Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)


9 OCTOBER 2007

  Q100  Robert Key: Can I just ask about the global role that America perceives for NATO and is Sarkozy moving in that direction?

  Dr Niblett: I would think not; in the sense that that is something the French retain a nervousness about, but they also know that the United States is going to be very choosy about when it goes with NATO abroad as well. I think they see the politics on the US side on that as well.

  Dr Eyal: I am absolutely convinced that the French are serious in their overture now on the integrated military command structure. I think the key, as Robin Niblett pointed out, is the fact that they will make no progress on European defence with a large number of former communist countries from Central and Eastern Europe unless the project is seen as being another pillar strengthening, or parallel to, NATO rather than in opposition or as a substitute. However, this is where it will stop. I do not believe for a moment that the French will accept NATO taking a larger role in, let us say, the Pacific area. I think that this is one where they would look very much upon the European Union, and especially if the European Treaty is adopted, and a unified foreign policy of the European Union as leading.

  Professor Cox: I have two very quick points. It is a great moment and I do not think we should underestimate that. France has gone through a crisis between 2003 and 2007. It had its Iraq moment and that collapsed around it and we also know there is a whole debate going on inside France about the economic model and all the rest of it, so Sarkozy is coming out at the moment of a sense of decline and crisis and the old formulas have failed both externally and internally and I think it has to be taken extremely seriously and more seriously, I think, than in the 1990s. In that sense, the 1990s does not give us a guide to the possibilities that have opened up today. I would simply, however, make two points, going back to the scepticism which was, I think, expressed by Mark Webber at the very beginning. One, can he overcome the French political establishment? I am seriously doubtful. I think there are still very deep and imbued views inside large sections of the political establishment and the intellectual establishment. He is not an e«narque-iste, Sarkozy. He comes from outside, he is an outsider, and I think there are still powerful forces of resistance intellectually and philosophically which are very deeply embedded into what I call almost `French identity'. It, secondly, comes to another point which is connected: can he overcome Gaullism? Gaullism is a coherent philosophical doctrine which has defined and shaped French foreign policy since 1956 again or 1958 when the President became President of this republic. How deep is that Gaullism and can that be overcome? If it cannot be and if it is so embedded into the French identity, society and politics, then there are two philosophical opposition positions here on global security in Europe.

  Q101  Mr Jenkin: It is a brilliant evidence session, but Robin Niblett has stolen the words from my lips, that the reason why the United States cares less about the ESDP is because it cares less about NATO and its disappointment with NATO is tangible. Should we not be very careful about what President Sarkozy is doing? Should the Americans not remember that we only resolved the NATO crisis in 2003 before the invasion of Iraq because France was not sitting in the military committee and where does the British national interest lie in this? Is President Sarkozy not seeking to supplant what has been a traditional Anglo-American partnership with a Franco-American partnership? As our new Prime Minister appears visibly cooler towards President Bush and his predecessor, is President Sarkozy not jumping into the breach and what should the British Government do about it?

  Dr Eyal: First, on the episode of 2003, you are absolutely right, that one of the reasons why the French are now accepting their perhaps re-entry in the integrated military command structure makes sense is that they have discovered that their ability to veto issues around the Permanent Representatives' table was limited with Lord Robinson reinventing the wheel and deciding that this was a purely military issue which should be left to the Chiefs of Staff. There is an element there and it is not a secret that the Ministry of Defence in London is a bit doubtful about the impact of France's re-entry into the military structure and what it would mean. Nevertheless, I would submit that it is a risk worth taking. I believe that it is not in France's interest to paralyse the military structure which would be the ultimate outcome of a bad scenario mainly because I am not sure that anyone in Paris believes that they could now push what was the traditional French agenda on the European Union. As Robin Niblett reminded all of us, the Union today is not the Union that Chirac wanted, dreamed of and ultimately obtained, so in that respect it will not be one that will be manoeuvred by the old traditional French ways. As to whether Sarkozy can supplant any other European country in a special relationship with the United States, I doubt it. I think that what Michael Cox has suggested is extremely important. Please look at the French media, please look at the whole French intellectual elite. Any president who tries to supplant Britain in the special relationship with the United States, to use the completely opposite example, would have a very, very tough fight and the potential internal domestic benefits in France would simply be too small. That does not mean to say that Britain does not need to watch the situation very carefully, but it does mean to say that Mr Sarkozy has a very long journey to cover.

