Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)


9 OCTOBER 2007

  Q80  Mr Jenkin: Is the survival of NATO still one of our most fundamental national interests and can you express what our national interest is in relation to NATO and perhaps Dana Allin would like to express that view from the point of view of the United States' national interest?

  Dr Eyal: I will try to answer Mr Jenkin's point. It depends of course to whom you talk in terms of the definition of the British national interest. My suggestion is that there is no European structure in purely European defence that could match NATO's habit of co-operation and NATO procedures. Of course it could be invented and one of the oddities of the academic intellectual debate is that whenever you mention European defence, people nod very sagely and say, "This is an urgent project", but the moment you mention NATO, they say, "What do we need the organisation for?", so presumably we do need a collective security organisation. I think the onus is on those who suggest that this current security organisation no longer serves a function. The onus is on them to prove why it does not. If you ask me the way I interpret British security interests, they are to maintain a formal link with the United States because any other link with the United States is unlikely to befall. The poodles are likely to be discovered much more quickly if there is not a NATO than if there is a NATO. Number two, it is to maintain NATO as a military structure and not as a fuzzy, political organisation. We have got plenty of these structures around and they all issue communique«s. Number three is to try to maintain or improve the ability of the Alliance for force-generation and that has been the bane of NATO's problems for decades and it has been exposed much more since the end of the Cold War. These, I would say, are British national security interests, as I see them.

  Professor Cox: I kind of give a three-point response to the question of national interest and it is very unfashionable now in international relations to talk of such things. If you take the British national interest, to be very precise about it, since 1956 the first British interest has been to remain close to the United States and the best and most useful means of doing that and in an organisation or an international institution which still has high legitimacy in the United States is NATO, so if part of the national interest of Britain is defined not simply in terms of what it does, but also in terms of the relationship it has with the major players still in the international system to the United States, then NATO serves that purpose. There is no other body that the United States wants to look towards in terms of its security and in terms of definitions of global security other than NATO. It does not want the ESDP, it does not want to look to European institutions. They may be an addition, but they are not fundamental. Secondly, Britain is a global player. It has global foreign direct investments around the world, it is a global trader and it always has been and it will remain so and even if you do not believe in the linguistic nonsense which comes up with the globalisation theory, you can still accept that Britain is a global player and most of the threats in the world today are not going to come from armies steaming across the frontiers, but they are going to come from sources around the world which we do not even know are going to happen in the next few years. Who would ever have believed that Afghanistan would become a serious global threat, so in that sense NATO, it seems to me, again is the only force projection organisation that exists and Britain plays a role in that. Let me also conclude with one other thing, being an old Cold Warrior intellectually at least, I studied it for many years and still do, and that is do not forget Russia. NATO went away because the Soviet threat has gone away. Well, lots of people are now talking Russia up as a new problem and of course for many people essentially in Eastern Europe the existence of NATO is reassurance. If it is reassurance for them, then presumably it does serve the British national interest.

  Dr Allin: Well, I was asked from the American point of view and I would say from the US perspective that a warm, strong, amicable and good working relationship and a good working link with European allies is an extremely important and probably a vital American interest. I think the evidence for that is that Europe is kind of the canary in the mineshaft in terms of American isolation. If America cannot maintain this relationship and convince Europeans of common purposes in the world, then I think it is highly implausible that it is going to be anything but isolated.

  Chairman: We will come on to the American view of NATO actually in just a few minutes.

  Q81  Mr Hancock: When Jonathan Eyal said there are those people who say, "Why NATO?", I am always curious to know who these people are who say, "Why NATO?".

  Dr Eyal: I think that this is a fairly widespread view.

  Q82  Mr Hancock: But of whom?

  Dr Eyal: In the academic community. I did refer to the academic community. It may not count, but it does. At the end of the day—

  Q83  Mr Hancock: I did not say that it did not count, but I was curious to know where it was.

  Dr Eyal: It is an intellectual fashion and I was just pointing to the contradiction which is very widespread and it is widespread in the media as well that the moment you mention European defence and the imperative of creating a European defence structure, everyone nods very sagely and says, "Let's do it by yesterday", and the moment you mention NATO and say, "Let's improve NATO", people say, "Well, what's the organisation for?" and I would submit that the same "What's it for?" could apply to the European Union security structure, but I was merely referring to this curious contradiction that very often an existing, functioning security organisation to which most of us are bound with very strict, legal obligations is questioned almost as an intellectual fashion.

