Dr. Julian LINDLEY-FRENCH
Research Fellow, WEU Institute for Security Studies
BOOSTING EUROPE'S MILITARY MUSCLE - THE BUILD-UP AND FUTURE ROLE OF THE
EU RAPID REACTION FORCE
Lecture in the Cicero Foundation Great Debate seminar 'Europe: An Emerging
The New Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU', PARIS, 9-10 March 2000
Europe is Becoming an International Security Actor
It is a very real pleasure for me to be here today to address you with a personal
view of the build-up and future role of the EU or European Rapid Reaction Force.
Oscar Wilde once characterised fox-hunting as the unspeakable in pursuit of
the inedible. European defence for those not involved in its daily intricacies
can sometimes resemble the incomprehensible in pursuit of the inexplicable.
It is my mission today to try and avoid that trap. I am not going to offer a
plan - that is being worked on - but I will go through the checklist of capabilities
that will be required to realise the ambitions of the EU in the military sphere.
Some very important events have taken place in the past ten days. A meeting
took place at Sintra last week at which the Defence Ministers of the 15 confirmed
the Helsinki decision to launch the interim Political and Security Committee,
the Military Committee, the European Military Staff and to establish a Force
Generation Conference by the end of year. On March 1st the interim Political
and Security Committee started work and on March 7th, the interim Military Committee
likewise. Europe is taking great strides towards strengthening its roles as
an international security actor.
Another debate also took place during the Sintra meeting as both France and
the UK called for marked increases in the equipment budgets of the 15 heralding
what will be, I believe, a sustained campaign for real, if modest, increase
in defence expenditure to underwrite the European Rapid Reaction Force that
is due to be ready by 2003. This is no mean undertaking. Francois Heisbourg,
in a speech at the WEU Institute for Security Studies the week before last estimated
that a force of 60,000 combat troops deployed for a year undertaking a full
Petersberg-type operation (and I will come back to that phrase later) would
mean, in reality a force of some 300,000 being available for deployment over
the duration of operation. Whilst one can question the figures no-one can doubt
the ambition. That said, the implications of what is taking place today go far
beyond the creation of the European Rapid Reaction Force.
Europe, I believe, is on the road to becoming a security actor with global interests
(and I use that term advisedly) with a military capability at its core. I use
the term advisedly because it is important to place the development of the European
Rapid Reaction Force within the its broad political context.
First, the EU is committed to enhancing security, not in becoming a military
actor per se. Therefore, the Rapid Reaction Force must be seen as one additional
tool, albeit an important tool, in a broad range of political and diplomatic
Second, the EU, through its diverse membership is also a unique security actor
- a 'one-stop shop' for security - a capability enjoyed by no other organisation
because of its unrivalled ability to harness economic security, diplomacy and
political legitimacy. It is in that context that the EU is now in the process
of adding a credible military capability that will back up its diplomatic efforts.
Third, the EU is an holistic security actor in that the strength of the EU's
role in non-military aspects of security reinforces and underlines the role
of the smaller EU Member-States who can often play a diplomatic role that the
larger powers such as Germany, France and the UK find difficult for a range
of reasons. Equally, the creation of the Rapid Reaction Force is more than a
functional response to the current security situation. Nor must it be seen merely
as a means to strengthen the European pillar of NATO. It will undoubtedly have
that effect and, I believe, reinforce the political legitimacy of the Atlantic
Alliance. The European Security and Defence Policy must be seen for what it
is: part of a political process that has been taking place since the end of
the Cold War with the objective of providing Europe with autonomous, cost-effective
security and defence, that will eventually cover the broad spectrum of security
and defence requirements. In other words, building Europe's military muscle
is a step on the road towards a common defence.
A Global Role for Europe?
