No. 6 - Dec 1992
Vol. 40 - pp. 9-14
TO NATO :
A BRITISH VIEW
Sir John Weston ,
Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom
on the North Atlantic Council
There has been no shortage of political and intellectual
challenges to the North Atlantic Alliance during the late-1980s and the
early years of the new decade. Individually and collectively, our 16 governments
have had to address the most radical transformation in Europe's strategic
geography since the birth of NATO. The Alliance has adapted with speed
and vision. When I took up my post as the United Kingdomis Permanent Representative
at the beginning of this year, one could already point to a number of
important milestones in the Alliance's development: in particular, fundamental
changes to our strategy and our force and command structures; and the
establishment of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, putting our relationship
with our former adversaries on an entirely new footing.
But our agenda remains a challenging one. In September,
the French Defence Minister, Pierre Joxe, described change in the Alliance
as "both indispensable and incomplete". The United Kingdom shares that
view. We will continue to play a leading role in reshaping the Alliance.
The work of defining NATO's future contribution to international peace
and stability is unfinished. The terrible bloodshed in former Yugoslavia
is a forceful reminder of the urgency of the task.T he British government
is first duty is to defend the British people. The collective security
provided by NATO, rooted in the shared values and close partnership between
Europe and North America, remains essential if we are to fulfil that duty.
NATO's new Strategic Concept gave the United Kingdom
a firm framework in which to reassess its security and defence policy.
We began by identifying the risks to international stability:
Together with our Allies, we have looked in detail
at what we need to meet this range of more diverse, less predictable risks,
which may arise outside the traditional NATO area as well as in Europe.
To respond to this shifting mosaic of risks, we must have various tools:
political and economic cooperation; arms control and confidence building
measures; crisis management and conflict resolution mechanisms; and, where
necessary, peacekeeping operations.
- ethnic and territorial disputes in Central and Eastern Europe, compounded
by economic and political instability;
- the proliferation of ballistic missiles, weapons of mass destruction
and destabilizing conventional systems beyond Europe;
- large conventional, chemical and nuclear forces left behind by the
disintegration of the former Soviet Union, sometimes under uncertain
We must also have a strong, effective defence,
because armed forces are still essential as an insurance against the risks
we face. We no longer need such large forces as in the past but those
that remain must be trained and equipped to the highest possible standards,
capable of rapid deployment and able to take on a variety of roles in
Europe and beyond.
This year is Defence White Paper defined British
defence policy in terms of three broad, overlapping roles:
We see all these roles as integral to our position
in NATO. The defence of the United Kingdom's territory, airspace and territorial
waters cannot be separated from the security of the wider Alliance area.
Defence against major external threat will continue to rest on the collective
security provided by the Alliance. In future, we also expect NATO to play
an increasing part in nurturing peace and stability beyond its traditional
borders. The White Paper concluded that "our security remains inextricably
bound up with that of our partners in Europe and the Alliance".
- to ensure the protection and security of the Uni ted Kingdom and our
dependent territories, even when there is no major external threat;
- to insure against any major external t hreat to the United Kingdom
and our Allies;
- to contribute to promoting the United Kingdo m is wider security
interests through the maintenance of international peace and stability.
The UK is contribution to NATO
We have reappraised the U K's strategy in the framework
of NATO's Strategic Concept; and we have restructured our forces in parallel
with the revision of the Alliance's military dispositions. We plan to cut
our armed forces by around 20 per cent overall. But our all-volunteer force
will still be versatile and capable enough to make a vital contribution
in all areas of NATO's new force structures, from Immediate and Rapid Reaction
Forces to main defence and augmentation forces.
NATO will place greater emphasis in future on multinational
forces as an expression of the commitment to collective defence; the United
Kingdom welcomes that. The Royal Marines (with whom I was privileged to
serve during my own military service in the late fifties) have for many
years enjoyed close and successful cooperation with their Dutch counterparts
in the United Kingdom/Netherlands Amphibious Force. Through participation
in the Standing Naval Forces for the Atlantic, the Channel and the Mediterranean,
the Royal Navy will play a prominent part in NATO's Immediate Reaction
Forces. We will be contributing Royal Air Force Harrier, Tornado and Jaguar
aircraft to the new Reaction Force (Air) being established under German
Above all, the UK will lead the ACE (Allied Command
Europe) Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). A very significant proportion of
the British Army will be assigned to it, together with forces from 11
other nations. This is a vital part of our future contribution to the
defence of Europe. The ARRC, whose headquarters was activated in Bielefeld
in Germany on 2 October, will be fully operational early in 1995, with
a range of deployment options throughout the ACE region. It is an excellent
example of how NATOis military structures are being adapted to meet our
need for smaller but more flexible forces, which can be augmented if necessary.