  Q102  Mr Borrow: We ought to move on to the relationship between NATO and the ESDP and the practical difficulties in that relationship. To what extent are there difficulties and what are the main obstacles to effective co-operation and I would like you to touch specifically on the issue around Turkey and Cyprus?

  Dr Eyal: I think the Turkish-Cyprus question is a difficult one, there is no doubt about it. It is one on which everyone is tiptoeing both in NATO and in the European Union, but I do not think that that is the crux of the problem. The crux of the problem goes much, much deeper and at the end of the day, having looked at it for years, and one could go into all the details of who meets where, what the formats of the decisions are, but my guess is that the institutions are not compatible because they are bureaucratically incompatible. Despite the celebration of a planning cell within the European Union, there is no military culture in the European bureaucracy; they do not know how to deal with NATO. What you have and what everyone tells you of is this constant sort of periodic luncheons or breakfasts between the President of the Commission and the Secretary General of NATO, but this is at the formal, superficial level. The reality is that the organisations will work only when there are docking mechanisms between their bureaucrats at various levels, and institutionally the European Union is incapable of realising that at the moment. It just does not have the staff and it does not have the abilities. It has the desire to acquire powers, but it does not have them in practice and it does not know how to discharge them. That is, I think, fundamentally the problem, quite apart from the usual political issues that we all know.

  Dr Webber: I would largely agree with that. I think the Turkish problem is important, but I do agree in the sense that a focus on the Turkish-Cyprus problem often means that we overlook some of the others and there is a real institutional issue. A lot of the crafting between NATO and the EU over the last six or seven years has circled around institutional design and through the Berlin-plus mechanism and so on which has been successful to some degree. But what looms large now, it seems to me, is that NATO and the EU work increasingly together, as they have done in the Balkans to some degree, and they are, and will, in Afghanistan as well. It is a working relationship between NATO and the European Commission which, as far as I understand at the moment, is completely absent. The Commission does not play a leading role in the ESDP, but the Commission does play a leading role in the release of funds for the ESDP and it has an oversight role over the manner in which ESDP funds are used and how the ESDP in its civilian dimension is exercised. Let us not forget the upcoming EU role in Afghanistan where there will be an important policing role, so the crafting of that relationship, it seems to me, will be a real challenge. Some of the proposals, and I think there was one at the WEU Assembly recently, is the notion that some sort of working relationship be established between the office of the Secretary General at NATO and the office of the President of the European Commission. I do not know if this is being actively thought on, but it is that sort of creative thinking that needs to be looked at, I think.

  Dr Allin: I think all of this is correct. The lack of a kind of military culture in the EU is a problem. Of course that is precisely what members who want planning cells and so forth are trying to overcome, but it is a long way from that and it seems to me that the basic question is if you go back to St Malo and consider what was that all about, now it seems to me what that was all about was an agreement, and this is crucial, between a British Prime Minister and a French President that in the context of what was happening in the Balkans and what was brewing in Kosovo and what was happening in Washington in terms of indecision and inter-agency fighting about whether intervention was a good idea, there was a view that the British Prime Minister shared the view that an important matter of European security could not await the outcome of an inter-agency debate in Washington. Now, if that is considered a problem and if that is still considered a problem, then it seems to me that there are ways to overcome these bureaucratic and cultural issues. If it is not considered a problem, then it is not a problem, but it was then and it seemed that there was a certain logic to it.

  Professor Cox: I think the thing I would say about the ESDP is that it can do some useful stuff, but it cannot do the serious stuff and I think that is the way we should approach it. It can do some very useful things usually after NATO has done the serious stuff. That has been the history so far for the Balkans and we can see the role of the ESDP in Afghanistan today, almost zero, so it does useful stuff and I do not think anybody should get too upset about it or too worried about it. There was kind of a lot of nonsense being talked on the other side of the Atlantic and around this city about it being NATO-threatening and NATO busting and all that stuff and I do not think that should be taken seriously. I think it just can be used for specific purposes and I do not think anybody in Europe really takes it beyond that any longer. Going back to the French thing quickly, I think Sarkozy has drawn that conclusion as well. The idea that you can have a European defence, a European Army, a European wing which in a sense is going to balance NATO in any fundamental way, challenge it or replace it, has simply gone out of the window. It would be useful? Serious in terms of deep, hard security? I think probably not. We are going to live with that for a very long time to come and I do not think we should be worried about it either.

