Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
15 OCTOBER 2003
WEBB CBE, DR
Q40 Mr Hancock: Could you then develop
that in giving us a couple of indicative examples of where conflict
prevention tasks, supportive action, combatting terrorism or whatever,
or even post-conflict stabilisation might be involved and how
far along that road would you suggest it be appropriate for this
organisation to be used as a pre-emptive military weapon and how
do you think politically that would be managed?
Mr Webb: I think there is no doubt
that in certain circumstances conflict prevention can require
preventative action. There is a problem about translation here
in that if you go into German sometimes these words mean rather
different things to different people but certainly preventative
military action, a preventative military deployment of the kind,
for example, that was done in Macedonia in the early 1990s is
well recognised to be part of the conflict prevention scene. If
that force ran into someone who attacked it then you would be
into combat also. So it certainly can involve some kind of, as
I would say, preventative military deployment (I am avoiding the
sort of emotional tag of pre-emption at the moment) and I think
that is certainly in people's minds. There is certainly nothing
in the structure here which prevents that.
Q41 Mr Hancock: But by expanding
the Petersberg tasks to the two key areas of post-stabilisation
and trying to stop things happening it means that you then have
at your disposal the most compelling weapon you have got available,
which is your ability to make a pre-emptive strike, does it not,
and I am asking whether you believe that the structures as politically
put forward now in these alterations are there for that to be
able to happen?
Mr Webb: Well, you could make
an argument, could you not, that the Bunia deployment this yearin
Bunia we were in a situation where there was a risk of an atrocity,
a risk of violence, and there had been sporadic violence as there
is all through the Congo. Before that occurred, the EU, as Paul
said earlier, took some snappy decisions to undertake an operation
there which I would describe as essentially of a conflict prevention
and preventative nature. As it happens there was a UN resolution
so the question of political decision making was probably easier
than if there had not been, but I think the will to do that is
Q42 Mr Hancock: Do you think as they
are currently proposed they are expanded enough to take in counter-terrorism
actions or anti-proliferation scenarios, preventing a country
developing it, or if they are not there now do you think there
is scope in the future for this to be broadened out to encompass
both counter-terrorism and anti-proliferation?
Mr Webb: We have tended to see
the sharper end of counter-terrorist operations as being more
suitable to NATO because it tends to require a high intensity,
very rapid precision kind of capacity for which NATO is usually
better placed. So that kind of end of the counter-terrorism business,
absolutely, I think NATO is a more natural choice but in terms
of the preventative end of counter-terrorismand every time
I have spoken to this Committee about this subject we have always
emphasised that we see a preventative role as well as a find and
strike role in dealing with terrorism- certainly stabilising failed
states so that they do not become havens for terrorism I think
is very much the business of ESDP. On counter-proliferation, again
at the moment I think this is a newish subject. We have a proliferation
security initiative and so on, so at the moment again it feels
a bit more like NATO or even wider global coalitions because a
lot of the problem is way beyond Europe and in areas where it
is quite difficult for Europeans to operate. So I see that as
probably being a different type of coalition again but I am sort
of dancing around not trying to absolutely say under no circumstances
could that come under the Petersberg range because I could probably
invent a scenario in which it did. But most of it is outside,
Q43 Mr Roy: What additional capabilities
will the European Union need to be able to call on as a consequence
of extending the Petersberg tasks?
Mr Webb: I would say that it would
be the capacity to conduct concurrent operations. The reason that
Mr Hancock analysed out earlier on would be certainly a feature.
I would say that to do post-conflict stabilisation well we would
need to develop the links to the civil capacity. I think it is
important to remember that even within ESDP there is already a
civil dimension and as well as the manpower commitment of troops
we talked about there has been a commitment of 5,000 police into
the ESDP civil side and I would see an enlargement of that kind
of arena as being sensible.
Q44 Mr Roy: But is there a realisation
that that enlargement would be long-term because it would be post-conflict?
Mr Webb: Yes. We have done a lot
more of this than lots of people and I am not sure how far that
realisation has come through. It certainly has in France because
it is the sort of thing we talked about in the Le Touquet summit
declaration. We have not disguised from people that this expansion
will require extra capabilities. We are quite clear always about
driving the need for greater capabilities in this arena.
