From the CIAO Atlas Map of Europe 

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Reconciling Britain to Europe in the next Millennium: The Evolution of British Defence Policy in the post-Cold War Era

Dr Andrew Dorman 1

International Studies Association
41st Annual Convention
Los Angeles, CA
March 14-18, 2000



Historically Britain has not viewed itself as a European power and its preferred option has been to focus on its’ world interests. To achieve this British foreign policy has traditionally sought to prevent a single power, or group of powers, dominating the continent by maintaining an equilibrium of forces on the continent. 2 This emphasis upon maintaining a ‘balance of power’ in Europe led to frequent shifts in allegiance in favour of the weaker power bloc and a policy where British interests were consistently pursued from the sideline of Europe. This policy continued during the Cold War as concern focused on the threat posed by the Soviet Union. The one significant difference from a British perspective was the use of an external power (United States) to guarantee the power.

With the end of the Cold War one might have assumed that this policy would have ended as the threat posed by the Soviet Union receded, America appeared to be withdrawing from Europe and no single power looked to be in a position to dominate Europe. However, the paper will suggest that Europe’s institutions became the new arena for the continuation of Britain’s balance of power policy under the Conservatives. This policy, together with the internal struggle within the Conservative Party over Britain’s relationship with Europe, largely left Britain isolated on the periphery of Europe and without a coherent defence policy. The subsequent Labour government’s approach to Europe has sought to overcome this isolation. The new Strategic Defence Review [SDR] spoke of Britain acting as a leading member of the European Union [EU]. 3 The initiatives begun with the Saint Malo Declaration, followed through at the EU Amsterdam, NATO Washington and EU Helsinki summits, have had the effect of placing Britain at the very heart of European defence debate. More significantly, the reliance of the European members of NATO on the United States during the air war in Kosovo have led to a renewed emphasis upon a European defence capability with Britain being a major supporter of this. 4

This paper seeks to examine this sea change in policy. It has therefore been divided into four parts. Firstly, it will look at the evolution of British defence policy towards Europe during the Cold War highlighting how the defence of Europe became the prime mission for Britain’s armed forces underpinned by the ‘special relationship’ with America. 5 Secondly, it will consider how defence policy under the Conservatives failed to adapt to the end of the Cold War. Thirdly, the paper will consider the degree and change of direction that defence policy has altered under the new Labour government. Finally, the paper will draw some general conclusions about the future direction of British defence policy and draw out some important questions that remain unanswered.


Cold War Legacy

Although no formal security policy was articulated during the period from 1945 to 1989 Europe, rather than the Empire, had become the focus of British defence policy. 6 Within this transformation four inter-linked assumptions remained consistent throughout the period and revolved around maintaining the balance of power in Europe. These were the hostility of the Soviet Union, the maintenance of the ‘special relationship’ with the United States, the preservation of NATO and the creation and maintenance of an independent strategic nuclear deterrent. 7 In the background a diminishing ability to influence decisions on the world stage remained. Their underpinning of policy was perhaps inevitable given the position with which Britain was confronted in 1945. Then Britain was the only large European power to survive the war relatively intact with the single exception of the Soviet Union. Germany was physically divided, whilst France and Italy remained economically crippled and politically divided. It was Britain, therefore, which had to confront the situation of a Central and Eastern Europe dominated by a Soviet military and political presence. 8

From the time of its inception the enigma of the Soviet Union had been a consistent problem for successive British Governments. Fear of the Soviet Union began to rise even before the end of the Second World War as the allies sought to agree the peace. 9 Events after the war only reinforced these concerns and led the former Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, to refer to an ‘Iron Curtain’ dividing Europe in two as early as 1946. 10 This perception of the Soviet threat increased throughout the late-1940s. In defence terms Russia was a Euro-Asiatic land power which relied on its immense reserves of manpower to provide for its defence. Its historical experience of invasion and the resulting devastation of its own lands contributed to its commitment to maintaining significant land and air forces in Central an Eastern Europe. In contrast, Britain’s defence had traditionally relied on its naval domination of the seas around its shores. If the Soviet Union was the most likely enemy then the Royal Navy was of limited use against a power which could only be confronted on land. This situation was exacerbated by the changes that had occurred in warfare in the twentieth century. In the First World War the German airship and bomber raids had shown that Britain was no longer immune from direct attack whilst the U-boat war had threatened to starve Britain out of the war. 11 This experience was repeated in the German aerial offensive on Britain during the Second World War, particularly between 1940 and 1941, and the U-boat offensive throughout this war. 12 Moreover, the development of the atomic bomb finally demonstrated the potential for a single bomber to destroy a city and fulfil the claims of the early air power theorists. 13 As a result, Britain’s defence planners found themselves confronted with the unenviable situation in which they were aware of Britain’s vulnerabilities and lacked the capacity to deter the Soviet Union.

