21 October 1988 - 23 October 1988

The European Pillar of the North Atlantic Alliance: A Security Dimension for the Process of European Integration?

Chair: The Rt Hon the Lord Carrington KG CH KCMG MC PC

Against a background of extraordinary stability over the last 40 years, this conference was intended to consider, in the context of European integration and US concerns over burden-sharing, the factors that may now be working for change, the desirability of change within the North Atlantic Alliance, and the stumbling blocks in the way.

Four factors favouring change were identified: budgetary pressures, primarily in the US, but also in other countries, not least in the Soviet Union; the drive to turn the European Community into a true single market by 1993, with its attractions and difficulties for trading partners in Europe and beyond; the economic and political reform programme of Mr Gorbachev; and the various arms control negotiations.

As for the stumbling blocks, three were identified, though not all without dissent: first, unanimously, the impossibility of conceiving a significant defence of Western Europe outside NATO; second, the difficulty of reconciling the differing national defence postures within Europe, the result in part of history, so as to bring about any major degree of integration (e.g. the difference in nuclear status of the major Western European powers); and, third, the absence of any practicable organisation or framework for achieving serious defence cooperation within Europe.

On the desirability of change there was less agreement. Some discounted the likelihood of significant US military reductions in Europe, except in the context of agreed conventional arms reductions. These argued that for all the talk of burden-sharing (division of labour, it was suggested, might be a better term) and US worries about extended deterrence, US security concerns centred on the Soviet threat, which was most obvious in Europe; and that neither Bush nor Dukakis would find it politically possible to push through major reductions in overall US military strength (and unless troops were demobilised, there would be no savings). There were however warnings against complacency, especially in the face of signs that the US military themselves might be planning reductions to keep within their budget. Moreover, commercial disputes could spill over into security relations.

There was much debate about the implications for the Alliance of developments in the Soviet Union and East Europe. If the Soviet reform programme was successful (and the definition of success is itself a matter for another conference), the threat might need to be re-defined. At the least, it would be difficult to persuade Western public opinion, particularly in the Federal Republic, of the need to maintain defence spending. Then again, success for Mr Gorbachev might herald renewed danger from an economically more powerful Soviet Union. In any case nothing, it was argued, that had happened hitherto was irreversible: the prudent course was to maintain our guard until the uncertainties had been resolved, despite the difficulties with public opinion, while striving for water-tight arms control agreements that served Western security interests and were not driven by the West's own economic difficulties.

There was some discussion about the significance of the single West European market and the idealists' vision of a united Europe possessed of all the attributes of statehood, including an autonomous defence capability. Many doubted the reality of this (though it was claimed that the technical problems on the nuclear side could be solved), but the visionaries stayed true to their long-term dream.

As for the stumbling blocks, all agreed that any change must be designed to strengthen the Alliance. That said, it was pointed out that there was already a multiplicity of bodies for European security cooperation: the European Community, where security now figures specifically, the Western European Union (WEU), the Eurogroup, the Independent European Programme Group (IEPG), the Trevi Group (for police matters) and so on. Nonetheless, there was great scope for improvement in cooperation in the fields of procurement, inter-operability and possibly (though the military, as opposed to symbolic, utility was sometimes doubtful) by means of mixed units such as the Franco-German brigade and the joint Belgian-Dutch-British naval force in the Persian Gulf. For all the obvious reasons, which further enlargement might well exacerbate, the European Community did not for the foreseeable future appear to be an apt vehicle for defence cooperation. WEU played a useful role in coordinating action outside the NATO area, and provided a forum for the like-minded to consult: it could be appropriately expanded, provided new members accepted the rules, though care needed to be taken not to singularise non-members. Here a sharp difference emerged between the US and the Europeans (exemplifying the old dilemma that, as one participant put it, if there was one thing the US disliked more than a disunited Europe, it was a united Europe), the Europeans maintaining their right to work out their own policies and threat assessments among themselves and the US arguing that the proper place for such exercises was NATO, where it was unacceptable that they should be confronted with rigid policies resulting from separate caucuses.

About procurement there was some pessimism although the Eurogroup and, particularly, the IEPG could do useful work. Joint national programmes had had some successes in the past, at a cost, but national habits, prejudices and out-and-out chauvinism often led to nonsenses. Procedures, albeit slow, existed in NATO for agreeing requirements; but no authority existed for designating a lead nation and without that industrial rivalry prevented collaboration. Probably a better way lay in calls for competitive tenders from international consortia, leaving industry to share out the work, but even then arguments of employment and self-sufficiency (as an insurance) would be strong. A complementary role for the European Community's industrial policy was possible here though calls for the abolition of Article 223 and the exemption of defence supplies met with a mixed response. In the end, resource-constraints would compel a measure of specialisation, including role-specialisation (which carried the risk however that it could be a cloak for role-shedding). While inevitably each nation, in Europe and in North America, would reserve some purchases for its own industries, the general rule, it was suggested, should be equal access.