Equally the enhancement of Europe's military capabilities sends out some strong
messages to the United States. It underlines that Europe is prepared to share
the burdens of security, initially in Europe, occasionally beyond and, I believe,
in time everywhere. However, in so doing, Europe will act as an equal partner,
not as sub-contractor and will be very willing to do so. Transatlantic relations,
let us be clear, transatlantic relations matter. They are particularly important
to Europe. No-one wants to undermine our links with America. Therefore, these
developments should be welcomed in Washington, because they are undoubtedly
in the interests of the United States who, whilst frequently calling for a stronger
Europe, balk at the prospect of one that is strong enough to influence both
US and transatlantic policy. Even the mighty United States is not without the
need of powerful friends. Not at least because US forces suffer from over-stretch
as they try to match the available forces with ever-spiralling demands upon
them. We are the one group of allies who can really make a difference. At the
same time the decision to move forward indicates to the United States a determination
by Europeans to ensure European control over key assets such as satellite imagery,
intelligence, lift, communications and logistics that are essential to the success
of any operation. Unnecessary duplication with the Americans no, but some limited
necessary duplication, yes.
Toward a Growing Political Influence in Transatlantic Relations?
The US would like us to increase our ability to undertake security operations
without any matching increase in our political influence over those operations,
either within NATO or beyond. In short, if we pay more and do more, we say more.
The status quo ante is not an option. As Europe increases its military capabilities
it will increase its political influence. For the legitimacy of the West this
is essential. The mix of tensions and burdens that challenge the Atlantic Alliance
at present, whilst not being terminal, need managing. Today, it is possible
to envisage situations in which the Alliance as a whole will not be engaged
and for which the EU would be better suited. If that happens NATO-EU relations
must be such that no lasting damage is done to the Alliance which will remain
the cornerstone of our strategic security and defence for the foreseeable future.
If I may say so, my own country has played an important role in the political
and military developments that have brought us to the point at which the EU
is developing genuine hard military capability. There are those who dismiss
this shift in the British position as a reaction to our exclusion from the Euro
or some purely neo-functional response to defence over-stretch. Certainly, the
UK maintains several options in pursuit of its security interests: NATO, bilateral
US-UK, other coalitions with non-EU, non-NATO states for small security operations
and bilateral Franco-British efforts, as well as the emerging EU structures.
However, a genuine shift in perspective has taken place in the UK that makes
our commitment one that is both real and sincere. Tony Blair represents a generation
change of guard in the UK. He is the first Prime Minister who 'grew up' with
Europe, not with decline or Empire. It shapes his thinking. He is a European
who is intellectually and emotionally committed to the European project. He
might disagree with certain nuances, as well as do from time to time, but he
is a 'good European'. Indeed, it is now up to Britain's partners to change their
thinking and recognise that the British can be 'good Europeans' even if we disagree
over specific aspects of policy. Defence is an area that places Britain truly
at the heart of Europe.
The Role of the Rapid Reaction Force
The nature of the missions, the tasks and forces required underline the complexity
and ambition of the policy in general and the Headline Goal in particular. What
EU is endeavouring to create is a collective security mechanism through a force
that is robust enough to act quickly and effectively in crises, but flexible
enough to be deployed in various forms and sizes for a complex range of missions.
NATO will remain the cornerstone of European defence and the ultimate guarantor
of success if a crisis escalates towards Article 5 dimensions, i.e. a direct
threat to our respective territories (although in this day and age the Article
5/non-Article 5 distinction is increasingly out of date). To achieve this balance
between effective decision-making and flexible but capable forces must be struck.
So, how are we going to do this? The key phrase in the Helsinki Declaration
states: "A common European headline goal will be adopted for readily deployable
military capabilities and collective capability goals in the fields of command
and control, intelligence and strategic transport will be developed rapidly,
to be achieved through voluntary co-ordinated national and multinational efforts,
for carrying out the full range of Petersberg tasks".
What that means in real speech is that a shell will be created in which existing
national rapid reaction forces (and other forces) will be deployed. This will
require three key elements: building on the UK-French agreement of November
1999 to create two Permanent Joint Headquarters in addition to those of Allied
Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) and Eurocorps that can be detached to create a rotatable
HQ for the ERRF; units of national and multinational force elements that are
answerable to the European Military Committee on a rotating basis; support elements
in the areas of C4, strategic intelligence and transport that become are allocated
by national forces to the ERRF for the duration of a deployment. Moreover, each
participating Member State should be invited to provide forces for every type
of mission if at all possible. It is important politically and military that
all the tasks (including the most dangerous) are undertaken by all the partners.