  Q103  Mr Jones: I agree with the analysis but we have the unfortunate task sometimes of having to attend meetings of European counterparts in the European Parliament. I agree with your approach but there is clearly still a clamour, if not a creeping, approach from the European Parliament. They want one more control over foreign affairs defence policy. I do not think they see the ESDP in the way that you do. I agree with your position on it. They do think it should be a rival to NATO and that is not just the French; that is also some of the British who have gone native.

  Professor Cox: I know. I lecture frequently now in Brussels and you do meet that viewpoint. My only response is: where is the beef? How much are you guys spending per year of GDP on military and security? How much real coordination, how much integrated military structure is there actually going on here? Secondly, the Europeans themselves fundamentally disagree on certain fundamental security issues as well, as we have seen. The enlargement process brought in a number of countries from the former Communist countries with rather different views on the United States than some of what we might call old Europe, if I dare use that phrase. Yes, you do meet that attitude, but I would not get too worried about it.

  Dr Niblett: First of all, at the operational level, the ESDP type forces, Eurocorps and others have been able to work reasonably well under NATO command in recent years, whether in Kosovo or in Afghanistan, at a military level, despite some of the intelligence cooperation limits that are important and do limit therefore the total potential. Despite that, it is possible for the ESDP—let us call them European defined forces—to be able to work with NATO forces on common goals. When we talk about the ESDP and NATO not working together, we are talking about something bigger. We are talking about what is force for and, in a way, it is a strange thing. When European forces inside NATO talk about the ESDP, they seem to be talking about different things. NATO seems to represent a view in which military force is an important part of a solution. The ESDP is reflecting a different purpose of force which is to pop in, separate the competing forces, oversee the election, deal with the immediate crisis, help with the peace keeping and get out ideally; and, ultimately, military force ends up making the situation worse rather than better. I am drawing a little bit of a straw man here between the two organisations but I think it is important to get to what is the problem. ESDP forces have been defined slightly as an EU conception of what force is about in general terms. NATO still comes out of an environment, a period, in which force was used for very different purposes. Therefore, we see a mismatch in the way of strategic concept and we have a mismatch of forces. The battle groups are great concepts in a way but they are designed to come in and get out. As a senior official in the European Defence Agency commented recently, the need in the future is probably only going to be for sustainable forces rather than for rapid forces. My concern is that the ESDP is designed around rapid action and NATO is trying to struggle with what is sustainable. Therefore, the problems are much deeper in terms of Turkey.

  Q104  Mr Hamilton: Following what Robin has said, that sounds very much like the role of the United Nations, not Europe. You have talked about the police coming in and washing up. If I was a member of the public out there and I thought about what the United Nations do, that is what they do. All we are talking about here is duplication of work which is ludicrous.

  Dr Niblett: This is where subcontracting comes in. Who will the United Nations subcontract that operation to? Many in the European Union would like them to subcontract it to the EU. Then it has the legal mandate. It is not either/or.

  Q105  Mr Jenkin: This all begs the question: should there not be a clear division of responsibility between the EU and NATO? Should that not be achievable?

  Dr Eyal: In theory, yes. One could see the outlines of a grand bargain, as it were, fairly easily. The European Union does have the staying power in financial terms and in organisational terms. Please look at the administration of places like Bosnia, for instance, to see that they can take countries which need nurturing and build them up. Once they get going on the peace reconstruction process, they are far better equipped for that than NATO, both bureaucratically and in financial terms. They do have one great asset that NATO does not have, which is central funding. We tend to forget that. That is one of the big banes of NATO, that it does not have central funding, with a few minor exceptions. Therefore, there is a staying power which would suggest that the EU should take one side of an operation while the higher end—that is, the military side—should be left to NATO. We are back again to ultimately a political question and one of aspirations. Neither institution ultimately wishes to be consigned to one role in these conflicts, partly because we do not know what kind of conflicts there are likely to be in the future, partly because both institutions in this context are fighting for their survival as they see it.

  Dr Allin: I think there is a logical division of labour but it is not one that is very easy to spell out in advance. It has a lot to do first of all in a particular crisis with whether the United States is going to be involved. It is going to want to be involved. You can imagine the European Union being more likely to be deployed in sub-Saharan Africa. I mentioned the Democratic Republic of the Congo example. I forget which one of my colleagues was complaining about the idea of in and out and not preparing for sustainability but this might be something that battle groups can do fairly well because they are more ready to go in at the service of the United Nations to try to stabilise a situation but not having the political support throughout Europe to imagine a prolonged deployment. I think it is called punctuated intervention. It is an idea that I think makes sense and to which the ESDP may be more suited than the United States and NATO. Again, we can draw these notional ideas about sub-Saharan Africa and specific cases, Europe to a large extent, the Balkans and so forth but I do not really think you can necessarily have hard and fast rules.