Chairman: We have to depart temporarily.
We will come back as quickly as we can.
Q45 Chairman: As we are just about
a quorum and as there might be another vote fairly soon, we had
better crack on.
Mr Webb: Chairman, while you have
been away we have been working assiduously to try and better answer
the questions that we drifted into earlier on.
Q46 Chairman: You have only had ten
minutes to do that. You need far more time!
Mr Webb: As usual, Chairman, we
have discovered that we did not give you news after all. In the
published conclusions of the Nice presidency report it says: "The
contributions set out in the force catalogue constitute a pool
of more than 100,000 persons and approximately 400 combat aircraft
and 100 vessels." Just to answer Mr Hancock's point, when
countries make an offer they themselves say "to offer and
sustain for at least a year" so it is they who have to have
the 1:3 ratio behind them, it is not to do with the offer.
Q47 Mr Hancock: But if they cannot
deliver their 1:3 ratio somebody else is going to have to have
to fill that gap? It is harder for others to fill those gaps.
Mr Webb: True, but they are saying
they can. Having said that, as Paul rightly pointed out, it is
a couple of years since this happened, people have got busier
and, as I said right at the start, one of the things which is
something the Agency would do is to go around evaluating and assessing
that kind of contribution in a more specific military-type fashion.
So it would not just be a number, it would be something someone
had been and checked.
Mr Hancock: I still think we ought to
have something from you in writing.
Q48 Chairman: Yes, okay. I think
Mr Webb will drop us a paper.
Mr Webb: What I cannot do, I think,
is to reveal individual country's contributions because I think
they are private to them.
Chairman: That is really very reassuring.
Q49 Mr Hancock: Will it reveal those
countries who have also a commitment to NATO and whether the same
troops are the troops committed to NATO?
Mr Webb: They certainly could
be and should be.
Q50 Mr Roy: Just going back to the
point of potential overstretch, times have changed, the original
tasks have changed, the world has moved on. Is there a potential
for overstretch because of the extension of the Petersberg tasks?
Mr Webb: I think the answer to
that could be yes, although obviously one of the things about
these tasks is that since they are not by definition to do with
the defence of EU territory there is some discretion about how
many you do. However distressing it is to sit and watch an atrocity
in Africa without intervening, it is still a choice you can make.
So to some extent you can decide how much you take on is what
I am trying to say. But I think we do take this more pro-active
attitude towards it. We do see this as something where we would
resume debate about saying, "Let's have more useable troops."
I think it is probably not a question about the number of troops
overall, and again Lord Robertson is constantly reminding us the
problem is not how many there are available in Europe as a wholethere
are probably between 1 and 2 million people in uniform in Europe
as a wholethe question is how many of them are deployable
for this kind of task, that is the thing.
Q51 Mr Roy: In relation to the capacity
of, for example, rapid reaction what would the implications be?
Mr Webb: Well, rapid reaction
of course is a special sub-set because they are a particular type
of troop. You need a very high readiness so that they are ready
to deploy well inside 60 days. So it is perfectly possible and
sensible to have a structure whereby you have a relatively small
number of high readiness forces who can go out and react quickly
to prevent a disaster, for example, and then behind them you have
some equally worthwhile but not so high readiness forces who would
come in and take over from them. We were talking about rotation
so that after four to six months, or whatever it is, another group
of people turn up. There are two points about that. One is that
you have got four to six months to get hold of them and secondly
they can be at lower readiness, which is cheaper. High readiness
is expensive. The other point to make is that if you are in a
UN framework one of the things we do for the UN which they find
very useful and one of the reasons why Sarah has got EU and UN
in her job title, which is a new thing we have just done since
last month, is because what the UN is very often looking for is
someone like the EU, NATO or a big militarily capable country
to go in and do the first round intervention and after that they
will constitute what is often a blue helmet force which is drawn
from a much wider range of countries because often it is a good
idea not just to have the West doing this, who would come and
take over the operation. So part of the answer to your question
and Mr Hancock's question about stabilisation is that yes, you
rightly discern the task may go on for quite a long time but it
does not follow that the EU has to do all of it. It might be handed
over to a UN force and often is, for example in Bunia the Bangladeshis,
if I recall, came and took over and did so on time but it just
took them a bit longer to get there.
