This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Speech delivered by Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology in Paris, France on Thursday 16 June 2011.
Mesdames, Messieurs, bonjour.
Il est sans doute que je suis heureux de me presente aujourd’hui.
Malheureusement, il fait longtemps que j’ai appris le français, alors j’espere que vous m’excuserez si je commence de parler en anglais…
Thank you Roger [Dr. Roger Weissinger-Baylon, Co-Director, Center for Strategic Decision Research] for those kind words of introduction - although reminding me of the challenges I face.
It’s a privilege to be part of this opening session with Gerard [Longuet, French Minister of Defence], and Bill [William Lynn, US Deputy Secretary of Defence].
Our aim in Paris is not to identify the broad challenges and threats we face in this interconnected and volatile world - there is a strong and growing consensus on what these are.
Our aim is to be clear about how we will tackle them.
In the next few minutes my aim is to offer a British perspective.
First, on the kind of Armed Forces that will be required if we are to protect national security and maintain international stability.
Second, on the relevance and structure of international security architectures.
And, third, on the compelling case for greater international collaboration, not least in my own ministerial portfolio of equipment, support, and technology.
Before I do, let me reflect on recent events.
Developments in the Arab world are a wake up call to those who have failed to acknowledge the volatility of the world we live in - and the pace of change we need to be prepared for and for those who have not fully appreciated the implications of both.
Cast your minds back to Christmas.
Who would have predicted that Osama bin Laden would have finally been tracked down and killed, or that the long arm of international law would finally catch up with Ratko Mladi??
Who then would have predicted that the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt would be swept away on a tide of old fashioned street uprisings, supported and spread by the new technology of texts and tweets.
Who would have predicted that NATO would be leading the effort to uphold UN resolutions in Libya and protect the Libyan people from the brutality of their own government?
Who would have predicted that this demand for change would spread across the Middle East?
The Arab Spring is a direct challenge to those who claimed that the only choice for the Arab World was between feudal, authoritarianism, or Islamic fundamentalism.
It is proof, if we ever needed it, that representative government is a universal urge not just a cultural expression of the West.
It is proof, if we ever needed it, that the pursuit of our national and collective security cannot be confined to the Euro-Atlantic zone.
The world is now multi-polar and multi-powered.
And the world is not just a geographic entity anymore - it is networked and virtual.
Recent cyber attacks on diverse organisations like Lockheed Martin and the IMF tell of a future that has already arrived.
As Bill Lynn so effectively and chillingly reminded us, theft of data often unnoticed is already of immense concern, and the consequences of other threats cannot be underestimated.
So we face a volatile future of diverse and unpredictable threats.
This is no longer academic.
No longer a matter for think tanks and think pieces.
It is real. It is here. And we must respond.
That’s why Secretary Gates’ speech last week was as refreshing as it was uncomfortable for the rest of the Alliance.
It was a clinical warning from an experienced man.
He used his opportunity wisely - to speak truth unto power.
Many Europeans have neglected to take the imbalance in NATO seriously, and have dismissed the danger this poses to the Alliance.
Well, we can do that no more.
If there was ever a ‘peace dividend’ from the end of the Cold War, it has been well and truly cashed.
It is not just that the US, like many of us, face the serious pressure of balancing budgets in a time of austerity.
It is not just that asking the US Congress to fund the majority of NATO military spending becomes yearly more difficult to achieve.
Cold hard facts are drawing American eyes irresistibly to the Pacific.
For example, China’s recent display of their new aircraft carrier, and of course their new stealth fighter, has concentrated many American minds.
In the UK we are clear, NATO remains the bedrock of Britain’s security.
It is a national priority for us that this, the world’s greatest military alliance, remains viable and powerful.
NATO has agreed targets for Defence spending and deployability - which Britain meets - but as my Secretary of State Liam Fox has said, “these targets seem more honoured in the breach than the observance” by most countries.
23 out of 28 Allies do not meet the long standing NATO target for defence spending reconfirmed by all as recently as March.
And this isn’t just about money; it is equally about deployability and the political will to deploy a combination, which only the US and a few of the more capable and willing Allies can offer.
In a world in which the US cannot afford to police sans limites, no-one in Europe can afford to be sanguine about the US producing security for those who merely consume it, and give perhaps too little in return.
All of us must be willing and capable of accepting and funding our fair share of the burden and risk of Alliance membership, only then of reaping the associated benefits.
And we must demonstrate the political will required to commit to missions of collective security.
In austere times, it’s tempting to defer the cost, pass on the burden, and recoil from change.
But in Britain, when we undertook our Strategic Defence and Security Review last year, we rejected the timid approach of accepting a diminished role in the world.
We rejected the notion of strategic shrinkage for the United Kingdom.
And we rejected the notion of strategic shrinkage for NATO.
We decided on an adaptable posture and flexible forces, maximising deployability, emphasising reach.
We have had to take difficult decisions to manage this change in times of constrained budgets.
And incidentally those decisions enable us to increase spending in some areas, notably cyber defence.
We have been clear that we will have to work ever more closely with our allies to meet the needs of national and collective security.
But we have chosen to remain in the premier league of military powers, meeting the NATO 2% target throughout our current spending period.
Recent events have validated this approach.
What is happening in Libya is a very different operation from that in Afghanistan, yet both offer perspectives on the changing character of conflict.
And as important as NATO’s Article V is - the very embodiment of NATO’s core collective Defence mission - Afghanistan and Libya have, in very different ways, reinforced the message that European security today means much more than sitting at home, waiting to repel attacks.
