Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Michael MccGwire on the Future of NATO

  In April 1999 Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic will become full members of NATO.

  Notwithstanding the sharply polarised US debate that surfaced in 1995-97, future membership for these three states had effectively been decided in the White House by October 1993.[5] After that (as Clinton remarked in Prague in January 1994), the question was no longer whether, but how and when?

  Washington makes no pretence that NATO enlargement is other than a US-led policy,[6] and within the Clinton administration, it is recognised that the drive came from the White House. The policy was initially opposed by the Pentagon and by the relevant specialists in State, until enlargement was made a test of loyalty to the President. So, too, did NATO members' support for enlargement become a test of loyalty to the alliance and (since it was a US-led policy) to America.

  In sum, NATO was presented with a fait accompli regarding the three new members, with little opportunity for substantive discussion or dissent. In one sense, that is water under the bridge. In another, it is a precursor of what lies ahead. The Clinton administration sees enlargement as the unfolding of a policy formulated in 1993-94;[7] a continuous process, rather than an exploratory step with a pause for reassessment.

  It is most unlikely that the British Government will call for such a pause. But as the Defence Committee urged caution over the question of further enlargement, its members may wish to take this opportunity to review the question of European security and the future of NATO from a new base line, one that is more favourable to long term decisions on European security than existed five years ago.


  Some of the improvements in the decision-making environment reflect the passage of time and/or the reduction of uncertainty. Others are the result of inviting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to join NATO.

    —  In terms of American electoral politics, the Polish vote is probably the most important single ethnic group, while the other two have some significance. Their satisfaction increases Clinton's freedom of action regarding enlargement.[8]

    —  Germany wished to escape the role of frontier zone. It also favoured some kind of Western institutional structure, rather than the spread of German hegemony. Those preferences have been met, allowing a less subjective assessment.

    —  The Founding Act is in place. We are now in a better position to foresee how Moscow will respond to different NATO initiatives and how this will affect Western policy objectives in the longer term and/or in other areas.

    —  We have a clearer idea about the political, economic and ethnic situations in the newly independent states, and the relations between those states.

    —  London and Paris are no longer at odds with Washington over Bosnia, allowing European members of NATO more latitude to challenge the US-led policy on enlargement, should that be desirable.

  At this stage in the enlargement process, we need to focus on two questions:

    —  How will the three new members be integrated into the existing alliance structure?

    —  What are the implications for further enlargement of this increase in membership?

  In addressing those questions, we need to be sensitive to a critical flaw in current policy, a flaw that originates in the American domestic policy process. Under the rubric of "enlargement", NATO is pursuing two competing and contradictory objectives.

  The original rationale for NATO enlargement was that the spread of liberal democracy would bring stability and peace in Europe.[9] It was seen as an evolutionary process and would possibly include a democratic Russia, who would in all circumstances participate as partner in a larger security regime embracing greater Europe.[10] The White House had an Inclusive objective—co-operative security in a Europe reaching from the Atlantic to the Urals.

  Outside the Clinton administration, the most important political support for NATO enlargement came from the "unilateralists".[11] This hard line viewpoint was strongly represented in the Republican-dominated Congress elected in November 1994.[12] It was against partnership with Russia and stressed rivalry, even enemity.[13] The long-term objective was Exclusionary, its variants ranged from containing Russia, to establishing US preponderance, if not hegemony in Central and Eastern Europe.

  This contradiction has been obscured by the fact that NATO enlargement had changed from being a means of promoting security in Europe and become an end in itself. As a result, NATO policy has been and continues to be shaped by competing objectives that are largely mutually-exclusive.

    —  One involves the inclusive concept of co-operative security IN Europe—a greater Europe extending from the Atlantic to the Urals—which sees Russia as an essential partner in that endeavour.

    —  The other involves the exclusionary concept of the defence (retitled "security") OF a Europe that will be co-extensive with a steadily expanding NATO. It sees Russia as a rival at best, and more often as an enemy.

  The Republican majority in Congress[14] is the reason why the exclusionary concept prevailed so frequently in the last four years, notwithstanding the inclusive rhetoric emanating from the White House and NATO HQ in Brussels. For example, only when Yeltsin was facing defeat in the 1996 Presidential election did NATO moderate its line that the emerging security structure in Europe was no business of the Russians.


  While all three new members will be fully covered by the terms of the Washington Treaty, the detailed nature of their integration should reflect the wider purpose that the policy of enlargement is meant to serve. This becomes difficult to achieve if, as described above, the policy is pursuing contradictory objectives. Outlined below are the logical (but mutually exclusive) implications of the competing concepts. Three background conditions are relevant to both.