  Dr Webber: I wanted to return to the question just asked, the degree to which NATO serves the UK national interest. It is an unquestioned assumption, it seems to me, in hearings of this sort and in the commentaries that NATO does serve British national interests. In hearings of this sort, nobody questions, the fundamental link which UK defence policy enjoys through NATO to the United States, for instance, so in that sense hearings like this and commentary on NATO tends to be problem-solving about how NATO can be repaired, how it can be made to better serve the functions one presumes it undertakes. In a wider setting, however, insofar as it is possible to define a national interest which is a difficult job in itself, NATO is only one of a number of things which serve a presumed national interest. I think sometimes the trouble with NATO is that it crowds out alternatives and the very nature of NATO transformation over the last ten years has been to take on more and more roles for itself and to some degree encroach upon the roles of others. I have no doubt we will go into Afghanistan in great detail in a moment, but the fact that NATO is now engaged to some degree in reconstruction and humanitarian missions is a crowding out of other agencies which could perhaps perform the job to some degree better, and I think a similar process occurs intellectually. The assumption that NATO is, was and must be at the centre of British defence thinking crowds out other creative alternatives, one of which clearly is the relationship with the European Union and the development of the ESDP, for instance, and empowering global organisations to a greater degree. Insofar as NATO wants to be a global actor, one should not forget that there is already another one out there which is the United Nations, so I think the presumption that NATO is at the heart of our British national interest should not necessarily be taken at face value, but it should be questioned.

  Q84  Mr Jenkins: One of the difficulties I have got is when I walk the streets and talk to people and say, "Now, I want you to make a choice between NATO and the European defence, let Europe defend us", and people say, "Europe? Do you mean that bunch of bureaucrats who can't get anything right or NATO, a rather clean-cut military group who have actually improved their expertise over 50 years in our defence?". How do I get the concept of what the public across Europe feel when I think our country is pro-NATO, but across Europe how do I get the concept of how the European people feel with regard to what they see as being the future of NATO? Do they still value NATO and still think it is the way forward or do they think they want to go for a European defence force?

  Dr Niblett: I agree again with a lot of the points raised by both Dr Allin and Mick Cox in particular. If you need to answer that question, "What is its value?", I am afraid I would agree with you, that I think it is a fair question to ask. In other words, when Member States of the European Union try to come together to look at foreign policy and security questions, there is a fragmentation which seems to naturally take effect. As countries look out, there are different aspects of priority around their periphery. In some countries of Europe, it is Russia, if you are in the south of Europe, it is North Africa and in certain parts it is Libya or the Middle East, and if you are here in the UK, maybe it is global interests which stretch way beyond Europe's periphery, so it is very difficult, I think, to make it an either/or question, "Is it NATO or the EU?". In my opinion, from the British national interest perspective, the UK has interests around the world. They are in the future of Pakistan, they are in Afghanistan, they are in parts of East Asia in terms of our economic interest, they are in Africa, they are in the Middle East and ultimately our ability to pursue those is going to be insufficient either by ourselves or with our European partners alone and they are much more likely to be pursued in collaboration with an institution that brings the United States into that mix as well. I would note, however, that the members of NATO and the EU are mostly the same, so when we create this dichotomy between it being either NATO or the EU, in fact we are talking about the same people wearing different hats, sometimes arguing against each other in different ways. From a military perspective, members of all the European armed forces that I am aware of, including the French, one might add, are highly committed towards operations within NATO because they see them as being very valuable to achieving their military goals, so it is not a case of their wishing that Europe was doing more or that NATO was doing more, but it is a matter of which institutions are best at doing which things and how can we get them to work better together, and I know we are getting on to that later on.

  Q85  Chairman: Could you comment also on Brian Jenkins' question about the public support for NATO as opposed to the public support for the EU?