  Dr Webber: I think there should be a division of labour but I do not think there will be because the tasks which both the European Union and NATO have increasingly taken on are too complex and there is too much duplication. Any grand bargain that should occur between NATO and the European Union should not be a bargain simply between those two organisations. The parts of the world they are now involved in involve other actors to a very considerable degree, one of which has been mentioned, which is the United Nations. Others perhaps we will come on to. I do not think you can talk about grand bargains in the so-called arc of crisis, through the Caucasus, central Asia, Russia and China. A couple of organisations which are very obscure and consequently always overlooked, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Shanghai Corporation Organisation, are of increasing importance in that part of the world.

  Q106  Mr Jenkin: Are you not all confirming that this relationship between the EU and NATO is fundamentally unstable? They are in fact very different organisations in that the European Union has a much more legally superior structure and, with the addition of the European Reform Treaty, which we hear this morning is the same as the Constitution substantially according to the European Scrutiny Committee on the advice of Speaker's Counsel, how are we going to prevent the very duplication and replication of NATO assets which we have always wanted to prevent?

  Dr Niblett: I find it hard to see that they can a priori be incompatible because the same countries are choosing to do things through different tracks. To say they are incompatible is almost like saying your right hand is incompatible with your left hand. To me, they are part of the same countries in many cases.

  Q107  Mr Jenkin: Your right hand and your left hand do not try and do the same thing at the same time.

  Dr Niblett: No. This is what we are talking about. Can you get them to work in coordination and not try to do the same thing at the same time? Just to state the obvious, we cannot have a bargain between hard and soft power where NATO does hard and the ESDP just does soft. Some of the thinking in Afghanistan throws a strong light on why this would be a bad idea.

  Q108  Chairman: Why is that obvious?

  Dr Niblett: I think it is obvious because what potentially happens is that a particular chain of command in which the US is likely to be dominant, because of the size of the forces and the strength and sophistication of the forces it has, is the hard power part and the European side, which has much less of those forces on a sustainable basis, will be involved inevitably on the soft side. Those two strategies will not necessarily match because, as we have seen from national caveats which seem to permeate all aspects not only of NATO operations but definitely ESDP operations where you do not even have an integrated military command, you end up with people doing different things for different objectives. In Afghanistan we have in many cases the US forces going round trying to kill people at the same time as—

  Q109  Mr Jenkin: It is the antithesis of the comprehensive approach.

  Dr Niblett: Exactly. That is my concern.

  Professor Cox: There is no fundamental incompatibility at the moment but there is a potential incompatibility and I do not think one can ignore that. The origins of the ESDP, complex though they are, still arise out of a European desire to frankly let Europe do more and not have the United States define every single global agenda. The incompatibility will be managed, it seems to me, as long as the ESDP is not terribly serious. If the ESDP did get very serious, there may be an incompatibility. Indeed, if the European Union—whether through a Constitution or a Treaty; I would not dare comment on either—were to become far more significant as a foreign policy actor, which seems to be implied in what has been going on, again there could be an incompatibility. There is an ambiguity at the moment which could become a tension other things being equal and if things were to change, but it is there. Maybe Robin and I do not agree on this completely. I am not sure it is whether the left hand is compatible with the right hand. I think there could be a point where the left hand could start fighting with the right.

  Q110  Mr Holloway: Is there not a danger, when you have two organisations in the same place but slightly at cross purposes, that you undermine the whole thing, the British and American principles of counter-insurgency warfare? If you do not have unity of command and unity of purpose, you are starting from a very bad place.

  Dr Niblett: I would argue that that argues therefore for having greater unity of command and the biggest case—for example, in Afghanistan—is that we do need somebody who is able to coordinate precisely those two parts. You are right. Without that greater concentration of empowering a person or a group overseen by a person to dominate that, yes, you could end up precisely with that kind of tension, as we have seen right now. On the other hand, this idea that the EU can bring different forces to the table in a post-conflict environment is an important one. The police force, the gendarmerie, the development support are more likely to be brought into a post-conflict environment through an ESDP that is tied into an EU mechanism than through a NATO one, unless we are going to end up with a duplicating operation on both sides.

