The answer to this question was no. The question was posed by Lord Wallace of Saltaire, Lib Dem Peer and Professor of International Relations and defence studies at the LSE. He was giving today’s internal Commission midday lecture.
One piece of fascinating strategic information I discovered was that if you really wanted to cause the EU problems between now and at least 2010 the way to do it would be to escalate military activity against EU forces, say in the Congo during the autumn. The reason.
For these European Nations of NATO (France, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, Turkey) to reinforce their military positions it has hired Antanov aircraft from the Ukraine. No problem you might say. Ah but you see, Chinese businessmen have pre-booked the aircraft for the Autumn and early winter in order to export goods to the European Christmas market, thus making their military activity impossible.
Of course these countries have ordered the new Airbus A 400 M, imaginatively named the ‘future large aircraft’. The problem with these thyroidal Hercules is that their range is woefully limited. It could not even make it to the Congo to assist in a future operation Artemis. In fact fully laden the A400M would only be useful in areas such as the Balkans, and maybe western Russia and Eastern Ukraine. Which all rather begs the question – why has any government bought them in the first place?, and more important whereto they expect to lift troops?
According to Lord Wallace, when he raised this question after the St Malo agreements with the then German Ambassador to the UK, the Ambassador responded tetchily, “It has been agreed not to discuss that question at the moment”.
The bottom line for Lord Wallace, who hardly a Eurosceptic: a man who says that he hopes for the day that defence spending is “put within the EU budget, but it won’t happen, not for ten or twenty years”;, is the lack of any agreed rules of engagement.
He argued effectively that the countries which were prepared to fight and kill and more importantly die, were the UK and France, followed by the Scandic countries. These he suggested felt a greater duty of care to the world.
He illustrated this point by reference to the joint Anglo/Dutch Marine unit. This unit has been in close cooperation for over 30 years. Right down to platoon level, but when on operation “Provide Comfort” in 1991 they were deploying in Northern Iraq, the British colonel gave his orders. The Dutch 2IC Major responded that he “had to get confirmation from The Hague”. This is a unit which at that time had 20 years cooperation and was unable to agree on basic operational functions, what chance Eurocorps?
There are no common military assumptions, no common rules of engagement.
My feeling from the speech was that Lord Wallace, though he was fully supportive of an EU military was at least alive to its impossibility without a supportive population, common objectives and SOP’s. Then I asked about the possibilities of the EU sharing intelligence, along the lines that the Anglosphere does with the Echelon project. His Lordship snorted, and talked about the need for absolute trust in you allies before sharing intelligence.
“Is it in Britain’s interest to maintain its old intelligence alliances?” he asked.
“Has Britain given up too much sovereignty for these alliances?”
“There of course have been benefits but what cost has Britain incurred by being part of Echelon?”No answer did he give, but he illustrated his point thus;
“Well if you are looking at the working of a European intelligence network, then the example of the Schengen intelligence system is instructive. One of the first experiences with the system was the case of Belgian police selling information from the system to organised crime”.
A couple of area of interest was Lord Wallace’s contention that it may well be a good thing for Europe to develop an EU Caribinieri, or paramilitary police as the French and Italian versions had proved successful in the Balkans. An EU paramilitary police force, my mouth waters at the prospect, sadly so do my bowels.
The other was a question from a senior Humanitarian office official, who asked why, if the EU was unable to persuade its own citizens to fight wars it should not just set up mercenary forces…