  Dr Niblett: Yes, I understood his comment to mean that it is very hard to build up public support for European defence and it is easier to find support for NATO because there is a residual support for NATO, so in that sense I suppose I am agreeing with him. If one wants to explain to the British public why NATO remains valuable, I think you can point to Afghanistan as a first point. If Afghanistan and its future are vital to the British national interest, which I happen to believe they are, the ability of UK forces to be protected and operate well there more often than not depend on US close-air support than they do on support from any of their other European partners who are perhaps not as committed to that operation. Therefore, having the United States as a close ally within a NATO context is an important part of that mix. On the European front in terms of public support, I think a much stronger case can be made, and should be made, for the role that the European Union and the EU institutions can play in promoting British security, but it is a much broader realm than in the military realm per se and I think that case can be made in terms of foreign assistance, in terms of post-conflict reconstruction and in terms of the role of police forces to be able to win the peace after you have won the war.

  Dr Eyal: To answer Brian Jenkins' point, it is fair to say that NATO does suffer from an image as being a US-dominated institution and that clouds the kind of responses that one gets in terms of public opinion in certain European countries, so when you put a bland question like the one you have suggested which is, "Which one would you prefer?", my guess, and I suspect it would be proven by opinion polls, is that the majority of the French and probably, as a numerical symbol, a majority of Germans would say, "We prefer a European structure" for precisely the reasons of starting on your own, looking after yourself and not listening to the Americans, the sort of broad slogans. However, I think it is the wrong question. I think the real question which should be put is, "Are you prepared to pay for this European construction?" and the answer there, well, the members of the Committee know fully well from the record of most, not all, but most European countries. I would like to address one point which I think needs to be addressed of Dr Webber's which is about NATO crowding out other institutions. There is an element of that, although I would submit that the European Union tends to crowd out almost any institution, but there is also a point which ought to be remembered which is that NATO has over the last 50 years worked as an agency, in effect the sub-contractor of the United Nations. It has done so in the Balkans, both in Bosnia and in Kosovo and it has done so in strictly legal terms in Afghanistan as well, so far from being outside the international legal system, they could make a very good case that it is a very important pillar of the international legal system in the absence of standing United Nations' peacekeeping forces.

  Dr Allin: I do not personally see an irrevocable choice to be made between NATO and European defence policy. There are obviously going to be frictions and tensions, and we are largely talking about the same forces, but it all has to depend on a prior question which Europeans have to ask themselves, and are asking themselves, which is, "Are there places where European power as Europe should be projected?". I am speaking to a group of British politicians where this question is fraught, but looking from the outside, not only do I think the answer is yes, but I see a couple of examples where it has been very successful, such as in Congo, so I really do not see an irrevocable choice and I do not necessarily think that the European public need to have it presented that way.

  Chairman: We will come back to this issue of the EU and NATO in a few minutes, but now I think we ought to get back to the issue of the United States' attitude towards NATO.

  Q86  Mr Hancock: Dr Allin has already answered part of the question from the American perspective, but I would be interested to know what the rest of the panel feel about what importance the United Nations attaches to NATO. How has the Alliance's place in American foreign policy changed over recent years and what kind of alliance are the United States seeking from NATO in the next decade or so?

  Dr Niblett: I think the United States still attaches importance to NATO. I have not put a qualifying adjective in front of it because I think probably, in the sum of it, it attaches less importance to NATO than it did for obvious reasons during the Cold War, but NATO remains important. It remains important for some of the reasons that Dana Allin mentioned earlier on which is that ultimately when the United States needs to operate in theatres abroad, having allies to be able to go in with it can be useful both in terms of political support and also in terms of manpower, material and so on. Ultimately, they are looking for a NATO that is effective; and this is one of the deep concerns. I think it is less a NATO that is a forum within which the United States is able to convince and marshal European allies around a common, strategic vision of what needs to be done in the world and it is more a place where, once decisions have been taken quite often by perhaps a small group of European countries and the United States or within the United States and they have then been able to convince others in Europe that military forces are part of the answer to a particular problem, then NATO is a vehicle to be able to pursue that particular goal. This has been paraphrased into the toolbox metaphor meaning NATO provides a good forum within which the integrated military command retains a usefulness, along with training, common standards, doctrine, logistics, et cetera, and I think there is some truth to that description within US perceptions. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think as the United States looks at security threats around the world, whether they be in China or in the Far East, whether they be in terms of the kind of relationships they are trying to build up with India, NATO does not feature as yet as much in that particular answer. There is a clear effort going on which cuts across, and I think this is very important, the political divide between Democrats and Republicans in favour of a more global NATO, a NATO that can operate internationally, and I am sure you have seen the commentary made by various presidential candidates about enlarging to Israel and Australia, et cetera, et cetera, and we can talk more about that, but I think what this reflects is a perception that the threats are far more global, they are far more dispersed and being able to have allies that can participate in that would be the ultimate goal. I do not think there is a huge amount of confidence yet in the United States that this particular global NATO will necessarily emerge.