  Dr Allin: The problems that we see in practice are not problems that so far have been created by a European Union aspiration. They are a factor of national sovereignty and different national cultures. I speak here in terms of Afghanistan or a country like Germany. German inhibitions and national caveats are not caused by the European Union. They would not go away if the European Union abandoned all ambitions in defence policy.

  Q111  Mr Jones: Have we reached the outer limits of NATO? If we have not, what are the future prospects? What are the consequences for the countries that are left out if we say that NATO is now closed to new partners?

  Dr Eyal: We have not reached the outer limits. I am not persuaded by the argument that is very frequently made that NATO had indigestion from the large waves that came in. If one looks at the decision making processes in Brussels, one would see that the same countries which created difficulties in the past are creating them now and they happen to be on what is called the old Europe rather than the new Europe. The large influx of new members has not created any problems. In fact, they have been rather scrupulous in their commitments, probably more than most people expected. One should not put the shutters down. At the same time, it is clear that we are talking about very difficult countries, some of them fairly dubious countries, that are putting themselves forward, with a much bigger geographic dispersion. Talking about the Caucasus as being part of it is understandable but it is not something that immediately comes to people's minds in most of Europe as being part of the continent. There is a problem in keeping countries out. The problem is that, unlike the first or the second post-Cold War waves of enlargements, where the European Union was able to walk step in step with NATO, in the case of some of the countries left out, the European Union has no better options than NATO, with the possible exception of Croatia.

  Q112  Mr Jones: When I visited Poland and other countries before they came into NATO or the EU, some of the former eastern European countries saw it as a badge that you had to have on your lapel to see that you have advanced. To what extent are we looking at it in terms of what they can bring to the table rather than it just being a badge that they have to get to say that somehow they have progressed from the old, former Soviet Union days?

  Dr Webber: This goes to a well worn phrase: are new members consumers or producers of security? Most of the new entrants into NATO have shown a great deal of will in their willingness to go off on NATO missions and so on but have brought very little economically. I personally do not see that as a problem because I think NATO's strength historically has been to pacify its membership as well as to project itself externally. Part and parcel of enlargement, it seems to me, is to continue with that process. Going back to the question, I think NATO enlargement will continue. I do not think it has reached its limits. The two most credible candidates, by the way, are Finland and Sweden but they will not join in the sense that they are not formal candidates, but they could easily be absorbed. I think one should watch that in the very long term. There is some possibility in the north. If you go to the south and the east, it seems almost inevitable that Macedonia, Croatia and Albania will join NATO. They will probably get an invite in 2008 and join in 2010. That is the way the pattern has worked in the nineties and in the early part of this century. A country joins the Membership Action Plan or its forerunner, it then inevitably gets an invite to NATO and then inevitably joins. The real crunch, it seems to me, will come after these three states. You can envisage Bosnia perhaps at some very large, distant future joining and even Kosovo and Serbia as independents for the sake of completing the jigsaw in that part of the world, but I think it is extremely unlikely that Ukraine and Georgia will join, despite the fact that I know Georgia is very much on the radar of American foreign policy. They are very far from the criteria. It would cause no end of trouble with Russia, which Russia is already exploiting. It seems to me that the United States gets sufficient strategic advantage with countries like Georgia bilaterally in any case without having to go the route of having them in NATO.

  Q113  Chairman: Yes or no? Do you agree with Dr Webber's analysis of Ukraine and Georgia?

  Professor Cox: Not exactly.

  Dr Allin: Yes.

  Professor Cox: Enlargement occurred in the 1990s, not simply from external pressure but by demand. It was demand driven. Namely, Poland wanted NATO membership. The only qualification I would put to what Mark has argued is that what happens if the Ukrainian Government duly elected comes to NATO and says, "We want to join"? That was the dilemma with Poland back in 1992, 1993 and 1994. There was no immediate push to enlarge NATO in 1990 and 1991. I used to take my students off to Brussels and give them 25 reasons why enlargement was a very bad idea, not a good idea. It came about by demand from democratic and newly elected governments. I agree with what Mark has said but what happens if you do get democratically elected governments in Ukraine or Tbilisi who say, "We want to join. We do not want a half-way house where you want to call it something else, PFP"? That could be the moment which formulates views about should we be in favour or not of enlargement challenged by political pressures on the ground, as it was in the early 1990s.