    —  Whatever the concept, NATO will continue as a fully-functioning US-led military alliance, which provides leadership and a resource base for PfP, CJTF, an the like.

    —  The Treaty's requirements are very general and, in practice, each member of NATO has a unique relationship with the Alliance. For example, France, Denmark and Norway do not allow foreign troops on their territory. France and Spain are not part of the integrated Military Structure. Iceland is an exception to most things. The so-called 2+4 agreement (1990) obliges NATO not to station nuclear weapons or foreign troops in the eastern part of a reunified Germany.

    —  Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Vise-grad states have enjoyed a higher level of national security than at any time in the last eighty years or so. Nor is there any immediate threat to that security. There is, therefore, no inherent urgency about the process (as opposed to the principle) of military integration. [15]

  The Exclusionary concept implicitly sees NATO as an offensive bridgehead. The implied objective is to progressively incorporate as many countries west of Russia's borders as possible into a fully-integrated, well-armed collective-defence alliance.


  The three new members are therefore welcomed as an important first step in this direction. As they now represent the new front line, NATO would set out to fully integrate them into the alliance infrastructure as soon as possible.

  The exclusionary objective does not prohibit co-operation with Moscow, should that facilitate the concepts immediate or wider purposes. But it does exclude any self-imposed constraints on further enlargement or on the deployment of forces and development of infrastructure.

  The Inclusive concept is concerned that enlargement should not work against the objective of some larger security regime either by drawing new lines across Europe or by estranging Russia and encouraging competitive alliance building. It wants to avoid the image of NATO as an offensive bridgehead and to emphasise the fundamental change in NATO's nature and purpose.

  Those concerns can be met without creating the impression that the newcomers are second class members. In order to "blur" the new line across Europe, the extension of NATO's physical infrastructure would be highly selective. NATO would make a formal commitment to refrain from deploying nuclear weapons or stationing forces on the territory of new members, subject to obvious provisos.

  The extent to which new members were integrated into the military structure of NATO would be a matter for discussion. The existing NATO command structure and the partial integration of forces reflects evolved practice and is not a treaty requirement. In treaty terms, there is no reason why the new members should not enjoy the full protection of Article 5, without making fundamental changes in the existing military structure.

Current NATO Policy

  The NATO costing study indicates that it intends only to invest in upgrading C3, air reinforcement infrastructure and integrated air defence. The "Founding Act" states that it is not NATO's "foreseeable intention" to deploy nuclear weapons on the new members' territory.

  This would seem to suggest that NATO is pursuing the inclusive concept. However, NATO also:

    —  refuses to commit itself to no nukes on new members' territory, even with the necessary let-out clauses and despite the precedent of East Germany;

    —  insists on its right to bring Estonia into NATO, despite Estonia's geographical location and vital strategic (actual and historical) significance for Russia;

    —  thought it appropriate to stage a joint NATO-Ukrainian landing exercise in the Crimea in August 1997. The original scenario involved countering a "separatist uprising" supported by a neighbouring state [read Russia].

  Once again, NATO falls between two stools. Its declaratory policy is co-operative security and its rhetoric is inclusive. But it is unable to harvest the political benefits in terms of NATO/Russian relations because of the continual slippage into collective defence concepts, where Russia is "the enemy." Nor can it explain how the security of Estonia will be enhanced (let alone guaranteed) by membership of NATO.


  The public debate in 1995-97 reflected many different agendas, but it centred around four distinct points of view. These can be visualised as occupying a 2x2 matrix, comprising the type of objective (inclusive or exclusionary) and whether for or against enlargement.

  These four viewpoints are summarised in highly simplified form below. Thereafter, the discussion focuses on the implications of further enlargement for the inclusive concept of European security, since that concept is declared NATO policy, and also that of the British Government.


  Among those who subscribe to an exclusionary concept of security, opposition to enlargement comes from those who fear dilution or overstretch. For proponents of enlargement, the best way of enhancing European security is to extend NATO's borders as far east as possible, preferably up to the Russian frontier. There is no better time to do it than now, when Russia is still in disarray.

  Among those who subscribe to the inclusive concept of security, there is a deep divide on the question of further enlargement. Although this reflects differing judgments on the relative priority to be given to various factors in the security equation, the rift is fundamental.


  Setting aside the influence of US electoral politics, the original impulse for NATO enlargement was Wilsonian liberalism, a belief that the spread of democracy and market economies would bring political and economic stability and ensure peace and security in the region. Enlargement is seen as an evolutionary process. As Russia is already embarked on the path of democracy and marketisation it has no reason to feel threatened by this process. If Moscow does feel threatened, ways can be found to reassure and propitiate it as necessary.

