Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence

Memorandum from Michael Codner



  Since the end of the Cold War NATO has moved incrementally towards the necessary consensus for the development of the competence for intervention outside the Washington Treaty Article VI area and for operations other than the direct defence of the territory of member nations under Article V of the Treaty. Interventions in the former Yugoslavia were technically outside the Article VI area but directly related to the security of Europe. NATO's resolve was very much tested in the Kosovo operation but a positive outcome, for whatever reasons history will conclude, reinforced NATO'S expeditionary role. However the ISAF operation in Afghanistan has been the first significant test of its will and capacity for intervention at distance and for reasons indirectly related to European security[139].

  The shift in emphasis from territorial defence to intervention at distance has important implications for NATO's force planning. The force structure conceived for intervention includes the Allied Command Europe (ACE) Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) which was deployed operationally in Afghanistan. More recent development of the NATO Response Force (NRF) concept is directly related to capacity for intervention. The capability requirements including strategic lift and other logistic considerations are directly related to the scenarios defined by NATO's military commands and endorsed by member nations.

  There are a number of factors which affect NATO's ability to encourage member nations to develop their individual military capabilities to contribute to effective intervention capacity with the reach of Afghanistan and other conceivable emergencies world wide. There is the continued importance of territorial defence for East European nations in particular coupled with re-emerging problems with Russia. Any perceptions of failure in Afghanistan will make nations reluctant to commit to elective operations at range. US initiatives on European missile defence appeal to European concerns about homeland defence even though theatre missile defence could be an important enabler for interventions in the future. On the other hand a more positive attitude by France to NATO could allow for a strengthening of NATO's Strategic Concept and a more robust force planning process.

NATO's Strategic Concept and Force Planning Process

  During the Cold War NATO's Strategic Concept of forward defence and flexible response was a powerful influence in individual nations' force planning. The NATO force planning process included an interrogation of individual nations as to their contributions to the capabilities identified as the minimum necessary by the Strategic Commanders. It supported individual ministries of defence in their internal arguments for funding and sustained defence budgets. In the present situation, without any obvious imminent threat of invasion, there is evidence that NATO's requirements do not have significant influence over the defence spending and capability choices of member medium powers.

  However NATO's common acquisition programmes and processes do provide some opportunities for defence manufacturers beyond conceptual and assessment studies and NATO does provide justification for smaller nations' niche capabilities and for new members to improve their force capabilities to NATO standards.

  In the longer term, as unit system costs are likely to rise more rapidly than defence budgets, the members with larger military capability are likely to see more value in a more integrated approach to acquisition. NATO could indeed be more useful in this timeframe in this respect. Of course in the NATO context US military capability dominates. The argument in favour of significant European and Canadian medium power capability is strongest in scenarios in which the US is not participating and these are not the bedrock for current NATO force planning.

  NATO is unlikely in the short to medium term to be a dominant factor in the force development of major and medium powers. In the longer term however NATO and the EU between them could be increasingly important in achieving greater efficiency in European defence spending. Greater coherence between NATO and the EU is likely in the longer term and would also enhance efficient acquisition.

Continued Importance of Territorial Defence v Expeditionary Competence

  Concerns about territorial defence and, in particular, about Russia, are a significant motivator for East European nations to join NATO and specifically to benefit from the Article V protection and extended deterrence provided by the US. Extended nuclear deterrence is but one aspect. The trans-Atlantic focus of these nations has been a reason for the willingness of some to support the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  European nations may be disinclined to acquire capability for expeditionary operations but may focus on enhance defensive capability. NATO conceptual work should focus on commonalities of capability between the needs of intervention, territorial defence and deterrence to ensure flexibility and cost effectiveness.

  It will be important for the sustainment and development of NATO's expeditionary competence for current operations in Afghanistan to provide evidence in the short to medium term of NATO's military effectiveness. There is a risk that it will be assessed as a "bridge too far" by many NATO nations and this will directly affect their willingness to support and contribute to expeditionary competence. The reluctance of member nations to contribute to ISAF[140] could be reinforced if there are not obvious incremental successes.

  Perceived success in interventions will be important in influencing member nations' expeditionary capacities and their support for NATO's expeditionary role. There is likely to be stronger consensus in the future for the "near abroad"—the fringes of Europe, the Mediterranean, Near East and Maghreb.