Despite this concentration upon the Soviet threat since 1945 Britain’s management of the problem has continuously been undermined by financial insecurity. With a requirement to deter the Soviet Union the support of the United States was a paramount consideration for Britain as America remained the single power capable of matching the Soviet Union. As a result, the British Government sought to foster its relations with the United States by advancing the idea of an Anglo-American Alliance. To achieve this the government adopted a twin-track policy. The first track was to organise the rest of Western Europe into a number of alliances to counter the Soviet threat. This took some careful manoeuvring since the principal concern of many of the newly liberated nations in the mid-1940s, especially France, was the fear of a resurgent Germany and the actions of the Soviet Union were only of secondary importance. 14 The first step was the 1947 Dunkirk Treaty between Britain and France. The following year the Benelux countries joined the Dunkirk Treaty arrangement under the Brussels Treaty. In the short term these measures were of little military significance, however, they did provide an important political signal to the United States - they indicated Western Europe’s willingness to contribute to its own defence and reinforced the second track of British strategy. This encouraged the US to formally commit itself to the defence of Europe and the ongoing US involvement in Europe remained a capstone of British Cold War security policy. The twin track approach reached fruition with the creation of NATO in 1949 and Britain’s continued support of the North Atlantic Alliance. The cost for Britain of this was twofold. Firstly, it was forced to formally commit of troops to the defence of Germany from 1950 onwards in order to show solidarity with the United States. This ultimately forced it to accept that the world role would have less priority in British defence policy. Secondly, its involvement in NATO provided a forum for undermining Britain’s relationship with the United States and isolating it from its European allies.

The fourth assumption in British Cold War defence policy lay in the creation and maintenance of an independent strategic nuclear deterrent. The reasoning behind this was threefold. Firstly, in 1940 Britain had been forced to abandon its French ally and withdraw its forces from the Battle of France. This caused much ill-feeling between the two allies and both drew the same conclusion from the experience, namely that one state could not expect another to sacrifice itself for another. 15 Thus Britain could not ultimately rely on the US nuclear guarantee and should develop and retain its independent nuclear deterrent. Secondly, the ownership of nuclear weapons was an important part of maintaining Britain’s lace in the world and, in particular, its seat on the UN Security Council. Finally, and less significant now, was Britain’s central role at the start of the development of the first atomic bomb.

As a result, one of the first significant post-war defence decisions was made by a sub-committee of the British Cabinet, GEN 75, which approved the construction of fissile production facilities to produce a British atomic weapon in 1946. The Chiefs of Staff argued that ‘the best method of defence against the atomic bomb is likely to be the deterrent effect that the possession of the means of retaliation would have on a potential aggressor.’ 16 At the same time the first British strategic jet bomber specification was produced and issued as an operational requirement. 17 These programmes fitted neatly into early post-war defence planning which emphasised strategic bombing as the only real counter-weight to the Soviet Union’s superiority on land.

This view was reinforced after the debacle at Suez when British and American interests clashed. According to Lawrence Freedman the main lesson drawn by Britain from the Suez Crisis was the need to provide a nuclear force, even at the expense of conventional capability. 18 Consequently, the 1957 Defence White Paper placed even more emphasis on Britain’s nuclear forces. 19 The improvements in the special relationship that followed Suez proved fortuitous, as the development of the Blue Streak missile ran into difficulties. 20 The Government reached the conclusion that it could no longer afford to produce its own independent nuclear deterrent and initially negotiated with the Americans to purchase the Skybolt system and later Polaris. The nuclear emphasis continued firstly through the costly Chevaline update to Polaris and subsequently through the decision to purchase the Trident system from America in 1980. 21 This latter decision precipitated what has become known as the Nott review which led to significant cutbacks in Britain’s maritime capabilities. 22

The other dimension to defence policy was Britain’s wider world role. In 1945 Britain was one of the three leading world powers and considered itself as such. This is clear from the 1948 Defence Estimates: ‘[t]he United Kingdom, as a member of the British Commonwealth and a Great Power, must be prepared at all times to fulfil her responsibility not only to the United Nations but also to herself.’ 23 Whilst not a superpower in its own right, its military and civilian presence throughout the world, particularly within the Empire, led many to assume that the world role would continue, particularly given the relative inexperience of the United States in many regions. 24 The government hoped that with the European balance of power restored Britain could once again look beyond Europe to preserve its wider interests. This shift in emphasis was attempted in the 1957 defence review which made significant reductions in Britain’s conventional forces deployed in support of Europe in favour of the deployment of forces East of Suez. 25 Changing patterns in trade, de-colonisation, fear of the Soviet Union and continuing financial pressure on the defence budget resulted in Europe becoming the focus of British foreign and defence policies with the large-scale withdrawal from the Empire. 26 Even under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher this policy remained substantially unaltered. British defence policy, epitomised by the Nott review of 1981, remained almost entirely focused on Europe with only token gestures to the world role. 27

Throughout the Cold War period Britain’s defence policy sought to preserve the special relationship with the United States and preserve NATO as the main defensive alliance for Europe. This twin stool approach was underpinned by the strategic nuclear deterrent which allowed Britain to have a unique relationship with the United States and gave it a predominant position amongst the European members of NATO. Europe therefore remained the focus of defence policy although the desire to focus beyond Europe remained. 28 Since the commitment of British forces to Germany, Britain’s close relationship with America and its nuclear status gave it a high standing within the NATO command structure the end of the Cold War inevitably meant that this position would be challenged as these elements became less important as NATO’s security agenda broadened.