  Q114  Mr Jenkins: That is the difficulty we have at the present time. We have a NATO Russia committee operating and trying to bring Russia into the centre of activities. I feel that Russia has been isolated and put in the outer ranges and the advancement of NATO across Europe for the security of the American cloak rather than anything to do with Europe to save the countries going back into the former Soviet Union or being overrun by Russia gives us a major problem. Russia is now developing and gaining lots and lots of money being sent there by Europe by the truck load, to pay for the oil and gas. They are spending more on the military hardware provision, like a 700 per cent increase, and they are going to walk the world stage again as a super power. Nobody will be able to get in their way while they are doing it because now they have a white knight in charge of their country who says, "You have been humiliated and I am going to put you back where you really and truly belong as a super power, walking the world stage." How is NATO going to be able to cope with this, because it was arranged, developed and built to stop the Soviet armies walking across Europe. If we perceive a slight instance that it might happen again, will that not refocus the countries in Europe to reconsider an old NATO?

  Dr Eyal: I disagree fundamentally with the Russian suggestion that it was NATO which was responsible for the humiliation of Russia. The people who were responsible for the humiliation of Russia were the Soviet leaders themselves and the Russian leaders thereafter. A good argument would have been that the end of the Soviet empire was a liberating experience for the Russians themselves. This is what other countries, including Britain and France, have ultimately made. It is not the argument that Russian leaders, including Mr Putin, have made. To return to the NATO issue, there have been enormous efforts to engage in a dialogue with the Russians. There was a great deal of effort after the Istanbul summit in 1999 to expand the dialogue. If the Russians wanted, they could have had an enormous amount of cooperation with NATO. Every single time, it was either rejected or simply neutered. I know because I took part in a lot of this effort. There were genuine efforts undertaken by NATO. What has happened—which NATO could do nothing about—is that the Russians resent the territorial status quo as established at the end of the Cold War. They are in all their moves over the last 18 months trying to reverse that particular status quo, the repudiation or the withdrawal from the CFE being one classic example of a lot of very spurious arguments that could have easily been addressed with the Treaty being implemented. There are many things we could have done better but I would not accept that it was NATO that humiliated them. Although I know that this is the argument the Russians make very often, I would not accept that NATO was not aware of the sensitivities in Moscow.

  Dr Allin: I disagree. It was an argument that the Russians made and believed. The entire premise of NATO enlargement was to ignore that, it seems to me. It is fine if you think it is important enough but you cannot have it both ways. I am not in any way defending anything that has happened in Russia since the end of the Cold War and I am certainly not defending the policies of the Putin government but it seems to me that it is elementary that there was an understanding of a peaceful end to the Cold War that had to preclude the expansion of an alliance that was remaining for the new members basically, an anti-Russian alliance. This was said at the very beginning of our session here. From their point of view, that is the most important that NATO was about. They required the security from NATO to be defended from Russia? I do not think so. I do not think Russia is threatening them but in any event we can ignore but I do not think we can deny the Russian perspective in all of this, which is that the West has taken advantage of their weakness. I think that has caused us problems in our relationship with Russia. I am not blaming NATO for everything that has gone wrong in Russia. Obviously that has deeper roots but I think NATO enlargement has been undertaken with a kind of strategic carelessness in these terms.

  Dr Niblett: I think Dana Allin and Jonathan both make very good points. Even though they contradict each other, I thought the most important point was Dana Allin's point. You have to make a choice. We are trying to have it both ways. We want Russia to like us. At the same time we want to enlarge NATO and everyone to feel happy. You cannot have both. A choice was made and I think it was the right choice, as long as we knew why we were making it and what some of the potential implications were going to be. A resurgent, strong Russia, as we have today, alongside the countries who are currently in NATO not in NATO would worry me more than the current situation we have now with a resurgent Russia being annoyed that these countries are in NATO and we are even talking about potentially expanding it a little further. I would go along with the argument that there was a geopolitical vacuum in Central and Eastern Europe in 1990 and vacuums are better filled than not filled. Ultimately, the choices taken were the right ones. What it means in terms of our relationship with Russia going forward—I do think we need to be sensitive to their sense of humiliation but my premise point on Russia is that at the moment this is a country that sees the world through a very different prism to the way we see it in the European Union. Russia sees the world in zero sum terms that we are the most ill equipped to deal with. An element of toughness will be respected and will serve us better than the reverse.

