Select Committee on Defence Ninth Report

Conclusions and recommendations

The NATO Summit at Bucharest

1.  We do not share the Secretary of State's confidence that the last NATO Summit at Riga was a success. We recognise that some important progress was achieved, particularly in endorsing the comprehensive approach in Afghanistan and in agreeing the Comprehensive Political Guidance. Nevertheless, we believe that, overall, Riga was a disappointment and that the forthcoming Summit at Bucharest needs to set a clear path to achieving far more. (Paragraph 10)

2.  The Government's stated priorities for the Bucharest Summit, and the criteria by which its success will be judged, are unambitious and disappointingly vague. They do not provide Parliament with a sufficiently detailed breakdown of the UK's aspirations which limits our ability to measure the success of the summit. (Paragraph 13)

3.  We are also concerned that the Government fails to list seeking improvements in the relationship between NATO and the EU as one of its key priorities for the summit. We believe that improving that relationship is essential for the future effectiveness of both NATO and the EU. (Paragraph 14)

4.  We call upon the Government, in its response to this report, to provide us with a comprehensive, detailed and frank assessment of the successes and shortcomings of the Bucharest Summit. (Paragraph 15)

The evolution of NATO's role and purpose

5.  The possibility of a global NATO—with a global mission and global partnerships—remains deeply contentious within the Alliance. Agreeing the scope and nature of NATO's mission should, arguably, be one of the highest priorities at the Bucharest Summit, with that agreement defined clearly in a new Strategic Concept. (Paragraph 40)

6.  Given the global nature of the threats we face, we believe there is no alternative to the Alliance fulfilling a global role. Its willingness and ability to act on a global basis to tackle threats where they arise is fundamental to NATO's continued relevance. If NATO limits itself to a regional role in defence of the territory of the North Atlantic area alone, its value will be diminished, particularly to the United States, and its future will be in doubt. (Paragraph 41)

Uncertainty about the current role and purpose of NATO

7.  During the Cold War, defining the role and purpose of NATO was straightforward: to contain and counter the Soviet threat. In the post-Cold War world, NATO faces a far more diverse range of security challenges. As a result, NATO's role and purpose is far harder to define. Consequently, there is a lack of understanding, amongst the public in Europe and North America and within the Alliance itself, about the purpose of NATO in the 21st Century. We call upon the governments of all NATO countries to do more to explain to their citizens the relevance of NATO in today's uncertain world. If people do not understand what NATO is for or why it is important to them, their support for it will inevitably decline. (Paragraph 50)

The need for a new Strategic Concept

8.  We believe that NATO needs to revise its Strategic Concept as a matter of the highest priority. The new Concept should define, far more clearly, the role, purpose and relevance of the Alliance in the context of today's security challenges. The new Strategic Concept should also reflect the fact that, in terms of its operations, NATO is about more than the projection of military force alone; it is about implementing the Comprehensive Approach, and providing the stability in post-conflict situations to allow reconstruction and development to take place. NATO should launch a review of the Strategic Concept at the forthcoming Bucharest Summit for agreement at its 60th anniversary summit in 2009. (Paragraph 60)

NATO and the United States

9.  United States support for NATO is fundamental to the continued existence of the Alliance; without it NATO would become redundant. But the US will only support NATO if the Alliance serves the national interests of its members, and particularly the United States. To remain relevant to the United States, and to demonstrate that relevance to the American people, the Alliance must be capable of tackling today's and tomorrow's security challenges. To do so, NATO must become more capable, more deployable and more flexible, and the European Allies together need to demonstrate clearly what they contribute to NATO. (Paragraph 65)

NATO and the UK's national interests

10.  We are committed to NATO and believe it continues to serve the UK's national interests. The UK's support for the Alliance should not be uncritical or unquestioning, and there are important areas, such as force generation, burden-sharing and capabilities, where NATO must improve. However, we believe NATO remains an indispensable alliance, the essential embodiment of the transatlantic relationship and the ultimate guarantor of our collective security. NATO must remain at the heart of the UK's defence policy. (Paragraph 69)

The NATO mission in Afghanistan

11.  The purpose of the NATO-led ISAF mission is to achieve stability and security in Afghanistan, to deny al-Qaeda and the Taliban the environment in which to operate, and to implement the Comprehensive Approach by delivering the security necessary to enable reconstruction and development to occur. This requires a sustained, long-term military and financial commitment by all contributing nations. (Paragraph 83)