Transparency and inclusion must be the basis for the development of the force
in order to underpin its legitimacy in all the Member States.
The role of the Rapid Reaction Force itself is a much more technical matter.
As I indicated above it is vital not only as a force in itself but also as a
means to influence US policy. To that end the Americans will not really take
Europe or the European Rapid Reaction Force seriously until we have the capabilities.
So, let us be clear what we mean by capabilities. At full deployment the European
Rapid Reaction Force will be a corps-sized force of up to 60,000 troops capable
of being deployed 60 days after the activation order with some elements being
ready for immediate deployment. It will need to be sustained over distance for
a period of a year in and around the European theatre (and possibly beyond)
and equipped with sufficient capabilities/hardware to undertake the Petersberg
Tasks of rescue and humanitarian missions, peacekeeping and be able to undertake
the role of combat troops in peacemaking whilst being able to dominate the environment
in which it is operating. Again, no mean goal. That is the challenge of the
Headline Goal that was established at the Helsinki Summit. So, where do we start?
We start with what we have.
The WEU Audit, which was presented to European Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg
in November 1999, identified only five types of limited operation that European
forces could undertake today. These include the separation of parties at war,
the prevention of conflict, humanitarian aid in the aftermath of natural disaster,
humanitarian aid to support refugee and local populations in a conflict zone
and evacuation from a conflict zone of WEU citizens in the event of man-made
disaster. The Audit also stressed that European land forces remain too static
with only limited projection beyond EU territory being possible. European air
operations would be hampered by a lack of electronic warfare capability (i.e.
the ability to screw up the airwaves of the enemy and preventing them doing
likewise to us) and offensive command and control (C2) systems whilst several
European countries remain unable to integrate their air forces with those of
their allies and lack precision guided weapons so essential for the kind of
operations that we face today that place the civilians in the front-line.
Moreover, European forces also lacked sufficient access to medical support and
the ability to effectively assist in the reconstruction or re-establishment
of civilian administrations. This should not be the case. The EU has sufficient
men under arms. EU armed forces are on paper at least amongst the best-equipped
in the world, if one ignores for the moment the comparison with the United States
(with whom we are not going to go to war). Most of them are used to working
together through NATO or bilaterally and there are a lot of similarities about
the way we do things that can be built upon to make the Rapid Reaction Force
an effective and powerful military tool. That is the good news.
What Europe Lacks
Kosovo underlined the bad news. First, we lack sufficient strategic and tactical
intelligence assets to enable us to control the environment through knowledge
and information prior to going into action in the way the Americans can. The
price for that will be increased casualties - something that will matter to
European public opinion.
Second, we lack sufficient strategic and tactical sea and air lift (i.e. transportation)
to both project the force over distance, sustain it and ensure its mobility,
i.e. its ability to be flexible enough to respond to new situations around the
battle space/operational area.
Third, we lack enough hi-tech weapons to both ensure control of the air space
above a force for a sustained period and aircraft and precision-guided munitions
that can severely restrict the operations of an adversary. In effect, without
the US today we cannot see very far, we cannot go very far, and when there,
we cannot do very much and we are unlikely to be able to stay very long if we
are not welcome. Moreover, whilst on paper we have more than enough troops,
those that we have are either of the wrong kind, i.e. they are conscripts or
those that are sufficiently trained and sufficiently professional are only allowed
by their governments to be used using rules of engagement that make the utility
of such a force highly suspect. It is clear therefore that no amount of clever
re-allocation of forces or use of volunteer conscripts is going to work.
Increased Defence Expenditure?
Let us be clear: the Rapid Reaction Force is a collective security tool that
is going to be deployed into difficult conditions or it is nothing. For that
reason, I must take issue with those of my German colleagues (and as an academic
I can) who believe that territorial defence and the role of conscripts remains
important and that it can all be paid for without any increase in defence expenditure.