  Those within the inclusive camp who oppose enlargement acknowledge the importance of democratisation but see constructive engagement with Russia as a fundamental prerequisite for long-term security in Europe.[16] The existing (but fraying) co-operative relationship derives from the post-cold-war settlement with Moscow, which was "extraordinarily favourable to the West."[17] The enlargement of NATO is seen by Russians of all political complexions as breaching the terms of that settlement.

  The withdrawal of Russian co-operation could negate Western attempts to contain conflicts such as those in the former Yugoslavia. It could bring to a halt the process of dismantling Russia's nuclear arsenals. If Russia felt threatened and withdrew its co-operation, the nature of Russia's political and strategic interests in the former Soviet Republics would change. Meanwhile, the constraints on Moscow pursuing those redefined interests would be weakened or removed entirely, as the security of the homeland assumed its traditional place at the head of Moscow's concerns.


  In very general terms, one can differentiate between the attitudes underlying the opinions of the opposing wings of the inclusive approach to European security. The proponents of enlargement tend to idealism. Coming form Wilsonian liberalism, that is to be expected and is reflected in their concern for the aspirations of medium and small states and their urge to right the wrongs of Yalta and/or the Soviet Empire. They think that a new approach will escape the constraints of the past and have relatively short time horizons.

  The opponents of enlargement tend to realism. They have a traditional view of world affairs based on the lessons of history, which in the case of Europe are particularly rich and relevant.[18] They believe that the security of individual states, large and small, depends on the security of the encompassing region. The latter has priority and depends in turn on co-operation by the relevant major powers. In evaluating policy options, their historical perspective demands long time horizons.


  The proponents of further enlargement can point to the fact that the first stage has been largely accomplished, without the dire consequences predicted by the opponents. It has been possible to meet Russia's need for special treatment through the Founding Act, the Permanent Joint Council and (separately) the G8. Despite much huffing and puffing, Moscow is in no position to oppose the reality of continued expansion.

  Predictions that the prospect of NATO membership would provide positive incentives have meanwhile been proven correct in relation to political and economic reform in the newly-independent states and the resolution of internal and external inter-ethnic claims. The certainty of membership has been successful in removing the pressure to rebuild national defence capabilities and has been an influence for lowered military requirements and reduced defence expenditure.[19]

  The opponents of further enlargement acknowledge these short-term benefits but point to the facts of geography, history, emotion and long-term time horizons. There are good reasons why Moscow should rationalise membership for the Visegrad states as a special case and equally good reasons why Moscow should refuse to see it as signalling acquiescence to further enlargement. Otherwise, where does this "evolutionary" process stop? From the Russian viewpoint, if Romania and Bulgaria, why not Armenia and Georgia, even Azerbaijan?

  Meanwhile, Moscow sees the former Soviet Republics as in a different category to the east European states. The Soviets entered eastern Europe in the process of defeating Nazi Germany and withdrew voluntarily, if under economic and political duress, in 1989-90. While Moscow sees the inclusion of Warsaw Pact members in NATO as a breach of trust, those countries are in no way comparable to the former Republics of the Soviet Union. The latter (for the most part) had been part of a single state entity which, at the time of its dissolution in 1991, had existed some 200 years.[20] They now constitute Russia's de facto national security zone. Latvia and Estonia are of particular significance in ethnic and strategic terms.

  The opponents of further enlargement do not see Moscow's acceptance of force majeur at this stage as a valid indicator of Russian behaviour in the next 10-20 years. They point to the almost universal Russian resentment over the extension of NATO. Resentment is a slow-burning fuse and a powerful political force. It was 15 years after Versailles that Hitler came to power. It is argued that resentment over the extension of NATO "could make the overturning of the post-Cold-War settlement a central aim of [Russian] foreign policy, no matter who is responsible for conducting it."[21]


  Proponents assert that for the "grey zone" between NATO's new boundary and the Russian frontier "there is no alternative" to further NATO enlargement.

  This ignores the unappealing alternative of a Europe divided along a line following the former border of the Soviet Union. Although not likely at this juncture, it could yet emerge as a pre-emptive response to the exclusionary concept of European security and the explicit threat of an evolutionary (read inexorable) enlargement of NATO. In this scenario, NATO would face a Pan-Slav alliance that for strategic reasons had incorporated Moldavia and the Baltic states.

  Opponents note that there are other alternatives, albeit largely unexplored. These alternatives mainly build on the de facto nuclear-weapon-free-zone that extends from the Arctic to the Black Sea, and the possibility of a mutual security belt covering the remaining non-aligned states in that zone. They include sub-regional co-operative agreements, special arms control regimes, great power guarantees and so forth. The need for critical mass is another argument against further enlargement.