  If NATO's involvement in Afghanistan were to be perceived in the longer term by member nations to have been useful, members would be more likely to commit to an expanded expeditionary role for NATO. Notwithstanding these uncertainties Afghanistan will have been particularly useful in developing structures and process for the Alliance's contribution to a "Comprehensive Approach" (discussed subsequently).

  NATO's expeditionary focus is likely to remain tentative into the medium term. However the ability of the Alliance to contribute military capability to an inter-agency approach should be greatly enhanced by the experience of Afghanistan.

French Support for NATO

  Previous French-led arguments in favour of an independent EU combat capability have attempted to strengthen the role of the EU as a competitor and therefore the inefficiencies of two parallel force planning systems that have not been well integrated. President Sarkozy's recent statement suggesting the return of France to NATO's Integrated Military Structure could be hugely significant if the idea is taken forward. It would enable the full integration of NATO and European Union force planning processes in the medium to long term and for NATO to factor the "minus US scenarios", which should be the basis for EU force planning, into its own specifications of capability requirements or member nations. In the short term of course President Sarkozy's needs to manage internal politics in favour of a substantially more trans-Atlantic approach and it is early days.

  There is a good possibility that improved French attitudes to NATO would allow for more coherence between NATO and EU force planning, greater efficiency and better use of available national funds for defence.


  Russia's recent provocative behaviour must reinforce concerns amongst East European nations about territorial security. Indeed for NATO generally it resurrects the need for conventional military deterrent capability. There is no confidence in the intelligence community that the Russian political system will alter in a way that is benign from a Western viewpoint in the medium term.

  The perceived requirement could be for "inherent" deterrent[141] capability for European nations. The US has never abandoned the requirement to be able to dominate militarily against any potential opponent. For Europeans the need in the short in the medium to long term is to sustain and develop military capability not to defend against a specific aggressor but to deter any potential opponent from using the military instrument for inducement of European nations. Clearly some East European new members will see "direct deterrence" as highly relevant and perhaps increasingly so. West Europeans are likely to view direct deterrent policy and rhetoric as unhelpful in engaging Russia politically and economically. NATO as a whole is likely to use Russian capability as a benchmark of sorts for European members to sustain and develop aspects of common capability that relate to any future needs for containment and deterrence.

  NATO is likely to agree a new Strategic Concept at some stage after the Bucharest Summit. A more robust Concept than hitherto since the end of the Cold War with more emphasis on the need for enduring conventional deterrence (with Russia as a benchmark) and expeditionary capability would be useful in galvanizing trans-Atlantic force planning certainly into the medium term. This is a matter which governments would do well to emphasise.

European Missile Defence

  One important area in which NATO could have an emergent purpose beyond conceptual work would be in the development of missile defence capability on a US led multilateral basis. If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapon capability, this could be the catalyst for NATO.

  If a clear threat emerges in the short or medium terms, investment in missile defence by NATO and member nations could move rapidly beyond assessment and development on a wider scale than current projects. Significant investment is likely to be beyond the short term but could be urgent when initiated. NATO is the obvious vehicle for taking forward US aspirations and Europe's needs coherently. The support of France under Sarkozy will be crucial to a comprehensive programme. In the longer term, as missile ranges of emergent threats increase, solutions which address both home and theatre missile defence needs are likely to command the greatest appeal to the largest number of members particularly where there is obvious cost benefit in enabling and enhancing US capability in what would otherwise be an unaffordable programme.

NATO's Purpose in the Longer Term

  There are some broad possibilities for the evolution of NATO's purpose.

Political Alliance It could cease to have much relevance as a military alliance and would be essentially a political alliance preserving the trans-Atlantic relationship perhaps with a new understanding between the US and EU which would allow acceptance that the EU would be the agent for European integrated command and control and the development of coherent capability.

  NATO/EU integration Paradoxically a more coherent relationship with the European Union could strengthen both organizations militarily through the efficiencies of an integrated command structure and force planning processes. The EU could supply the diplomatic and economic instruments of power to military operations where these are conducted by NATO.

  Global Interventionist NATO At the other extreme success in short and medium term interventions could provide NATO with the role of the de facto provider of military capability and command and control to the United Nations (UN) with possibly a membership that extended beyond Europe and North America, or, more likely, that there will be formal relationships with other regional multinational organizations and nations.

  Repository of interoperability standards In any event NATO is likely to retain the important but low profile role of repository of standards for interoperability for North American, European and other nations.