In my opinion if the force is to do what it will be called on to do, with all
the support and ancillary elements that it will require, it will cost money.
By some recent estimates all EU countries will have to increase their defence
expenditure to a minimum average of 2% of GDP.
A brief analysis of the kind of missions likely to be undertaken by the force
underlines this reality. The Petersberg Tasks, i.e. rescue and humanitarian
missions, peacekeeping and the role of combat troops in peacemaking, are often
referred to as though they are readily and easily achievable. In fact, they
are a complex and demanding set of military missions, because it is unlikely
that we will enjoy the comfort of controlling the environment. This is particularly
so if Europe is to undertake the full range of the Petersberg Tasks that was
set out at Helsinki. We need to define the Petersberg Tasks more carefully because
they are likely to spawn a lot of associate type of missions. What is needed
now, therefore, in my opinion, is a strategic European Defence Review that builds
upon the WEU Audit and the Defence Capabilities Initiative within NATO.
Such a review would first examine the overall mission of the ERRF within the
context provided by the Petersberg Tasks, i.e. the provision of European forces
with a high degree of military effectiveness at sufficient readiness and a clear
sense of purpose for conflict prevention, crisis management and combat operations.
Indeed, tasks need to be broken down into missions based upon a broad list of
scenarios that will result in a realistic Task List for the force. Indeed, I
think it is important to be clear just what the range of missions that could
be included in the full range of Petersberg Tasks might include:
Range of Missions
Peacetime security: to assist in the protection and security of the European
homeland, to assist as required in the evacuation of European citizens overseas
and military aid to Civil Authorities (counter-crime and counter-drug operations,
pre-emptive strike against a state armed with WMD around the European Theatre
and in danger of attacking the EU); Defence Diplomacy: to provide forces to
meet the various activities undertaken by the EU to dispel hostility, build
and maintain trust and to assist in the development of democratically accountable
armed forces (thereby making a significant contribution to conflict prevention
and resolution) (working with the armed forces of other countries under the
European banner); Support to wider European interests: to provide forces to
conduct activities to promote European interests, influence and standing abroad
(flying the European flag); Peace support and Humanitarian Operations: To contribute
forces to operations other than war in support of European interests and international
order and humanitarian principles (as a continuum to European conflict prevention
and crisis management capabilities); Regional conflict outside the EU area:
to control a regional conflict that, if unchecked, could adversely affect European
security, European interests or international security: Regional conflict inside
the EU area: to respond to a regional crisis or conflict from a Member State
who calls for assistance. So, what would be the shape of such a force?
It would have three primary elements: headquarters, direct elements (the bits
that go bang), and framework or support elements that would enable a coalition
of the willing based upon flexibility to act with the support of assets of other
European allies (a kind of European CJTF), in addition to NATO support if needs
be. The Headquarters would be the only permanent military aspect of the ERRF
and would be made up of around 1500 officers drawn from around the EU similar
in size to that of KFOR. At the Grand Strategic Level the development of a decision-making
system through the European Council and Security and Political Committee would
be required to provide overall direction and coherence to policy, including
all military and non-military aspects. In specific terms, this would entail
the designation of Military Tasks and the development of a Command and Control
Hierarchy. There are a range of options being explored, but in some form the
European Council will delegate responsibility to the High Representative through
the Political and Security Committee, and then on to Deputy SACEUR, acting in
his capacity as Commander of European forces. Below that the tasks would be
divided into several categories. At the top end of military planning (the Military
Strategic level) objectives and desired end-states would be established, outlining
the military action needed, allocating resources and applying constraints. At
the Operational Level much of the work already completed by the WEU Military
Planning Cell can be built upon by developing campaign plans which would synchronise
military and other resources to achieve the desired end state and military strategic
objectives. This work would be focused on the Military Committee and Combined
Joint Permanent Headquarters. This would include incorporation of NATO assets
(i.e. American) into the plans.