  These embryonic schemes embody the truism that the micro-security of individual states in this "grey zone" depends absolutely on macro-security in greater Europe. They reflect the utilitarian principle of the greatest good for the greatest number and distinguish between the aspirations of states at this point in time and the long term interests of their people.

  For example, which will best ensure Estonia's long-term security? Membership of NATO? Or membership of a tightly-bound northern-Baltic neutral and nuclear-free coalition comprising Finland, Sweden and the Baltic States?


  In its report on NATO Enlargement the Committee said that "opponents of enlargement have to accept a certain political logic to further enlargement and, like King Canute, [we] acknowledge that to attempt to turn the tide back could prove to be a stubborn waste of political energy".

  In March 1998, ratification was the only sensible recommendation. The decision to enlarge NATO had been presented to Parliament as a fait accompli; the "first stage" was being achieved without dire consequences for European security; there was a certain political and geographical symmetry to the new alignment, which did not directly threaten Russia; and to have failed to fulfil the raised expectations would have had very serious consequences.

  Our present situation is rather different, not least because the easy part is now behind us and the difficulties lie ahead. Any further enlargement will confirm that NATO is embarked on a "process" that is seemingly open-ended. That process will increasingly encroach on what Russia sees as its national security zone, the former Republics having particular geopolitical and strategic significance.

  While nominally inclusive, the influence of hard-line Republicans means that NATO;s declaratory policy is often exclusionary, as is policy-on-the-ground. The hard-line tendency in US policy will almost certainly increase if Moscow reacts strongly to further enlargement, leading to action-reaction and growing confrontation.

  This prospect would be less disturbing if the policy of enlargement was the result of a structured political-military assessment of the long-term requirements for European security. But we now know that this policy emerged during the first nine months of the Clinton administration from a White House seeking ways to counteract the domestic effects of its involvement in Somalia and inaction over Bosnia. The policy was strongly opposed by the Pentagon and the relevant specialists in State. And when presented to NATO, it was initially opposed (for their separate reasons) by Britain and France.

  Nor is it reassuring that in June 1997, 50 former US senators, cabinet secretaries and ambassadors, as well as US arms control and foreign policy specialists, took the most unusual step of writing an open letter to President Clinton stating their belief that "the current US-led effort to expand NATO . . . is a policy error of historic importance."[22] In May this year, similar misgivings were expressed by a comparable group of British notables in an equally unusual letter to the Prime Minister.

  The decision to publicly criticise one's Government is not taken lightly by people of that background and experience. Nor was the letter to Clinton the first time that experienced US professionals had formally expressed their concern about NATO enlargement.[23] On both occasions the signatories included former Cold War warriors, the last people to be solicitous about Moscow's sensibilities.

  Given the genesis of the policy of enlargement, its foreseeable consequences, and the calibre of dissenting opinion, the Committee might consider replacing the image of Canute, helpless before the tide, with the more activist metaphor of someone travelling by river. At various stages they have the opportunity to review their plans and decide whether it is wise to continue down stream, given what expert opinion and the available evidence suggests might lie ahead. At each stage, they have to ask themselves whether they would be better advised to haul the boat out of the water and travel towards their objective by some other means.

  I suggest that we are at such a stage in respect to NATO enlargement.

  It may have made political sense in late 1993 for the British Government to have gone along with the non-specific, inclusive policy of NATO enlargement that was being pushed by the new Clinton administration. It was perhaps understandable that the Labour Government should have chosen to take NATO enlargement as a "given" in its strategic defence review. But with the intricacies of the SDR behind us, the Defence Committee should now press for an urgent inter-Departmental review of this US-led policy.

  It may be that NATO enlargement is not a "policy error of historic importance". But, given the implications for European security, it would seem essential that Britain should develop its own, properly-staffed view of the matter, rather than acquiesce to such policies as emerge from the US political process.


  Writing in 1993, Sir Michael Quinlan raised the question of whether the world still needed nuclear weapons. He concluded that it did and that Western policy on nuclear possession should continue unchanged.[24]

  Since then there has emerged a significant body of authoritative international opinion, which outspokenly favours the elimination of nuclear weapons. This includes a sizeable number of very senior retired military officers, Presidents and Prime Ministers. There are substantive reasons for this development, which suggests that it is now time to revise the questions posed in Quinlan's article.