The Corps exemplifies the increasing prominence of highly mobile, multinational
forces. They will be central to the future integrated military structure,
which remains essential to effective operational planning and the optimum
use of resources for the common defence.
The high levels of readiness and combat effectiveness
of our full-time professional soldiers make them particularly well-suited
to their role in the Corps. As well as providing the commander, a significant
proportion of the Corps' headquarters infrastructure and some combat support,
the United Kingdom will assign to the Corps one armoured division based
in peacetime in Germany and a more lightly-equipped division based in
the UK. In addition, we shall contribute an air mobile brigade to the
new Multinational Division (Central), one of two such multinational divisions
in the Corps. In all, some 55,000 British Regular soldiers will be assigned
to the ARRC; and that would be increased on mobilization by members of
the Territorial Army.
Our restructuring is designed to ensur e that in
all three Services units are fully-manned and have a high proportion of
modern equipment. Many older systems are being phased out altogether.
The new Anglo-Italian EH 101 Merlin helicopter, in combination with the
Type 23 Frigate, will significantly increase the Royal Navy's anti-submarine
warfare capability. We estimate that re- equipping the 1st Armoured Division
with new tanks, armoured personnel carriers and artillery will increase
its combat capability by 25 per cent by the middle of the 1990s, and by
more than one third by the year 2000. The Royal Air Force will benefit
from increasing concentration on more modern and capable aircraft such
as the Harrier and Tornado, which will undergo further improvements and
upgrades to incorporate sophisticated technologies. From the end of this
decade, we shall need an aircraft with the capabilities of the multi-role,
all- weather European Fighter Aircraft. By maintaining well- equipped
and capable forces, the United Kingdom will be able to continue to contribute
very effectively to NATO's military structures.
The Strategic Concept reaffirms the need for a
mix of nuclear and conventional forces to protect peace and to prevent
war or any kind of coercion; nuclear forces will therefore remain essential
to underpin security. The first of four Trident submarines, which will
replace the Royal Navy's Polaris strategic force from the mid-1990s, started
sea trials in October. Dual-capable RAF Tornado aircraft will ensure that
we retain a sub-strategic nuclear capability for national and NATO roles.
We remain committed to nuclear deterrence; but
in the changed security conditions in Europe, a credible deterrent posture
can be sustained with fewer weapons. While the START (Strategic Arms Reduction
Treaty) process is leading to massive cuts in American and Russian arsenals,
we are playing our part. The UK is cutting its sub-strategic free-fall
nuclear bombs by over half; reducing its nuclear-roled Tornado strike
squadrons from eleven to eight; no longer deploying nuclear artillery
and ground-based missiles; and eliminating its maritime sub-strategic
capability. We can do all this, and build greater confidence, without
prejudice to the essential framework of deterrence.
A changing security agenda
At the heart of t he United Kingdom's security policy
stands our commitment to the North Atlantic Alliance, which protects the
freedom and security of its members, and is a force for peace throughout
Europe. Its effectiveness will continue to depend on the determination of
all its members to respond to new security challenges. We have the ability
and the political will to ensure the organizationis future vitality and
relevance. We must pursue change as actively as we advocate it.
The outreach programme
When the Allianc e's Heads of State and Government
decided in 1991 to create the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC),
they were showing their determination to respond to the challenges before
us. NACC is one of the success stories of European security over the last
12 months. It has become a well-established and increasingly active forum
for dialogue and cooperation, taking the message of NATO right across the
Eurasian landmass. Foreign Ministers of the NACC countries have met twice
this year, and Defence Ministers and Chiefs of Defence Staff once each.
Visits to NATO headquarters by senior political and military leaders from
our Central and Eastern European partners have become regular events; perhaps
more important, because the effects may be more widely spread at the working
level, are the detailed consultations in which I and my colleagues at all
levels engage with our partners on the full range of security- related issues.
To get the full benefits of NACC, we must now move
on from talk to action in specific areas of cooperation. There is a problem
of overlap between NACC and other bodies such as CSCE; but there is no
need for overlap to become competition: there is plenty for both organizations
to do in the areas where they have most to offer. The United Kingdom is
keen to take forward work in all the fields identified by Foreign and
Defence Ministers, and to move from the necessary preliminary stage of
seminars to more action-oriented contacts between experts. Practical cooperation,
involving both NATO and national staffs, is already taking place in a
host of areas, from air traffic management to the budgeting and management
of defence. Among further subjects for closer cooperation, we believe
that exchanges of expertise on peacekeeping should be of particular interest
to many NACC members, as well as the wider membership of the CSCE. This
is an area where the dialogue need not be limited to the purely theoretical,
but could also cover aspects such as joint training.
