Select Committee on Defence Seventh Report


    (a)  We do not agree that NATO is dying. We believe that NATO makes a vital contribution to Euro-Atlantic security and that this is no less necessary in the post Cold War world, despite the change in the nature of the threat. Its missions in peace-keeping and promoting interoperabilty remain important. We do, however, recognise the danger of the Alliance becoming less relevant if it fails to face up to the need to adapt to the post-11 September context. Prague provides the opportunity for change and a failure to address the issues there could have serious and detrimental consequences for the future of NATO. (Paragraph 39)

    (b)  We believe that NATO should be a tough organisation to be a member of. The UK government has a strong belief in NATO and in the need to retain the Alliance's role as a capable military alliance, and it is therefore prepared to push for high standards for new entrants, even when this makes it unpopular. We wholeheartedly support this approach. (Paragraph 79)

    (c)  We see no obstacle in principle to the issuing of invitations to each of the seven applicants (although in Slovakia's case this must be with the caveat of the outcome of the September elections) with the proviso that applicants continue to work hard on defence and political reforms up to and beyond any invitation issued at Prague. (Paragraph 79)

    (d)  We heard universal praise in the applicant countries for the assistance which UK defence advisers are providing, and for the range of other activities which the UK is funding and contributing to. There were many requests for this assistance to carry on after the Prague Summit and we strongly support this. (Paragraph 85)

    (e)  We believe that mentoring countries invited to join the Alliance at Prague would be a very worthwhile use of resources and would provide an opportunity for the UK to demonstrate its positive attitude to NATO enlargement. (Paragraph 85)

    (f)  We believe that, given the importance of the region's stability and its potential to assist in combating international terrorism, NATO should place a higher priority than it has done previously on revitalising the Mediterranean Dialogue and that the UK government should be active in pushing for progress in this area. (Paragraph 91)

    (g)  The developments in NATO-Russia relations, particularly since 11 September, have been exciting and promise a great deal. We shall be watching their progress with interest. Despite the disappointment of the PJC, NATO is right to take this opportunity to test Russia's willingness to engage constructively in important common security issues. And, correspondingly, NATO should be wary of giving the impression of any 'pre-cooking' of decisions. (Paragraph 99)

    (h)  A question which needs to be answered during the 12 months of the Greek Presidency of the EU on defence matters is whether the present impasse on the use of NATO assets for EU-led missions in fact demonstrates the unsoundness of the ESDP in principle. If this is not the case, the Greek government must be persuaded to resolve its internal problems and allow the agreement between NATO and the EU on use of NATO assets to be formalised. (Paragraph 112)

    (i)  US involvement is essential to NATO's continuing existence. The US must make it clear what it expects of European Allies and must be prepared to engage properly with NATO as an alliance. There is considerable uncertainty, if not suspicion, among some European members as to the true nature of the US's commitment. But the Europeans must also pull their weight. We emphasise the importance we place on NATO having a future as an effective functioning organisation. (Paragraph 123)

    (j)  We believe that capabilities are key both to NATO's future and to US engagement. (Paragraph 124)

    (k)  NATO members have expressed good intentions about capabilities on many occasions in the past. The Prague Summit will test whether, this time, Allies have the resolve necessary to achieve real improvements in capabilities or whether the new initiative will just be another false dawn. (Paragraph 132)

    (l)  Despite the very real challenges that improving capabilities presents, it is vital that clear progress is made by NATO leaders at Prague. It is a crucial factor in ensuring that the United States remains interested and engaged in NATO and that it is prepared to call on NATO in future operations. As our predecessors noted, improving capabilities requires the necessary political will and co-operation, combined with adequate financial resources. NATO as an organisation cannot compel its member states to spend money on defence or to spend it appropriately. This relies on each of the Allies fulfilling the commitments which NATO membership demands, and to which they have signed up. If NATO is to remain a credible military organisation then we believe that all of its members must fulfil their commitments to improve capabilities. This means having defence budgets which effectively deliver those capabilities. (Paragraph 141)

    (m)  The UK has frequently been at the forefront in pushing for reform in NATO. We expect the Government to continue to use all the persuasion and leverage at its disposal before and at the Prague Summit to secure the necessary reforms in NATO structures. (Paragraph 146)

    (n)  NATO needs to be innovative and open-minded in its approach to its working practices. Only by taking decisive and clearly thought-through steps to secure administrative reform will it ensure that it remains an effective organisation which is uniquely capable of taking military action, and avoid unnecessarily bureaucratic procedures which might hamper its ability to act. (Paragraph 149)

    (o)  We strongly support the view that any new command structure should be based on tasks and capabilities, not on geography. We accept that most Allies are anxious to have a NATO asset on their soil but we believe that this should not determine the command structure. The UK is in a position to take the lead in driving change in this area as it has no particular vested interest to protect and we expect the Government to be pressing for meaningful reform in this area at Prague. (Paragraph 158)

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