  Q87  Mr Hancock: So why have they had a problem then convincing their NATO colleagues of the importance of having a global role and a global perception? Why have the Americans not been able to win that argument?

  Dr Niblett: My personal belief is that most European governments still think of security in a regional and peripheral sense, that it is the Middle East, it is North Africa, it is Central and Eastern Europe maybe stretching to Russia. What they do not want to do is to get pulled into what is perceived to be, especially after the recent George W Bush Administration, a zero-sum approach to international relations in which China has to be hedged primarily and then engaged with and that if you let NATO go global, you are going to get wrapped into and drawn into an us and them zero-sum approach to international relations. That is the concern and that is why the resistance has existed. Not to go too far into the Committee's later commentary, I think we are at a moment where that perception could be changed and it could be helped to be changed because of changes both within governments in Europe and prospective changes in the United States, but I will leave that for the moment.

  Professor Cox: For me, it goes back to the question about the British national interest. I think the United States looks at NATO and says, "Does it serve our national interest?" and it is as simple as that. In the Cold War, it was a very simple answer to that question. After the end of the Cold War, without getting too historical, clearly there was not an easy answer to the question of what NATO was actually for and that was not just an academic question, by the way, that was an American question and indeed a question for everybody in Europe, "What's it for when there is no longer an enemy to fight?", and that was one problem for NATO and from the American perspective on it. Secondly, there is no longer any threat in Europe and it had always been a European-based organisation, so "What's it for?" is another question. There is then that huge question of the capabilities gap and "What are the Europeans for?" and, "To contribute to a military organisation, what are they for?". Okay, the Brits do a bit and the French in their own unambiguous way do their bit, but what are the rest for? As you saw, the military spending gap grew and grew and grew through the 1990s, so most Americans would ask from a national interest point of view, "There are several nice theme parks in Europe, but what's it for militarily?", and then of course we had the whole thing over Kosovo where clearly the Americans came out of it and Dana has written about this with great skill and he knows more about it than I do, but they came out of Kosovo saying, "Fighting war by committee is a problem. Why should I kind of consult with guys who don't want to do what I want to do militarily when I want to do what I want to do militarily?". I think that when you get into the post-9/11 situation, it is actually noticeable that NATO actually does not look terribly relevant immediately after 9/11. Article 5 is declared and I think the response in Washington, at least within some circles of the Bush Administration, is, "So what?" and then immediately in the first days, weeks and months of Afghanistan, the United States clearly did not go through NATO. It seems to me that they have had to come back to NATO for a variety of reasons partly which I think are to do with the disaster which is currently Iraq, partly because Afghanistan is still an ongoing problem and partly because I think in the end they do see that NATO is in the national interest. However, I do think that the world we are now living in, a world where the threats are different, where pre-emption has become the military doctrine of the United States and where the definition of alliances has moved over to things called `coalitions of the willing', I think that does raise a series of major questions about what an alliance of a stable and permanent character is for a power as strong as the United States. Why should they give consultation rights to those who do not contribute militarily to international security and who do not pay the same amount on defence and security as they do, and those are very legitimate, but tough questions that Americans ask in America and we have got to know that they do ask those questions because they may be very polite when they come to Europe, but they ask these questions very seriously on the Hill.

  Q88  Mr Hancock: Do they understand the Europeans' changing view of NATO because, if they do, why are they surprised when they make bilateral arrangements on missile defence with Poland and the Czech Republic and the rest of NATO find that a rather strange occurrence?

