Leading article: What is needed is a real European defence policy
Thursday 09 December 1999
Suffice it to make two points. First, it did not require the existence of a European superstate to underline how pitiful was Europe's dependence upon American equipment and firepower during the Kosovo war - a dependence that has already had many senior officials in Washington insisting, "Never again." Second, fears that Europe is out to supplant Nato are absurd.
For one thing, with the best will in the world it will be a decade before we are in a position to act separately from the US. For another, the overwhelming majority of EU members agree with Britain that the Atlantic alliance must remain the cornerstone of Europe's defence. If France secretly sees the project as a means of ridding us of the Americans, it is virtually alone. What is more, the envisaged 60,000-strong force, capable of swift deployment in time of crisis, will in no sense be a European standing army. Ultimate control will lie not with the faceless bureaucrats of Thatcherite nightmare, deep in a Brussels command bunker, but with individual national governments, acting in concert.
None the less, as EU heads of government prepare to launch a historic defence initiative in Helsinki this weekend, one point made by Lady Thatcher cannot be overemphasised. For all the rousing statements of intent by Blair, Schroder and Chirac, defence spending across Europe is, if anything, falling, not least in Germany.
This trend must be reversed. Whatever "peace dividend" arose from the end of the Cold War has long since been exhausted. We cannot pretend, as some leaders re-assure their hostile electorates, that the problem can be solved by "getting more out of what's there". In vital areas such as command and control, smart weapons technology and, above all, transport, what is needed is simply not there; it must be acquired from scratch.
What matters now are not the ringing pledges we hear from Helsinki (however much they upset Lady Thatcher) but hard decisions about money, taken in national capitals in the months ahead. Without them, the finest defence blueprint will scarcely be worth the paper it is printed on.
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
- 2 Tom Cruise: Reporters banned from asking actor about Scientology
- 3 A-level results 2015: UK exam board OCR admits it 'estimates' hundreds of pupils' grades after papers 'go missing'
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 5 Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks traffic on Dublin road
Artist Jamie McCartney: How The Great Wall of Vagina is a stand against 'body fascism'
A Very British Brothel, Channel 4 - TV Review: These insights into people who buy and sell sex are particularly relevant
Cilla Black: Her 12 best songs, from 'Anyone Who Had a Heart' to 'You're My World'
Michael B Jordan and Kate Mara handle excruciatingly awkward and offensive interview questions like pros
Game of Thrones season 6: 'A Song of Ice and Fire should be finished by 1998,' said George R. R. Martin, 'but don't hold your breath'
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality