Examination of Witnesses (Questions 77-79)|
9 OCTOBER 2007
Q77 Chairman: This is the second evidence
session in our inquiry into the future of NATO and European defence.
Welcome to our witnesses this morning. The purpose of our inquiry
is to look very broadly at the role of NATO, at the sorts of challenges
that NATO faces and how it relates to the European Security and
Defence Policy and we expect to have further evidence sessions
during the course of the next few months, including with the Secretary
of State, and we hope to publish our report in the New Year ahead
of the NATO Summit in Bucharest in April. This morning we have
got a panel of very distinguished academic people, and I wonder
if you could possibly begin by introducing yourselves, saying
where you work and what you do.
Dr Allin: I am Dana Allin and
I am a Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Affairs and editor of our
journal Survival at the International Institute for Strategic
Professor Cox: I am Professor
Michael Cox, Professor of International Relations at the London
School of Economics.
Dr Eyal: I am Jonathan Eyal, Director
of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services
Dr Niblett: I am Robin Niblett,
Director of Chatham House.
Dr Webber: I am Mark Webber, Senior
Lecturer in Politics at Loughborough University.
Q78 Chairman: We have a number of
questions to ask you and, first, I wonder if we could ask what
the role and purpose of NATO actually is. I know that is a huge
question, but I wonder if you could try to condense your answers
into a few sentences.
Dr Webber: It is a difficult question
to answer and no doubt the hearings here are partly spurred by
the fact that NATO itself is uncertain of its role and purpose.
Its role and purpose today is clearly different from that of its
formation during the Cold War. NATO's own self-estimation of its
role is very widespread, partnership, counter-terrorism, enlargement
and so on, but I think that is a discourse which hides a considerable
degree of uncertainty as to what its current role and purpose
is. In essence, I think one of its most important roles at the
moment is simply to ensure its own relevance and that has been
a spur to its activities in the last ten years or so and sometimes,
I think, mistakenly.
Q79 Chairman: So its role is to exist?
Dr Webber: Yes. In some senses,
its role is simply to ensure its survival and to accrue certain
functions in order to justify its continued existence.
Dr Eyal: I must admit, I disagree.
I do not think that NATO is an amoeba which has to grow because
it has to grow because it has to grow. I would say, without descending
into the cliche«s of the 1940s about why it was created,
that the main purpose is to prevent the renationalisation of its
Member States' defence policies, to maintain a formal, explicit,
enshrined-in-treaties link with the United States of the kind
that Europe is very unlikely to get even on paper or in theory
in Congress today, and increasingly also to prevent a knee-jerk
reaction in the European security arrangements if NATO were to
disintegrate tomorrow. There is an additional element which we
tend to forget and we tend to dismiss which is that the new Member
States from Central and Eastern Europe are still looking upon
this organisation as the ultimate umbrella organisation for defence
purposes and they still feel quite vulnerable. There is no other
institution in the Euro-Atlantic area that could provide, at least
on paper, the security guarantees and the security framework,
the habit of negotiation and dialogue of the kind that NATO can.
Professor Cox: I think there is
a simple answer to your question as to what is its current purpose
and that is to win in Afghanistan and if it does not, then NATO
may be dead, and I think that is where you have to begin, ie,
where it is currently deploying 35,000-odd troops in the most
important part of the world now facing global security. That is
the simple answer to your question. I think the second answer
I would give is that it has got to provide some role for the United
States because the United States for all sorts of other reasons
is still the only hegemon left in the world and nobody is going
to replace it for a very long time, despite China's rise and all
the rest, and thus if NATO is irrelevant to the United States,
it is not relevant at all. Therefore, what the United States is
seeing NATO as being is essentially as a global player. It has
to provide global security and a global role and the United States
thinks post-9/11 that it has got to be global, so regionally its
first task is Afghanistan, but that has global implications, and,
secondly, it has to look relevant to what the United States wants,
and what it wants from NATO effectively is a global perspective
and indeed a global role.
Dr Niblett: I think I would agree
with some of the points raised by Jonathan Eyal, so I will not
repeat those. For me, NATO has a fundamental purpose and I would
just pick one, which is to maintain the transatlantic link on
security issues between the United States and the nations of Europe.
I think that remains a highly valid and important purpose in a
world that is dangerous in different ways from the ways that it
was when the Alliance was formed, but where I think both the United
States, Canada obviously and the nations of Europe are far more
secure by being organised around a treaty-legally-constructed
organisation in which they work together on security questions
in today's world and I would put that at the centre and I think
the rest in a way moves around it.
Dr Allin: Well, its purpose is
clearly more fuzzy than it was in the Cold War and I think that
the diversity of answers you have had from my colleagues suggests
that. I think all of the answers my colleagues have given are
plausible, but they are not obviously compelling in the fundamental
way that mutual defence against a Soviet threat was. For example,
security guaranteed for East and Central Europe is very important
for East and Central Europe, but it is not going to be the animating
purpose for much of the rest of the Alliance. The transatlantic
link, formalising the transatlantic link, that is obviously important
and I think it is very important as we have seen in the repair
or the recovery of transatlantic relations and the sort of transatlantic
spring and it is important to elites in Europe, but it is not,
judging by the polls, an entirely compelling purpose as far as
the European public are concerned. I do not think it is threatened
not just because of institutional inertia, but because it does
have many purposes that are valuable, but it is problematic that
the purposes are so difficult to describe. The role, which is
a slightly different word, is obviously currently that it has
a major project in Afghanistan and more broadly I have heard it
described, I think, very well as a kind of military services organisation
that brings together militaries very good for force-generation
purposes, the best organisation in the world for force-generation
purposes, to serve the purposes of the various Western allies
when they are common and they can agree, but the agreement is
not pre-programmed, which is the point, and it is always going
to be more difficult, more ad hoc, case by case.