  An important catalyst for new thinking about this question was the view which emerged in the wake of the Gulf War that the USA's main objective should be to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.[25] Elimination was one way of achieving that objective and would bring other benefits. Besides removing "all kinds of risks of catastrophic destruction" America would then "be free to enjoy two extraordinary strategic advantages: first, as the least threatened of major states, and second, as the one state with modern conventional forces of unmatched quality". This led to the conclusion that it would be very much in the interests of the USA if all nuclear weapons were "taken off the table of international affairs"—if only one knew how.[26]

  The revisionary process had meanwhile been at work on some of the assumptions underlying the Western policy of nuclear deterrence. A re-examination of decision-making by all parties involved in the Cuban Missile crisis made several of the original participants—notably Robert McNamara—realise we had come much closer to a nuclear exchange than people realised at the time. This led him to conclude that the indefinite combination of nuclear weapons and human fallability would inevitably lead to a nuclear exchange. McNamara's personal conviction was reinforced by academic analysis of various situations and incidents in the 1960-85 period, highlighting the inherent danger of inadvertent and/or accidental war.[27]

  In other words, nuclear deterrence was not and never had been risk free. Furthermore, access to Soviet archives cast serious doubt on the core Western assumption: that Soviet policy in the Cold War years was driven by an urge to military expansion. This underlined the claim that nuclear weapons had kept the peace, leaving the central truth that it was the existence of nuclear weapons which made nuclear war possible.

  This led to the question of whether, in the post-cold-war security environment, as should adopted "the firm and serious policy goal of a nuclear-free world?[28] In addressing that question, there emerged a new awareness that the policy-choice was not between the seemingly-stable, low-salience, nuclear world which we currently enjoyed and some future, hypothetical, nuclear-free world. We had to choose between two unfolding processes; we had to compare likely outcomes over time. Neither policy would be risk free.

  Risk is the product of the consequences of a calamity and the likelihood of its occurrence. In a nuclear world (such as we have known this half century) the worst case is a full-scale nuclear exchange. In a non-nuclear world, the risk would be nuclear breakout, leading in the very worst case to the limited use of nuclear weapons. Opinions may differ on the comparative probability of the worst case occurring under the different policies. But in terms of risk, we can be certain that any disparity would be insufficient to balance the incomparable calamity of a nuclear exchange.

  It was this kind of thinking that persuaded experienced military men like Field Marshal Lord Carver and USAF General Lee Butler to support the goal of a nuclear-free world.[29]

  There were other reasons for this re-evaluation, including the 1995 Review Conference on the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty. Preparation for the Conference engaged the attention of officials and politicians, raised public awareness and prompted new analyses by non-governmental groups. These included the Washington-based "Project on Eliminating Nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction,[30] and the international "Canberra Commission." The latter was specifically tasked by the Australian Government to develop concrete proposals on how to achieve a nuclear-free world.

  Another spur was the growing danger of nuclear proliferation, in part a byproduct of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but also a corollary of the two-tier structure of the NPT. Added to the opinion that elimination would be in US interests and to the technical demands of the START dismantling process, this stimulated new research and increased investment in the science and technology of verification, which was still low on its learning curve. It was concluded that a nuclear-free world was within the bounds of feasibility.

  The Canberra Commission published its report in August 1996, soon after the ruling by the International Court of Justice that "the threat or use of nuclear weapons (would) generally be contrary both to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict and in particular to the principles and rules of humanitarian law."[31] The Commission's report described practical measures to bring about the verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons and called on the five nuclear powers "to give the lead by committing themselves unequivocally" to that goal.[32] It was followed in December 1996 by a "Statement on Nuclear Weapons by International Generals and Admirals" (including 19 from the USA and 17 from Russia) supporting the principle of "continuous, complete, and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons".

  In February 1998, "The State of the World Forum" released an open statement that had by then been signed by over 100 former civilian leaders and senior officials (including 52 past Presidents and Prime Ministers) from 48 states (including the major powers). Noting that "immediate and practical steps" towards a nuclear-free world had been "arrayed in a host of compelling studies", the statement called on the five nuclear powers to commence "the systematic and progressive reduction and marginalisation of nuclear weapons" and declare "unambiguously that their goal is ultimate abolition". The statement was launched with a powerful speech by General Lee Butler, in which he explained how he had come to reject the theories and doctrine he had subscribed to throughout his service career, with particular emphasis on the "treacherous axioms" of nuclear deterrence.[33]

  In June 1998, the Foreign Ministers of eight good friends of the Western nuclear powers issued a joint declaration supporting the Canberra Commission's conclusions on the danger of nuclear war and calling on all nuclear-weapons states to commit themselves "unequivocally" and "now," to the "speedy, final, and total elimination" of their nuclear weapons capability.[34]

  These various statements differ in their details and emphases, but share the conviction that the continued existence of nuclear weapons imperils mankind. They all stress the crucial importance of the five nuclear powers making an unequivocal (rather than rhetorical) commitment to the elimination of such weapons and the need to back words with action. They consider that such a commitment would have a radical influence on the problem of proliferation. Some believe it would have a transformative effect on the international system.

