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Hammond - UK would welcome enhanced defence relationship with Germany

Mr Hammond was hosted by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Auswartige Politik (German Council on Foreign Relations) in Berlin, and his speech was…

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Mr Hammond was hosted by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Auswartige Politik (German Council on Foreign Relations) in Berlin, and his speech was titled ‘Shared Security: Transforming Defence to Face the Future’.

In his speech, Mr Hammond explained that, unlike during the Cold War, a defensive crouch posture or ‘Fortress Europe’ will not meet the needs of national or regional security in this new era. This means intervening beyond the borders of the European Union when necessary.

He also emphasised that with the United States beginning to focus on Asia, Germany should join with the UK and France in transforming their armed forces and generate both the military capability and political will to deploy military resources more widely in future in support of NATO, the EU and coalition operations.

Mr Hammond, reflecting on changes in Berlin over the past 40 years, said that the reunification of the city, with many of the old certainties and familiar features disappearing, was a metaphor for the wider changes that have taken place in the 20 years since the Wall came down, across the globe, and in the strategic security environment in particular. He said:

The Cold War imposed order and a degree of certainty… the enemy was known and was pretty predictable.

In divided Europe, NATO and the Warsaw Pact understood the boundaries and operated by a set of rules and understandings.

But in pure power-balance terms, we have swapped the certainty of a known and predictable enemy for a world of shifting power balances, emerging, independent challengers, and diverse non-state threats.

So that a myriad of lesser, but nonetheless potentially devastating threats, emerge to make our societies in some ways less safe, less secure, and less certain in facing the future.

Facing the future

Mr Hammond said that this unpredictability and rapid change in the threats we face makes it all the more important that our respective armed forces, and our collective defence arrangements, are correctly configured to meet the requirements of today - and prepared, at the same time, for what is around the next corner.

The central argument in his speech, Mr Hammond said, was this:

The responsibility of European nations to defend their citizens can no longer be discharged by a strategy of homeland defence and a ‘Fortress Europe’.

The threats we face are no longer territorial, so a passive defence of national territory is no longer adequate protection for our citizens.

Our security requires that we do not sit back and let threats come to us, but that we project power to meet them - wherever in the world they are forming.

Mr Hammond said, therefore, that the NATO Alliance, and the European part of it in particular, must continue to develop together the capability and the political will to act when necessary - to project power, including, but not limited to, military power, and to deploy it rapidly when we must.

The need for transformation

Mr Hammond talked about Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR being a coalition success, and, for the people of Libya, a liberation they can justly claim to have seen through themselves.

It has reconfirmed the utility of NATO as the most successful tool for collective defence ever created, he affirmed, adding:

But the Libya operation also cruelly exposed the imbalances and weaknesses in the Alliance and thus the scale of the task facing European NATO nations.

Even with the very limited nature of the Libya campaign, the nations of Europe could not have undertaken this operation without the US shouldering much of the weight.

We know what the problems are. Too many allies are failing to meet their financial responsibilities to NATO. Too many countries are failing to build and maintain appropriate capabilities to meet the new threats we face, or to make them available for operations.

Mr Hammond said that while we have known about these deficiencies for many years, we can no longer afford to carry on as before, because the United States has made clear that it intends to reflect in its strategic posture the growing importance of the developing challenges in the Pacific:

Let me be clear about this - it is in Europe’s interest that the United States rises to the challenge that the emergence of China as a global power presents and we should support the decisions the US has made.

But that means we, the nations of Europe, must take on more responsibility for our own backyard; shouldering the major burden in the Balkans and the Mediterranean, but also being prepared, if necessary, to take a bigger role in relation to North Africa and the Middle East.

This isn’t about the United States walking away; this is about the nations of Europe taking more of the strain of our collective defence in our own region. Responding to the threats that most directly impact on us.

Fiscal realities

Mr Hammond acknowledged the ‘fiscal challenges’, saying:

Without strong economies and sound public finances it will be impossible to sustain in the long term the military capability required across Europe to maintain collective defence and, when necessary, project power to confront threats as they form abroad.

Yet, in the long run, all NATO members, if they benefit from collective defence, must contribute appropriately to it.

Each of us must live up to the responsibility to fund national defence properly as a contribution to the Alliance - a responsibility which we reconfirmed as recently as 2010 at the Lisbon Summit.

But in the short term - when pressures on national budgets are so severe - it is frankly a waste of breath to call for more defence spending to bridge the gap between what the Alliance needs and what the Alliance has. So, for now, more money is not going to be the answer.

Mr Hammond said therefore that we must do things differently:

• maximising the capability we can squeeze out of the resources we have.

• prioritising ruthlessly; specialising aggressively and collaborating unsentimentally.

• investing in capability that is fully deployable, and available for collective defence action - if necessary outside Europe’s borders.

• working together to do more, with less.

Collective Defence

Mr Hammond said that the UK’s National Security Strategy and Germany’s Defence Policy Guidelines come to the same conclusion: to tackle the threats we share in common we need to act in common through all the institutions that exist to provide us with a collective response - the UN, NATO, and the EU among them:

The challenge is to produce extra military effect, and do it swiftly, without duplicating effort or reinventing proven structures that already exist,” Mr Hammond said.

This will need to begin with a clear-sighted assessment of the current state of NATO’s collective competence, taking account of what we know of reductions already planned and how these will impact on current capabilities. And a willingness to recognise the gap between that capability and NATO’s stated level of ambition.

This will provide a baseline against which to take the right decisions: greater pooling and sharing of capabilities; mission, role and geographic specialisation; greater sharing of technology; co-operation on logistics; and more collaborative training.

Multilayered Defence

For Britain, Mr Hammond said, ‘Smart Defence’ is also about making the Alliance more flexible, encouraging collaboration among groups of Allies and with partners outside the Alliance:

We need an approach that allows natural bilateral partnerships or regional groupings within the Alliance and across its boundaries to flourish - adding value to the capabilities available to the Alliance as a whole.

Britain is actively pursuing such collaborative initiatives, Mr Hammond said, citing the new Northern Group of nations, including Germany, the Baltic and Nordic countries as well as the UK, and the Franco-British Defence Treaties as part of this process.

And the UK would welcome an enhanced defence and security relationship with Germany, Mr Hammond added, based on the areas where we can best add to Alliance capability through bilateral co-operation:

We should work towards common positions in NATO and the EU, identifying reasons for any disagreements and tackling them head on, while building on the many areas of agreement as a foundation of our future co-operation.

Capability and deployability

Mr Hammond spoke about how the British Armed Forces that will emerge from our Defence Review will be formidable, flexible and adaptable - equipped with some of the best and most advanced technology in the world, supported by the fourth largest defence budget in the world, meeting in full our NATO responsibilities.

He said the watchword for the transformation process has been capability, not size, adding:

This focus on capability rather than size is one of the most positive outcomes, I believe, that is emerging from the German transformation programme.

A new phase and a significant step forward in Germany’s post-Cold-War reconfiguration to face the future symbolised by the commitment made to the mission in Afghanistan.

For both Britain and Germany, the test of transformation will be the ability to generate the level of military capability set out in our plans.

But it will also rely, in Germany in particular, on the ability to generate the political will and public support for the deployment of military resources more widely in the future in support of Alliance operations beyond our borders.

By refocusing existing budgetary resources on more deployable capabilities, Germany has probably a greater capacity than any other European NATO partner to contribute to short-term enhancement of the Alliance’s capabilities.

In conclusion, Mr Hammond said that it is in all our interests to encourage Germany to realise that potential.

See Related Links to read the Defence Secretary’s Berlin speech in full.

Published 3 May 2012