  Professor Cox: Well, the powerful do what the powerful do.

  Q89  Mr Hancock: But that means they do not understand then?

  Professor Cox: I think they simply act like a very, very, very powerful nation which sees NATO as one part of an overview it has of the whole world and it will deal bilaterally and in its own interests on certain things it would do and it will not get a pink permission slip from anybody to do it. In certain other areas, such as NATO, where it has to seek collective consultation, it will go in that direction. I think there is a contradiction there.

  Q90  Mr Hancock: Yes, a big one.

  Professor Cox: I accept the point.

  Dr Eyal: First, on the point of a missile defence, looking at it from the American perspective, they would argue that missile defence has been discussed in the NATO context for quite some time. The European answer has been, "We can't provide you an answer. It's all too difficult with the German coalition and France's elections", et cetera, et cetera, and the feeling was at the end that the only way that there would be an impulse or a push is by the Americans going in with the Poles and with the Czechs. I think they do understand the concerns of Europe, but, as Professor Cox says, at the end of the day they cannot understand why they must continually pay a political price for people who are not prepared to invest in their defence in an adequate manner, and they know that it would not be the same kind of investment, but not even in an adequate manner. I would like to pick up the point you mentioned about why the NATO global outreach has failed, just to strengthen the points of Dr Niblett. There are a few proposals, there is a dialogue going on with Japan, there is one going on with Australia and there is even a dialogue going on sotto voce, very quietly, with China. There is of course the Mediterranean dialogue which NATO has launched and a special one with the Gulf States. The reason it has not worked is that this is where Mark Webber's point about crowding out does make sense. The reason it did not work is that the European Union is pledged in economic terms to maintaining a unified position and the two simply could not be made to match. It is very difficult to see what NATO could offer to Japan and the Japanese were very interested to find out, but they have never got an answer, and it is very difficult to see what NATO could offer Australia. It is very easy to see what NATO could do in the Mediterranean, but then we have got the Barcelona Process and another process about to be launched by the French now, so I do not think that there is much scope for NATO enlarging its activities, despite the innumerable plans that are put on the table.

  Dr Allin: First of all, Professor Cox is absolutely correct about the lessons that many Americans drew from the Kosovo war. I would only want to add that that lesson is entirely perverse because there would have been no Kosovo war unless it was fought through NATO, but it only made sense in that way and its legitimacy, as opposed to its legality, was only established as a NATO operation. We cannot talk, or it would be idle to speculate, about when this might happen again and military strikes against Iran, well, it seems implausible, but one cannot imagine a place where it would be more plausible than within the UN Security Council and it could make a difference. On the global NATO issue, I think I may disagree with my colleagues a little bit. First of all, Afghanistan is not in Europe, as far as I know, so the sort of out-of-area issue is not really an issue anymore, that has been solved, but if you are talking about a global NATO where everyone is together as an alliance with the scope and the ambitions and the responsibilities sort of paralleling the United States, I think that obviously is not plausible and it is not going to work. Where is the United States likely to be, or not likely, but where is the United States possibly going to be involved in military action? There is a possibility of a war with China over Taiwan and that is a real possibility. I do not think it is plausible or necessarily even a good idea to ask NATO to sign on to something like that.

  Dr Webber: I would not disagree with most of what has been said, but there are just a few points which in a sense back up some of the observations. It seems to me that NATO has been, in the post-Cold War period, an organisation which the United States has tried to fashion in a way which serves its foreign policy interests, and part of the difficulty with NATO at the moment is that the utility of that strategy is no longer working perhaps in the way Washington and particularly the Pentagon would like. In the 1990s, there was a lot of success for American foreign policy in this respect. Enlargement was largely American and to some degree German policy, the strategy of NATO-Russian relations was largely led by Clinton and his very dynamic Deputy-Secretary of State, Stobe Talbott, the intervention in Kosovo, although Tony Blair played a fairly significant role in galvanising the Alliance, was certainly executed, by and large, by the United States and the current agenda of military transformation is largely led by developments in the American military in order to make NATO more interoperable still with American Armed Forces. Now, it seems to me that those successes served the United States rather well. It preserved its influence in Europe and extended its influence in Eastern Europe. Talk of a global NATO is a way of consolidating American influence in Central Asia and to some degree also in the South Caucuses, so in that sense NATO remains of some use, but the notion of a global NATO, it seems to me, is where the strategy hits the buffers because NATO is not, I think, well-geared to play that role. There is clear dissent within the Alliance on whether it should play that role and over the last year there has been some back-pedalling on this sort of rhetoric in any case. I think if that division becomes more obvious, and it was fairly hidden in the Riga Summit Declaration, the last Defence Ministerial hardly mentioned global partnerships, and it will be interesting to see whether the upcoming Defence Ministerial does either, so I think it may be an idea that is running into the sands, even though it is still one favoured in Washington.