  Judging by the Strategic Defence Review the British Government remains unpersuaded by these arguments. It seems not to agree that nuclear weapons imperil mankind, noting merely that "the world would be a better place if such weapons were still not necessary."[35] Nor is the Government prepared to make an unequivocal commitment to the goal of a nuclear-free world,[36] which it considers can only come about when the conditions exist "in which no state judges that it needs nuclear weapons to guarantee its security."[37]

  This is a legitimate point of view, and the Government is under no obligation to present a case other than its own.[38] But it is under an obligation not to misrepresent the alternative policy, as it does when it says that "the condition for complete nuclear disarmament does not yet exist." The context implies that proponents of the alternative policy think it does exist, whereas they have always been explicit that elimination will be an evolutionary process, taking 20-30 years, or longer.

  The Government also has a responsibility not to use words that mislead the public as to the policy it is actually pursuing. Reading of its "commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons", one would assume that the Government supported the various statements referred to above. That is, unless one knew that some such form of words had been used since 1970, the year the NPT entered into force and (coincidentally) the build up of nuclear arsenals began in earnest. Past usage has ensured that in sophisticated circles, "commitment" to elimination is understood to be rhetorical, unless it is qualified by a term like "unequivocal.[39] The average reader is not aware of that convention.

  There is a third, important point. The question of whether Britain should adopt "the firm and serious policy goal" of eliminating nuclear weapons is of a different order and in a different category to questions concerning the utility of an independent British deterrent or the number of Trident war-heads. In the short-to-medium term these questions are not interdependent. A decision to adopt the goal of a nuclear-free world would need have no early effect on the other category of questions.[40]

To Conclude

  Writing in 1993, Sir Michael Quinlan, recently retired as Permanent Under Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, posed two questions. First, did the world have to have nuclear weapons at all? Second, were there adequate reasons for NT adopting the firm and serious policy goal of a nuclear=free world?[41]

  Quinlan answered both questions in the affirmative and it is reasonable to assume that this was Government policy at the time. Lip service notwithstanding, the Strategic Defence Review gives no reason to suppose that Government policy has changed in this particular area.[42]

  One explanation for the new Government's reluctance to debate the question of eliminating nuclear weapons could be that it (wrongly) perceives nuclear matters as a single ball of string. It is loth to tamper with the ball lest the rationale for a British nuclear capability starts to unravel.

  Since 1993, a series of international reports and declarations have reached a different conclusion and answered documents has been the range and calibre of the signatories and the depth, spread and relevance of their political and professional expertise.

  This does not mean they are necessarily right. But it does suggest that their conclusions deserve serious consideration. Five years down the road, Quinlan's questions should be revisited in open debate.

  When addressing this issue, it is important that the global question of the future of nuclear weapons be treated as quite separate to questions concerning the British deterrent, which are not directly related. The global question can only be analysed by envisaging the unfolding of the alternative policies (each with its attendant consequences, good and bad), and comparing the risks over time.

5   James M Goldgeir, "NATO Expansion: the anatomy of a decision" Washington Quarterly 21:1, 1998, pp. 85-102 Back

6   The State Department is on record insisting "that the US Government has been the driving political force behind NATO's enlargement process." See letter of 1 April 1996 from the Chief Financial Officer of the State Department to the General Accounting Office, commenting on Report GAO/NSIAD-96-92 NATO ENLARGEMENT (6 May 1996) for the Committee on International Relations, US House of Representatives. Back

7   The word in Washington is that there will be another five new members in time for the Presidential elections in the year 2000: Slovenia, Roumania, and the three Baltic states. Back

8   Traditionally Republican, the ethnic vote turned against Bush in 1992. Clinton won 12 of the 14 states where ethnic voters were concentrated, delivering 186 out of a possible 192 Presidential electors, one third of the total. This pattern was repeated in 1996. Back

9   "Enlargement" was coined by the White House in August-September 1993 as a post-Cold War organising concept to echo and replace Kennan's powerful concept of "Containment". It was to be an evolutionary process, a global exercise in geoeconomics, the natural enlargement of the Free World's community of market democracies, through free trade. Enlargement and engagement were inextricably linked to America's domestic renewal and retaining its place as the world's largest exporter. The concept had Republican support. Back