  Dr Webber: In an attempt to adopt a middle position between those who have just spoken, it is very easy to give Russia a bad press, particularly in light of some of the developments of the last few months, the redeployment of long range fighter flights across various parts of the world, tub thumping over issues of energy security, the so-called suspension from the CFE Treaty. However, I think Russia often does have a case but it puts it very badly. Russian diplomacy, particularly defence diplomacy, is often very incompetent. On two very technical issues I think it has had a case and it has been rejected by the countries of NATO. One is the CFE Treaty. It is a very technical issue which we do not have the time or maybe the mental energy to go into, but I do not think the Russian case of a revision of the CFE Treaty is entirely wrong. It has been not entirely correct of the NATO side not to ratify the amended Treaty and not to push the Baltic states to join it. The second—and it is equally technical—is the reluctance of NATO to formally establish relations with the Collective Security Treaty Organisation which is a Russian led military organisation which Russia takes as a snub. It takes it as putting a firewall between itself and NATO, particularly in areas of cooperation such as Afghanistan.

  Q115  Mr Jones: Afghanistan has been seen by many commentators as a great test for NATO. What lessons do you think can be drawn from what happened in Afghanistan and is it fair to say that we are seeing a development within NATO in terms of force generation, willingness to fight or provide assets, a two tier system where some members are prepared to do more than others?

  Professor Cox: I want to go back on Russia but I will not. The history does not matter. We are confronted with a real problem there and we do not have an answer to it. Anyway, on Afghanistan, the only thing one can keep coming up with is a series of obvious statements about it. It is the largest deployment we now have and have ever had. Who would have ever thought we would be in this situation today? Nobody a few years ago. NATO was sidelined in the first part of the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban. They have now become central. There is clearly a very uneven contribution, blood and treasure, through NATO allies. The war is not going very well, in spite of what many people would say, it seems to me. The future credibility of NATO really rests on the outcomes in Afghanistan. This is the great test. NATO has never fought wars before. What are the marks out of ten? On certain things you can tick certain boxes and say, "Not bad, quite good, doing well", but who? The Brits, the Canadians, the Dutch, the Norwegians? You go down the list. I know that there are national cultures and peculiarities and all the rest of it but at the end of the day it is a fighting military alliance and has a meaningful contribution. That is undermining and doing some really major damage not only in this country but in other countries who are members of the NATO Alliance who are contributing in blood while others are doing it less so, for all sorts of peculiar and specific national reasons. Secondly, from the United States, the United States is part of NATO in some points but it is also acting in its own way relatively independently. It is NATO but it is the United States which is still taking up the bulk of the fighting in some of the most serious, dangerous areas in Afghanistan. That also raises this question: is it really only NATO? The United States would be there for its own reasons anyway to do with it. Frankly, this is not an academic point of view; it is a personal point of view just listening to what people have told me: one has to think that there is a real crisis that is going to hit us in about a year or a year and a half's time on this issue, it seems to me. We are not there yet but we are heading towards it and we have seriously underestimated a whole series of issues here. That will be the brick wall we are going to hit.

  Q116  Chairman: What sort of crisis are you talking about?

  Professor Cox: Obviously the resurgence of the Taliban, the ability of the Taliban to adapt their military strategy to car bombing, differences between the British and the Americans over what to do about the poppies, over the heroin. It knocks on into Pakistan which is as important in this whole debate as is Afghanistan itself. It hits on that relationship. In a way, it is the worst kind of domino theory working against the West. Iraq has clearly knocked into Afghanistan or Afghanistan has knocked into Iraq and both are now knocking into Pakistan which is knocking back. You cannot simply look at Afghanistan as a single element or a single point in this arc of crisis. Each one contributed to the other and unfortunately at the moment the crisis in Iraq contributes to the deepening of the crisis in Afghanistan which contributes to the deepening of the crisis in Pakistan. As you may have gathered from my comments, I am rather gloomy about the future.

  Dr Eyal: Nothing that I say would be in contradiction to Professor Cox on this point, I am afraid. I am pessimistic as well. I am not so pessimistic about the links between Pakistan, Afghanistan and what we may do in Iraq although there is clearly a connection there. The biggest danger at the moment is the cascading effect of national decisions to withdraw or to stop contributions based on the dynamics in each individual contributing nation. The figures are astounding. Something like 70 per cent of Germans are opposed to the continued contribution there. There is a possibility of a vote of no confidence in the Canadian House of Commons, bringing down the government there. The latest figures published yesterday, done by the Dutch, of their public opinion indicate really some amazing figures like five per cent of those under 25 supporting the operation and at no point more than 50 per cent of the nation, since the operation began, supporting this project. Once the cascade begins, it will become unstoppable and it will prevent NATO from even withdrawing with a bit of honour, which must be a fallback position. It does not need to end up in that grave situation but it could.