  The most likely range of possibilities for NATO will lie between the first and second above with NATO's intervention capability focused predominantly on the near abroad and regions of direct relevance to European interests. If there is not more coherence between NATO and the EU, the EU is likely to be more influential in shaping the military capabilities and force structures of European nations in the longer term if only because it is "US minus" scenarios which have the greatest significance for European military capabilities except in a necessarily trans-Atlantic capability area such as missile defence.


  The 1998 St Malo Accord between France and the UK raised for the first time the possibility of a capability rather than institution based approach to ensuring the greater military effectiveness of the EU. Progress had hitherto been stalled by the perception that the EU and NATO were alternatives to European defence capacities. The former alternative had the sponsorship of France. The latter was supported by the UK conscious of the importance of US engagement in European security. Progress after St Malo was stalled as a result of disagreements over the Iraq War. Change of political leadership in the UK, France and Germany and the prospect of the presidential election in the US have allowed for a renewal of European initiatives perhaps taken forward in concert with a new US Administration which may see Europe's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) positively as a way of sustaining European military capability and military commitment to global security against declining defence budgets. However internal political priorities have prevented the leadership of any of these nations to announce major initiatives. President Sarkozy's pro-US statement and reference to France rejoining NATO's IMS is potentially very significant.

  In any event progress in the EU to a more integrated approach to security and defence is likely to continue to be slow with no substantial change in the short term. There has been some real but incremental progress in bringing together the EU Council's responsibilities for defence and foreign policy and the European Commission's (EC) function in controlling the economic instrument towards a more integrated approach to EU interventions. The EU's potential is huge in this respect in having considerable funds for international development on the one hand and access in total to substantial military capability. However there are huge cultural barriers particularly within the EC. There is also a dominant focus on institutions and process rather than on outcomes. Internal concerns within many member nations about a federal Europe and the symbolism in this respect of greater military integration (a `European Army') are also impediments to rational change. And the EC is largely responsible for resistance to close cooperation with NATO.

  Factors associated with the EU's ability to influence the force development and military capabilities of its members in the short term include perceptions as to the value of the military instrument in achieving security, funding priorities, and the difficulties of achieving internal coherence within the EU organization.

The Military Instrument

  Most European nations had extremely traumatic experiences in the Second World War and earlier conflicts. The most powerful motivator in the formation of the parent institutions of the EU was to create an environment in which war would never again be an eventuality on the continent. Although the UK was not actually invaded, it shares a common European view as to the unpredictable consequences of violence and the limits to the usefulness of the military instrument in initiating and developing security policy beyond territorial defence and the direct protection of vital national interests. The view that the global security environment can be managed by the effective use of the military force has little support in particularly in Western and Northern Europe.

  Recent interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq have reinforced the common European view that problems cannot be solved by the use of the military which is an instrument to be used to contribute to conditions in which other non-military activities can work towards better security. The threat of terrorism to internal security and its perceived relationship to external interventions also reinforces a reluctance to commit forces to intervention.

  This common perception is unlikely to change, rather to strengthen, in the short term. Member nations of the EU will not become more militaristic.

National Defence Budgets

  In relation to other nations in the world European nations, relatively prosperous as most are, are in the upper echelons of the global league. The total EU defence budget and military capability is very considerable. One problem is inefficient use of the money available across the EU when viewed and inability to exploit advantages of scale. Also individual European national defence budgets are proportionally far lower a proportion of national GDP than the US and the trend is downwards. One or two nations who still perceive external threats have somewhat higher budgets but they are the exception. Indeed new members of the EU are likely to see their membership of the EU and NATO in part as means of reducing defence budgets by virtue of common security and defence. The UK and France, the principal expeditionary European powers have defence policies born of their histories, interests and responsibilities that support somewhat larger defence budgets but these still fall short of the US.

  In the short term European defence budgets are very unlikely to rise as a proportion of GDP and will probably continue to decline somewhat in particular in relation to the problem of rising unit costs of military systems. This decline is related to a European view that existing defence spending levels are reasonable in the absence of direct military threats.

  Another factor discussed earlier is the view that the military instrument is not the only—nor necessarily the most effective—agent of security and that diplomatic and economic instruments, particularly international development, play to Europe's strengths and the wishes of electorates. There may be very modest progress in using defence funding more efficiently through greater cooperation.

