Select Committee on Defence Eighth Report

Memorandum submitted by the Ministry of Defence on seminars held on the Strategic Defence Review


Summary of opening remarks by George Robertson MP, Secretary of State for Defence

  This is the first time that two Departments of State have opened themselves jointly to such a wide range of outside input into work of great importance. This approach deliberately makes two clear statements: firstly, there is no monopoly of wisdom about security and defence policy; and secondly, the Government is committed to producing a defence policy that can command the widest possible consensus.

  The world has been transformed in the past 10 years and we need to adapt if we are not going to be left with forces and policies irrelevant to the changing requirements.

  Our Armed Forces are second to none. There have many strengths in many areas, but there are problems, including equipment shortfalls and personnel shortages. More fundamentally, our forces need and want a long term sense of direction in defence policy and in defence planning. This therefore is a review for the long term, intended to give the Armed Forces a coherent and stable planning basis well into the next century. It is for this reason that much emphasis has been given to the review being led by foreign policy.

  To establish a credible and coherent baseline for the rest of the review we need to establish clear objectives. We are looking fundamentally at our commitments as a country, our interests and responsibilities at home, in Europe and more widely. On this basis we will then reassess our essential security interests and defence needs. This will allow the Government to decide how the Armed Forces should be structured, equipped, deployed and supported. In parallel the Government will be considering how to get the best possible output from defence resources and the contribution that defence should make to the wider economy.

  The Review will look at all aspects of defence policy and the equipment programme, though we will not be starting form a clean sheet. Co-operation with the United States, European allies and other like-minded states will be essential. Our security will continue to be based on the collective defence provided through NATO.

  In Bosnia-Herzegovina, NATO proved that it has the flexibility to respond to changed tasks and circumstances. For the future it must maintain its credibility, effectiveness and relevance. The British Government's priority at the Madrid summit was for a manageable and limited enlargement involving credible candidates with reliable democratic credentials. NATO is a military alliance, not a political club. Its collective defence obligations have to be taken with the utmost seriousness.

  The UK will maintain strong conventional defence, but our forces must also meet national requirements. We will maintain the national nuclear deterrent, but we will examine detailed aspects of our nuclear posture to ensure that it matches changed strategic circumstances and the Government's goal of accelerating global nuclear disarmament.


Summary of Points made by Robin Cook MP, Foreign Secretary

  All European governments are facing budgetary restraints. Resources are finite, and there is no prospect of significantly increasing military expenditure, so choices have to be made about what defence capabilities we need.

  There was fairly broad agreement in the discussions that the most likely security threats to British interests come from intra-state conflicts in which we have to intervene to restore peace and remove challenges to wider stability. While our defence posture should deter any re-emergence of external threats to territorial integrity, the most likely requirement in the foreseeable future is for forces that could be deployed in an interventionist capacity, whether for peacekeeping or for peace enforcement.

  So UK forces need to be flexible. The choice is not a simple one between low-intensity and high intensity capabilities. Bosnia, with deployments of high artillery power and supersonic bombers, showed that the distinction has become blurred. Today's interventionist operations are a far cry from the UN peacekeeping missions of 30 years ago.

  We also need to recognise that in planning for intervention we may need to plan for a long haul. British forces have already been in Bosnia for five years. It is also important to maintain the high standards of training and discipline which have long characterised Britain's armed forces. Overwhelming superiority in firepower will not be effective in an interventionist situation if soldiers do not have highly developed individual skills and group discipline.

  The seminars had a good discussion about the importance of effective policing in connection with intervention. There were two problems that need special consideration. Firstly, in situations like Bosnia it is essential to leave behind a trained, competent civilian police force. It might therefore be more logical to send out a larger contingent of civilian police. But for the UK, policemen are much more expensive than their military counterparts. How can this budgetary problem be resolved? Secondly, international law and the UN charter were designed for wars between sovereign states. But today's conflicts are largely intra-state and international law on such conflicts is not yet sufficiently developed.

  The UK is not likely to conduct these intervention operations on its own. It needs to be done with allies and partners. That argues for a high degree of interdependence, interoperability and co-operation between Allies.

  But it is vital to recognise in all this that military conflict is itself an expression of diplomatic failure. It will be important to build methods of conflict prevention into the UK's security strategy and address the causes of conflict themselves. It involves looking beyond military concerns on a global basis. Aspects include:

    —  tackling environmental problems of resource depletion, such as water shortages, which could become a source of conflict;

    —  understanding the link between poverty and injustice, on the one hand, and conflict. Development assistance fostering security and stability may be cheaper than meeting the costs of intervention and of refugees;

    —  seizing the opportunity provided by the end of the Cold War to push forward the arms control agenda and achieve greater international solidarity in preventing the proliferation of advanced weapons technology.



Thursday 3 July 1997

Sir Brian Fall—Chairman

  Josh Arnold-Forester, UN Association

  Menzies Campbell MP, Liberal Democrat Party

  Michael Clarke, Kings College London

  Richard Cobbold, RUSI

  Jack Dromey, Transport and General Workers Union and Vice Chairman of the Whitley Council

  Paul Eavis, Saferworld

  Jonathan Eyal, RUSI

  Sir Timothy Garden, RIIA

  Charles Grant, The Economist

  Owen Green, University of Bradford

  James Gow, Kings College London

  Rosemary Hollis, RIIA

  Martin Kettle, The Guardian

  Dave Knight, CND

  Mark Laity, BBC

  Alan Lee Williams, Atlantic Council of the UK

  John Lloyd, The New Statesman

  Ann McElvoy, The Spectator

  John Mackinley, Kings College London

  Edward Mortimer, The Financial Times

  Sebastian Pease, Pugwash

  Dan Plesch, British American Security Information Council

  Alex Pravda, St Antony's Oxford

  Stephen Pullinger, International Security Information Service

  Ron Smith, Birkbeck

  Jon Snow, Channel 4

  Peter Snow, BBC

  Clare Spencer, Centre for Defence Studies

  Lord William Wallace, LSE

  Sir George Young MP, Conservative Party

Friday 11 July 1997

Sir Michael Alexander—Chairman

  Malcolm Chalmers, University of Bradford

  Julian Cooper, University of Birmingham

  Anne Deighton, St Antony's College Oxford

  Scilla Elworthy, Oxford Research Group

  Lawrence Freedman, Department of War Studies, King's College

  Phil Gordon, IISS

  David Greenwood, University of Aberdeen

  Eric Grove, University of Hull

  Tim Huxley, University of Hull

  Rebecca Johnson, Disarmament Intelligence Review

  Robert Key MP, Conservative Party

  John Lloyd, AEEU

  Paul Rogers, University of Aberdeen

  John Roper, formerly RIIA

  Patricia Lewis, VERTIC

  Jane Sharpe, Centre for Defence Studies

  Martin Shaw, University of Sussex

  Edward Spiers, University of Leeds

  David Travers, University of Lancaster

  Paul Wilkinson, University of St Andrews

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Prepared 10 September 1998