Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)



  60. We know what happens if NATO is involved. I am clear that DSACEUR is responsible for force generation. What I am trying to get at is who is the equivalent of DSACEUR under the arrangements for ESDP? Is there one and, if so, who is it?
  (Mr Lee) No, there is not. There is a choice.
  (Mr Ingram) There is not a specific person appointed and, depending on the circumstances, which countries are coming in to deal with the particular event, a determination would be made as to who would then take the lead in that. We have a capability in PJHQ which would allow us to do it. The French could offer; the Germans could offer. Clearly it would be the bigger nations who would be contributing to that type of leadership role. There is not a mirror structure or a parallel structure between NATO and ESDP right down the line.

Rachel Squire

  61. We do not want one.
  (Mr Ingram) It is up to you to recommend what you want.

Mr Howarth

  62. For the record I agree with Rachel Squire.
  (Mr Ingram) There is great unanimity around the table then. That has not been planned for, not been conceived. DSACEUR would have an important role if called upon short of NATO involvement. Given the scale of abilities and capabilities at rest in NATO the likelihood would be that where NATO were not involved there would be quite a high level of contact to move forward on this, and in an advisory role DSACEUR could play a very important role. It may well be that the lead nation of the group of nations may say, "We want very close engagement here. Although NATO is not playing a role we have got to find some point of advice." We have then to consider with all the nations of NATO as to why NATO is not so engaged, so there are some sensitivities around all of that. DSACEUR is important; it fulfils a very vital role, and the close NATO/EU relationship is something that has to be built on.

Patrick Mercer

  63. One of my most vivid and worrying memories of Kosovo was talking to the Green Howards and saying, "How are you getting on?", and their reply was, "Now the shooting has stopped it is extremely boring". Talking to some German Panzer Grenadiers, I said, "How are you getting on?", and they said, "Thank God the shooting has stopped. We are not at all keen on this operation when it is dangerous. Now that things have quietened down it is a lot easier." Clearly some are regulars, some are conscripts. How are we going to square the circle between regulars and conscripts?
  (Mr Ingram) In the same way that it has got to be squared within NATO. The same issue arises. A number of nations are moving away from a conscript based army. Whether that is a development that takes place over time is a matter for those individual nations. The French, the Spanish and the Italians are hopefully moving to the professionally based army and that may happen in other countries. There is no difference in that if that is a problem as so defined then it applies to NATO as much as it could apply to Europe in the future. I am interested in the reference to the Green Howards because I spent time with them during my Armed Forces parliamentary scheme and understand the quality of that particular group of men and women.

  64. And any of our infantry.
  (Mr Ingram) Yes, but you referred to one so I would agree with your latter comment. I just want to put on record my contact with the Green Howards.

Mr Jones

  65. Minister, what in your view are the most significant gaps in the Helsinki Headline Goals and, more importantly, what are the solutions to filling those gaps?
  (Mr Ingram) Do you want the long answer or the short answer?

  66. I want the informed answer.
  (Mr Ingram) Given the fact that we have gone from 94 a year ago to 104 areas that have now been defined, we are still 40 short of the 144, 21 of which are deemed to be militarily significant. We could give you some of the broad details as well as specific details. The shortfalls which have not been fully remedied but where initiatives have been identified, ie there is a need for action to be taken, and this would not be all of them, things such as carrier based air power, combat search and rescue, Cruise missiles and precision guided munitions and the roll-on roll-off shipping resource. There are also shortfalls which have not been fully remedied but where there are new initiatives required and that first category of those where the initiatives have now been identified as taken forward but there are others which go beyond that and that would be in recovery and maintenance, transport units, light and medium armoured companies and military intelligence units. That is not a comprehensive list but that is just a flavour of some of the areas. The way in which this has been quantified, and it is an important question, is that it helps the argument that this is an important initiative that we are involved in here because it is about identifying those shortfalls in capabilities, some of which are also NATO shortfalls. We do not want to get into too much of the detail but if there are weaknesses we want to expose the extent of those weaknesses. To define shortfalls in that way and get the nations which then can deliver on those shortfalls, pushing them forward gets us back to the question about how confident we are about achieving the Headline Goals by 2003. The very fact that we are quantifying it means that we leapt to it and are pushing forward which we regard as helpful both to the European Union in the way in which we would maybe be called upon to carry out tasks, but also NATO.

  67. Could you enlighten us? You have given us some idea of some areas where you say there are shortfalls. How in a practical way are they to be addressed to decide how those shortfalls are going to be dealt with? Who decides?
  (Mr Ingram) Who then picks up which area?

  68. Yes. Pick one of the areas you listed.
  (Mr Ingram) I stand to be corrected on this but my understanding is that that is now part of the action plan which has been defined and which has been taken forward under the Spanish Presidency. It is very much to the fore in terms of what the remit of that Presidency will have to carry out during the time it has that responsibility. The action plans will then look at the totality of it and lead nations will then take on the elements that make up that. That has not yet been defined but that becomes a function for further definition by the Spanish Presidency. I cannot give a specific answer, taking a subject and the UK will be the lead nation or France or whatever, because that has not yet been defined.

  69. So within that are we talking about, for example, specialisation, that one nation does one thing or we have the burden sharing or pooling between different nations?
  (Mr Ingram) That then has to be the approach. It may well be that one nation steps forward and says, "We will deal with this capability shortfall", or the more likely approach would be in terms of burden sharing or pooling. That has to be examined through the action plan approach. If we have a lead nation beginning to examine this and what type of bilateral or multilateral relationships they have with countries and how they can begin to look at some for the solutions which are there, models which are already in existence between countries at present , and can we then replicate that to deal with some of these shortfalls.
  (Mr Lee) Could I just add to that? The principle that is about to be followed although, as the Minister says, we have not established the full detail of how this will work yet in the action plan since the action itself was only agreed at the end of November in the Capability Conference, is that groups of willing nations come together, those who wish to focus on particular capability areas, will bring their expertise, what current programmes they have in their own national programmes, bring those together with others who are trying to follow similar objectives, and see whether there are ways that they can improve upon their programmes. Are there ways which, if they do things together, they can do them more efficiently than doing them separately by adjusting their programmes, sharing ideas and so on? The initiative will come from the countries themselves. At the end of the day this will work on the will and the input that is made by the countries themselves. There is not any other body or authority telling people what the solutions are. We, along with the other countries, have to work out for ourselves what the solutions are that we are willing to go along with. In some areas we may be willing to enter into pooling arrangements or reciprocal arrangements with other countries. In other areas we would not, and the same would go for others.

  70. So in the future could you actually see that certain countries do specialist things, for example, there are arrangements already between the Germans and the Dutch in terms of heavy lift. Can we actually agree, for example, that a nation takes a specialism and provides that into the pot?
  (Mr Lee) If they are happy to do that then that is up to them. If it increases the overall capability collectively that is fine. That is a benefit.
  (Mr Webb) That is certainly a process that we have been encouraging. There has been some good work done between medical units, for example, where you need to have them in the force structure but it is not necessary for each country to provide their own, and there are very good initiatives to try and co-operate on that. I was just looking through the list for an example. Maritime medical evacuation units, for example, are an area where Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal and the UK are working together on that.


  71. Would there be any areas we would be willing to forgo in order to rely on, say, Belgium or Germany to provide that service or that capability?
  (Mr Ingram) We would probably need to examine that as it was discussed and developed because all nations would have a national strategic interest as well. By forgoing it what do we lose? We are gaining something in terms of overall capability but if we step back from something we were doing that may not be desirable. In a sense we have to be looking probably more towards a sharing approach, a pooling approach, rather than stepping aside. We have got to recognise that we cannot do everything. Even although we cover the broad range of the tasks and the spectrum, we cannot simply do everything. That is just not within our capabilities, nor indeed can the US in terms of their current Afghanistan conflict. That is the purpose, I suppose, of NATO and why we are saying that is the purpose we are trying to achieve through this initiative.

Mr Jones

  72. Personally I think the more specialisation that happens the better in terms of getting more value for money across Europe. There is going to be a pressure whichever country you are in in terms of trying to increase defence expenditures. The more co-operation you can get surely it is better in terms of capability.
  (Mr Ingram) I am not arguing against that; I am arguing for that. I think the question was, what did we stand back from doing. We have to decide what our national interest in that is and what do we lose potentially by so doing. While we accept wholly the principle, every nation will look at this. If they are being asked not to do something how does the national posture then stand thereafter? We have to make these strategic decisions.