12.  There is currently some disagreement between the NATO allies about the objectives of the ISAF mission and the means of achieving them. All agree on the importance of the Comprehensive Approach, but there are differences in the interpretation of its meaning and implications. Achieving a common understanding of ISAF's mission in Afghanistan should be a key priority for NATO at the Bucharest Summit. This is essential if there is to be greater strategic coherence to the Alliance's operations. (Paragraph 84)

Force generation in Afghanistan

13.  Succeeding in Afghanistan is, and must remain, at the top of NATO's agenda. All 26 members of the Alliance contribute to the ISAF mission, and their efforts—together with those of the 14 non-NATO nations who participate in ISAF—are vital to the stabilisation and reconstruction of the country. It is essential the Alliance works together in delivering the Comprehensive Approach—creating the secure and stable conditions to enable reconstruction and development to take place and to allow space for political progress to be achieved. (Paragraph 92)

14.  This also underlines the importance of clarifying the ISAF mission in a way that is compatible with the Comprehensive Approach and which all NATO member states will support. A number of issues need to be urgently addressed: the appointment of a UN international coordinator, a divided military command chain, differing perspectives on the mission amongst ISAF troop contributing nations, confusion about dealing with narcotics, the effectiveness of the civil aid effort to win hearts and minds, and corruption within elements of the Afghan administration. Indeed, a clearer definition of success in Afghanistan at Bucharest would be extremely welcome. (Paragraph 93)

15.  Failure in Afghanistan would be deeply damaging for the people of that country. It would have serious implications for the Alliance's cohesion and credibility. But NATO's continued existence does not depend upon the outcome of its operations in Afghanistan. In any circumstance it would have a role because of its command structure, its mechanisms for harmonising equipment and promoting interoperability between its members, and its function as a political forum for essential discussions about defence and security. However, if the Alliance cannot demonstrate its ability to undertake expeditionary operations, the support of the United States for NATO over the long-term will be diminished. (Paragraph 94)

16.  NATO has encountered substantial difficulties in generating sufficient forces for Afghanistan and there are large disparities in troop contributions between different members of the Alliance. In some of the larger troop-contributing nations, there is a perception that the burden in Afghanistan is not equitably shared and that some countries are making sacrifices that others are not prepared to accept. (Paragraph 95)

17.  We recognise that not all members of NATO have the capabilities to deploy their forces on expeditionary operations and that some have found it hard to obtain the popular or parliamentary support required to increase their deployments. We welcome, in particular, the pledges made recently by Denmark and the Netherlands to the ISAF mission which show how such barriers can be overcome. (Paragraph 96)

18.  More troops are needed in Afghanistan if the ISAF mission is to succeed. We look to our other allies to make additional contributions where they can, be it through increased force levels, pledges of military equipment, or by offsetting the costs of operations. We hope that further progress in force generation can be achieved at the Bucharest Summit. Such progress will be essential to the future of the ISAF mission. (Paragraph 97)

National caveats

19.  The ultimate decision over whether to deploy forces on operations is, and must remain, a matter for each sovereign member state of the Alliance. UK Forces are deployed in Afghanistan without any caveats imposed upon their use, but the public and Parliament maintain a close interest in how those forces are used. The ability of any nation to commit its forces on operations is governed by the willingness of the public to sustain those commitments and by ability of any nation to sustain expeditionary operations. However inconvenient, caveats are an inevitable part of military life. The real challenge is to prevent them from impairing operational effectiveness. There is no doubt that caveats can have a detrimental effect on the coherence of NATO's operations. Although some important progress has been made in removing these restrictions there remains a long way to go. Further progress is essential at Bucharest. (Paragraph 111)

20.  The debate on national caveats would benefit from greater clarity about which countries do and do not impose caveats on their force commitments to ISAF. We call upon the MoD, in its response to this report, to provide a full breakdown of the national caveats imposed by each member of the Alliance on the use of their forces in Afghanistan and to state which countries impose no restrictions. (Paragraph 112)

Afghanistan and the future of Alliance military transformation

21.  NATO's experience in Afghanistan since 2003 has served to highlight areas in which the Alliance needs to improve. It has revealed the need to equip NATO better for expeditionary operations, to improve further defence planning and force generation processes, and to improve significantly its expeditionary military capabilities. To this extent, Afghanistan has helped to promote the military transformation of the Alliance, even if there remains a long way to go. (Paragraph 115)