Post-Cold War defence policy - the Conservatives legacy

Although the end of the Cold War transformed the situation in Europe British defence policy took far longer to adapt to the changed environment as British foreign policy floundered. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union left Britain with what William Wallace described as a: ‘Government which has no clear sense of its place in the world or its foreign policy priorities ...’ 29 This position was in part due to internal conflicts within the Government but it also reflected an ongoing concern with the European balance of power. At a time when many argued that defence policy would return to its position as the servant of foreign and economic policy, in Britain foreign and economic policy became diametrically opposed. 30 The then British Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, tended to adopt the van Eekelen line. A Times leader column noted: ‘Mr. Hurd is clear that Britain, which exports twice as much of its gross domestic product as Japan, cannot neglect its interest in "safer and more decent world" anarchy interferes with trade, generally involves appalling human rights abuse and unchecked, has a tendency to lead to wider conflict.’ 31 Whilst Douglas Hurd went as far as saying:

[s]ome problems - state-sponsored terrorism, for example, or the proliferation of ballistic missiles - may prick our skin more than our consciences. But, if we really want a world that is more secure, more prosperous and more stable, then humanitarian problems can be just as threatening and must be seen not just as a moral issue, but as a potential security threat as well. 32

However, his speech was rapidly countered by the then Secretary of State for Defence, Malcolm Rifkind, who referred to the national interest along more traditional conservative lines. 33 Rifkind found himself in a very difficult position. Britain’s economic weakness and the large public sector borrowing requirement encouraged the Treasury to continually demand sweeping cuts in Britain’s defence budget. This was confirmed by the Chiefs of the Defence Staff who are known to have used their right of access to the Prime Minister to ensure their views were heard. 34 The then Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Michael Graydon, even went as far as publicly airing this view before making a hasty retraction. 35 Consequently, Malcolm Rifkind who succeeded Tom King as Secretary of State for Defence was been forced to make significant defence reductions beyond those announced in the Options for Change exercise 36 and these formed part of the Defence Cost Studies process (DCS). 37

What eventually emerged was a defence policy officially based on three defence roles. 38 Defence Role One was largely about home defence and the defence of Britain’s dependent territories. In reality it was almost entirely about the preservation of an independent nuclear deterrent and the support to the civilian authorities in Northern Ireland. The other areas, such as the air defence of the United Kingdom were cutback. Defence Role Two was the defence of Europe via NATO and was viewed as the key defence role. Finally, and of leas priority, Defence Role Three which swept up the remaining missions, in particular the out-of-area role and support for UN peacekeeping missions.

As a result of these roles, perceived importance of the strategic nuclear deterrent remained and successive reviews left the Trident programme virtually untouched. 39 The reason was threefold, not only has Trident been viewed by the Conservative Party as its sacred cow, 40 but it has also traditionally been used as one of Britain’s justifications for her permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Moreover, the political and financial cost of acquiring the Trident system meant that the Conservative administration were loathed to admit that it was no longer needed. Nevertheless, all Britain’s other nuclear capabilities were ultimately cutback with the Trident system given the sub-strategic role in place of the cancelled tactical air-to-surface missile. 41

The majority of defence cuts therefore fell on the conventional forces. However, like the earlier Nott and Healey reviews 42 the issue of retaining influence within NATO remained key. With the advent of NATO’s new Strategic Concept, 43 a major reorganisation of NATO’s command structure was undertaken. 44 This resulted in Britain’s loss of its one major command 45 and led the British Government to successfully pursue command of the new Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) at Germany’s expense. However, there was a significant cost to this - the commitment of two divisions and a headquarters staff. 46 Support for Europe’s other institutions, in particular the Western European Union, remained more sanguine. Britain’s position within NATO allowed it to have more influence and use its relationship with the US to its advantage. However, the Conservative’s support for Bush in the 1992 Presidential election soured Anglo-American relations. Moreover, as the European Union grew in strength and support for the WEU grew Britain frequently found itself increasingly isolated within Western Europe.

To cover the high cost of the ARRC commitment defence cutbacks fell on other conventional areas. Officially, the aim was to have ‘smaller forces, better equipped, properly trained and housed, and well motivated. They will need to be flexible and mobile and able to contribute both in NATO and, if necessary, elsewhere.’ 47 However, although ‘Options for Change’ allowed the services to get rid a lot of their older kit the goal of making the remaining forces more flexible and mobile was sacrificed. A number of procurement decisions were delayed, such as the order for new amphibious ships, and those that were made largely reflected Cold War commitments such as the order for Challenger 2 main battle tanks. The situation was subsequently made worse with the ‘Defence Costs Study’ review which made further reductions. These principally focused on the support units with the result that deploying and sustaining forces abroad became increasingly problematic. This reflected the need for the government to emphasise its defence credentials at minimum cost. This trend towards political tokenism was most evident in the announcement of the purchase of 65 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles in 1995. 48 This decision was announced in Parliament to the surprise of the Services whilst the navy’s subsequent argument for a second, more substantial buy, to give it a sustainable capability were quietly ignored.