What then were the conclusions? None liked the metaphor of the European pillar (and talk of a two-pillar alliance is doubly unacceptable). A European defence identity might be better but in the end all metaphors are unsatisfactory. Most participants appeared to be content that the Europeans should continue to build on existing organisations, if only because it would be difficult to create new, judging that there was no pressing need for change and that if such a need emerged, Europe would respond. (The warning note about the reaction of non-members to the role of exclusive groupings within NATO needs to be noted if resulting frictions are to be minimised). Others believed it was right to look at these issues, if only on a precautionary basis, and suggested that if we were to conserve what we had, we might have to change. Some argued forcefully that a redefinition of the Alliance's purposes was required in a second version of the Harmel report: others that Harmel stood and any attempt to re-write it would be vain and divisive. While the signs about future US policies were reassuring, there was as yet too much uncertainty about developments in the Soviet Union and East Europe to build any scheme of reform in the Alliance's defence arrangements upon speculative hopes. In any case, the North Atlantic Alliance was and must remain the dominant organisation in the defence of the Western world: over the years it had not done so badly.

This Note reflects the Director’s personal impressions of the conference.  No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.

Conference Chairman: The Rt Hon the Lord Carrington KG CH KCMG MC PC
Chairman, Christie’s International; a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation


M Fran
çois de Donnea
Member of the Belgian Parliament; Conseiller communal de la Ville de Bruxelles

Mr Brian Beedham

Foreign Editor, The Economist
Dr Martin Ceadel
Fellow and Tutor in Politics, New College, Oxford
Professor Ralf Dahrendorf
Warden, St Antony’s College, Oxford; a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation
Mr Ian Davidson
Foreign Affairs Editor, The Financial Times, Paris
Mr Brian Fall CMG
Minister, British Embassy, Washington
Mr David Greenwood
Director, Centre for Defence Studies, University of Aberdeen
Mr John Keegan
Defence Editor, The Daily Telegraph
Mr Paul Lever
Counsellor, Security Policy Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Mr D A Nicholls CMG
Deputy Under-Secretary of State (Policy), Ministry of Defence
Mr John Palmer
European Editor, The Guardian, Brussels
Mr John Roper
Director of Studies, Royal Institute of International Affairs
Mr Christopher Tugendhat
Chairman, Civil Aviation Authority; Director, National Westminster Bank, The BOC Group; Chairman, Royal Institute of International Affairs; Member, Council, Centre for European Policy Studies, Brussels; a Governor and Member of the Council of Management, The Ditchley Foundation
Lt Gen Sir Antony Walker KCB
Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Commitments), MOD; Colonel Commandant, Royal Tank Regiment; Chairman, Government Centre for International Briefing, Farnham Castle
Dr Phil Williams
Head of International Security Programme, Royal Institute of International Affairs

The Hon Donald S Macdonald PC

Canadian High Commissioner in London

Mr G
ünter Burghardt
Deputy Chef de Cabinet to the President of the Commission of the European Community

M Fran
çois Bujon de L'Estang
Counsellor to the Prime Minister of France for Diplomatic Affairs, Defence and Co­operation (1986-88)
M Andrè Giraud
Minister of Defence, France, (1986-88)
M François Heisbourg
Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies, London

Prof Hanns W Maull

Professor of Political Science, Katholische Universität Eichstätt, Federal Republic of Germany
Baron Rüdiger von Wechmar GCVO
Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to London; a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation

HE M Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Permanent Representative of the Netherlands on the North Atlantic Council

Sr Juan Antonio Y
Principal Foreign Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister ofSpain

Professor David P Calleo

Professor and Director of European Studies, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
Mr Geryld Christianson
Staff Director, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Dr Arthur Cyr
Vice-President and Program Director, Chicago Council on Foreign Relations; Lecturer in Public Policy and Political Science, University of Illinois and University of Chicago
Mr Thomas T Fenton
Chief European Correspondent, CBS News, London
Dr Robbin Laird
Institute for Defense Analysis, Alexandria, Va
Ambassador Stephen Ledogar
United States Representative to the European Conventional Stability Negotiations and to the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) talks
Mr Gerald C Lubenow
Editorial Bureau Chief, Newsweek, London
Dr Robert McGeehan
Department Head of International Relations, US International University - Europe (London) and Member, Fulbright Commission
Mr Henry Muller
Managing Editor, Time magazine
The Hon Paul Nitze
Ambassador-at-Large and Special Advisor to the President and the Secretary of State on Arms Control Matters; member of the Advisory Council, American Ditchley Foundation
Professor Joseph S Nye Jr
Director, Center for Science and International Affairs and Ford Foundation Professor of International Security, Harvard University; Senior Fellow, Aspen Institute, and Director of the Aspen Strategy Group; member, Trilateral Commission, International Institute for Strategic Studies and Council on Foreign Relations
Mr Maynard Parker
Editor, Newsweek
The Hon Rozanne L Ridgway
Assistant Secretary for European and Canadian Affairs, Department of State
General Bernard Rogers
Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, NATO (1979-88)
The Hon Raymond Seitz
Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission, United States Embassy in London; a member of the Programmes Committee, the Ditchley Foundation
Dr Jack Snyder
Associate Professor, Political Science Department, Columbia University
The Hon Edward J Streator
Retired as US Ambassador to the OECD (1984-87); a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation

HE Mr Alfred Cahen

Secretary-General, Western European Union; Chairman, Scientific Committee, Royal Institute of International Relations