NATO capabilities and the Bucharest Summit

22.  New commitments to achieve real, tangible improvements in Alliance capabilities will be a key test of the success of the Bucharest Summit, but their worth will be measurable only in the light of their delivery over time. (Paragraph 116)

NATO's principal capability shortfalls

23.  NATO currently faces shortfalls in military capabilities in a range of areas, most significantly in strategic airlift, reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence assets, and interoperable communications. These capabilities are fundamental to current operations in Afghanistan and are also crucial if the Alliance is to fulfil its ambition of having the capacity to conduct future expeditionary operations. (Paragraph 129)

Political will and Alliance capabilities

24.  In terms of fulfilling its expeditionary role, one of the key capability shortfalls confronting the Alliance is that of political will. This, in turn, depends on a perception of a shared danger and a shared requirement to respond. Expeditionary operations are predominantly discretionary by nature; there is a choice to be made about participation in any given mission. Alliance expeditionary operations, such as the current Afghanistan deployment, must be underwritten and sustained by the political will of the countries involved, both individually and collectively. Its absence undermines the capability of the Alliance. As important as it is to deliver tangible military capabilities, such as strategic airlift, the generation of the political will necessary to fulfil its expeditionary role is the greatest challenge currently facing NATO. (Paragraph 135)

The NATO Response Force

25.  The creation of the NATO Response Force (NRF) is a significant achievement by the Alliance and promises, in theory, to help improve Alliance capabilities in the long term. However, if the NRF is to be effective it will be important for the Allies to achieve consensus on when, where, and why to use it. It is also essential that the force requirements of the NRF are met in full. (Paragraph 144)

26.  We believe NATO should abandon the present "costs lie where they fall" arrangement for funding the NRF. We believe an appropriate alternative would be to finance the NRF through NATO Common Funding. Putting the NRF on a more stable financial footing is essential if it is to be an effective force. The current arrangements impose unpredictable financial burdens on troop contributing nations and act as a significant political disincentive for deploying the NRF. (Paragraph 145)

The role of Allied Command Transformation

27.  The contribution made to date by Allied Command Transformation to the improvement of the Alliance's expeditionary capabilities is difficult to measure. We are also concerned by reports that its focus on long-term capability development has been overshadowed by the operational demands of Afghanistan. ACT potentially has an important role to play in improving NATO capabilities in the long-term and in developing the Alliance's concepts and doctrines for the future. As important as current operations in Afghanistan unquestionably are, ACT must not be diverted from this central purpose. ACT must also improve its relationship with Allied Command Operations and with the European Defence Agency. (Paragraph 151)

Defence spending and the future of NATO

28.  The ability of the NATO Alliance to deliver real and lasting improvements in military capabilities depends on the willingness of Allies to commit sufficient resources. There can be no greater demonstration of political will in NATO, or the lack of it, than the amount of money each member of the Alliance is willing to spend on defence. There exists a clear, persistent and growing gap in defence expenditure between the European members of NATO and the United States and there seems little prospect of this being reversed. (Paragraph 165)

29.  Despite a longstanding commitment by all members of the NATO Alliance to spend a minimum of 2% of their GDP on defence, only six out of the 24 European members of NATO actually achieve that target. But defence spending is not simply about quantity; it is about what the money is spent on. We believe that in addition to the 2% target the Alliance should establish detailed capability targets, and timeframes, against which the performance of Allies could be measured. (Paragraph 166)

30.  If the European members of the Alliance want to be taken seriously, if they want the United States to remain engaged in, and committed to, NATO, and if they want greater influence in the overall direction of Alliance policy, they must commit the necessary resources and improve their capabilities. We are concerned that an Alliance with such large, and growing, discrepancies in defence expenditure will not be sustainable in the long term. (Paragraph 167)

Enlargement and the Bucharest Summit

31.  Membership of the Alliance within the North Atlantic area should continue to be based on the ability of applicant countries to meet NATO's performance-based membership criteria rather than the imposition, by the Alliance, of arbitrary territorial boundaries. Welcoming new members at the Bucharest Summit, or granting Membership Action Plans to those who meet NATO's criteria, would be a powerful signal that the Alliance remains committed to its open door policy. (Paragraph 171)