With smaller forces the Ministry of Defence was initially loathed to undertake further overseas commitments. Amongst its West European allies Britain was noticeable in failing to send ground troops to Somalia when the United States called for assistance. 49 It was also was one of only two EU states to vote against the EU sending military forces as peacekeepers during the initial break-up of the Yugoslav Federation. However, circumstances subsequently forced the British government to take a more pro-active role, especially once the issue of Britain’s retention of its permanent seat on the UN Security Council again became an issue in the mid-1990s. 50 In Bosnia it subsequently pulled together an infantry force for the escort of humanitarian aid in Bosnia and when a Serb mortar attack in February 1994 led to wide-scale casualties the British deployment was increased with elements of 24 Airmobile Brigade.

For Britain and British defence policy the early years of the post-Cold War era were traumatic. The increased institutional competition between the various European institutions weakened Britain’s position in comparison to its West European counterparts 51 whilst the cooling of the special relationship left Britain no real counter-weight to the Franco-German axis within these institutions. Moreover, the cutbacks in defence had left Britain with poorly equipped forces, over-stretched in terms of overseas deployments and largely planning for traditional military tasks. As a result, Britain found itself caught between the two stools of the special relationship with America and a central role in Europe - the worst of both worlds.


Into the new millennium: Defence under Labour

Not surprisingly the Labour front-bench team had been very critical of the government’s handling of defence policy. In part this was an attempt to use the traditional Conservative stronghold on defence as an issue against them in the forthcoming election. They therefore argued the case for a defence review based on foreign policy highlighting the hollowness of Britain’s defence capabilities and Britain’s isolation within Europe. 52 However, the criticism also reflected the internationalist agenda within Labour and their concern about the role Britain should play in the world. George Robertson’s speech at the first Labour Party conference after the 1997 General Election was far closer to that espoused by the Foreign Office under Hurd than his Conservative predecessor in the Ministry of Defence. 53 As a consequence, the Strategic Defence Review [SDR] aimed to ‘maintain and reinforce the present favourable external security situation.’ 54 It was officially based on the requirement:

to move from stability based on fear to stability based on the active management of these risks, seeking to prevent conflicts rather than suppress them. This requires an integrated external policy through which we can pursue our interests using all the instruments at our disposal, including diplomatic, developmental and military. We must make sure that the Armed Forces can play as full and effective a part in dealing with these new risks as the old. 55

Initially it was thought that such a review would take about six months and the government sought to canvass a wider range views than had previously been the case in defence reviews. The result was a review that took 14 months to publish and which remains to be fully worked out. Robertson virtually admitted this when he stated that SDR was only the first step in the process. SDR sought to address the defence requirements to 2015 56 but retained the existing military tasks and defence roles that were promulgated under the previous administration.

The first obvious change to defence policy within SDR was the creation of an eighth defence mission - defence diplomacy. 57 In part this drew together a number of existing tasks under a new heading but it also reflected the government’s internationalist agenda and the desire that Britain should be a force for good in the world. Initially defence diplomacy was seen as having a European focus and continuing the pro-European bias of defence policy. Its links to NATO’s Partnership for Peace Initiative and overt reference to the UK’s existing Outreach programme made this implicit assumption. 58 However, defence diplomacy has now been broadened to stretch beyond Europe with the government’s contribution to the peacekeeping mission to East Timor being only the most recent example of this. 59

SDR also drew attention to Britain’s position as a leading member of the EU and this was linked into Britain’s membership of NATO and the importance of the United States. 60 On first appearances this was an apparent reversal of previous policy marking a European rather than transatlantic focus. However, the change is more subtle. It represented an attempt to sit on both the US and European stools. The latter encouraged by the EU first language of the document and the subsequent British led initiatives on defence. The former placated by the preservation of the close links of an EU led force with NATO with the latter (i.e. US) retaining a veto on the release of NATO assets. Moreover, any initiative that seeks to shift the defence burden from the United States to Europe will inevitably have the support of the incumbent US President. According to Blair

in defence we have long relied on NATO for our security. Without it and the US commitment to Europe, we would not have been able to bring peace to Bosnia or reverse the humanitarian disaster in Kosovo. We must shape European Defence policy in a way designed to strengthen that transatlantic bond by making NATO a more balanced partnership, and by giving the Europeans the capacity to act whenever the United States, for its own reasons, decides not to be involved. Only then will Europe pull its weight in world security and share more of the burden with the United States. 61

This emphasis on giving the European’s their own capability as a means of reinforcing the Atlantic Alliance received a boost when the British and French agreed that the EU ‘must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises.’ 62 This was a significant change in previous British policy which had sought to preserve US involvement at all costs. This initiative was followed through at the EU’s Amsterdam summit which sought to provide a crisis management mechanism for the EU partners. The key to preserving American goodwill was been NATO’s retention of a veto over dual-hatted units which British negotiators have been willing to concede. In reality this concession is of little consequence if Britain’s raiding of NATO stocks during the 1982 Falklands War is anything to go by.

