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.
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,
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
a continuous process, rather than an exploratory step with a pause
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.
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.
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.
The White House had an Inclusive objectiveco-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
This hard line viewpoint was strongly represented in the Republican-dominated
Congress elected in November 1994.
It was against partnership with Russia and stressed rivalry, even
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 Europea greater Europe extending
from the Atlantic to the Uralswhich 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
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
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. 
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.
The existing (but fraying) co-operative relationship derives from
the post-cold-war settlement with Moscow, which was "extraordinarily
favourable to the West."
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
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
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
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.
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."
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
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."
In May this year, similar misgivings were expressed by a comparable
group of British notables in an equally unusual letter to the
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 participantsnotably Robert McNamararealise
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.
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?
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
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.
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,
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."
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.
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
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.
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
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."
Nor is the Government prepared to make an unequivocal commitment
to the goal of a nuclear-free world,
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."
This is a legitimate point of view, and the
Government is under no obligation to present a case other than
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
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
"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
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
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
NATO Enlargement was one of the ten principles in Congressman
Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America". Back
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
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
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
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
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
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
Jorgen Dragsdahl, `NATO resists pressures to militarise Central
Europe' BASIC PAPERS No. 28, July 1998. Back
For example, Estonia and Latvia were wrested from Sweden in 1721,
and had only enjoyed independence in the interwar years, 1918-39. Back
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
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
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
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
The idea was floated initially by Les Aspin, then Chairman of
the House Armed Services Committee and subsequently US Secretary
of Defense. Back
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
Quotations from the SDR come from paras. 3, 20, 22 of the
Supporting Essay on Deterrence (etc). Back
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
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
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
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
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
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
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