Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 70-79)



    Mr Frank Roy

DR DANA ALLIN, Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Affairs, International Institute for Strategic Studies, MR CHARLES GRANT, Director, Centre for European Reform, and PROFESSOR BEATRICE HEUSER, Department of War Studies, King's College London, examined.

  Chairman: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for coming. Dr Heuser was for some time one of our advisers. It obviously did her no harm because she has now been elevated to professorship, so congratulations. As you know, our Committee inquiry is addressing NATO's future role and missions, and after this morning's session will there be any NATO role or missions; secondly, the implications of enlargement; thirdly, NATO-Russia relations, and we are off to Moscow at the weekend; and the implications for NATO of the terrorist attacks of September 11. Perhaps we could kick off with a question on enlargement, and I presume all three of you will wish to answer the questions, so I am not quite sure who will start as long as all three of you will be able to contribute if you wish. Once again, welcome and thank you very much.

Syd Rapson

  70. Good afternoon. The Committee were lucky on their parliamentary tour to visit the aspirant countries and we broke up into three groups: Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and I was lucky enough to go to Slovenia and Slovakia, but the Committee will want to go into the enlargement process in greater detail later. Could I ask a basic question? Do you anticipate the invitations going to six or seven countries in that block, assuming of course that Meciar will get elected to form a government in September and that could cause a problem? How do you anticipate the invitations coming forward later?
  (Dr Allin) Coming forward later?

  71. For the aspirant countries.
  (Dr Allin) Maybe it would be most useful for me to suggest what I see as a Washington perspective on this, although I am really based in Europe. I certainly think that the larger set of invitations is looking more and more likely. In a way I think that this jumps ahead to some of the other issues on your agenda. In a sense I think what is happening to NATO is making concerns about too quick an enlargement slightly less relevant. The military utility, the question of what the real value added is, even the question of the coherence of the alliance in terms of bringing in a large number of new members, is perhaps not, at least certainly in terms of a Washington perspective, seen as such a problem because of what—and here again I think we are anticipating some later discussion—is seen as a transformation of NATO and perhaps a devaluation in the American strategic sense.

  72. You said you anticipate the larger of the two, so seven countries would get an invitation?
  (Dr Allin) I take your point about Slovakia.

  73. There is an American perspective, is there not, very solidly about Slovakia, that if the previous head of state forms a government in September it is a veto? Should one person determine the fate of a nation?
  (Dr Allin) I think that is somewhat hubristic fine-tuning. I agree perhaps with the implication of your question. On the other hand, if the two things are proximate, and you are trying to send signals, a Meciar government is about the worst thing that could happen. It is logical, if a little bit over-reaching.

  Syd Rapson: Could I ask the other two if they have a view on six or seven?


  74. Or eight or nine or two?
  (Professor Heuser) I will pass on this one because I have not been watching the precise configuration in all the capitals of who is for what at the moment. I would like to talk about something else afterwards.
  (Mr Grant) I would agree with what Dana said. I think seven looks likely, but of course subject to the Meciar business. I myself would not want Slovakia to join NATO if he is in power. A more difficult situation may be if his party is in power but not him and that, somebody told me recently, is looking rather likely. I think the whole point about NATO is that it stands for a rule of law, parliamentary democracy and so on, and when he was in power last time he showed contempt for those values. We need the leverage over future members, the Albanias and the Macedonias who are going to be trying to join a few years down the road. I think we therefore have to be rather tough on conditionality. It may be unfair to the Slovak people but they do not have to vote him in if they do not want to.

  75. Is there a danger that, by everyone in Slovakia knowing that if they vote for Meciar or if any other party decides to align with him to form a government, people will just be ornery and say, "We do not want the Americans or the Europeans telling us who to vote for", and that might be counter-productive? Have you any sense of that, Dr Allin, or Beatrice or Mr Grant?
  (Dr Allin) I was taking not a very sharp view on this. Maybe as a matter of principle I might disagree slightly with what Charles was saying. On specifically this, obviously there is that danger but it can work the other way. To look at an analogy, if you look at what in Austria they still insist on calling the sanctions against Austria when the FPO came into the Government, which was an awkward and crude and in one sense not very elegant way of exerting leverage in favour of certain European values, the Austrians did not react, at least in the long term, in the way that people expected. It did not turn Austria into an ornery and resentful and anti-European country.

  76. When we visit the serious applicants it is pretty obvious in our agenda and we always tell them that the game is not over yet: they still have four or five months to go. Is there any danger that any of the other applicants could fall on their faces and could anything happen, do you think, that would mean it would be less likely that they would be invited either in terms of not carrying on the reform programme, for instance? Is there anything else? All the others are pretty certain to get in.
  (Dr Allin) I have to admit this is to a certain extent because the actual NATO accession process is not something that I follow that closely but none the less I still feel confident that this is a political decision that is going to be taken with somewhat broader strokes than the changes that could come between now and the autumn.

  77. Are you saying it does not really matter how much progress they have made because NATO really is irrelevant to the United States, or becoming less relevant, so if anybody wants to come in they are perfectly able to because it is not going to make much difference anyway?
  (Dr Allin) That is an extreme and very straightforward representation of what I think I am trying to say.
  (Mr Grant) I would be a little more nuanced than that. I agree with Dana's basic position which is that it is a political decision. I think a lot of people in Washington think that is good for stability and security of Europe to have NATO move eastwards and they are not too bothered about the impact that will make on the effectiveness of NATO as a military organisation, which is why, as far as I am aware, they are not being too strict on the military criteria for getting in. As far as I know the Bulgarians have not been told to buy this weapon system and do this bit of military reform or they will not get in. I think it will be a political decision to get in, however ill prepared their armed forces are. That is my view of the situation.

Mr Cran

  78. Can I just be clear? Is it your view that there is a unanimity of view as to the countries taking the decisions within NATO as to who gets in? Are they all of one view?
  (Mr Grant) I think a lot of them would say they not have a view yet. The reality is rather different from that. Certainly last year, as recently as last spring and summer, a common line amongst senior British officials, was, "We should not let the Baltics in. We cannot defend their territory. It will cause awful difficulties with Russia." This is not a view one has heard this year because I think when the British Government understood that America was likely to go for a big enlargement we understood that we should not try and block that. I am not aware of any country in NATO that is arguing against a big enlargement now. Of course the French last time wanted Romania and so this time they are pushing for Romania and Bulgaria. The Greeks and the Turks have teamed up to try and get these two southern countries in and there is a feeling from Washington that they want the Baltics in and since Putin seems to be prepared to take this without getting too upset, nobody is too worried about the Russian reaction. That is why I think it is more or less accepted that the southern ones will join, except perhaps for the proviso about Slovakia, but perhaps if there is some political crisis in Romania or Bulgaria, which is not impossible, although I am not aware of one brewing, I guess that could cause people to re-think about Bulgaria and Romania. To finish on this, I think that because it is quite clear that Bulgaria and Romania will not be in the European Union for a very long time, maybe ten years roughly, and I speak as more of an EU expert than a NATO expert, that is making a lot of governments think, "We have got to give them something. We have got to include them because they will react badly to understanding that they are not going to get into the EU for some time", and I think that will be driving the thinking of a lot of capitals in Europe.


  79. Somebody might say—not me but somebody might say—that the currency will be devalued if Bulgaria and Romania are admitted. Frankly, I am delighted that they will be admitted, but will it be more difficult then to block some other country like Macedonia or Albania if they can suddenly develop political stability? Does it really matter how good or otherwise their military is because they can then say, "You had the membership action plan. You lectured us for four years on raising our standards and then you changed the rules towards the end by deleting those standards"? Do you think there is any substance in that sort of argument?
  (Professor Heuser) Let us just remember that the standards were always political and never the quality of the military. It goes back to the debate in the early fifties on whether Tito's Yugoslavia should be admitted to NATO and at the time it was Britain who totally undercut America's stance on that and said, "We have our standards and we should keep them: only democracies", and then they backed the admission of Greece and Turkey.


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