However, the process seemed set for slow progress until the experience of Kosovo provided the British government with further grounds for a renewed impetus. In Kosovo the Europeans found themselves totally dependent upon an American decision to use force and for the conduct of the majority of the air campaign. When the Americans subsequently put a limit on their own ground deployment the Europeans found themselves struggling to put sufficient land forces together in time to implement the peace agreement. 63

The result was a Franco-British call for a European corps level intervention capability and a British commitment to assign UK forces to the Eurocorps headquarters. 64 The Joint Declaration of the British and French Governments has gave a renewed impetus to the Saint Malo Declaration and put concrete proposals forward which were subsequently endorsed at the EU’s Helsinki Summit:

on the basis of UK proposals, EU Member States committed themselves to concrete goals for capability improvement. They specified the scale of armed forces that they should be able to deploy rapidly, with the right skills and equipment, and able to sustain in a theatre of operations until the military job is done. They agreed by the year 2003 they should have modernised their armed forces so as to be able to draw from a pool of deployable units (15 brigades) to tackle the most demanding crisis management tasks, in operations up to corps level (up to 50,000 to 60,000 personnel, together with appropriate air and naval elements). These forces are to be militarily self-sustaining for at least a year. The EU Member States also agreed to develop collective capability goals in such fields as command and control and strategic transport, to address the specific capability shortfalls identified in the audit of European capability undertaken by the Western European Union. 65

Linked into this was the British decision to assign troops to the headquarters of the Eurocorps. Politically this was also very symbolic for the previous British administration had been one of the corps principle critics had sought to block its evolution at every opportunity. This quiet reversal of policy therefore represents a shift of the UK from a confrontational position with the Franco-German founded Eurocorps to an acceptance of its importance. Following on from this it has now been agreed that the Eurocorps will take over from the ARRC in Kosovo. 66 Whilst the Eurocorps will report directly to NATO’s SACEUR this step marks the first significant step post-Helsinki to the creation second rapid reaction force within NATO run by the Europeans and, if successful, will significantly enhance NATO’s expeditionary capability. 67 By implication the Eurocorps will serve as the basis of a European capability to match NATO’s ARRC and Britain has accepted that it will not have the European lead of this corps. However, by implication, it will have seen off any challenge to its control of the ARRC - NATO’s only rapid response corps. This allows it to remain closely aligned to the US without it appearing at all disloyal to the Eurocorps. The next obvious step would be an open British declaration of a brigade or more to the Eurocorps as part of the 15 brigade structure. Without such a move it is impossible to imagine that the Helsinki agreement ever becoming reality and Britain will have left itself open to criticism from its European partners.

By way of contrast SDR also placed a considerable amount of emphasis on joint capabilities and the ability to project military force. 68 To manage the re-modelled expeditionary forces a new Joint Task Force Headquarters is being created which is capable of rapid deployment overseas with the nucleus of a second formed to allow the management of simultaneous operations. This marks a significant advance over the previous situation and, if fully implemented, will mean that more than one operation can be undertaken outside the United Kingdom without recourse to the callout of a significant number of reserve personnel. This will, therefore, give the government a greater degree of flexibility than it has had to-date. To support this SDR also contained a number of structural changes, such as the re-ordering of the army’s brigades, which underpinned the declared policy. In addition, it contained a number of procurement commitments, such as to two large aircraft carriers and strategic sea and airlift, which will ensure the different elements of policy will have a more harmonious relationship. 69 In terms of capabilities SDR has sought to give the British government three options. Firstly, one involving the use of force in conjunction with its European partners as mentioned above. Secondly, to undertake independent action - presumably in support of dependent territories or as lead nation for a Commonwealth type operation. Thirdly, to act in co-operation with the United States outside NATO such as Operation Desert Fox. They therefore fit neatly into the requirements to placate both the Europeans and Americans whilst giving the option to do its own thing in order to preserve Britain’s wider interests - such as its retention of its Permanent Seat on the UN Security Council.

This paper has so far alluded to the language of SDR which has spoken of coalition and joint warfare and Britain’s defence relations with the United States and Europe. The new government has sought to place Britain firmly on top of both the US and European stools whilst retaining the right to do things alone. However, the practicalities of this policy remains dependent upon the provision of the requisite capabilities to support these policies. This is where the continuity of these policies begins to become questionable. SDR highlighted the importance of technology, particularly the ability to gather information about an opponent and use it to maximum advantage. ISTAR and improved C3 are stressed within the SDR document and one of the first announcements after the SDR document was released was the decision to go ahead with the next generation of military communications satellites. 70 However, the concept of information warfare has only five lines on it. 71 Partly this reflects the innate conservatism that still persists within the MoD to anything that is radically different to that which has gone on before. Moreover, it also represents the desire to see what emerges from the United States before making any financial commitments. As the United States continues to push further ahead in command and control, communications and intelligence, and long-range interdiction systems the widening gap between America and her allies can only serve to undermine NATO. The Kosovo experience can only reinforced this conclusion and it is worth noting the limited air contribution made by even Britain and France - Europe’s the leading military powers.

