home | about | seminars | lectures online | publications | scholarships | links | search


Research Fellow, WEU Institute for Security Studies


Lecture in the Cicero Foundation Great Debate seminar 'Europe: An Emerging Global Actor?
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 capabilities.
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.

Petersberg Tasks

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 subordinate commands.


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

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.

Top of pageTop of page