Select Committee on Defence Memoranda

Memorandum from the Ministry of Defence on the Future of NATO


  1.  This paper responds to the Committee's request for a memorandum setting out the Government's views on the future of NATO. It covers: the Alliance's future role and missions (including the implications for NATO of 11 September); capabilities; enlargement; internal adaptation; and partnership, particularly NATO-Russia relations. NATO is currently conducting a range of work on these issues, including studies commissioned at the May and June 2002 Foreign and Defence Ministerials, in preparation for the Prague Summit in November. This memorandum reports progress to date.

  2.  Inevitably the process of change within an Alliance requires much discussion and flexibility on all sides. Some early ideas from the UK may not win consensus: we may wish to absorb ideas from others. So the final package may look significantly different for good reason. Also, a number of points requiring sensitive discussion with Allies and others cannot be made public without harming our prospects of succeeding in those discussions.



  3.  The focus at the Prague Summit will be on new capabilities, new members and new partners. The UK Government believes that the Prague Summit must build for the future by:

    —  Making the Alliance more effective against the new threats of terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction;

    —  Renewing our collective efforts to enhance military capabilities;

    —  Developing new relationships with NATO's partners, and building on the transformed relationship with Russia following the Rome Summit;

    —  Issue invitations to new members who are ready for the responsibilities of membership.

  4.  Much has been accomplished, but much more remains to do in the six months remaining before Prague. We have a big agenda and will be working closely with our Allies and NATO staffs to take it forward.

The 1999 Strategic Concept

  5.  The Strategic Concept agreed at the 1999 Washington Summit set out five core tasks for the Alliance: security; consultation; deterrence and defence; crisis management; and partnership. We believe that they remain valid, and will not seek to re-open the Strategic Concept at Prague. But it is clear following 11 September that NATO needs to improve its preparedness and capabilities against new threats, including terrorist and WMD attack.


  6.  The Strategic Concept acknowledged the threat from terrorism[1], and NATO's invocation of Article 5 on 12 September, recognising that the 11 September attack on the United States had been an attack on all members, sent the strongest possible signal of Allied solidarity. Since the declaration of Article 5, NATO's practical contributions to the war against terrorism have included:

    —  Enhanced intelligence sharing and co-operation, both bilaterally and through NATO, on the threats posed by terrorism and actions to be taken against it.

    —  The deployment of NATO Airborne Warning and Control Aircraft to help patrol American airspace (a mission which ended on 16 May).

    —  The deployment of NATO standing naval forces to the eastern Mediterranean for reconnaissance and surveillance.

    —  The employment of NATO-led forces in the Balkans against terrorist groups with links to the Al Qaida network.

    —  The opening of airspace to aircraft engaged in coalition operations and the granting of basing rights where needed.

  7.  In addition, most Allies have contributed to the US-led military campaign against terrorism, and the UN-mandated ISAF in Afghanistan. Although neither operation has been NATO-led, Allied interoperability, training and experience have been a vital element in their cohesion and effectiveness.

  8.  NATO countries are also working together to deal with the threat posed by the possible terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction, and their means of delivery. This includes planning for the provision of support to national authorities which seek assistance in protecting civilian populations, working in close co-operation with the EU. NATO efforts to defend against terrorism also include the preparation of a military concept; a review of the effectiveness of NATO military policies, structures and capabilities; a strengthening of NATO's relationship with Russia and Partners; and expanded co-operation with the UN, the EU and the OSCE.

  9.  A progress report on the Alliance's response to terrorism has been presented to Ministers. These different strands of work will be brought together at the Prague Summit, providing a comprehensive package of measures to strengthen NATO's counter terrorist capabilities. This should include:

    —  A clear statement of NATO's adaptation to meet new threats, building on the Strategic Concept agreed in 1999, providing for Alliance assets and the forces of its members to be used flexibly as they are needed. The Spring Foreign and Defence Ministerials took useful steps in this direction;

    —  New command and force structures to provide greater flexibility and deployability to meet the new challenges. Allies should be prepared to consider radical options to demonstrate Allied commitment to new NATO roles; and we need a major effort from nations, over the coming years, to make the forces they provide to the Alliance genuinely useable and deployable for all Alliance missions;

    —  Increased NATO preparedness for and improved capabilities against terrorist and WMD attack, developed in close co-operation with the EU. NATO could, for example, enhance Alliance non-proliferation efforts, and focus on development of a practical consequence management capability and Alliance-wide doctrine, training and exercises.


The Defence Capabilities Initiative

  10.  NATO does not possess the full range of capabilities it requires to perform all its missions. Many Allies have made progress since the end of the Cold War in developing forces which can be used effectively in the changed strategic setting, and a direction has been established—towards modern, flexible, deployable, sustainable, interoperable forces.

  11.  The Defence Capabilities Initiative (DCI) was launched at the Washington Summit to address key Alliance capability shortfalls, and comprised some 59 strands falling within five headings (Mobility and Deployability; Sustainability; Effective Engagement; Survivability; and Command and Control). DCI has led to improvements in many areas. The UK has a good record among Allies for implementing improvements related to the DCI. However, a number of the most ambitious targets set by the DCI would require years and very significant investment to bring about. NATO still has shortfalls in some key capabilities.

A new initiative

  12.  Foreign and Defence Ministers agreed at their 2002 spring meetings that a follow-on to DCI should be launched at Prague. Defence Ministers envisaged that it should seek specific improvements in the areas of:

    —  defence against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks;

    —  secure communications and information superiority;

    —  interoperability of deployed forces and key aspects of combat effectiveness;

    —  deployment and sustainability of forces on mission.

  13.  The new initiative should be realistic and achievable, but also pose a genuine challenge. The UK has proposed that a real effort should be made to ensure that it has clear objectives and timeframes; senior ownership in capitals; an emphasis on interoperability, as the cornerstone of the Alliance's military effectiveness; relevance to the fight against terrorism; a significant multinational dimension; and close complementarity with the European Union's Headline Goal process.

NATO Force Structures

  14.  A further dimension of capabilities is the ability of forces to deploy beyond home territory.

  15.  The Alliance needs forces that can move quickly to wherever they are needed, sustain operations over time, and achieve their objectives. In the light of the changing strategic environment NATO has reduced its overall requirement for ground forces since the late 1990s, but its need for ground forces that can deploy abroad has more than doubled.

  16.  In 1999 NATO launched a Force Structure Review with the aim of providing NATO with the capable, deployable and sustainable forces it requires for operations. The focus has been on the revision of the current structures to reflect the changing requirements of the Alliance and to take into account the DCI and the European Defence dimension. The intention is to achieve a more effective NATO response capability.

  17.  Some progress has already been made. In particular, a number of nations, either individually or collaboratively, are sponsoring improvements to the capability and deployability of their headquarters at corps level, and are building up the support forces these require. But a very significant challenge remains for Allies if they are to increase substantially the proportion of their forces that are deployable.

NATO Command and Control

  18.  It is also essential that NATO's integrated military Command Structure adapts to changing strategic circumstances, maintains a coherent link with the evolving NATO Force Structure, and consumes no more resources than is necessary.

  19.  At their meeting on 6 June Alliance Defence Ministers agreed to look again at all elements of NATO's Command Structure to define the minimum military requirement and prepare decisions for heads of State and Government at Prague. In the UK's view this review should examine all levels of the Command Structure from Strategic to Sub-Regional Command level and should include Air Command and Control. It should be an assessment based on functionality and deployability, not merely a re-roling of existing headquarters, many of which are based on Cold War and static concepts. There is considerable scope for minimising duplication and reducing financial overheads and the number of gapped posts that exist owing to the inability or unwillingness of nations to provide manpower.

  20.  The size of the Alliance does not affect the case for a reformed command structure. The main impact of enlargement would be on the apportionment of staff posts in any new structures. New members, and existing members alike, would need to take up an equitable allotment of posts in the Alliance's new command structures.

  21.  Preparatory work on this review is already under way in NATO's military committees.


  22.  Capabilities are of course a function of resources. The UK has always argued that, while the level of resources is important if nations are to contribute meaningfully to the Alliance, there is also an issue of the way in which resources are utilised by Allies. Many need to devote a greater proportion of their budgets to acquisition of modern equipment. In some cases this may mean difficult choices, where personnel costs must be driven down to make room. Greater multinational cooperation may also allow Allies to make a contribution collectively in cases where it would not make economic sense to do so individually. No decisions have yet been taken on funding arrangements for the new capabilities initiative. But at all events, we would expect it to be adequately resourced by Allies to achieve its objectives.

NATO Infrastructure

  23.  Urgent work is needed on the NATO Security Investment Programme (NSIP) which provides NATO infrastructure and currently lacks prioritisation and adequate investment appraisal. We are pressing for the establishment of a review mechanism for NATO's capability packages (the constituent elements of NATO infrastructure) once they have been approved. This could be done by giving the Military Committee the power to review programmes regularly, to avoid NATO spending its limited resources in ways which are out of step with its strategic priorities.

Coherence between EU and NATO Capability Development

  24.  When the EU agreed its Headline Goal for capability development at the Helsinki European Council, it also agreed to develop a progress review mechanism. Work since Helsinki to elaborate the requirements of the Headline Goal, to assemble national contributions towards it and to assess the shortfalls that exist, has been done with substantial co-operation from NATO. The EU is creating a `capability development mechanism' (CDM), as called for at Helsinki, part of which describes the permanent arrangements envisaged for co-operation and transparency between the EU and NATO in this field.

  25.  The proposals envisage a role for a `capabilities group' comprising representatives from all NATO and EU countries who would meet at regular intervals covering all stages of the goal-setting and progress review processes that constitute the defence planning activities of both organisations. This group, which was first outlined in the Nice European Council conclusions, would act to ensure the consistent development of the relevant overlapping EU and NATO capabilities. These proposals have a very wide degree of support across all NATO and European Union member countries. We hope that all the details will be finalised very shortly.

  26.  The European Union's capability improvement initiative, known as the European Capabilities Action Plan (ECAP), has also been established with close co-ordination with NATO in mind. ECAP and DCI address many of the same shortfalls in military capabilities, but are able to bring different organisational approaches to bear, to create forces that benefit both organisations. NATO staff are involved in individual ECAP working groups and have sight of the overall work being performed throughout the initiative.


  27.  Article 10 of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty states that:

    `The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty . . .'

  28.  We are strongly in favour of the further enlargement of NATO to include countries that are ready to assume the responsibilities of Alliance membership. We see enlargement as a means to strengthen both the Alliance and those countries aspiring to join, and to bring greater security for Europe as a whole.

Membership Action Plans

  29.  Within the Alliance we have argued for an enlargement process which seizes the opportunity for both the Alliance and aspirants to reform. We have taken a lead within NATO on internal reform (see below), and have been helping aspirants prepare with a package of practical assistance, both through the Membership Action Plan (MAP) and an extensive programme of bilateral and multilateral assistance.

  30.  The MAP was established in 1999 to guide aspirants in their preparations for membership. It provides advice, assistance and practical support under five chapters: political and economic issues, defence and military issues; resources; security issues and legal issues. Nine countries have completed the third round of MAP this spring: Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Croatia was invited to join the fourth round of MAP during the NATO Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Reykjavik in May and will participate from this year.

  31.  The results of the latest MAP round shows encouraging signs of progress by aspirants, though all have more to do to reach Alliance standards. All have now conducted thorough reviews of their force structures, which in most cases has resulted in reprioritisation and a reduction in force sizes which are now better matched to available and planned resources. As a sign of their increasing ability to work with NATO forces, we welcome their practical contributions to NATO operations in the Balkans and to coalition operations in Afghanistan.

Enlargement Process

  32.  Foreign Ministers agreed at Reykjavik to a robust process which ensures that reforms will continue up to and after invitation. It provides a clear timetable, combined with agreement on the substance of, and framework for, that reform. The key points are:

    —  Reykjavik: launch of MAP 4.