However, there are a number of clouds on the horizon In the future Britain is increasingly likely to be presented with the choice of purchasing limited amounts of equipment in order to allow its armed forces to remain compatible with the United States or to build equipment in conjunction with its European partners. This situation is further confused by the industrial implications of such decisions. For example, in the next month two decisions will be made about strategic lift aircraft for the Royal Air Force and a new air-to-air missile [BVRAAM]. Each decision will indicate the bias towards either the European or transatlantic stool. For example, the decision over airlift will provide a further indication of whether the government is prepared to prioritise the political dimension to its Europe first emphasis or whether the actual needs of the air force is prioritised. If the decision is to buy the Airbus A400M as the answer to its airlift needs then the government has emphasised its preference to remain at the heart of Europe politically and in terms of its defence industrial base. On the other hand, if the Royal Air Force’s preference for a C-17/C-130J combination is chosen then the requirements of expeditionary warfare set in SDR will have been emphasised at the expense of inter-operability amongst the European states. 72 Moreover, if Britain withdraws from the A400M programme its future will become uncertain and with it the future of the decisions made at Helsinki. The BVRAAM decision has similar implications with France and Germany putting pressure on Tony Blair to intervene and ensure that the Matra BAe Dynamics missile is ordered rather than the rival US product. 73



The Labour government have clearly taken a number of important steps to try and re-establish Britain at the centre of Europe and as a close ally of the United States. British defence policy has pursued this twin-track approach with some success and Britain has currently managed to restore its level of influence in Europe and with the United States to that achieved during the bleakest days of the Cold War. This is quite an achievement given the state of Britain’s relations with both Europe and America that the government inherited.

However, the ability of Britain to continue this policy remains questionable in the longer term. There are a number of difficult choices ahead which could easily send this particular train off the rails. Firstly, reference has already been made to the diversity in technological capabilities between the various members of NATO. In essence there are three tiers at present. The United States alone at the top. The next tier down includes the leading military states of Western Europe of which Britain is the leading member. Below this lies the smaller West European states and some of the new NATO members. The Kosovo experience has indicated the problems of tiers 1 and 2 remaining compatible. There is a significant danger of Britain being forced to chose between tier1 and 3. Secondly, there is the defence industrial dimension which looks as though it will force the government to chose between Europe and America. This is probably the area in which the first crack will appear in the dam. Finally, there is the accepted danger that moves towards a greater European defence capability will reinforce towards a deepening of the European political relationship and Britain’s divisions with its European partners on other issues, such as the single currency, will sour the defence relationship. The level of success in maintaining the twin stools policy will therefore revolve around the government’s ability to paper over the cracks in the wall as they appear.


Note 1: Andrew Dorman is a Research Associate at the Centre for Defence Studies, King’s College London, and a Senior Lecturer in the Defence Studies Department, Joint Services Command and Staff College. His publications include (co-edited with Mike Smith and Matthew Uttley) The Changing Face of Maritime Power, London, Macmillan Press Ltd., 1999; (co-authored with Adrian Treacher) European Security: An Introduction to Security Issues in post-Cold War Europe, Aldershot, Dartmouth Publishing Co. Ltd, 1995; and (co-edited with Thomas Otte) Military Intervention: From Gunboat Diplomacy to Humanitarian Intervention, Aldershot, Dartmouth Publishing Co. Ltd, 1995. Back.

Note 2: See Howard, Michael, The Continental Commitment: The Dilemma of British Defence Policy in the Era of Two World Wars, London, Temple Smith, 1972; Liddell Hart, Basil, The British Way in Warfare, London, Penguin, 1942; Bartlett, C.J., Defence and Diplomacy: Britain and the Great Powers, 1815-1914, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1993. Back.

Note 3: ‘The Strategic Defence Review,’ Cmnd.3,999, London, The Stationary Office, 1998, p.6. Back.

Note 4: ‘Presidency Conclusions,’ Helsinki European Council, Helsinki, 10-11 December 1999, para.28.Back.

Note 5: Baylis, John, Anglo-American Defence Relations, 1939-84, Basingstoke, Macmillan Press Ltd, second edition 1984, first edition 1981, p.34. Back.

Note 6: Lord Carrington, Reflect on Things Past: The Memoirs of Lord Carrington, (Glasgow: William Collins Sons and Co. Ltd.), 1988, p.218. Back.

Note 7: Croft, Stuart, and Williams, Phil, ‘The United Kingdom,’ in Security With Nuclear Weapons? Different Perspectives on National Security, edited by Regina Cowen Karp, Oxford, Oxford University Press for SIPRI, 1991, p.147. Back.

Note 8: See Cornish, Paul, British Military Planning for the Defence of Germany, 1945-50, London, Macmillan Press Ltd., 1996; Bluth, Christoph, Britain, Germany and Western Nuclear Strategy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1995, pp.10-30. Back.

Note 9: See Churchill, Winston S, The Second World War Volume VI: Triumph and Tragedy, London, Penguin Book Ltd 1974, pp.495-507. Back.

Note 10: Baylis, John, op.cit., p.34. Back.