  Q91  Willie Rennie: Could you see a circumstance where you would have a series of global treaties between the different partners with the US at the centre of each of them and, if that was the case, one with, say, Australia and one with, say, Japan and another one in development with the US common to them all, what would be the impact on NATO if those organisations were to develop?

  Dr Niblett: Do you mean a series of global treaties between NATO and those countries or the United States?

  Q92  Willie Rennie: The United States.

  Dr Niblett: My only point on that is that I think the United States has most of those treaties already lined up with Australia and New Zealand and with Japan in particular.

  Q93  Willie Rennie: And what about the impact on NATO from those treaties?

  Dr Niblett: Maybe my colleagues know better than I in terms of how deeply integrated they are, but I know in the Japanese case that there are US troops deployed out there already and with Korea, they have troops deployed out there. These are quite integrated and quite elaborate arrangements that they have already, so to a certain extent you could argue that the United States already has that global network of alliances established and set up in many cases in treaty format and the North Atlantic Treaty happens to be the bit for that area, but what perhaps is different in terms of coming back to this discussion of a global NATO, a lot of this is designed also for domestic politics, I think some of the push that is going on for Rudy Giuliani to mention, "We must enlarge NATO to Israel", you do wonder a little bit how much of that is domestic politics and how much of that is strategy. One should separate these things out, but one should not forget, and maybe this does get to your point, Mr Rennie, the United States has made a shift, and while it is hard to generalise about the United States, many of those involved in high-level politics and those involved in government have made a shift in terms of how they think about NATO from an alliance to a pool of allies. I do not think they necessarily think of it as an alliance as much anymore. They do see it as a pool of allies who happen to be conveniently and well-integrated, as I said earlier, around a military command, around a certain disciplined structure in which the United States can be heavily involved in debating, in engaging as an active member at the table not under a caucusing role and they can actually set out a plan for the future. We should not forget that missile defence was designed very much as a domestic strategy that started off with missile deployments in the Aleutian Islands and in which Europe has now been put into a mix as a US priority. The kind of alliances I was talking about earlier with Japan and with Australia which are being strengthened right now are very much part of this looking around the world at the mix and match of priorities that serve very much a US interest and, as a result at the same time, the United States has become much less doctrinaire about how it thinks about the European Union's defence capabilities and they, in essence, let us worry about it. There is less of a theology about NATO right now within US thinking; NATO does not help that much with homeland security which is a huge priority for any US government. You said we would get on later to the issue of the ESDP-NATO linkage, but I think the United States steps back much further from NATO than it did in the past.

  Q94  Mr Hancock: I was in Brussels recently, meeting American ambassadors there to NATO and to the EU. The issue that they raised was that there was a fundamental shift in their policy and that they were no longer up for peacekeeping and that the war-fighting capability was one thing where they now accepted that they had made a mistake in saying that they did not do peacekeeping. Do you perceive that to be the case at all, that there is a definite change in policy?

  Dr Eyal: The simple answer is yes, there has been. I would not say it is definite, but it is definitely a marked shift. One could see it in the adoption of a comprehensive approach to Afghanistan, the so-called `comprehensive approach' which basically tries to embrace what are increasingly seen in that context as superficial distinctions between imposing peace and maintaining peace, all the usual arguments of the last 20 years. There is a feeling that if NATO is going to be involved in any conflict, it will need to have ideally the high-intensity and the low-intensity warfare capabilities at the same time. The problem always with the Europeans is that they used to argue that a while back to the Americans and now they are getting rather worried that the Americans are arguing back to them because the feeling now is that NATO could be relegated to the lower end of the spectrum, mopping up after the high-intensity operations which the Americans may have launched. I think one could trace exactly the point that you make, the shift in the American view, to the departure of Mr Rumsfeld from the Defense Department; it is clearly there.