10   In respect to Central and Eastern Europe, NATO was the obvious vehicle for this global US policy. It followed the Cold War practice of using the US military as a highly biddable instrument of socio-economic policy in the world-wide struggle with Communism. Back

11   This label includes the advocates of a global Pax Americana, the conservative isolationists' who favour external intervention to instil American values, and the coalition of interests which continues to see Russia as an enemy and is intent on denying Moscow any influence beyond its borders. Back

12   NATO Enlargement was one of the ten principles in Congressman Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America". Back

13   In March 1994, Senator Lugar (a moderate Republican), declared that the US had "to get over the idea that it was involved in a partnership with Moscow". This is a tough rivalry, he insisted. Michael Cox, US Foreign Policy after the Cold War (London: RIIA, 1995) p.67. Back

14   See, for example, the ten conditions imposed by Senator Helms in September 1997 as the price for his support of NATO enlargement, and the terms attached to the Senate resolution (30 April 1998) on ratifying the Treaty Protocols enabling the accession of three new members. (Basic Paper No.27, May 1998) Back

15   The requirement that their forces be able to operate with existing NATO forces in peacekeeping/enforcement operations is already covered by the provisions of PfP. Back

16   An unexpected characteristic of this wing of the inclusive camp is that its members come from both sides of the Cold War divide between "hawks" and "doves". Back

17   Michael Mandelbaum, The Dawn of Peace in Europe, (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1996) paragraph 60-61. Mandelbaum points out that as Moscow took part and acquiesced in all the events that produced the settlement, it has a measure of legitimacy in Russian eyes, which "is a priceless asset to the West." Back

18   John Lewis Gaddis notes that "historians-normally so contentious-are in uncharacteristic agreement, with remarkably few exceptions" about NATO enlargement. They see it as "ill-conceived, ill-timed, and above all ill-suited to the realities of the post-Cold War world". Gaddis, `History, Grand Strategy and NATO Enlargement', Survival 40:1 1998, p. 145. Back

19   Jorgen Dragsdahl, `NATO resists pressures to militarise Central Europe' BASIC PAPERS No. 28, July 1998. Back

20   For example, Estonia and Latvia were wrested from Sweden in 1721, and had only enjoyed independence in the interwar years, 1918-39. Back

21   Mandelbaum, op. cit p. 61. He points out that "NATO expansion is, in the eyes of Russians in the 1990s, what the war guilt clause was for Germans in the 1930s. It reneges on the terms on which they believe the conflict with the West ended. It is a betrayal of the understanding they thought they had with their former enemies." Back

22   Eminent and highly respected individuals made up this bipartisan group. The five senators included Sam Nunn, a long standing expert on defence. Arthur Hartman and Jack Matlock, ambassadors to Moscow 1981-87 and 1987-91, were among twelve signatories of that rank. Professors Richard Pipes and Marshall Shulman (former members of the NSC, but on opposite sides of the US debate on Soviet policy in the 1970-90 period) both signed the letter, as did Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defence in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and Paul Nitze, who was President Reagan's arms control supremo in the 1980s and a leading member of the hawkish `Committee on the Present Danger' in the 1970s. Back

23   In May 1995, a group of retired senior Foreign Service, State Department, and Department of Defense officials wrote privately to the US Secretary of State expressing concern about enlargement. A copy of the letter was subsequently published in the New York Review of Books, 21 May 1995, p. 75. Back

24   See "The future of nuclear weapons: policy for Western possessors", International Affairs, 69:3, 1993, pp. 485-596. Quinlan had recently retired as Permanent Under Secretary of the Ministry of Defence.  Back

25   The idea was floated initially by Les Aspin, then Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and subsequently US Secretary of Defense. Back

26   Reducing nuclear danger: the road away from the brink (New York, Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1993) p. 5. Joint authors: McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, 1961-66; Admiral Crowe, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 1985-89; Sidney Drell, nuclear physicist and long-time advisor to the US government.  Back

27   For example: Bruce G Blair, The logic of accidental war (Washington DC: Brookings Institution, 1993); Scott D Sagan, The limits of safety organisations, accidents, and nuclear weapons (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993); Peter Douglas Feaver, Guarding the Guardians: civilian control of nuclear weapons in the United States (Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1992) Back

28   This was Michael Quinlan's formulation. The qualifiers were needed to distinguish this course of action from rhetorical pronouncements during the previous 25 years. Back

29   As CinC Strategic Air Command (91-92) and CinC Strategic Command (92-94), General Butler had been responsible for all USAF and USN nuclear deterrent forces. Back