    —  Autumn: submission of Annual National Plans (ANPs).

    —  Prague: invitation to begin accession talks.

    —  Early 2003: revision of ANPs; accession negotiations.

    —  By May 2003 Foreign Ministerial: signature of Protocols of Accession; launch of national ratifications; MAP 5 begins.

    —  Around early 2004: conclusion of ratifications; invitees accede.


  33.  There has been no Alliance agreement on how many invitations should be issued at Prague, or to whom—though there is a current of opinion within the Alliance favouring a substantial enlargement. Final decisions on whom to invite will be for NATO Leaders at Prague. The performance of the aspirants between now and Prague will therefore continue to matter, and MAP provides continued incentives. The Annual National Plans to be submitted by aspirants in the autumn under the next round of MAP will be an opportunity for them to show what they have achieved since Reykjavik, as well as how they intend to continue their reforms. NATO itself will conduct country-specific military analyses of the Alliance's ability to conduct its missions after enlargement.


  34.  The timetable agreed at Reykjavik is similar to that for the accession of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic from 1997-99. The key differences this time are that aspirants have already benefited from intense engagement with the Alliance under the first three cycles of MAP, and Allies have agreed to use the MAP as the framework to agree commitments with invitees to further reform.

  35.  Foreign Ministers agreed at Reykjavik that immediately after Prague and as part of the negotiations on the Protocols of accession, NATO expert teams will discuss with each invitee a timetable of specific reforms, to be pursued up to and beyond accession. These will be reflected in revised ANPs. Allies will expect invitees to make clear commitments for necessary further action on reform as part of this process. MAP 4 will finish at the spring 2003 meeting of Foreign Ministers. As mentioned above, we expect the Accession Protocols to be signed no later than then.


  36.  During the ratification process, invitees will continue to participate in MAP (ie MAP 5 ) until the ratification process has been completed; this will enable the Alliance—through the ANP and MAP reviews—to sustain the incentives for invitees to continue with reform and the implementation of the commitments they made before Spring 2003.

  37.  Ratification of the Accession Protocols will be according to Allies' national procedures. In the UK, acceptance of the Accession Protocols is a prerogative act of the Government acting on behalf of the Crown. As part of the process, the protocols will be laid as Command Papers before Parliament for 21 days, thus providing the opportunity for parliamentary consideration. Other Allies will need to seek parliamentary approval for ratification. In the US, ratification by the Senate is required. Last time, ratification by the Alliance members took 15 months in total. Accession itself is likely to be on a common date before the next Summit. No dates have been set.

  38.  Our overall aim has been to ensure that the accession process makes clear to aspirants that invitations at Prague are not the end of the process for reform. As a result, Allies have agreed to a vigorous and substantive accession process. Aspirants face no new hurdle—the substance is drawn from the MAP—nor an attempt to delay accession—the timetable is the same as at Madrid. But the stress on ensuring that accession leads to an enlarged and effective alliance will make it easier for NATO to agree to a substantial round of enlargement. The key is that aspirants still need to keep up the work to Prague, to accession and beyond.

Those not invited at Prague

  39.  For those who are not invited at Prague, Allies will, through the MAP, maintain their engagement and commitment to help them succeed in the future.

Costs of enlargement

  40.  The principal costs of enlargement fall on the candidate nations in modernising and adapting their armed forces so that they contribute effectively to the Alliance. Existing members provide advice through the Membership Action Plan and practical help through the provision of expertise and training.

  41.  Studies in 1997 concluded that the marginal cost of the last enlargement for the NATO Security Investment Programme (NSIP) would be in the region of £700 million over 10 years, largely on infrastructure improvements such as C2 and air defence systems. This was assessed to be manageable, within NSIP ceilings. NATO has not yet begun to estimate the possible costs of the next round of enlargement. Foreign and Defence Ministers have agreed that NATO's Senior Resource Board, under the co-ordinating responsibility of the Senior Political Committee (Reinforced), will begin to assess the resource implications of enlargement, drawing on the methodology in 1997. Full resource assessments will be made once invitations have issued at Prague. In the meantime, illustrative funding profiles will be developed so that advice on costs can be provided to Heads of State and Government at Prague.

  42.  New nations will also be expected to contribute to the costs of running the NATO Headquarters, funded through the Civil Budget (for which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides the UK contribution). Again, changes resulting directly from enlargement are likely to be small.

The EU dimension

  43.  Decisions on NATO enlargement take place against the background of the continuing development of the European Security & Defence Policy (ESDP). Most of the NATO aspirants are already involved in ESDP and are also candidates for accession to the EU. These countries have made valuable offers of forces for EU-led operations in the Supplement to the Helsinki Forces Catalogue 2001. We would anticipate working in partnership with these countries in any future EU-led operations within the scope of the Petersberg Tasks[2].

  44.  Arrangements have been developed to facilitate regular dialogue and consultation with EU accession candidates, and to allow these countries to appoint representatives to the EU to follow ESDP and to appoint military liaison officers as a contact to the EU Military Staff. We also hope to be able to involve these countries, where appropriate, in some aspects of the European Capabilities Action Plan (ECAP) process. Co-operation between EU accession candidates and the EU in the field of security and defence, and in particular within the ECAP process, can only be strengthened by the accession of these countries to NATO. ESDP is primarily geared towards achieving improvements in European defence capabilities. Including more of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe within NATO, and thus within the NATO force planning process, can only serve to further ESDP objectives.


  45.  UK policy is that NATO should remain an effective military alliance, but to achieve this the enlargement decision at Prague will need to be complemented with a wider package of modernisation and reform. NATO needs to ensure that its decision-making processes, structures and procedures can continue to function efficiently with an increased membership. The development of modern personnel, management and budgetary systems should anyway be a priority given the shortcomings of NATO's existing HQ systems.

  46.  We fully support Lord Robertson's efforts to promote reform since he became Secretary General, and the proposals he put forward at the Spring Ministerials, which build on his earlier `NATO Plus' initiative. We welcome in particular his ideas for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of NATO HQ—as Lord Robertson says, making a good organisation better. We see a need for a new approach to business planning and reporting to ensure that resources are effectively employed. Work is underway at NATO on improving resource management across its three budgetary areas (NSIP, Military and Civil Budgets), with a move towards linking resources with outputs and better synergy between budgetary areas. The move to a new HQ building will be an excellent opportunity to push forward reform in the longer term. Meanwhile, more work needs to be done over the next six months to present NATO Leaders with a good range of modernisation options at Prague.


  47.  The Committee asked specifically about France's position within NATO. France was a founding member of NATO and a signatory of the 1949 Treaty, but withdrew from the integrated military structure of the Alliance in 1966 in order to retain national control over military planning and nuclear issues. Although not part of the Nuclear Planning Group or the Defence Planning Committee, France continues to play a major part in NATO business as a member of the North Atlantic Council and the Military Committee. (French participation in the Military Committee was agreed when it appeared that France was about to rejoin the integrated military structure in 1996). French personnel serve on the International Military Staff, and in recent years, France has increased its military representation within NATO, with new military missions in Lisbon and Naples. France is also a full participant in the DCI, and is likely to be in any follow-on programme. Despite being outside the integrated military structure, France has played a key role in NATO operations, such as those in the Balkans, and continues to do so: a French general is in command of KFOR, and French forces have operated under NATO Command in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia.



  48.  Enlargement will set NATO new challenges, not least how to ensure that Partnership remains valued and relevant. Partnership has proven very successful as a means of encouraging defence reform, transparency and democratic control of the military for a particular group of nations. As the security environment changes, our approach to Partnership will need to change with it, and Prague offers the opportunity to give this work new impetus with a more focused and substantive agenda and a programme focused on tangible results. Within a unifying set of principles, NATO's renewed approach should recognise the very different requirements of partners in different regions. It should aim to enhance practical co-operation, especially in fields such as stabilisation and security sector reform, reinforce the progress made with our Partners in the fight against terrorism, and help those with a vocation for membership to NATO to make the best possible preparations.