32.  We call upon the Government to state clearly, in advance of the Bucharest Summit, which countries it intends to support in their applications for full membership of NATO and for Membership Action Plans. (Paragraph 172)

Previous enlargements

33.  Previous enlargements of NATO have made an essential contribution to the development of stability and democracy in Europe. Many of NATO's newer members have made significant contributions to Alliance operations and are improving their military capabilities. Equally importantly, enlargement to date has played an important role in extending and embedding democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. (Paragraph 176)

The prospects for further enlargements

34.  The performance of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia in meeting the criteria for NATO membership will be assessed at the Bucharest Summit. Providing they meet those criteria there is no reason why they should not be admitted into the Alliance. (Paragraph 181)

35.  Georgia's ambitions for joining NATO will depend upon its performance in meeting the Alliance's criteria for participation in a Membership Action Plan. Although we are not in a position to judge for ourselves whether Georgia currently meets those criteria, we support, in principle, its long-term ambition to join the Alliance. (Paragraph 189)

36.  Before joining NATO, Georgia must demonstrate clearly and unambiguously the strength of its commitment to democracy and further democratic and political reform. It must also work to resolve the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, though much depends on the willingness of Russia to play a constructive role. For NATO, there are real and legitimate concerns about admitting a country with unresolved conflicts within its borders. But if NATO insists upon the resolution of the conflicts before Georgia is allowed to join NATO, this will effectively hand Russia a veto over Georgian membership of the Alliance. (Paragraph 190)

37.  Although Ukraine has indicated its desire to be considered for a Membership Action Plan, it seems highly unlikely that NATO will decide to make such an offer at the Bucharest Summit. The Ukrainian population is, at best, seriously divided on joining NATO and, at worst, opposed. For NATO to accept as a new member a country whose population did not support such membership would in our judgement exacerbate the problems considered earlier in this report. While in principle, if Ukraine demonstrates its commitment to the principles of the Alliance and fulfils the criteria for membership outlined by NATO, the Alliance should consider an application for membership, that application should in the longer term be determined only after great weight has been given to the wishes of the people of Ukraine. (Paragraph 195)

The future of the Alliance's open door policy

38.  NATO should continue to be open to the acceptance of new members in the Euro-Atlantic area. The promise of NATO membership provides the Alliance with a means of encouraging countries on its borders to embrace internal democratic reform and the reform of their armed forces; it is a powerful tool of defence diplomacy. However, it is important that as new members join the Alliance they bring with them additional capabilities or, at the least, a commitment that would add to NATO's capabilities in future. New members cannot only be consumers of security; they must also contribute to the common defence. (Paragraph 199)

39.  Membership of NATO should continue to be performance-based; if a country meets the criteria for membership, it should be permitted to join. We believe it is essential that NATO's open door policy is maintained on this basis. Ending the Alliance's open door policy on membership is not in the interests of the Alliance itself or European stability as a whole. Signalling that the Alliance has reached its outer limits, or ruling out further expansion, would consign those countries left outside NATO's borders to an uncertain future, potentially creating instability on the Alliance's Eastern fringes. Perpetuating this instability is not in the interests of any member of the NATO Alliance. (Paragraph 200)

NATO Partnerships

40.  NATO should continue to work closely with nations beyond its borders and should work to enhance further its relationships with Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Formalising the relationship between NATO and these countries is desirable, but this need not involve full membership of the Alliance. Extending full NATO membership beyond the Euro-Atlantic area carries distinct risks; there is a danger it could dilute the coherence of the Alliance, create yet more questions about its role and purpose, or complicate decision-making. However, NATO should continue to embrace the concept of global partnerships and seek to intensify cooperation with like-minded allies. (Paragraph 210)

The development of the European Security and Defence Policy

41.  EU Battlegroups are a significant innovation and promise, in theory, to improve European capabilities, force generation and interoperability. Given the poor level of European capabilities and the difficulties encountered in generating sufficient forces for Afghanistan, such improvements can only be welcome and would represent a significant capability gain. A key test of whether Battlegroups represent a useable military capability will be the ability of these force packages to fight, but, as in Afghanistan, this requires a level of political will on the part of the troop-contributing nations that may not exist. We also doubt whether the creation of Battlegroups will lead to any increases in European defence budgets, which is the key to improving military capabilities. (Paragraph 233)

