between European and North American countries. Ministers also noted with satisfaction the progress achieved so far in refining NATO's armaments planning procedures and agreed on the importance of pursuing these efforts further.

  16. Ministers approved the programme for the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control System and signed the multilateral Memorandum of Understanding. They recommended that the proposed NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Management Organization be established immediately to implement the programme. They welcomed this significant step towards the strengthening of the defensive capability of the Alliance by means of the largest single commonly funded programme ever undertaken by the Alliance. In the present national context, Belgium is not in a position to pronounce itself on the NATO AEW programme.

  17. Ministers took note of the current status of NATO Infrastructure programmes.

  18. In conclusion Ministers reaffirmed, as recognized at the Washington Summit, that in the absence of equitable arms control and disarmament agreements, a satisfactory balance in strategic, theatre nuclear and conventional terms could only be assured by greater efforts to modernize and strengthen the military capacity of the Alliance. They accepted, on behalf of their countries, the firm force commitments represented by the country force plans for 1979 and adopted the NATO Force Plan 1979-1983. They agreed to keep progress in the implementation of the complementary and interrelated NATO Force Goals and the Long-Term Defence Programme under review. Recognising the importance of maintaining the desired momentum and of the continued application of political resolve, they undertook to take all possible steps to bring about the necessary improvements in their contributions to the deterrent and defence capabilities of the Alliance.

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