This was agreed in NATO’s Strategic Concept, and is consistent with our own SDSR.
That’s why over 150,000 brave men and women are committed to NATO-commanded operations on three continents.
That is also why many non-NATO countries which have come on board these operations of their own volition.
And when the UN Security Council swiftly passed Resolution 1973, it was to NATO that everyone looked as the only practical instrument of choice for internationally agreed military operations.
In today’s world, what counts is what works, which means maximising co-operation through tried and tested methods.
It makes no sense to talk of spending scarce resources constructing alternative, parallel, bureaucratic structures.
Of course we should pursue a more effective relationship between NATO and the EU, including in crisis management.
Indeed, just last month, Britain and France were signatories to a letter signed by 15 European Foreign Ministers of EU and NATO nations seeking just that.
But we must ensure that that we are able to deal with threats appropriately and in a timely manner.
While European allies must be able and willing to participate in high intensity operations, primarily through NATO, we see the principal role of the EU as an institution at the softer end of the scale.
Talking up the EU as an alternative route does not address diminishing defence budgets, or lack of capability, deployability and political will.
We remain profoundly sceptical for the need for additional structures and institutions for the common security and defence policy.
As Liam Fox has observed, “Double hatting doesn’t increase capacity or capability. It doesn’t create one more bullet, one more gun, one more plane.”
That’s emphatically not to say that NATO is perfect and should be exempted from reform; as we showed at last week’s NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting this is certainly not the case.
What is truly impressive is how the Alliance has used recent events and the financial pressures on all of us to demonstrate the power and benefits of genuine reform.
Reform means that the Command Structure will reduce in size yet offer better value for money.
Reform means focusing scarce resources on things we really need.
Reform means fixing, not avoiding, the vexed issue of common funding.
But where I see the greatest opportunity for transformation is international partnership.
In today’s world, the case for partnership and collaboration is compelling.
We in Britain will continue to deepen our bilateral defence relationships and broaden them to reflect today’s threats.
For example, the depth and breadth of the UK’s Defence trade relationship with the US allows for lower barriers and higher ambitions.
So we welcome the US Administration’s commitment to reform of their export control system and are delighted that Congress ratified the US-UK Defence Trade Co-operation Treaty last year.
A number of detailed arrangements are required to be in place before the Treaty can be brought into force, and we plan to run trials to ensure that these are robust and working effectively.
We all hope and expect that the Treaty will deliver capability and interoperability more quickly to the front line, as well as benefits to industry by reducing bureaucracy on both sides of the Atlantic.
The US have long argued that Europe as a whole needs more effective, operationally viable forces.
I agree, and with my ministerial responsibilities I can clearly see that this necessarily involves improved access to US technology, and research and development.
In Europe, Britain and France are the two major Defence powers, with Armed Forces of comparable size and capability, actively engaged in operations around the world - and willing to act when required.
The political and military leadership which Britain and France have shown over Libya is further testament to our alignment - taking the lead role in coalition operations and operating together.
Our collaboration is a strategic imperative; as natural as it’s necessary.
That is why we signed our bi-lateral Defence Co-operation Treaty last year.
Let me clear up any misconceptions too.
The Anglo-French Treaty is not Saint Malo version 2.
Nor is it incompatible with what Britain and France continue to plan to be able to do - alone if necessary, or with other capable and willing countries.
Our Treaty with France - a bilateral agreement between sovereign nations - is intended to complement our engagement with NATO and the EU.
It is not a zero sum game with respect to other partners.
It is about making things happen at a practical level.
Take the ongoing development of a UK-France Combined Joint Expeditionary Force.
This will give us the ability to field an early entry force that can undertake complex combat and high intensity operations.
We are working towards full operational capability in 2016.
We are already training together. Headquarters 7th Armoured Brigade will deploy to France on Exercise FLANDRES later this month, working with a French Brigade Headquarters under French Divisional Command.
We should all strive to do more of this, not just Britain and France.
Indeed we strongly hope that our example will encourage other partners to seek better value for money and improve capability through co-operation with each other.
And it is no good saying, for example, that it doesn’t make sense to multiple shipyards or armoured vehicle manufacturers in Europe unless the one saying it is clear about what capability their country is prepared to give up or collaborate on.
Clear-headed inter-dependency extends to equipment capability too.
This is exactly the issue I have been discussing with my French counterpart earlier today at one of our regular meetings to maintain momentum in this key area.
Complementarity amongst Europeans, and between Europe and the North American Allies, must be the name of the game if the Alliance is to remain credible and effective.
So I welcome NATO’s continuing efforts to both remove unnecessary duplication from Allied inventories and highlight the worrying capability gaps across Europe which are being created as a result of budget reductions in almost every country.
Talleyrand remarked, “La parole nous a ete donnee pour deguiser notre pensee” - “We were given speech to hide our thoughts.”
Today I have tried to make Britain’s priorities crystal clear.
Britain will continue to be a global player.
As we maintain that commitment, we do so knowing that, in the US and France, Britain has no closer Defence and Security relationships.
But we do so knowing that the strength of our friendships and collaboration within NATO, the EU and with other partners far and wide is not diminished by this closeness, but strengthened.
The successful pursuit of multi-layered security, built on shared interests, built on improved capability, built on improved deployability, is our goal.
And we are clear that NATO stands at the heart of what we must do to achieve that goal.