James Perowne: 'Nato and the EU work best when they work together'

From a speech by the former deputy supreme allied commander of Nato, given at a seminar organised by Ashurst, the international law firm
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The Independent Online

Europe is militarily weak compared to its economic strengths. Its forces are not ready to deploy real power projection, but able and practised at employing smaller numbers for lower-level peace support operations. It has no practiced command framework, unless it uses Nato command systems.

Europe is militarily weak compared to its economic strengths. Its forces are not ready to deploy real power projection, but able and practised at employing smaller numbers for lower-level peace support operations. It has no practiced command framework, unless it uses Nato command systems.

Yet Europe has worrying aspirations to be an alternative to Nato, I think, with the incumbent danger of alienating the USA. And Europe in general sees the UN as the legitimate authority for any military action.

It was under Lord Robertson's excellent leadership as Nato's secretary general, from 2000 until last year that Nato had its greatest success. No, not Kosovo, not Bosnia, but the former Yugoslavian republic of Macedonia. This was not a well known campaign. Why were the press not interested? Because hardly a shot was fired. The threatened break-up and subsequent civil war in Macedonia, which would have brought in the Greeks and caused a real Article 5 crisis in Nato and Europe as a whole, was averted using skilful diplomacy by Lord Robertson, carrying the big Nato stick, and Javier Solana, speaking softly but with the full economic and social power of the EU.

George Robertston described this as good cop, bad cop. This combination worked extremely well and should be a model for future co-operation between the two organisations. As Lord Robertson was heard to say to one ambassador at a meeting, who was about to object to this arrangement: "We do not want any bad theory getting in the way of good practice."

From a military point of view, heavy power projection around the globe is best done with the US firmly in the circle, probably as leader or using Nato command structures. European forces need to continue to transform to be deployable and flexible to show as much weight as they can to carry their fair share of the burden. This military clout combined with the diplomatic weight of the EU in terms of fiscal aid, trade and security should be used in conjunction wherever possible. It's a very powerful and effective combination.

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