  Professor Cox: The word `Rumsfeld' immediately precipitates a kind of wry snigger around most tables these days, but Rumsfeld used a term which actually Robin also used, but in a different form. When Rumsfeld said, "Basically we're looking for a coalition of the willing", all the hands went up around Europe and in the UK with people saying, "My goodness me! What does this mean? It's a highly opportunistic approach to the definition of what was a formally structured alliance", but Robin, who is not Donald Rumsfeld of course, talked of, "We've moved from an alliance to a pool of people we can deploy". Well, by any other name, that strikes me as a coalition of the willing, so Rumsfeld may have departed the political stage and everybody rubs their hands and says, "Well, thank goodness the Bush doctrine is now dead and buried", which I do not believe for one minute, by the way, but Rumsfeldian kind of thinking about what is the purpose of alliances in the age of the War on Terror and in an age of American military predominance and in a way where we do not have fixed threats as we did in the past, I think that kind of thinking has not disappeared at all.

  Q95  Mr Holloway: But, Professor, was it always thus?

  Professor Cox: How far are we going back now?

  Q96  Mr Holloway: Is it not always going to be the case that states, whatever alliances they are involved in, are going to commit big or commit symbolically based upon how it impacts them?

  Professor Cox: Well, in some deep sense international relations has not changed for 2,000 years, so in that sense it has been ever thus, that there are some fundamentals of international politics and power and relations with states and other states and coalitions and the causes of wars, and I do accept that point, but I do think that something fundamental changed because of the end of the Cold War, to make the obvious point, when you removed a single magnetic north in your strategic thinking called the Soviet Union around which you then constructed a clearly focused European alliance. You knew exactly where you were and what you were doing and I think that has changed post the Cold War.

  Chairman: I do want now to throw France into the mix.

  Q97  Robert Key: Please can we focus on France. In the dying days of the Chirac presidency, as part of this inquiry, I went to the Elyse«e for a briefing with the President's military advisers on the French perception of NATO and I was quite surprised to discover that even the Chirac regime recognised the significance of NATO as the ultimate guarantor of France's nationhood. I also was fascinated to talk to academics who seemed to agree that when it came to France's relationship with Europe and the European defence policy, France would always talk the talk, but never walk the walk. What difference has it made with President Sarkozy in post and what perception does Sarkozy have of NATO and what perception of France does America have of France's role in NATO?

  Dr Webber: If I could just say a couple of words on Sarkozy, I think it is well-known now that his position on NATO has seemingly shifted, but what is significant is that he has laid down certain conditions for French re-entry to the NATO integrated military structure, and I would just repeat the two in order to demonstrate possibly how problematic they are. One is that there should be progress on European defence, for which read `ESDP' which we will come to, and the second, and this is the one on which it is likely to falter and where it faltered in the mid-1990s when Chirac had a similar position, is that there should be a more prominent French position within allied structures. Now, I think it was in 1996 that a similar proposal hit the dirt because Chirac insisted that a French commander head AFSOUTH in Naples and the Americans were not happy with that and resisted and the French resented it. If Sarkozy keeps to the conditions he has laid down, I do not think we can expect a French return to the integrated military structures. Any return may be more formal than real in any case. The French, despite the fact that they do not sit on certain committees, are well-integrated in many respects in NATO. Over the years, I have visited a fair number of NATO command structures and the French presence is always very visible, the French role in defence thinking and strategic thinking is always very obvious and the French role in advising on military transformation is always very evident. The French have 1,000-plus in Afghanistan at the moment and they played a very prominent role in KFOR and in SFOR, et cetera, et cetera, so the Sarkozy position may be more words than substance in the sense that there is a continuity to the French role in NATO and I think the French have always regarded NATO as very important. However, the contradiction of course is that they regard a Europeanisation of defence as equally important. It did not happen in NATO in the 1990s in ESDI, so the acronym shifted to `ESDP' and I think that is where the real crux of the matter lies, the relationship between those two.