The Tactical Level
The Headquarters would develop plans for directing European military resources
in battles and engagements within a sequence of major operations to achieve
operational objectives before passing those orders on to what will probably
be national forces that lead aspects of European force operations, similar to
the approach in the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps in NATO. Support Commands would
be responsible for the resourcing, training and providing front-line capability
(including fighting effectiveness, efficiency, multilingual communication skills
and morale) and advice at the Military Strategic, Operational & Tactical Levels
and directing and supervising combined single service operations when required.
These would again be controlled probably by national elements taking a lead
in the Command and Control Hierarchy, would be at the level of component and
To give you some idea of the range of capabilities such a force would require,
the Rapid Reaction Force at full strength would require access to: A specialised
brigade-sized landing force (together with amphibious shipping and LPD/LPHs),
a deployable army division, an armoured brigade, a mechanised brigade, an air
manoeuvre brigade, reserves at D +120 readiness, a Special Forces battalion,
an Artillery/Missile battalion. Other military support the force would need
in addition to the Rapid Reaction Force itself would include: air superiority
capabilities (fighters), air support from both land and carriers; battlefield
helicopter capability; Deployable Joint and Combined Force Headquarters. The
framework or support elements will need to include: strategic lift/transport,
both sea and air, enhanced logistic support including several secure lines of
logistics and lines of communication to support medium scale deployments (corps
size), creation of a force logistics commander and headquarters to co-ordinate
support assets; enhancing the ability of European air forces to conduct operations
from remote locations by providing logistic support needed for deploying operating
bases; address key shortfalls in weapons systems and spares for critical equipment,
including missiles and ammunition; enhanced medical support, including the establishment
of afloat medical support facilities, ground and aeromedical evacuation capabilities.
Moreover, there would need to be significant improvements in what are termed
as Joint Enabling Capabilities i.e. that are common to more than one service
(navy, army or air force) including: significant improvements in tactical communications,
command and control systems; airborne stand-off radar capabilities (to see the
battle field); support helicopters; special forces.
What Needs to be Done?
What needs to be done between now and 2003 if the ERRF is to make a genuine
contribution? The following steps will have to be taken: Supreme Political systems
established; Pol/mil control mechanisms established: Doctrines (the way of doing
things will need to be harmonised); Missions agreed; Task-sharing agreed; Joint
training without the US will have to go beyond a paper exercise (Crises/CMX
2000); Civil/military interface & joint doctrine CJTF agreed; EU-NATO relations
harmonised; Forces earmarked; Procurement plans agreed for C4ISR, lift and strategic
intelligence; Defence expenditure convergence begins; A European staff college
created; 'Knowledge Communities' of Europe-wide experts and specialists brought
together to provide expert analysis, through the EU Institute for Security Studies.
Beyond 2003 we move into new territory because, as I said at the beginning,
we cannot separate the creation of the Rapid Reaction Force from the move towards
a common defence. After 2003 it may well be that the range of missions and tasks
would be increased gradually and that forces will be rotated through those tasks
more quickly to ensure that they gain as much experience as possible. There
are several outstanding problems. As I indicated earlier, the key obstacle is
defence expenditure. The French proposal to increase the equipment budgets to
0.7% or 0.8% seem logical, because it is in those areas that we need first to
make progress. However, there is a need to balance affordability with capability
and given the lack of strategic threat at present a target of 2% GDP across
the 15 seems a reasonable target by 2007-2008. This would mean for most of those
states below the figure incremental increases of 0.1% or 0.2% per annum over
that period. Politically difficult, yes. However, we have reached the point
in the development of European defence where we need to engage our publics far
more effectively than has hitherto been the case. The stakes are so high given
that European citizens will die in the service of this force that it cannot
be an elite process - we need public opinion to support this process. As I said
at the beginning of the speech these goals are ambitious, but they are also
achievable if we remain consistent and determined. We have the forces, we have
the experience, we have the technology, what we need is consistent and sustained
political will and a realistic recognition of the costs of such a security investment,
because that is what it is. If those two vital components are forthcoming then
Europe is on its way to becoming a force for good not just in Europe but throughout
the world. The European Rapid Reaction Force is only the beginning. Thank you.