Note 11: White, C.M., The Gotha Summer: The German Daytime Air Raids on England, May-August 1917, London, Robert Hale Ltd., 1986; Terraine, John, Business in Great Waters: The U-boat Wars, 1916-45, London, Leo Cooper Ltd., 1989; Robinson, Douglas, The Zeppelin in Combat: A History of the Naval Airship Division, 1912-18, Henley-on-Thames, G.T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., third edition 1971, first edition 1962, pp.95-138, 204-233, 262-283.Back.

Note 12: Hooton, ER, Eagle in Flames: The Fall of the Luftwaffe, London, Arms and Armour Press, pp.13-76; Terraine, John, op.cit. Back.

Note 13: Meilinger, Phillip S., ‘Proselytiser and Prophet: Alexander P. de Seversky and American Airpower,’ in Airpower: Theory and Practice, edited by John Gooch, London, Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., 1995, pp.22-23; Vallance, Andrew GB, The Air Weapon: Doctrines of Air Power Strategy and Operational Art, Basingstoke, Macmillan Press Ltd, 1995, p.16. Back.

Note 14: Dockrill, Michael, British Defence since 1945, Oxford, Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1988, p.32. Back.

Note 15: See Churchill, Winston S., The Second World War Book III: Their Finest Hour, The Fall of France, May - August 1940, London, Cassell and Co. Ltd., 1949. Back.

Note 16: Quoted in Wynn, Humphrey, RAF Nuclear Deterrent Forces, London, HMSO, 1994, p.13. Back.

Note 17: Ibid., p.44.Back.

Note 18: Freedman, Lawrence, Britain and Nuclear Weapons, Basingstoke, Macmillan Press Ltd., 1980, p.5.Back.

Note 19: ‘Defence: Outline of Future Policy,’ Cmnd.124, London, HMSO, 1957.Back.

Note 20: Wynn, Humphrey, op.cit., p.397.Back.

Note 21: Roberts, Fred, 60 Years of Nuclear History: Britain’s Hidden Agenda, Chalbury, Jon Carpenter Publishing, 1999, pp.153-4.Back.

Note 22: ‘The United Kingdom Defence Programme: The Way Forward,’ Cmnd. 8,288, London, HMSO, 1981, p.6. Back.

Note 23: ‘Statement Relating to Defence, 1948,’ Cmnd 7,327, London, HMSO, 1948, reprinted in Brassey’s Naval Annual, edited by Rear Admiral H.G. Thursfield, London, William Clowes and Sons Ltd., 1948, p.528.Back.

Note 24: Ponting, Clive, Breach of Power: Labour in Power, 1964-70, London, Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 1989, pp.41-2.Back.

Note 25: See ‘Defence: Outline of Future Policy,’ op.cit. Back.

Note 26: Pickering, Jeffery, Britain’s Withdrawal from East of Suez: the Politics of Retrenchment, London, Macmillan Press Ltd., 1998.Back.

Note 27: ‘The United Kingdom Defence Programme: The Way Forward,’ Cmnd. 8,288, London, HMSO, 1981, p.6; Brunner, Alex, & Aitken, Ian, ‘Thatcher Heading For Battles Over Gulf Force,’ in The Guardian, 2 March 1981; Thatcher, Margaret, op.cit., p.162.Back.

Note 28: Brunner, Alex, & Aitken, Ian, ‘Thatcher Heading For Battles Over Gulf Force,’ in The Guardian, 2 March 1981; Thatcher, Margaret, The Downing Street Years, London, Harper Collins, 1993, p.162. Back.

Note 29: Wallace, William, ‘Britain’s search for a new role in the world,’ in The Observer, no.10,531, 15 August 1993, p.16. Back.

Note 30: Eekelen, Willem van, ‘WEU on the way back to Brussels,’ Speech given at Chatham House, 22 September 1992.Back.

Note 31: ‘Hurd’s troubled world,’ in The Times, 29 January 1993.Back.

Note 32: Hurd, Douglas, ‘Foreign policy and international security,’ in The RUSI Journal, vol.137, no.6, December 1992, p.2. Back.

Note 33: Rifkind, Malcolm, ‘Peacekeeping or peacemaking? Implications and prospects,’ in The RUSI Journal, vol.138, no.2, April 1993, pp.1-6.Back.

Note 34: Brown, Colin, ‘Chief of Staff protest to major over cuts,’ The Independent, no.2,194, 30 October 1993, p.2. Back.

Note 35: Barrie, Douglas, ‘Nuclear conflicts,’ in Flight International, vol.144, no.4,393, 27 October - 2 November 1993, p.18. Back.

Note 36: King, Tom, House of Commons Parliamentary Debates, vol.177, sixth series, session 1989-90, 23 July - 19 October 1990, Statement to the House, 25 July 1990, cols.468-86.Back.

Note 37: Front Line First: The Defence Cost Study, London, HMSO, 1994. See also David White, ‘Strategy Outlined for Blitz on Defence Costs,’ The Financial Times, 6 July 1993; Christopher Bellamy and Colin Brown, ‘Rifkind Squeezes Budget as Peace Dividend Falls Short,’ The Independent, 8 July 1994, p. 2. Back.

