Speech by Geoffrey Hoon at the 40th Munich Conference on Security Policy

Posted in NATO , Europe | 09-Feb-04 | Author: Geoffrey Hoon| Source: Munich Conference on Security Policy

Transatlantic Relations

The transatlantic relationship has been marked by a long, history of sustained and reliable mutual support. In practice, the benefits of the relationship have been most clearly demonstrated on the continent of Europe during the 20th century. It has been pivotal in helping us preserve the freedom, security and democracy we cherish.

We in Europe know that our world would be a much more dangerous place if America had chosen to follow an isolationist path. We know that such a course was open to successive US Presidents. We know that it would probably have been politically popular in the United States, l want to restate my appreciation for all those - including many here today - who have resisted that easy route and who have chosen the harder road of international engagement.

Because without that engagement in European affairs by the United States -without a strong transatlantic relationship - we would never have overcome the threat posed by tyranny during the last century.

Without the military power of the United States to back the international community's commitments, the Taleban regime would still be in power in Kabul and Milosevic would still be terrorising Kosovo..

And of course without the US led coalition, Saddam Hussein would still be in power in Baghdad - ignoring his obligation under UNJ resolutions, terrorising and torturing his own people and depriving them of the basic human rights.

I know that the issue of intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction remains controversial - not least in the United Kingdom: but two points are clear from the factual record:
  • Firstly, Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons and admitted seeking nuclear weapons: theses risks are gone;
  • And secondly, since the intervention there has been more progress on counter proliferation than for a decade in North Korea, Iran and most dramatically in Libya.
But there are still threats to European security - maybe from outside its borders but of a new and terrifying nature. This threat is real and it is shared with the United States.

Consequently, in the immediate aftermath of September 11th , allied democracies drew together in NATO in a show of unity against terror.

In barely two months the Taleban regime was removed from Afghanistan and AI Qaeda was severally disrupted.

But the Americans did not do all this alone - they formed coalitions. As the United States National Security Strategy acknowledges: "There is little of lasting consequences that the United States can accomplish in the world without the sustained co-operation of its allies and friends in Canada and Europe."

Last year, of course, saw strains within NATO and the United Nations over Iraq. Some went out of their way to push a European Union dimension as a counterweight to the defence relationship with the United States. The dangerous consequence of policies that result in the Polarisation of US-EU relations is that it can feed misunderstanding and encourage Isolationist tendencies on both sides of the Atlantic, l want to make it clear that there is no appetite amongst the European Union members, nor indeed among wider invitees, for that to happen,

Economic power and military might are balances that shape our relationships - these balances shift over time. A transatlantic relationship need not be an equal one to be successful - but it does require a common understanding of the challenges we face and a common purpose to meet them together.

The Challenges

The real challenges for the new relationship lie not in the academic definition of the ESDP-NATO relationship. instead, the real and immediate challenges are in the threat posed by international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the consequences of failing or failed states.

It is generally accepted that a strategic conventional threat to Europe is unlikely to emerge in the short term. But the events of the last 5 years have demonstrated the uncertain nature of the global security environment and have underlined the range of new menaces facing us in place of the old threat. Since September 11th, 2001 the attacks in Bali, Jakarta, Casablanca and Bombay - in Mombassa, Najaf, Riyad, Baghdad - and most recently in Istanbul the very real danger that international terrorism poses to all of us.

The continuing proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction is another pressing cause for concern. Soma states will continue to seek WMD, particularly as access to the technology and production capabilities becomes easier. We know as well that international terrorists are seeking to increase their access to chemical, biological and radiological means to .enhance their capacity for disruption and dislocation.

Weak and failing states also present an increasing problem. Such states are characterised by political mismanagement, ethnic and religious tensions or economic collapse. They can contain areas of ungoverned territory, which provide havens and sources of support for terrorist groups and criminal networks. Here the European interest is extensive and enduring. it is an area where ESDP can make a useful contribution, especially in providing quick reaction capability to the United Nations.

Regional analysis

So where will the future threats to the peace and security of Europe arise? The EU Security Strategy sets this out clearly and in ways wholly compatible with the transatlantic relationship. These rag Ions immediately adjacent Europe - the near East North Africa and the Gulf - are likely to continue 10 have the most significant bearing on Western security interests. Potentially destabilising social, political, and economic problems demand that we engage in conflict prevention, as well as responding rapidly to emerging crises.

The Middle East still presents the most significant security challenge. The Israeli/Palestinian problem is undoubtedly a major regional issue. The international community must continue its efforts to secure a lasting settlement Although recent operations have largely neutralised one threat, weapons of mass destruction are continuing to proliferate across the Middle East and beyond and will be a continuing concern. Developing relationships are high on the agenda for the North Atlantic nations.

Looking beyond the regions adjacent to Europe, we have to recognise that there will be a greater need for commitments further afield. Of course, crises could occur anywhere across the world and the transatlantic alliance may not, as a whole, be engaged in every case, But it -will wish to be involved in dialogue and discussions. Expanding effective diplomacy beyond the existing NATO Partnership for Peace countries must therefore be a long term goal.

Much of what I've outlined leads to the conclusion that one of the greatest risks to our peace and security is that the strategic environment will change faster than we can understand - or indeed adapt to, A strong transatlantic relationship is essential in ensuring that does not happen.