30   The Chairman of the Project's Steering Committee is General Andrew Goodpaster, currently co-Chair of the Atlantic Council and formerly SACEUR (1969-74); the 17 members include Robert McNamara (US SecDef 1961-68), Amb Paul Nitze (Arms Control Supremo 1981-89), Gen Charles Horner (CinC N American Aerospace Defence Command 1992-94), and Gen W Y Smith (Dep US CinC Europe). This multi-year project was launched by the Henry L Stimson Center in 1994 and has published ten reports to date. The most relevant to this discussion is the Steering Committee's Second Report An Evolving US Nuclear Posture (Dec 1995). It advocates "an up-front, serious commitment to the long-term objective of eliminating all weapons of mass destruction" combined with an "evolutionary" nuclear posture of careful phased reductions. Back

31   The Court was unable to "conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in the extreme circumstances of self-defence, in which the very survival of the state would be at stake." Back

32   The Canberra Commission also concluded: "There is no doubt that, if the peoples of the world were more fully aware of the inherent danger of nuclear weapons and the consequences of their use, they would reject them. . ." Back

33   For extended extracts from his speech at the National Press Club, Washington on 2 February see Disarmament Diplomacy (London: Acronym Institute, No. 23, Feb 1997) pp 24-30. Back

34   "A Nuclear-Weapons-Free World: The Need for a New Agenda," Joint Declaration in Dublin by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa and Sweden, 9 June 1998. This said (inter alia) "we are deeply concerned at the persistent reluctance of the nuclear-weapon States to approach their Treaty obligations [under the NPT] as an urgent commitment to the total elimination of their nuclear weapons." Back

35   Quotations from the SDR come from paras. 3, 20, 22 of the Supporting Essay on Deterrence (etc)Back

36   In this part of the SDR, the term "unequivocal commitment" is only used in respect to Britain's obligations under the NPT, where the reference to nuclear disarmament can be construed in different ways. Back

37   China has always favoured the elimination of nuclear weapons, as has India. In January 1986, genuinely concerned about what he saw as the very real and growing danger of nuclear war, Mikhail Gorbachev made a formal proposal (repeated in October that year at Reykjavik) that all nuclear weapons should be eliminated by the year 2000. Through 1992, Russia continued to advocate (unequivocally) complete nuclear disarmament. Back

38   The SDR is uninformative in this respect, but there appears to have been no significant change in the long-standing policy inherited from the Conservatives. Nuclear deterrence is needed to keep the peace unless (or until) there is a fundamental change in the nature of the international system, such that no state sees the need for nuclear weapons. Failing such a change, the Government doubts the very feasibility of a verifiable nuclear-free world and, even if it were achievable, it would not necessarily be desirable. In such a world, the possibility of conventional war between major powers would re-emerge, leading (most likely) to the reconstitution of nuclear arsenals, and (possibly) to nuclear war. In sum, stay with the devil you know, make comforting noises about nuclear disarmament, but no unequivocal commitments to a nuclear-free world.  Back

39   This convention was confirmed implicitly by the careful wording of a statement by Baroness Symons in the Lords (note 19, below). Quoting the Papal representative's call "for an unequivocal commitment to the abolition of nuclear arms", she said she was "happy to repeat that the Government was committed to the global elimination of those nuclear weapons." Note the elision of "unequivocal." Back

40   One explanation for the new Government's reluctance to debate the question of eliminating nuclear weapons could be that it (wrongly) perceives nuclear matters as a single ball of string. It is loth to tamper with the ball lest the rationale for a British nuclear capability starts to unravel. Back

41   See note 1. For an up-to-date version of Quinlan's argument see Thinking about nuclear weapons, (London: Royal United Services Institute, 1997) For a rebuttal of Quinlan's original argument, see MccGwire, "Is there a future for nuclear weapons?" International Affairs 1994, 70:2, pp. 211-228.  Back

42   This conclusion is supported by the carefully worded statements of Baroness Symons, when she took the "opportunity to present . . . the Government's position on nuclear disarmament." (Hansard, 17 December 1997, cols. 684-89). She claimed that a speech in the UN First Committee by the Papal representative calling for the world "to move to the abolition of nuclear weapons through a universal non-discriminatory ban" was mirrored in the government's manifesto commitment to "mutual, balanced and verifiable nuclear disarmament." The Government would "work for the global elimination of nuclear weapons" by pressing for "multilateral negotiations towards mutual, balanced and verifiable reductions." (See also note 16 above). This Lords debate was noteworthy for having one Prelate (the Lord Bishop of Oxford) opposing a nuclear-free world, one Field Marshal (Lord Carver) in favour, and two Field Marshals (Lords Carver and Bramall) advocating the elimination of Britain's nuclear capability. Back

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