Q52 Mr Roy: But the part of the question
you still have not answered is what are the resource implications?
Mr Webb: Well, we need to do the
work on that. We need to go and look at the scenarios and get
proper military advice about how long or how many, how often.
We then need to take a political judgment on how much the EU wants
to do because, as I say, it is discretionary; you do not have
to do it.
Q53 Mr Roy: What is the time-span
for looking at that?
Mr Webb: One of the reasons why,
to be honest, we in Britain do not talk about it too much just
before the Headline Goal
Q54 Mr Hancock: It puts people off.
Mr Webb: I was actually going
to say I do not want to deflect them from making their best shot
at getting things done on this Headline Goal before we start talking
about the next one. That is a very British thing to do, is it
not, to say, "Let's get this one done and then we'll work
on the next one." But I am telling you about our aspirations.
Q55 Mr Roy: Okay. Just moving on
then, what is the Government's view of how the draft Security
Strategy prepared by High Representative Solana should be integrated
Mr Webb: We are very complimentary
about that document. We thought it was a clear and coherent read
which both reflected our general foreign policy aspirationsand
I think Paul might like to say a bit more about thatbut
was also very clear and good on areas that might have been of
concern to us, for example the relationship with NATO and the
United States. So we liked it is the short answer.
Q56 Chairman: That was one that we
won, was it?
Mr Webb: Yes, Chairman.
Q57 Chairman: We are sceptical, as
you will have gathered. We are waiting anxiously to see how successful
the British have been in achieving its objectives. Up to this
point in time we remain fairly sceptical.
Mr Webb: I am bidden by my ministers
to be pro-active and get into the debates in Europe and not wait
for them to come to us and so we do that. To go to the point you
have just made, there is probably some prioritisation to be brought
to the piece. It is a broad consensus and there are things that
you want to do but how many of those you can do will probably
require a bit of close study.
Q58 Mr Roy: On that particular aspect
of the beast, civil and military planning, do you envisage an
integrated planning taking place at EU level?
Mr Webb: Yes. We will continue
to foster that. There is already some reasonably good work done
on military/civilian integration in the EU and we will continue
to foster that.
Q59 Rachel Squire: Just picking up
on that, we had CIMIC, civil integration coming under SHAPE. How
is the EU aspect working with that to prevent unnecessary duplication?
Mr Webb: Yes. The answer is that
a lot of the EU doctrine comes from NATO, actually this very sensible
approach of sharing a lot of military doctrine and we have actually
been working ourselves and we have contributed some people to
help at least one of the presidencies work on this area. So we
would almost promote something which is compatible with NATO.
But since you mentioned it to me, could I just make a distinction
which I think you will be interested in, which is that CIMIC has
had a connotation of a military force undertaking some intervention
operation and then having sound relations and a sound interaction
with the civil community within which it is undertaking the military
operation. So CIMIC people go out and make links with the local
community and maybe do projects and help some of them return to
normality by helping with getting schools opened, which is always
a high item on the British agenda. The military/civil transition
which I was talking about earlier is a slightly bigger concept,
which is to say it is not just enough to have a good impact on
the local community. Actually most of these military operations
nowadays are associated with the bigger thing that Mr Cran was
talking about earlier on, a much bigger reconstruction or reshaping
of a state. That, I think, is a bigger idea than CIMIC. CIMIC
is part of that. Getting the military force to interact well with
the civil population is part of it but there is a bigger idea
starting to come around, which I think is in stabilisation, which
is what is the military role in helping you get from a failing
state to something which is now a stable and self-sustaining state.
However, to answer your question, yes, we take a lot of trouble
to ensure that we get consistency on CIMIC doctrine between NATO
and the EU.
Rachel Squire: I think we could have
a big debate on what you have just said, but we will leave that
for another day.