Note 38: ‘Defending Our Future: Statement on the Defence Estimates, 1993,’ Cmnd.2,270, London, HMSO, 1993, p.7.Back.

Note 39: The recent announcement of cuts in Trident warhead numbers appear to have more to do with the problems at the Aldermaston plant than a desire for arms control. Fairhall, David, ‘Aldermaston plant delay a factor in decision to scale down warheads,’ in The Guardian, 16 November 1993, p.2.Back.

Note 40: Calvocoressi, Peter, ‘Deterrence, the Costs, the Issues, the Choices,’ in The Sunday Times, 6 April 1980.Back.

Note 41: Barrie, Douglas, Nuclear Conflicts,’ in Flight International, vol.144, no.4,393, 27 October- 2 November 1993, p.18.Back.

Note 42: ‘The United Kingdom Defence Programme: The Way Forward,’ op.cit.; ‘Statement on the Defence Estimates, 1968,’ Cmnd.3,540, London, HMSO, 1968. Back.

Note 43: Agreed at the NATO Heads of State and Government meeting, Rome, 7-8 November 1991, NATO Press Communiqué S-1 (91) 85, 7 November 1991. Back.

Note 44: Agreed at the NATO Heads of State and Government meeting in Rome, 7-8 November 1991, NATO Press Communiqué S-1 (91) 85, 7 November 1991.Back.

Note 45: ‘Statement on the Defence Estimates 1993 - Defending our Future,’ op.cit., p.10. Back.

Note 46: George, Bruce, & Ryan, Nick, ‘Options for Change: a political critique,’ in Brassey’s Defence Yearbook, 1993, edited by the Centre for Defence Studies, op.cit., p.44.Back.

Note 46: ‘Statement on the Defence Estimates, 1991: Britain’s Defence for the 1990s,’ Cmnd.1,559, London, HMSO, 1991, p.6.Back.

Note 48: ‘ Statement on the Defence Estimates, 1996,’ Cmnd.3,223, London, The Stationery Office, 1996, p.57. Back.

Note 49: House of Commons Select Committee on Defence, ‘Fourth Report: United Kingdom Peacekeeping and Intervention Forces: Report together with the Proceedings of the Committee relating to the report, Minutes of Evidence and Memoranda,’ House of Commons Paper No.188, Session 1992-93, London, HMSO, 1993,p.xxiii. Back.

Note 50: Ibid., p.v. Back.

Note 51: See Dorman, Andrew M., & Treacher, Adrian, European Security: An Introduction to Security Issues in post-Cold War Europe, Aldershot, Dartmouth Publishing Co. Ltd, 1995. Back.

Note 52: Ministry of Defence Press Release 055/97, 28 May 1997.Back.

Note 53: George Robertson, Speech to the Labour Party Conference, 1997. Back.

Note 54: ‘The Strategic Defence Review,’ op.cit., p.8.Back.

Note 55: Ibid., p.5 Back.

Note 56: Ibid., p.6. Back.

Note 57: Ibid., pp.14-5. Back.

Note 58: Ibid., p.15. Back.

Note 59: ‘Defence Diplomacy: Good Things Come in Threes,’ MoD Press Release No.367/99, 18 October 1999. Back.

Note 60: Ibid., p.6. Back.

Note 61: Blair, Tony, Speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet, London, 22 November 1999. Back.

Note 62: Joint Declaration issued at the British-French Summit, Saint Malo, France, 3-4 December 1998. Back.

Note 63: Robertson, Lord, ‘European Defence: the Way Ahead,’ Speech to the RIIA Conference, 7 October 1999. Back.

Note 64: Joint Declaration of the British and French Governments on European Defence, Anglo-French Summit, London, 25 November 1999; ‘Moving Forward European Defence,’ MoD Press Release No.421/99, 25 November 1999. Back.

Note 65: ‘Statement on the Estimates, 1999,’, para.17. Back.

Note 66: Hill, Luke, ‘New European Task Force Takes on First Task in Kosovo,’ in Defense News, vol.15, no.7, 21 February 2000, p.4. Back.

Note 67: Idem. Back.

Note 68: See paragraph 4 of Secretary of State for Defence’s introduction to the SDR. ‘The Strategic Defence Review,’ op.cit., p.2. For a list of the enhancements to joint capabilities see George, Robertson, ‘Robertson’s Review: Modern Forces for the World,’ Ministry of Defence Press Release 172/98, 8 July 1998, pp.2-3. Back.

Note 69: Ibid., pp.24, 26-7, & 29. Back.

Note 70: Ministry of Defence Press Release no.213/98, 12 August 1998. Back.

Note 71: ‘The Strategic Defence Review,’ op.cit., p.21. Back.

Note 72: Beaver, Paul, ‘UK MoD Instructed to re-examine RAF’s Future Airlift Requirement,’ Jane’s Defence Weekly, 22 December 1999, p.3; Cook, Nick, ‘Endgame nears for UK RAF’s New Transporter,’ Jane’s Defence Weekly, 26 January 2000, p.29. Back.

Note 73: Morgan, Oliver, ‘Blair in £900m missile row,’ The Observer, 27 February 2000, Business Section, p.1. Back.