|Author (Person)||Abbott, Dennis|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.8, No.4, 31.1.02, p6|
THE lack of a realistic EU defence capability was a key factor in America's decision to largely 'go it alone' in its war against the Taliban, according to a senior NATO official.
Robert G. Bell, NATO assistant secretary general for defence support, said European security and defence policy (ESDP) had made 'only marginal improvements' in terms of increasing defence expenditure and this was a major cause for concern across the Atlantic.
Echoing fears expressed by US Senator Richard Lugar in Brussels earlier this month, Lord Robertson's deputy suggested that some Americans had 'lost confidence' in their allies.
Bell, speaking at a conference attended by representatives of leading defence companies, highlighted the failure of European leaders to resolve the question of assured EU access to NATO operational planning capabilities and core assets at last month's Laeken summit. He said the need for a deal on this was urgent 'if both parties were to get the EU-NATO interface 'right'.'
He also expressed concern about the contradictory statements issued at Laeken in respect of the current effectiveness of ESDP.
Bell said: 'In the Belgian presidency conclusions of the European Council meeting in Laeken, the presidency, while noting that 'the European Council has adopted the declaration on the operational capability of the European Security and Defence Policy', states later in the same paragraph 'that the Union is now capable of conducting some crisis management operations'.
'The operative word is 'some'. Later, the Belgian presidency notes that 'substantial progress will have to be made' if the European Union is to 'carry out crisis management operations over the whole range of [humanitarian and peace-enforcement] Petersberg tasks'.'
Referring to the fledgling EU rapid reaction force, Bell said that recent planning forecasts by military analysts in London had indicated that it would not be able to mount significant medium-scale operations for at least ten years.
If that gloomy forecast was to be avoided the EU and NATO needed to focus on greater standardisation and interoperability of processes and weapon systems.
Explaining the distinction, Bell referred to a definition coined by defence analyst Thomas Callaghan: 'Interopera-bility is what we do with the mess we have. Standardisation is what we do to avoid having the mess in the future.'
He also called for more common programmes, such as the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), and for more coordinated use of national airborne ground surveillance systems.
NATO has committed itself to making the latter a 'core capability', but this would not necessarily help the EU due to the absence of an institutional agreement on assured access, he warned.
Javier Solana, the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, later expressed greater optimism about the development of ESDP. He told Monday's meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels that Laeken had achieved 'an important step' following its declaration of operationality and stressed that this was not merely an 'on paper' capability.
'We have the resources, the capabilities and the structures to undertake some missions and we should do so,' he said.
That was underlined by the foreign ministers' decision to send a 500-strong EU police force to Bosnia in 2003 to replace UN officers, whose mandate ends at the end of this year.
The new force will be drawn from all 15 member states and will cost a reported €50 million per year.
Solana added: 'We will continue...to fill the capabilities gap; to upgrade and test our procedures, also through exercises; and to work for a full agreement with NATO.'
However, he conceded that 'much still needed to be done' on the way to completing the headline goal set at the Helsinki European Council summit.
This stated that by 2003 the EU should be able to deploy a military force of up to 50,000-60,000 within 60 days, capable of sustaining itself for a year.
According to a senior NATO official, European security and defence policy (ESDP) has made 'only marginal improvements' in terms of increasing defence expenditure and this is a major cause for concern across the Atlantic.
|Subject Categories||Security and Defence|
|Countries / Regions||United States|