Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)|
INGRAM, MP, MR
CBE AND MR
WEDNESDAY 19 DECEMBER 2001
1. Mr Ingram, Mr Webb and Mr Lee, welcome to
our Committee for what is a long-running saga on European Security
and Defence, with Helsinki Goals, Laeken and Afghanistan. We would
be interested to know what impact that has had on what our European
colleagues have in mind for defence and security. You, I understand,
would like to make an opening statement and then proceed with
a lot of questions. We will try, if we can, to finish by 12.30
but I cannot offer any absolute commitment at this stage, Mr Ingram.
(Mr Ingram) Mr Chairman, could I thank
you. This is, obviously, the first time I have given evidence
to this Select Committee in my new role, so it is with some trepidation
and interest that I approach this particular task. Having served
on a select committee myself some time ago, and having given evidence
to other select committees, I know the importance of this and,
as you say, this is a very critical and, indeed, topical issue.
Geoff Hoon, of course, would have been here to give evidence this
morning, and he is sorry he cannot be here today because he is
already committed to attending a meeting of NATO ministers in
Brussels. I think, as we speak, he is now travelling back for
other events later today, but sends his regrets and apologies
for not being with us today. I do not know whether it is my pleasure
to be here or not, but for the record I will say it is my pleasure
to be in attendance. You have already identified Simon Webb, who
is our Policy Director and who, I think, is all too familiar to
youand, more importantly, you to him. I do not know whether
Ian Lee has popped up in any shape or form in front of you before,
but Ian is the Director Europe and these are the two specialists
in this particular area. I know you would welcome any contributions
from them to supplement anything that I may say or may not have
the direct answer on. I just want to make a very brief statement.
Since Geoff last appeared before you to talk about European Security
and Defence Policy in March this year, we believe a great deal
has been achieved. Most notably, in the last few weeks, there
have been first the Capabilities Improvement Conference, in November,
and, secondly, the Laeken European Council last weekend. It may
be helpful if I set the scene very briefly on these two particular
events. The Conference, and the work leading up to it, was important
for maintaining our collective commitment. It had five important
components: first, it produced a very thorough and professional
assessment of the precise nature, quantity and qualities of the
capabilities required to meet the Headline Goal. This assessment
was based on the work of experts from the 15 EU Member States
working with the help and support of NATO experts. It demonstrates
the mutually reinforcing nature of NATO and EU goals. Second,
it captured some significant adjustments and improvements to the
offers of forces and capabilities that countries had made in November
2000. Third, it collected a comprehensive picture of plans and
initiatives already in the pipeline within Members States' defence
programmes. Fourth, drawing on this information, it was able to
identify the remaining shortfall areasand the most significant
areas within that list. Finally, and perhaps most importantly,
at the Conference itself Ministers committed to an Action Plan
to pursue these remaining shortfalls vigorously to the target
of 2003 and beyond. No doubt we will touch on these issues during
this session. Secondly, I would like to report very briefly the
outcome of the European Council at Laeken. In addition to endorsing
the capabilities work I have just described, the Council marked
a milestone in the successful development of ESDP. The Council
reached two important conclusions: first that the capabilities
available and the permanent establishment of the decision-making
and advisory structures did give the EU the capacity now to consider
undertaking some crisis management operations. Coming only two
years after the decisions at Helsinki to pursue these goals, that
in itself represents considerable progress. The second conclusion
reached is equally significant: the Council concluded that the
more demanding operations would require further development of
capabilities and that the Union was determined to finalise swiftly
arrangements with NATO. Again, I am sure we will come back to
those arrangements during this session. For now I should simply
like to stress that all the Member States of both the EU and NATO
are committed to co-operation between these organisations in the
sphere of crisis management. A mutually supportive, close, confident
relationship in which each organisation can share its experience,
expertise and strength is a shared aim of all the countries involved.
In practice, whether in preparation for the Capabilities Conference
or in discussions on the Balkans or on the campaign against terrorism,
this close relationship is a reality on the ground. It is true
that some elements of the formal agreements and arrangements between
NATO and the EU have not yet been concluded, but we are very close,
and while there are still some details to finalise we are close
to concluding some of those issues. However, we are not complacent
and there is, of course, a great deal still to do. But I believe
we can be pleased with progress that has been made on ESDP in
a remarkably short period. Now, as the urgency and range of security
tasks have grown in recent months, there is a greater need than
ever for Europeans to take a fair share of the security burden.
The instability and the crisis management tasks that existed before
11 September are still there and so is the requirement for ESDP
to play its part in dealing with them. Its objectives are clear:
to improve military and civil capabilities across and within partner
nations throughout the EU. I would pose a question: who could
possibly disagree with that? Mr Chairman, I am all yours.