  Dr Allin: Sarkozy is important because I think he clearly has personally fewer dogmatic inhibitions about these issues, maybe not quite to say that he is congenitally pro-American, but he clearly has greater affinities and understanding or less worry about maintaining a particular French line, so in those circumstances, although these conditions are very important and could, as in the 1990s, torpedo the whole thing, perhaps he will be more flexible and I think that is at least probable. Of course the French military circles—

  Q98  Chairman: And would the Americans be more flexible as well?

  Dr Allin: That, I do not know. Whilst I think it is true, as I think Dr Niblett said, that Americans have kind of given up being so worried about ESDP, I think we could revert to the problem that the United States, because of its power, can basically feel that it can deliver more ultimatums. I just do not know the answer to that and I do not know how the political constellation is going to go. I would think that the difference between one Presidential candidate and another on this score could actually be very important. French military circles have always wanted to be closer to NATO and, as I have suggested, in many ways they are. It has been more of a diplomatic idea to insist on French separation, but I think one thing I have noticed in France which is dawning and is sinking in, and not too soon as far as I am concerned, is the understanding that it is structurally impossible to pursue European ambitions, to build European structures, European unity on what is even perceived as an anti-American or an anti-NATO basis; it just does not work. It did not work with the old European Union and it certainly does not work with the new European Union and I think the French understand this. When I talk about an anti-American basis, I do not even necessarily think that is the right word, but they have come to recognise or they are coming to recognise that if it is perceived as an anti-American project, that is already a problem.

  Dr Niblett: I completely agree with Dr Allin's last point there and perhaps I could enlarge on that and make two other points. Number one, I think that there is a realisation that a separate France that is anti the United States, not only can it not achieve its goals vis-a"-vis ESDP, but it is actually weaker within Europe and within the European Union, so I think we do have a fundamental change here and I would go more for this being actually quite an important moment. Whether it is successful because of tactical, political issues, we can worry about, but I think that the further enlargement of the EU has fundamentally changed the balance within the EU. France cannot rely on a partnership with Germany to be able to pursue its own goals anymore. Germany is pulled more in the centre of Europe, it is pulled in more directions, so France has to strike out more on its own and it cannot rely on a Franco-German solution in the way it did for being able to further its own cause within the European Union. In essence, therefore, looking out and looking for new options and breaking the mould and the consensus is an important part of what Sarkozy and his team, I think, have realised they need to do and there is no more totemic thing to take on than this. I think it is also part of Sarkozy trying to shake up the French bureaucracy and, as we know, Quai d'Orsay, the foreign ministry, has traditionally been more anti this and the French military, as I have mentioned, has been more pro and I do think it is well-known that President Sarkozy's view of the Quai d'Orsay is not particularly positive and I think he is taking them on.

  Q99  Robert Key: Has the Pentagon woken up to this change?

  Dr Niblett: I think the Pentagon more possibly than other parts of the American system. But the other audience you often need to look for in Washington is the Congress, and this is where, I think, President Sarkozy has been especially clever and I think he is clever partly because he has been very well advised by Jean-David Levitte who, as you know, was the Ambassador there who was recalled to service as Sarkozy's adviser and he knows Washington very well, they are saying things to gain the confidence of Washington. The commentary about Iran, the tough language, it has an effect and it permeates through. It counters a little bit the freedom fries perspective of France, and I will not use all the other descriptions for the sake of the record, but I think that they have realised that they need at least to talk the talk at the beginning if it is going to be possible for the Americans to let them walk the walk, and this is where I think it does become important because I think the United States, which is my third point, has a different view. We had a visit by a senior US official to Chatham House just last week where this issue was heavily debated. You cannot take one official's viewpoint on this to represent the whole Administration, but their view was, "Come on, let's talk about it". The view of ESDP today is not the view of ESDP or the ESDI in 1996—not for necessarily good reasons for NATO. I think the US is much less altruistic and it is much more self-interested, so it does not care as much about NATO, but that does open up an opportunity. It is a more flexible organisation. France will not join the NATO of 1996 if it rejoins in 2007, if you see what I mean, some form of integrated military command structure and I think this is an important moment.

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