  73. You cannot see in the future, can you, a situation whereby you would deploy large forces without, for example, NATO or without European colleagues? Is there a scenario where you could see that?
  (Mr Ingram) Without having someone alongside us?

  74. Yes.
  (Mr Ingram) I think all the experience tells us that probably everywhere where we have been engaged results in a multinational level of activity in varying degrees and in different shapes and forms because we cannot deliver on every front as an individual nation. There is nothing unusual in that and I cite again the US, the biggest superpower around, which cannot deliver certain parts of its mission in Afghanistan and that is why one of the things that we contributed is that we made that effort so much more productive and so much more effective.


  75. You can rely upon the United States to infill anything that we require. The idea of role specialisation was thought of quite a lot in the 1970s but nothing much came of it and there have been historical instances where, if you are left with a capability to be filled and you cannot fill it yourself, you have to rely therefore upon the goodwill or treaty obligations of others. Whilst we cannot be a scaled down version of the US we have to have some areas where we are not fully in command of our own resources. There are some worrying elements which I would not want to mention to indicate where some allies are not always prepared to cough up to meet your requirements.
  (Mr Ingram) That may be another debate. I am not sure it is necessarily a debate on this occasion, but that is examining other countries. In terms of the specific question about role specialisation and would we go into this on the basis of that being the principle, I am saying no in that sense. That does not mean to say that you will not get role specialisation. We do not have a script either that says that we are walking away from certain areas. The whole drive it seems to me in terms of the multinational approach is about co-operation, about sharing, about partnership, about pooling of resources.

Jim Knight

  76. With regard to the feasibility certainly with the new chapter of the SDR that has been written, the fact of the matter is that we are not going to be able to spread the jam as thinly as possible, are we, so to make the jam tasty you are going to have to make sure you have co-operation with other nations?
  (Mr Ingram) Absolutely, and that is what this initiative is seeking to achieve.
  (Mr Lee) As a generalisation it is fair to say that the larger the country the more it will have an interest in trying to maintain as balanced a set of forces as possible, and that is the position that we are in. We do not claim to have all the capabilities in our inventory now, and neither does the US even. Obviously, as you get down to the smaller countries, they are more prepared to work with others in order to produce something and where you stop on that spectrum is a decision you have to take on the particular capability in a particular circumstance.

  77. We have been talking about capability deficiency and particularly here we have mentioned that NATO clearly has some as well. What are the implications for us now while we are waiting to build up that capability of those deficiencies?
  (Mr Ingram) Could we deliver on every task?

  78. Yes. Are we limited by those deficiencies at the moment?
  (Mr Ingram) By definition we must be limited, but again I think it would be wrong to then define that in precise terms because I come back to an earlier comment I made about if there are weaknesses we do not want to publicly expose them for obvious reasons.

  79. But it is my job to ask you the question.
  (Mr Ingram) It is my job to defend the best interests of the situation. We have got some very powerful capabilities and we have shown that in US and UK terms in Afghanistan, so we keep coming back to that. Again, we could say what has been done in Kosovo and Serbia and Macedonia is a very good example where there were a lot of doubters about what was going to happen in that particular country—do not go in because there will be mission creep and so on, but we refined that into a willing coalition of interests coming together to find solutions to that in advance of having much of the capabilities that we know we need to do it. It is people putting into the pot "We will do this" and moving that process forward. We were in the lead again on that but then we were able to step back and transfer the lead to another nation. There are quite considerable strengths there and they do come together at points of international or localised crisis and that is a lesson that politicians have to learn. Someone made a comment about dealing with politicians. That slows the process down. I am conscious of the role that I played in a small part at the time of Macedonia with Lord Robertson, what would the UK really put into this and be part of that process. I was watching the close relationship between him and Solana and in defining the NATO/EU dimension to the whole approach. Even where there may be shortfalls or deficiencies, we can still meet some very large crises and manage them to a very considerable extent.

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