West has attack of 'strategic arthritis'

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The Independent Online
WESTERN countries are suffering from a 'serious attack of strategic arthritis', according to the authoritative annual report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

John Chipman, director of the institute, yesterday criticised Western governments and the United Nations for taking action to preserve their status, and often in response to media pressure, but without clear aims. The report said peace-keeping operations were 'not enterprises to enter into lightly. Much more thought must be given to means and ends, as well as to where they can usefully be deployed'.

The institute's annual publication, issued yesterday, said Western countries were so terrified at the prospect of failure or suffering casualties if they intervened that during 1993 'few great risks were taken or enduring commitments made'. Dr Chipman said that the UN commitment to send more troops into Rwanda was justified. But the difficulty was in raising troops for the operation and deciding what the troops should do. The difficulties now faced in the field of arms control and peace missions tended to be grass-roots questions of practicality rather than of recondite theory.

The UN peace-support operations in Bosnia and Somalia had been unsatisfactory and led to more studies, 'leading people to think twice and therefore to think too long'. Russia was suffering from a post-imperial crisis of the kind that affected Britain and France in the 1950s and 1960s, but he noted: 'Russia does not wish to exert its control over the former Soviet Union, nor is it capable of so doing. However, it wants some influence and therefore needs to put it on a legal basis.'

He said Nato must abandon the 'romantic mode', as the only force in European and Atlantic security and recognise that it was 'an extremely efficient and cheap bureaucracy for managing the military forces of the 16 states'. He also called for a halt to a strategic 'beauty contest' between security organisations in Europe.

Strategic Survey 1993-94; International Institute for Strategic Studies, London; pounds 22.00.