2. Maybe the Belgian Foreign Minister would.
We must express our appreciation to the Belgians' wise stewardship
of the European Union for the last six months and express some
sadness that it will be 2013 before their time comes around again.
The first question, Minister, for you and your team to answer
is: what do you consider the UK's interpretation is of the upper
end of the range of possible Petersberg Tasks?
(Mr Ingram) Clearly, I can only speak for the UK on
this, but I would say that our views would be shared across the
EU. Of course, that is what discussions and Capabilities Conferences
are all about, to try and match what has been identified within
the Petersberg Tasks. The upper end would be, I suppose, the peace-making
element of all of that, and that would be the separation of parties
by force in any theatre of potential conflict or conflict. That
would be one area. Conflict prevention and prevention of deployment
would, possibly, be another area where it would be the upper end
of it. In the sense of where those events could be taking place,
then the geographic location would come into some of the dimensions
of that debate as well. While the upper end could be defined in
the way in which I have defined it, also the capabilities of being
able to deliver into areas would sit alongside that type of determination.
3. But the upper end is not getting too close
to war-fighting for your liking, is it?
(Mr Ingram) War-fighting in the sense that, in a conflict,
we have always said that even in relatively benign areas you could
still find yourself in a fighting situation. We have always made
the point that if fired upon we would expect the situation could
be that we would be firing back in those circumstances. The rules
of engagement we do not define in precise detailand, again,
you know the reasons for that. On the specific question as to
are we getting close to war-fighting, yes, it could well be, in
certain circumstances. We would not find ourselves in the upper
end tasks against a country, but dealing with factionalism within
countries and the separation of factions or different groupings
or entities within particular countries, yes, it couldto
answer your precise questionbe of a war-fighting nature,
but not country to country.
4. Could I ask if your colleagues went to Laeken?
(Mr Webb) It is always a mistake when I say this,
Chairman, but I was at Petersberg on the day this was agreed,
so I remember. I think something which is worth characterising
is that the reference to peace-making was introduced fairly late.
This was in the early 1990s when the Balkans issue was breaking
out, and the reason it was introduced was that people were starting
to get worried about fighting in the Balkans. So, indeed, the
idea that you might have to separateexactly as the Minister
has saidthe parties who, if you like, were warring was
very much in people's mind, and the separation of those as opposed
to wars between states was in people's mind. The way that the
Headline Goals have been scaledand there is a specific
process on thisis that it specifically provides for this
kind of operation at the war-fighting end, which is why you find
some quite sharp-end capabilities in the Headline Goals, such
as supression of air defences and that kind of thing, which is
definitely at the war-fighting end. So yes.
5. Anything to add, Mr Lee?
(Mr Lee) Not particularly. The scaling of the capabilities,
the process by which the Headline Goals have been elaborated and
in which it has been defined what all the different capabilities
are, obviously, has used, as working assumptions, different scenarios.
Those include a scenario referred to as separation of warring
parties. So that does include assumptions about combat, possibly,
being needed in that situation. Those are assumptions that have
been made for military planning purposes in order to work out
in more detail what the requirements are which would be needed
to underpin the broad statement of the Headline Goal. There has
not been an attempt to define precisely in the abstract what the
top end of the Petersberg Tasks would be. I think the expectation
is that one could not really define it in the abstract, one can
only define it in relation to a particular situation which would
have to be assessed at the time.
6. You do not detect it shifting up higher?
(Mr Lee) No.
7. NATO is quite relaxed about what has been
agreed, is it?
(Mr Webb) Yes.
8. How about our European partners? Is there
fundamental agreement on what this, more or less, interpretation
of Petersberg is?
(Mr Lee) Yes, I think so. Perhaps I can just say,
on the scenarios in relation to NATO, the actual scenarios that
were used originated in the days of the WEU. NATO had done some
work on them in those days and NATO did contribute very largely
to the assessment work and to the elaboration of them in this
work that has happened in the last couple of years. There has
been no sense of any dispute or reluctance on the part of NATO
in assisting with this work; that has happened throughout.
9. When NATO was set up in 1949, there were
boundariesmuch disputedas to where NATO should deploy.
Can you elaborate on distance? A thousand kilometres? Four thousand
kilometres? Continents? Is it being kept flexible for any potential
(Mr Ingram) We are talking about the ESDP and how
that is evolving. All within the European theatre or would it
go beyond that, I suppose, would be the way I would interpret
that question. Again, we are probably some way away from envisaging
going beyond the lower end of what can be delivered. Once we get
to 2003 then it will be on a case-by-case basis. Could we find
ourselves involved in Africa? Yes, possibly. Would it be within
Europe, if events such as Kosovo and Serbia manifest themselves?
Probably. That would be the way in which it would be envisaged.