Coherent Security and Defence Policy

  Real progress in the evolution of coherent and efficient development of military capability by integrated force planning is to a large extent dependent on the development of robust common security policy which can spawn a similarly robust common defence policy and military strategy. Such a process similar to that developed by NATO in the Cold War would allow common military concepts and common capability development. This process would not necessarily relate to greater federalization. It did not for NATO during the Cold War. But nations would be able to specialize in the capabilities that they developed at the strategic, operational and tactical levels depending on the size of the nation. Small nations would be able to develop niche capabilities comprehensively. Evolution along these lines would be dependent on individual nations sharing the large majority of their security objectives. In the absence of this commonality larger nations will resist creating dependencies on other nations whose contribution to operations cannot be guaranteed.

  In the short term there is not the necessary commonality of national objectives. Nor is there clear evidence of trends in this direction. However smaller nations are more dependent on the EU and NATO to give purpose to their military forces and are more likely to develop niche capabilities and role-specialize in spite of this lack of common security objectives among nations. There is of course some regional commonality within Europe which allows for bi- and multi-national rationalizations (Baltic Republics are an example) and these initiatives are likely to be more promising.

Common Acquisition Structures and Processes

  There have been a number of EU initiatives to develop the efficiencies of common procurement. The establishment of OCCAR and the European Defence Agency are the most prominent.

  The usefulness of EU procurement agencies will remain modest and incremental in the short term because a robust overarching strategic policy framework does not exist. The value of multinational European procurements tends to be in harmonizing requirements to achieve advantages of scale when individual nations' needs coincide in requirement and timescale. Because all European nations possess and develop land forces and because there are a large number of land requirements that have lower costs, and shorter procurement times and life expectancies than ships and aircraft, the land sector could benefit proportionally from existing common acquisition structures.

Inter-Agency Coherence and the "Comprehensive Approach"

  There are big institutional and cultural impediments internally between the EC and Council as well as in achieving coherence with NATO, the UN and other entities such as the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent (ICRC). However, if it could resolve there civil-military issues, the EU would be ideally placed to direct and control all the classic instruments of power (diplomatic, economic and military) for effective intervention to address security crises.

Military Aspects of the EU in the Longer Term

  Long term trends would indicate a greater integration of European defence capability in the medium to long terms born of greater commonality of security objectives in the face of globalization and the rise of Asian power. Another factor for the larger European Slow progress is being made internally in the short term. Better integration reinforces the value of the military contribution to interventions and indirectly supports individual nations' defence spending but principally in the constabulary and benign capabilities of military land forces, their communications, information systems and networking.

  Military powers is rising unit costs and the fact that balanced military capability for autonomous operations will be increasingly unaffordable. This factor itself is likely to force a reinforced St Malo type of approach emphasizing capability over institutions and process.

  In the longer term the EU is likely to be an increasingly significant factor in defining member nations' military capabilities and indeed those of non-member European cohorts. Greater integration and the strategic role specialization of member nations will be very slow in coming. However rising unit system costs against defence budgets make the aspirations of medium powers for autonomous balanced military capability increasingly unaffordable and unrealistic. 2025 has been identified[142] as the timescale for real change but this may be optimistic.

  Nuclear Deterrence The costs for the UK and France of maintaining independent nuclear deterrent capability could force closer cooperation particularly if the EU is in other respects becoming more integrated in security and defence. It is most unlikely within the long term period of this study that the nuclear deterrent would become an EU owned capability. It is more likely that the UK and France would make savings on deployability by a more integrated approach reducing the requirement to maintain numbers of warheads, systems and platforms individually.

Director of Military Sciences


10 January 2007

139   Although some might argue that the initial US led operation following the 911 attacks was in the direct defence of the US, a NATO member, and was in accord with NATO's invocation of Article V following 911. Back

140   International Security Assistance Force Back

141   "Inherent" deterrence is deterrence that is not in published policy or rhetoric directed against any particular nation. "Directed" deterrence is deterrence against a particular threat. A directed deterrence policy would typically be reinforced by rhetoric directed at the particular nation or coalition that posed the threat. The Warsaw Pact in the Cold War was a threat that demanded direct deterrence. Inherent deterrence of course requires some benchmark potential threat capabilities on which to base deterrent force structures. These fundamental concepts are derived from Edward Luttwak's classic work in this area. Back

142   By the UK MoD. See DCDC Global Strategic Trends Programme 2006. Back

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