  Chairman: What a profoundly depressing thing to say.

  Q117  Mr Holloway: How do you think that will play out in terms of a possible disintegration of the NATO allies in Afghanistan?

  Dr Eyal: Of course we are guessing here. My guess is that probably not as much as opinion leaders in newspapers will write. People have written obituaries before of NATO. What will happen is that people will try to suggest that the decision to stake all of NATO's credibility on Afghanistan was taken rashly, that it was taken within a particular historic context, with countries trying to get away from the dispute with the US over Iraq and therefore we went into it too rashly; that we must pick up the pieces and there must be serious discussion, but that ultimately this will not be the end of the credibility. As always with credibility, you do not know. It depends what the—

  Q118  Mr Holloway: How will it play out, if Canada goes for example, in terms of who fills in? What happens?

  Dr Eyal: In practical terms, I do not believe that there is any chance of anyone stepping into the breach now. We are lucky to keep the Germans in the position that they are in with the caveats that there are. I do not think Dr Merkel can deliver on anything more within her government but the status quo in terms of deployment. We may be lucky and get more active French involvement and perhaps France fanning out of Kabul if Mr Sarkozy is true to what he has hinted, but I do not think we are talking large numbers. Any one of these pieces of the jigsaw, if it drops out suddenly, I am afraid the entire picture starts disintegrating.

  Dr Allin: On the larger question of the impact on NATO of failure, I agree with Jonathan Eyal very much. NATO has an institutional staying power. Its credibility in future crises will depend on the perceived stakes of the various antagonists in those future crises, not what it did in Afghanistan. The threat is in a sense because the greatest existential threat to NATO is the United States, the relative disinterest it may or may not have in the future. Obviously that would be increased by failure in Afghanistan so it would damage NATO. If I listen to what Jonathan Eyal has said about the polling results, I think he is absolutely right about countries like Germany and the Netherlands. If I consider what little I know about the difficulties of the mission, even not being entirely clear how the mission is defined, what do you do about a sanctuary in Pakistan? Some historical theories of counter-insurgency would say that you cannot defeat an insurgency that has this sanctuary; and yet some people are defining NATO's very future viability on the basis of what can almost be defined as an impossibility. Not knowing enough about the situation, I would nonetheless say that there does need to be greater NATO-wide consultation and discussion of what the really achievable, strategic goals are in Afghanistan. They may not be the maximal ones.

  Q119  Willie Rennie: Can NATO survive in the longer term when there is such a disparity in percentage of GDP funding levels from the variety of people in the partnership?

  Dr Niblett: The kind of NATO we have been talking about today can survive. It is not the NATO as we knew it but it is the NATO, at least as I have been talking about it, that is more flexible to take a positive adjective and maybe a little less united, one that picks and chooses the way it constructs its operations, particularly abroad. I think that type of NATO can survive with the disparity. The disparity within the EU on defence spending is as dramatic as the disparity between some of the top spenders within the EU and the United States. It is clearly a problem. I am as much concerned by the problem at a practical level that the US military is spending—and has been now for over a decade—high amounts of money on very sophisticated technologies and the ability to operate and fight in ways that are fundamentally different to the way that EU nations can fight. It is not just the amount of money; it is how the money is being spent, what it is being spent on, the way that doctrines and methods of fighting are evolving that are different, that will make the separation of action that we saw in the 1991 Gulf War constantly be widened and exacerbated even further into the future.

  Dr Webber: I am not a defence economist but the issue of disparity of defence expenditure may be perhaps exaggerated by the way the figures are calculated. NATO is now not just about defence; it is about security. The disparity is quite obvious if you look at defence budgets but if you look at overall spend on security issues, the United States is still way, way out in front but, if you look at what the EU NATO members spend on things like humanitarian aid, that is technically not defence expenditure but it clearly feeds into issues of security in some sense. That disparity, if you like, is less clear. Here I have a link back to Afghanistan. It depends on what you choose to spend your money on. In the case of Afghanistan, the US Department of Defence spent $US116 billion on Afghanistan between 2001 and 2007. Money on diplomacy and aid during that same period was 9.7 billion, so there is a huge disparity in terms of the manner in which money is spent for the same end which, in some senses, is security. It is an age old question about the disparity of defence expenditure within NATO but I think in some ways it misses the point, the point being that there are different ways to spend money other than simply headlining them under defence.

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