NATO-Russia Relations

  49.  The transformation of the relationship between NATO and Russia over the seven months since the Prime Minister wrote to Allied Leaders has been truly historic. Russian and NATO Foreign Ministers reached agreement on the arrangements for the new NATO-Russia Council (NRC) at their meetings in Reykjavik on 14 May 2002. The Rome Declaration was signed by Heads of State and Government at the NATO-Russia Summit in Rome on 28 May 2002, the inaugural meeting of the NRC.

  50.  The NRC provides the basis for a change in the level and quality of cooperation between NATO and Russia. The initial list of practical areas where NATO and Russia will work together includes:

    —  terrorism;

    —  crisis management;

    —  non-proliferation;

    —  arms control and confidence building measures;

    —  theatre missile defence;

    —  search and rescue at sea;

    —  military to military co-operation and defence reform;

    —  civil emergencies; and,

    —  new threats and challenges.

  51.  The scope of the list shows the extent of our common interests, especially in countering new threats. We hope areas for co-operation will expand quickly as both sides develop the habit of working together as equal partners at 20. For that to happen, Allies and Russia will need to approach the new Council in an active spirit of co-operation.

  52.  The NRC will meet twice a year at the level of Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers and monthly at Ambassador level (or more often if necessary). Meetings will be held at Heads of State and Government level as appropriate - probably annually. A Preparatory Committee will meet every two weeks (or more often if necessary) to prepare NRC meetings. Like the NAC, the NRC will be chaired by the NATO Secretary General and work by consensus: all members will be bound by its decisions. New NATO members will automatically become members of the NRC.

  53.  The NRC will be supported by a NATO-Russia Staff Support Working Group, consisting of members of the NATO International Staff and the Russian mission to NATO. The NRC will be able to establish committees or working groups to deal with specific projects or topics on either an ad hoc or permanent basis.

NATO-Ukraine Relations

  54.  The NATO-Ukraine Charter on a Distinctive Partnership was signed at the Madrid Summit in July 1997 and established the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC)as a mechanism for regular consultation between NATO and Ukraine beyond Partnership for Peace. Ukraine is the only country besides Russia to be offered a formalised special relationship with NATO.

  55.  On 24 May 2002, the Ukraine National Security and Defence Council, chaired by President Kuchma, approved in principle a long-term policy with the objective of future accession to NATO. This was the first public announcement of a Ukrainian desire to join NATO.

  56.  We welcome Ukraine's determination to pursue full Euro Atlantic integration. Under NATO's open door policy Ukraine could in principle be a potential candidate for NATO membership - as could other countries now in NATO's Partnership programmes. To be considered for membership, Ukraine would have to respect core Alliance values and standards, including a stable democracy, a market economy and a reformed defence sector. It is clear that Ukraine is still well short of meeting these criteria. Particular concerns, including press freedom, and previous supply of heavy weapons to Macedonia were highlighted by Allied Ministers at the NATO Ukraine Ministerial in Reykjavik on 15 May.

  57.  We think that for the medium term Ukraine should focus on developing its distinctive partnership under the NATO-Ukraine Charter. There is potential to do much more under the existing agreement. NATO Foreign Ministers agreed at Reykjavik to deepen and expand the relationship, including through intensified consultations and co-operation on political, economic and defence issues and we hope Ukraine will use this new opportunity to the full. There will be the opportunity for discussion at Head of Government level when the NUC meets at the Prague Summit.


  58.  NATO faces a formidable agenda. Work over the next six months and at Prague will be aimed at a transformation: building new capabilities, ensuring the effectiveness of an enlarged Alliance, adapting NATO's internal structures, and further developing the relationship with partners, especially Russia. Following the Foreign and Defence Ministerials there are encouraging signs of progress, but the final outcome will depend on the commitment and resources Allies are prepared to invest. Success will guarantee NATO's ability to fulfil its mission as the Euro-Atlantic area's key defence and security organisation for the next generation.

1   Paragraph 24. Back

2   These consist of humanitarian and rescue tasks; peacekeeping tasks; and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacekeeping. Back

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 27 June 2002