Big shake-up for military

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The Independent Online
THE Government will this week unveil the most fundamental rethink of the objectives of the armed forces since the end of the Cold War, placing the prevention of conflicts on a par with defence of the realm.

To be outlined by George Robertson, the Defence Secretary, it will result in a range of new initiatives from the Ministry of Defence. In the Winston Churchill Memorial Lecture in Luxembourg on Tuesday, he will make clear that defence diplomacy and conflict prevention will be one of eight formal objectives for the forces.

Peacekeeping and humanitarian work will also be highlighted as a separate element in the forces' remit.

The move will please the Labour left, which has long argued for a reassessment of the MoD because of the end of the Cold War.

The forces' new "core missions" have emerged from the MoD's Strategic Defence Review which has been completed by ministers. In addition to conflict prevention and peacekeeping, the eight objectives will cover peacetime security and defence of the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland security), security of the Overseas Territories including the Dependent Territories and Cyprus, support for wider British interests, preparedness for a strategic attack on Nato, for regional conflict inside Nato, and conflict outsideNato's boundaries.

Each objective will be backed by a team with resources and items of equipment allocated. Nearly 30 specific tasks will be identified.

The defence diplomacy push will be backed by a network of defence attaches charged with developing relations with the militaries of the new democracies in central and eastern Europe and other politically sensitive parts of the globe .

Targeted contacts will include exchange programmes, English language teaching and joint training exercises. The MoD will also establish a scholarship in defence diplomacy in the new Joint Services Command and Staff College at Shrivenham.

Mr Robertson will call for the armed forces to become world-wide ambassadors for peace and security, with the objective of building bridges between former enemies.

He will say: "In an uncertain world we must, of course, be able to react quickly to crises as they develop. But we must be able to do more than that. We should aim to prevent conflict arising in the first place."