It is not a global approach that would be anticipated by the ESDP,
but where there was a European interest and there was a willingness
to deliver on this capability that NATO was not engaged in, then
we could find ourselves involved in any one of the Petersberg
Tasks as so defined; so humanitarian and, even, through to the
upper end if we had the capabilities and NATO was not engaged
at that time.
10. Did they discuss, do you think, any scenarios
(Mr Ingram) "They" being?
11. At Laeken, or any discussions leading up
to it on Petersberg Tasks and the Helsinki Goals. Where I come
from, Minister, is that I think most of these things ought to
be done by NATO, and if the European Union wishes to get engaged
I think there should be very defined limits as to what those duties
are, otherwise there can be serious war-fighting as we belong
to an alliance with a far more wide array of powers and capabilities.
I, personally, want to know what we are buying into in terms of
the upper limits.
(Mr Ingram) When you use the phrase "serious
war-fighting", that could be the Afghanistan situation. It
is most unlikely that that would be something which the ESDP could
or would ever deliver upon because of the nature and the demands
in that particular theatre. So there are limits in that sense.
Trying to answer your earlier question about what would be the
reach of it in geographic terms and distance terms, what I was
saying was we could find ourselves where there were willing nations
within Europe, where NATO was not involved, so engaged. Could
it be Sierra Leone, if something similar happened? The answer
could be yes to that. Because the capabilities are there, we have
shown we can do it as a nation, other nations alongside us, depending
on the nature of the mission, could deliver enhanced capabilities.
So the European dimension could find itself being played in in
that way, but in terms of relationship between NATO and ESDP,
clearly there has to be a close relationship there and that is
being worked on to ensure that it is about enhancing capabilities
across NATO and across Europe. Everyone is signed up to that.
In my earlier opening statement I think I indicated all nations
are seized of that; that everyone benefits from those enhanced
12. Part of having a capable force is force
projection, and we have aircraft carriers coming on stream some
years in future and the French have got a tasty one. Do you envisage
that Great Britain will be drawn with Europe into wider dimensions
for their force projection role, going to wide-flung areas with
a very substantial force saying "Do not start any trouble
because we can resolve the issue", whereas, at the moment,
we do not do that and force projection is normally in the USA?
Can we see us as a European force, and Great Britain being drawn
into wider-flung areas of the world on force projection to prevent
problems with our interests?
(Mr Ingram) Writing everything out or any scenario
out is always fraught with some problems because it depends on
the case-by-case approach. It has to be: what is the extent of
it, what is the nature of it, how quickly can you go in, how quickly
can you go out, and how quickly can you deliver that capability
to meet the immediate need? There may well be occasions when that
demand could be asked for or could be there and could then be
met. So to rule it out and say "That will never happen"
would be a wrong approach, but I think we then have to draw down
and start looking at various scenarios. I have mentioned Sierra
Leone. I do not know whether that would satisfy the type of force
projection that you were thinking about. We deliver there, as
the UK, but there may be something of a slightly larger threat
or problem that, by combining forces from the European dimension,
we could deliver where NATO may not wish to be so engaged. There
are occasions when that could happen, but to be specific, I think,
would be difficult at this stage.
13. Just following that one, for a start. I
have some concerns, I suppose, that if we are not able to be clear
about the upper end of the Petersberg Tasks across the EU and
we are having to do it on a case-by-case basis, for all the reasons
you have described, are we going to be able to reach the political
level of agreement on a case-by-case basis quickly enough to respond
to events, given the number of decision-makers you have got sitting
round the table and given that some are coming from quite different
stancesthink about the neutral countries, for example?
How is that going to work?
(Mr Ingram) First of all, I think we are clear in
general terms about what the upper end of the tasks are. What
I am saying is that to try and so define them by taking a current
example and saying "That would then be repeated at some point
in the future and we would then find ourselves engaged",
I think, is the wrong way of dealing with this, because rarely
do these events occur in exactly the same way or with the same
range of problems and the same range of interests in terms of
neighbouring countries and other national interests that can play
into a particular area. I think we are clear on what the upper
ends of the task are, in general terms, and then it comes down
to a case-by-case basis. Whether there is quickness in the decision-making
process or not, I think, is also driven by events, sometimes by
the enormity of what happens or the implications of what could
happen. It drives a political will to find a solution. At other
times the process will be slow. NATO has to go through that particular
process, and there may be occasions when NATO has been through
that process and is saying "We do not want to be so engaged",
but the EU because of a community of interest which is there,
in terms of our range of nations, would say "Yes, we could
quickly move in to deal with this particular issue". I think
that is why it is difficult to be too specific here, because we
are into scenario painting in the future, and nobody can predict
that problems will arise other than in very general terms based
upon past events. Pre-11 September no one could have said "Well,
let's plan in all of those events to the future" becausealthough
much of it had been in your own previous reports and, indeed,
in our SDRthe whole question is about the asymmetric threat
and how you address it. Look how quickly nations came together
on that particular problem.
14. I accept all that and I understand what
you are saying about trying to run specific scenarios and how
difficult that is and it may not be helpful. It is just that when
something happens is it a NATO task or is it an EU task? You have
got to make that decision. You have got a whole bunch of politicians
getting together from across Europe, from NATO Europe, which way
are you going to go? You have got a whole set of decisions with
people coming up from different ends, and if we have not got a
very clear way of making those decisions quickly then what is
the point of having a rapid reaction force if we have not got
one at a political level?
(Mr Ingram) Simon has got an answer, I think.
(Mr Webb) I think it is bounded in several ways. The
first, of course, is that although Petersberg Tasks could involve
war-fighting and separation of warring partiesas the Minister
saidwe are not talking about intervening between states
or the operation to recover a state, like getting Kuwait back
from Iraq, for example. There is a boundry there.
15. I am sorry, you are ruling that out?
(Mr Webb) I am just saying it is not covered by the
Petersberg Tasks or between statesabout peace-making. The
other constraint is because of the capability that is available.
The capability, as Ian has explained, has been constructed against
various scenarios and the maximum of it reflects the scenario
of separating warring parties. Just as a sideline, the size of
force we are talking about, if that feels similar to the size
of the force which had to intervene in the Balkans in the 1990s,
like KFOR, that is not a surprise, because it is the sort of thing
which you would have in your mind; quite large and close. There
is a mechanism within the EU structure for advice to be given
in what is called the "pre-decision phase" by the EU
military staff, which is not very large but has the relevant expertise
within it. Also, there is an EU military committee which is composed
of chiefs of defence who are cautious, realistic and sensible
people. At the moment it is very limited, but in 2003 they will
be able to say what sort of situations you could make an intervention
in. I think I understand your point that there may be a political
desire to react to a situation but there will be some very firm
advice from military staff backed up by the chiefs of defence
to say "Well, actually, what we are capable of doing in this
situation is this and, actually, the task which is ahead of us
is or is not achievable". It is also tempered, of course,
by the willingness of the nations to allocate forces to the task.
That is another constraint. So I think the Minister is absolutely
right. In an uncertain world
(Mr Ingram) That is a relief!
(Mr Webb)it is wrong to try and rule out things
that you might or might not do. That just gives comfort to people
out there. I would like to rephrase what I said about Iraq. All
I am saying is that that is not the sort of scenario on which
Headline Goals were constructed, and nor I think was it what people
had in mind as Petersberg Tasks because, again, we had just had
that war and it was not in our mind. I would not sit and give
comfort to Saddam Hussain that there was nothing he could do which
would attract the interest of the ESDP; I think he might find
somebody else's interest was attracted first.
16. That is another issue.
(Mr Webb) I would not want to give anybody that comfort,
but that is why we are being careful about this.
17. That takes me beautifully on, because to
paraphrase what you are saying, Mr Webb, it sounds as if as we
can improve the capability then we can crank up and re-define
what we are capable of and what, within the Petersberg Tasks,
we can do and where the upper end is.
(Mr Webb) Yes.
18. What is the EU doing this for? What is most
important to the EU? Is it to be able to undertake the full range,
or is it to have a deployable and sustainable set of effective
fighting forces up to Corps dimensions?
(Mr Ingram) Probably both. I would not say those are
exclusive concepts. To get that type of capable force in place
would then mean we are able to meet a range of tasks beyond those
which we are able to meet at present. It is about ramping up those
capabilities, which undoubtedly are needed; there is no question
at all about what is driving this; whether it is within and across
European Union or within and across the countries that are members
of NATO. There are, clearly, deficiencies within the capabilities;
deficiencies and shortfalls which need to be addressed, and this
driver can only assist in all of this because it is focussing
the minds of all nations. We cannot rest on our laurels and say
"We have got all the answers and been able to, necessarily,
deliver on all fronts", nor indeed (although it is beyond
the EU) can the US. Afghanistan is a very good example of where
considerable UK presence has assisted in actions which have been
carried out because the US had certain shortfalls. I do not believe
that it is a case of one or the other; I do not think they are
19. Is the principal benefit of the Helsinki
initiative about increasing Europe's military capability, and
tying it to Petersberg simply a very useful means to an end?
(Mr Ingram) It is certainly a very useful means to
an end, but it is a desirable end against which we have to find
argument. I am not saying you are posing it from the point of
view of difference with the objective, but it is a very useful
means to an end. By setting goals we are then able, hopefully,
to achieve those goals. It is the driver; it forces pace and it
conditions the minds of those politicians coming round a table
and others with responsibility in terms of command to look critically
at what can be done, how best it can be delivered, and to what