42.  The fact that EU Battlegroups are intended to perform some of the more robust elements of the Petersburg Tasks suggests some degree of overlap of role and responsibility with the NATO Response Force. Any duplication must be avoided. However, if Battlegroups help European nations to improve significantly their force generation processes, this is likely to help NATO meet the force requirements of the NRF. (Paragraph 234)

43.  The EDA potentially has an important role to play in improving European capabilities, but the suggestion that the Agency lacks structure and orientation is worrying. The EDA should focus more narrowly on delivering real improvements in capabilities, interoperability and deployability. For the EDA to make a really useful contribution, it needs to be integrated with NATO's effort in this area, so interoperability extends throughout the EU and NATO. Yet, in light of its limited resources, we are not convinced that it can make a great difference. (Paragraph 243)

44.  We believe it is essential that, in promoting the development of European capabilities, the EDA should not duplicate the work of NATO's Allied Command Transformation. The Defence Procurement Code of Conduct must not become a vehicle for European protectionism by excluding American products. (Paragraph 244)

45.  Turkey's exclusion from membership of the European Defence Agency is deeply regrettable. Turkey has an enormous amount it could contribute to Europe's capabilities and its defence spending is among the highest of all NATO states. We believe Turkey should be admitted to the EDA as a matter of priority. (Paragraph 246)

The relationship between NATO and the EU

46.  A close relationship between NATO and the EU is essential. The lack of it is inexcusable given the importance of NATO to EU security. In practice, the relationship between NATO and the EU is fraught with difficulties. It is plagued by mistrust and unhealthy competition, and characterised by a lack of communication and cooperation. Little progress has been achieved in recent years in improving a relationship which remained stalled and inefficient. (Paragraph 250)

47.  There is a pressing need for a stronger, expanded and more cooperative relationship between NATO and the EU. This is essential for both organisations. (Paragraph 264)

48.  We do not believe a grand bargain between NATO and the EU in which NATO provides the hard power and the EU a soft alternative is either feasible or desirable. It would be the antithesis of the comprehensive approach which is so vital to current operations, such as Afghanistan. Nor do we believe that NATO should be confined merely to territorial defence of the Euro-Atlantic area. (Paragraph 265)

49.  We believe improving the NATO-EU relationship should be a key priority for NATO at the Bucharest Summit. Although the relationship is unlikely to improve radically in the short-term, the Summit represents an opportunity to set a new long-term course in NATO-EU relations. This should involve an expanded strategic dialogue between NATO and the EU, possibly by reinvigorating the contacts between the North Atlantic Council and the EU's Political and Security Committee, and by identifying a series of small-scale and pragmatic initiatives to foster greater trust and cooperation between the two organisations. (Paragraph 266)

The Lisbon Treaty and the future of NATO and European defence

50.  The provisions for permanent structured cooperation in the Lisbon Treaty promise to enhance European defence capabilities and expenditure. If the Treaty can deliver such long overdue improvements, which can be called on for EU and NATO missions, they can only be welcome. Improving military capabilities throughout Europe is in the interests not only of the EU but also of NATO. However, we remain to be convinced that PSC will deliver such improvements in practice. European nations have so far shown little appetite in investing sufficiently in defence. (Paragraph 274)

51.  It is essential that permanent structured cooperation does not lead to the development of a two—or three—tier Europe in defence matters. This would be counter to the interests of NATO. (Paragraph 275)

52.  How permanent structured cooperation will work in practice remains unclear. We call upon the MoD, in its response to this report, to state clearly how it expects PSC to work in practice. (Paragraph 276)

53.  The establishment of an EU mutual defence clause by the Lisbon Treaty overlaps, to some extent, with the provisions of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. This should be clarified at Bucharest. Although this ensures that non-NATO members of the EU are now committed to each other's defence, we believe it is essential that nothing in the Treaty undermines the primacy of NATO for its members. There must be no unnecessary duplication of commitments or roles which undermine the common defence. (Paragraph 281)

54.  We believe that the key test of the Lisbon Treaty will be the extent to which it makes a real difference in increasing European military capabilities, which so starkly lag behind those of the United States, and in improving the deployability of European forces. We are sceptical that the Treaty will itself achieve such improvements. This requires European countries to decide to spend more o n defence—decisions they have so far been reluctant to take. (Paragraph 282)

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