Implications for Defence

What then are the implications of these challenges for the Defence strategies of the Allies?

In meeting the global terrorist threat we must be prepared to conduct operations at relatively small scale but at very short notice, at long range, and indeed with high frequency. The relative importance of peace support and humanitarian operations is also likely to increase, as we recognise the contribution that state failure can make to terrorism. We need to try to avoid a repeat of what happened for example in Afghanistan.

We welcome NATO's Steps to take a-wider role in that country and to show our support I can announce that we are prepared to take command of the Northern Region Group there, including the Provisional Reconstruction Tearr,s7 and deploying UK troops currently in Kabul

The range of tasks expected of our armed forces will be broad - from peacekeeping, humanitarian and confidence-building operations through to counter-terrorism and high-intensity combat against s diverse set of potential adversaries.

Regional tensions and potential conflicts are likely to create a sustained high demand for enduring peace support commitments, such as the extended deployments that we have seen in recent times in the Balkans. The military to civil transition demands special skills. There is much to learn about how best to harness the full range of levers that nations and multinational institutions can bring to bear. In planning terms, the Alliance must be better at recognising the long term nature of nation building.

The lessons we are learning in Iraq, in Africa and elsewhere are bitter and expensive ones. We must ensure we do not lose sight of them, particularly when the politics of consensus throws up a less than effective compromise.

The multilateral response required will set a premium on the capacity of our forces to inter-operate with those of other countries. It is highly unlikely that the United Kingdom would be engaged in high intensity large-scale operations without the United States, a judgement born of past experience, shared interest and our assessment of strategic trends. This will drive the technologically challenging and financially expensive requirement to inter-operate with the United States, This will not just be in the 'soft' world of communications and information networks" but in the harder world of strategic deployment and training at the most challenging level of military operations.

European allies in NATO, and through ESDP, have a key part to play in our collective defence and security, it will be vital for them to link together on the battlefield through technology. To play a part nations must be able to plug into a multinational response at different layers-of the military system. Work in the EU, such as the new Defence Agency, and the NATO initiative on Usability are key enablers to develop effective deployable forces.

Also in this context I would highlight a Franco-British proposal made at our most-recent summit, that the EU should develop the capability to deploy battle-group size force packages in response to crises identified by the UN. The aim will be for these battle-groups to be able to act rapidly and robustly under Chapter VII mandate to stabilise the situation before handing over to longer term UN or regional peacekeeping.

This will be an important initiative enhance the real usability of European forces in a fashion complementary to NATO's efforts and we will be presenting our proposals the EU in the near future.

The key to retaining interoperability with the United States is likely to rest in the successful Operation of NATO's new Allied Command for Transformation in short - it is time for Europe to up its game - and America must be an enthusiastic enabler in this process.

Where there is a requirement for active military operations. targets are likely to be fleeting: and the opportunities for effective action will depend on the speed of our response. This will be driven by access to effective intelligence something many nations believe they have - but something that NATO lacks in an integrated form. Developing more effective Intelligence integration is a vital first step.

International Organisations

The responsibility for meeting these threats falls globally, to all of us. So where military action is required, it will be most effective, both tactically and strategically, when it comes in the form of partnerships, alliances and coalitions.

For Europe the key organisations through which we act will be NATO and the European Union. NATO will remain the cornerstone of our collective defence and for crisis management in the Euro-Atlantic area. 1t is also the most important transatlantic Organisation, through which the United States will engage with its allies in planning and conducting military operations.

NATO provides a strong base from which to assemble a military response and to facilitate planning, deployment and operations. However, the Alliance will need to further develop their expeditionary and crisis management capabilities. This means investing wisely to create and maintain modern, well-equipped military forces capable of doing the job.

The success of the NATO initiatives agreed at Prague will be a real test of the Alliance's willingness to' transform itself. In turn this will be a factor in ultimately determining whether the United States sees sufficient advantage in continued engagement through NATO itself.

The EU - through its Common Foreign and Security Policy supported by the European Security and Defence Policy - will provide a complementary organisations through which we can act where NATO as a whole is not engaged. The Berlin Plus arrangements and NATO-EU transparency are key enablers to success.

In Europe, there must be a better recognition of America's huge investment in the international system of which they were key architects, from NATO to the United Nations: and an acknowledgement that the current Administration has continued to use the international system, not least on a host of key issues in the Security Council - a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq, and many other cases. In turn, America must continue to work hard at its various relationships if she is to retain the support and goodwill she certainly today enjoys.

Conclusion

NATO will continue to occupy a key position in our planning. NATO will also remain the basis for our collective defence, for crisis management in the Euro-Atlantic area and for facing together new threats to our security. The North Atlantic nations understand the common threats and must come together in a common purpose.

The transatlantic relationship must also evolve beyond the parochial. It must face up the challenge elsewhere - turning to addressing the Middle East; finding a new role for Russia; establishing a confidence with China as it emerges into great power Status; and recognise India as an emerging and significant player. These opportunities to establish effective and enduring relations must not be missed. It is crucial that all allies play a part,

The US have demonstrated their willingness to remain engaged. We are fortunate that they continue to see that it is in their own interests to continue to do so. !t is certainly in ours.

The spoken word is applicable!

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