Alliance contribution to peacekeeping
The United Kingdom sees peacekeeping as currently the
most important single issue on the Allianceis agenda. This is a challenge
which NATO and individual Allies will have to face. The United Kingdom pressed
hard for the decision which Foreign Ministers took in Oslo in June 1992,
that Alliance resources could be made available in support of peacekeeping
operations under CSCE auspices. Here at NATO headquarters, in many committees,
my colleagues and I are now working to give substance to the Oslo decision.
This is a new area for the Alliance, and we have much to do to move from
the fine words of the Oslo communiqué to active involvement in peacekeeping
on behalf of the CSCE. The United Kingdom considers it particularly vital
that other CSCE states should be able to take part in peacekeeping operations
alongside NATO forces; we have to find ways for other European countries
to cooperate with NATO deployments, to make our contribution to peacekeeping
as effective as possible.
The terrible crisis in the former Yug oslavia has
at times meant that events on the ground have overtaken debates in Brussels.
The United Kingdom is one of several Allies contributing troops to the
expanded UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR). The Alliance has supported the
UN operation directly by providing personnel from NATOis Northern Army
Group headquarters to the UNPROFOR command. In the Adriatic, NATO's Standing
Naval Forces for the Mediterranean and Atlantic, both of which include
British ships, have been involved, together with a force of WEU (Western
European Union) ships, in implementing the UN sanctions and embargo. Aircraft
from the NATO Airborne Early Warning force, which includes British aircraft,
are monitoring the UN "no-fly" zone over Bosnia. NATO contingency planning
on a range of military options has been passed to the UN. The Alliance
has continued its regular political consultations and has issued many
public statements on the crisis in the former Yugoslavia.
Much of this takes us into unfamiliar waters, in
circumstances particularly fraught with military risk and political uncertainty.
We must be wary of proceeding too fast, but we cannot appear oblivious
to this substantial threat to stability in Europe. We cannot yet say in
detail what the Alliance's role in crises like that in the former Yugoslavia
should be, but we would be foolish indeed to think that they do not have
a bearing on our security.
Developments in the former Yugoslavia have shown
that NATO can make a contribution to peacekeeping, whether under UN or
CSCE auspices, which no other regional organization can make. The contribution
which the Alliance and individual Allies are making to the UN's efforts
in the Balkans should give us a good base from which to build a close
working relationship. We all know now, if we did not before, that maintaining
security in present-day Europe is too complex an undertaking to be managed
by any single organization. We must rely on a network of mutually reinforcing
institutions, through which we can fashion a collective response to security
challenges by whatever means is most appropriate. The need to use flexibly
the institutions which we have created, sometimes for purposes other than
those which we had in mind when we set them up, will be an increasingly
common feature of international affairs.
NATO and European defence
The United Kingdom has been closely engaged in efforts
to develop the Western European Union as the forum for closer European defence
cooperation within the framework of the Alliance. WEU Ministers marked the
way forward at their meetings at Maastricht, in the Netherlands, in December
1991, and Petersberg, in Germany, in June 1992, and in Rome last November,
identifying the WEU as the defence component of the European Union and a
means of strengthening the European pillar of the Alliance. All WEU members
have agreed that WEU policies must be compatible with the collective defence
provided in NATO: an important demonstration of this principle of compatibility
is the invitation to European Alliance members not in the European Community
to take up WEU associate membership, with the right to full participation
in its activities.
The United Kingdom is playing an active part in
the work to enhance the WEU's operational role, covering such critical
aspects as command and control and selection of headquarters. An embryonic
WEU Planning Cell is now in place in Brussels and will be developing close
links with the Alliance. The Planning Cell will shortly be joined in Brussels
by the WEU Secretariat, which is moving from London (a move long advocated
by the United Kingdom), to facilitate the closer relations necessary in
future between the WEU and both NATO and the future European Union.
I take a particular interest in all this, since
after WEU's relocation I shall take on the additional role of the United
Kingdom's Permanent Representative to the WEU. The UK believes that this
step, together with the double- hatting of our NATO Military Representative
to take on WEU duties, will be invaluable in ensuring the transparency
between NATO and the WEU which all Allies want, and which I believe will
be crucial if we are to have a sensible division of labour between the
WEU and NATO, and to maintain effective security arrangements in Europe.
One other, perhaps less exciting, topic in which the
UK takes a particular interest is the efficient and cost- effective running
of NATO itself. The British Civil Service has undergone a management revolution
in the last dozen years, our goal being to match up to the best standards
of private industry and commerce. Our approach, based on setting objectives
and shifting resources to meet them, has given us great flexibility to respond
to crises and changing demands without having to call on vast extra resources.
We want no less for NATO. When the international landscape has changed so
much, it would be pointless for NATO to carry on with many of its old activities
as though nothing had happened. If we cannot organize our own affairs efficiently,