Hammond — UK would welcome enhanced defence relationship with Germany

Defence Sec­re­tary Philip Ham­mond spoke about how Ger­many and Britain are respond­ing to today’s secu­ri­ty dur­ing a speech in Berlin yes­ter­day, 2 May 2012.

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Philip Ham­mond, Sec­re­tary of State for Defence [Pic­ture: Har­land Quar­ring­ton, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Mr Ham­mond was host­ed by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswär­tige 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.”

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A British sniper from 5th Bat­tal­ion The Roy­al Reg­i­ment of Scot­land (cen­tre) and French snipers of the 8th Marine Infantry Para­chute Reg­i­ment tak­ing part in Exer­cise Boars Head (stock image) [Pic­ture: Mark Owens, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

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.”

“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.”

Defence Sec­re­tary Philip Ham­mond

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.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK