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European Defense and the Emergence of a Multipolar World

European Defense and the Emergence of a Multipolar World

Remarks by Alain Richard, French Minister of defense, New-Delhi, May 19, 2000. Source: French Embassy in India.

Our two countries are now engaged in an active strategic partnership and have decided, at the highest level, to give more vitality to this process. That allows a genuine dialogue and any topic is by definition relevant to that dialogue. Countries like ours look at international affairs through a very wide scope of interests, whether of national relevance or related to global issues. We also assume that any significant development directly affecting each of us is of interest to the other one.

As I am getting during my visit here in New Delhi, a direct insight into the Indian vision of Asia, including South Asia and the Indian Ocean, I also assume that the Indian leadership and strategic establishment are interested in recent developments in Europe. At this very moment, France is about to take over the presidency of the European Union, and i would like to give you some indications on the way Paris sees this heavy responsibility at a time when the question of European Defence is among our very first priorities.

The cold war is over and we are beginning to gain a better perspective of the challenges our privileged democracies face in today's disorderly globalized world society - a very complex society indeed where multiple factors of tension and risks are at work within and between States. During the past decade we have experienced more and more frequently how imperfect the tools for the peaceful resolution of conflicts are. We have witnessed the transformation of these tensions into actual crises that threaten our security , our interests and require military intervention. In the course of the 90’s, Europeans have been faced with many situations of crisis requiring the involvement of military forces. We have done so to a large extent with the military resources that we had acquired for cold war purposes. We have thus relied on the political and military capital we had accumulated in the past for other purposes. The time has now come to take a fresh look at how we intend to handle future crises and which tools we need to do so.

In this regard, I would like to stress three key points:

  • the European Union, as it is today, is the result of a long-term trend which is now being converted into political terms, after years of a mainly economic approach;
  • what makes the difference is the elaboration of a military dimension in the framework of a specifically EU approach;
  • the international affairs are already being directly affected by this development which is an essential contribution to the stability of a really multipolar world, more balanced than the present one, with the emergence in Asia and Europe of new key players.

· We are witnessing a genuine revolution in European affairs with implications far beyond Europe: the emergence of a new political player.

Let me remind first that "fortress Europe" in economic terms has never existed: the European Community initially, the European Union now, have always had to deal with their own affairs, like any collectivity, but never afford being "inward looking". The European construction has always been a key player in some aspects of the world economy, contributing among others to bridging the North-South divide. Since the collapse of the Iron Curtain, the EU has also been actively and highly involved in the support of the economies in transition in the East. It is still very significantly involved in the Russian transition and in the Balkans stabilization through very large amounts of money, being by far the first contributor in these areas.

This economic role has of course a very important political impact in supporting the transition towards democracy. It has also very positive consequences in security by enhancing stability. The end of the Cold War has also greatly improved the leverage of the EU on its environment, as already illustrated by the "Stability Pact" in 1995 through which some crucial minority issues ine the East countries could be solved directly by interested countries, as a prerequisite to their future admission to Europe.

This goes back to the original history of the European construction, 50 years ago, when the French minister of foreign affairs, Robert Schuman, proposed to overcome the traditional rivalry between France and Germany by engaging into co-operation in a key industrial area with potential defense implications: steel and coal. So have we a record in reconciliation of "enemy brothers". I mention this intentionally, not to present Europe as a reference for other regions, but because I am aware of the interest of some Indian scholars and observers in this precise historical case.

A turning point was reached in the mid-70’s towards the transformation of the "Common Market" into some sort of a political player, even to a fairly limited extend. Thanks to the "European Political Co-operation", the member States were able to create the beginning of a common diplomatic culture, adopting stences on a variety of issues relevant to the member countries, like for instance the Middle-East crisis. Another field of special interest to the EU, and relevant to security, has been the CSCE – now OSCE -, as early as the 80’s when the member states have been co-ordinating and harmonizing their positions, contributing to the success of the Stockholm Conference on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures.

A more significant step was taken, then, with the creation of the "Common Foreign and Security Policy", by which the new "Union" began on the base of the Maastricht Treaty to assert its political dimension. Some tools appeared which are helpful in elaborating shared positions and course of action: "common actions".

A lot of pessimistic comments have been made from time to time on the inefficiency of the CFSP, which I cannot share: the convergence of the positions of the 15 is impressive in the UNGA votes every year. The CFSP thus created a common culture, a common approach on a variety of issues, either regional or transversal, for instance on non-proliferation, human rights, Timor, Middle East, etc. Capitals all over the world are now used to joint diplomatic demarches of the "Troika" on issues of common interest, including on consular affairs, trade, etc.

The Amsterdam Treaty made a new step forward by creating new tools that France had long been advocating for: we wanted Europe to Have "a face and a voice"". You might remember Kissinger’s joke in the 70’s: "The European Community: what is its phone number?" We have now "a face and a voice", Mr Javier Solana, known all over the world, and a phone number … As you know, the High Representative has just been sent to Philippines to contribute to look for an outcome in the hostages crisis.

The real weight of the EU in international affairs remains however mainly in the economic field. Its efficiency is not always fully demonstrated, but it is among the few real players in WTO negotiations and is sometimes able to influence the course of events in North-South or Euro-American controversial issues: the "cultural exception", questions of public health or environment on GMO’s for instance, etc.

The creation of the Euro on January 1st 1999 has represented a major development in international affairs reaching far beyond the economic area and giving thus to the EU a real worldwide international dimension. The present "weakness" of the Euro should not be a priori considered as a bad omen for Europe. I remember the skepticism expressed in many places, including in our country, before the creation of the Euro. The challenge has been met. It remains a matter of daily vigilance to preserve and develop this new collective European asset.

That being said, the EU remains an economic giant and a political dwarf. This has been demonstrated in too many cases, including in the crises that have been arising on the territories of former Yugoslavia. The record of the EU has not been very impressive there, despite the ability of the Fifteen to contribute actively to political solutions: I refer here to the Rambouillet meetings and, more convincingly I hope, to the role of the German and the Finnish presidencies of the EU during the Kosovo operations, the trip of President Ahtisaari to Belgrade during the Cologne Summit having had a triggering effect.

But the potential of the EU goes obviously far beyond that, and the need to give substance to the Common Foreign and Security Policy is now felt much more acutely by our leaderships and public opinions. The EU's greatest potential today is clearly that it can rely on economic, humanitarian and diplomatic tools. The Gulf war and the prolonged Balkan conflict have taught us that these crises are of a mixed nature, involving ethnic, economic and political factors. We have not found simple solutions to master them and they tend to drag on for much longer than we would wish. Their resolution requires a combination of actions, civilian and military as well, and the mobilization of substantial resources, that can only be found in the framework of coalitions acting within UN Security Council mandates. From a political point of view, the Kosovo conflict has demonstrated that NATO couldn’t only be one of the actors in such complex crisis-management situations occurring in the Euro-Atlantic area .

The "European Defence Initiative" can thus be considered as the logical and necessary step to be taken by the Europeans if they want to have options of their own, including in military affairs, and to have a real say in issues of direct concern to them. The recent experiences have also made it clear that there would be no credible European global crisis management capability unless it were backed by a significant military force, allowing Europe to contribute to any operation or to lead it. I believe this feeling is shared by our public opinions. They responded with great maturity to the difficulties and uncertainties of the Kosovo operations. They now expect us to be able to act when needed.

To sum up on this point and come to my next one, i.e. military capabilities, let me tell you the gist of the project: In one sentence, what is it all about?. We want the Europeans to be able to put out fires in their own backyards. It is as simple as that ... even if the difficulties lie in details. And they are numerous.

To be a credible player in international affairs, we need to be able to back the "European diplomacy" through military means.

This had been a project since long, even since the beginning of European cooperation, with the aborted European Defence Community. This had been encouraged by the US, in context of the famous "burden sharing" issue. Some concrete attempts had been made, mainly at the initiative of France : to open some concrete possibilities for operational capabilities of the Europeans. You might remember that WEU was created right at the end of WW II, with its own "art. V provisions", i.e. a mutual commitment of collective defense among its members – a very strong one indeed, but it had given up any operational military role when the NATO military structure was created. Its revival was not very successful mainly because WEU had to rely on arrangements with NATO for any kind of military related activity, beginning with strategic planning, thus appearing in fact as dependent on NATO goodwill. This is why the Amsterdam Treaty concluded in 1997 gave a right to EU to take decision in the field of defense and to use WEU capacities for its defense project.

Anyhow, by the end of 1998, the enforcement of the Amsterdam Treaty appeared likely for the near future and the Euro was a success story: London decided to move towards a more European commitment, precisely in the field of defense. This implied a substantial evolution with regard to the exclusiveness given to NATO for defense issues in Europe. Hence the Saint-Malo declaration which can be considered as a historical watershed.

This "programmatic statement" has been the base on which an impressive diplomatic and military achievements reached within one year: from December 1998 to December 1999. This accelerated pace illustrates the degree of commitment of the EU countries in this new project which is going to be under the responsibility of France for the second half of the year. With my colleague of the "Quai d’Orsay", I will be personally engaged for leading this process to a hopefully decisive success.

On which key assumptions have we been working?

Our concern is to be able as EU to perform the full range of actions necessary to crisis prevention and, if necessary, crisis management, peacekeeping, conflicts ending including reconstruction. It is clear that military tasks, whatever the need to be able to perform them, are only a tool among others. In this context, it is also clear that the EU has the possibility to activate this full range of actions. But the importance of the management of civilian activities in crisis, rightly underlined by the Union in Helsinki Summit, does not diminish the need of military serious capabilities

What about capabilities?

We have pragmatically set in Helsinki as a global objective to be able, before 2003, to deploy and sustain, over at least one year, a corps-size rapid reaction ground force (up to fifteen brigades, hence between fifty thousand and sixty thousand soldiers). This force must be able to take care of its own needs on security . Hence it will have to be provided with capacities of command, control, intelligence, and logistics. It will have the support of naval and air elements. We are now working among the Fifteen on how to implement this objective in terms of national contributions.

In this perspective, we should ensure consistency with the on-going developments in NATO. It must be clear that unlike the WEU, the EU will not sub-contract to NATO the implementation of its capability objectives. Of course, we envisage modalities for concertation, transparency and interaction between the EU and NATO works.

We intend to organize, during the French presidency, a "capabilities pledging conference" in order to express in a concrete way our national contributions to the "headline goal".

This global objective will require that we commit ourselves concurrently to the realization of our goals for collective capacities in the field of command and control, intelligence, strategic lift, i.e. key capabilities for the autonomy of assessment, decision and action of the EU:

  • Intelligence: In order to strengthen our capacity for informed decision making, we could agree among willing EU nations to undertake, in close co-ordination with the EU, the collective mobilisation of surveillance and early warning assets. Exploitation of these assets would remain on a national basis, with pooling our evaluations under the direction of the new Political and Security Committee.
  • Command and control: To reinforce our European capabilities for strategic planning as well as command and control, France and the United Kingdom have made public their willingness to authorise the use of their joint HQ’s by the EU. They have also announced the possibility of welcoming other European elements into these structures. This step aims to put multinationalized command capabilities at the service of the EU.

In the same way, it is the responsibility of those of us who are engaged in European multinational forces, like Eurocorps, to carry on the transformation and strengthening of command capabilities at the tactical level. The members of the Eurocorps have committed themselves to transforming it into a rapid reaction force. Today, its HQ is being successfully engaged in the KFOR, a development that was still considered as very optimistic one year ago.

  • Strategic lift: We must also progress, among concerned Member States, toward the creation of an airlift command as suggested at the last Franco-German Summit. Along with the Dutch, we also intend to propose to our partners the creation of a European cell for maritime strategic transport. This will allow us ultimately to co-ordinate common use of the overall available military assets and the potential use of civilian assets.

Our intention is not to create a "European army" - and you know that there is in fact no "NATO Army". Our framework of action is intergovernmental: as in the Alliance, each nation remains in control of the decision to use its forces. We are just creating a system enabling the European armies to act together under a combined political and military direction. Our objective is clearly limited to some sorts of missions, the so-called Petersberg tasks or "Petersberg missions", mentioned in article 17-2 of the Treaty on the European Union: " Humanitarian and rescue tasks, peace-keeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace-making ". Such missions are in fact extremely demanding, since they are very comparable to what has been done in the Balkans. Consider also that the European Union members have limited military capabilities and resources not expected to grow in the foreseeable future and that none of the Fifteen is supposed to exercise a leadership comparable to the US one in NATO …

But our intention is to have a more balanced picture, a picture where the Europeans are no longer mere consumers in a security and defense super-market, but "security and defense providers".

What have we achieved so far?

First the Europeans have shown in the Kosovo crisis that they were capable of taking difficult political decisions on the basis of their principles and interests, and that they could do so fast.

Second, the implementation of the Helsinki declaration has already started, not only through the works I mentioned earlier on military capabilities. It indicates that the Europeans are serious about overcoming their short-comings and recognize that there cannot carry their political message without effective clout to support it.

Third, interim bodies are already actively dedicated not only to the elaboration on capabilities, but also to the designing of a key collective asset: the future "EU Military Staff", which is essential if we want the political authorities to be provided the right expertise in routine time and in crisis;

Forth, the question of the political control is particularly important: it stems from the intergovernmental approach where each nation is able to take part in decisions, but it relies also in concrete capabilities that are guarantied by bodies and procedures, thus allowing early warning, sound assessment of situations and "strategic planning", all key elements of EU’s capacity to act as an autonomous player;

Last, this process will require time and dedication. The present unsatisfactory state of defense budgets within NATO partially reflects a state of complacency deriving from US protection. European defense ministers expect to get a better reaction from their parliaments if they can present their budget requests as a contribution to the construction of Europe.

I will make just two last comments on European military affairs:

First, Defence reforms undertaken in Europe, including in France, bear witness to Europe’s reactivity capacity to the moving Strategic and international context: the Strategic revolution due to the end of bipolar confrontation has deeply affected the EU member states Defence concepts.

The road covered by European countries in adapting their military tools to new missions in the periphery of Europe, is already a significant achievement;

  • Second, the European concept for dealing with crises grants a special importance to post crisis management considering that mastering local conflicts does not require necessarily the use of heavy military means. But we recognize the major importance of ground intervention, with men in adequate numbers, for post crisis management restoring the rule of law, mastering violence and handling local conflicts.

The European Union is thus directly contributing to the emergence of a multipolar world.

Our convergence of views on this question is well known. My colleague Hubert Védrine has recently taken part in a high level seminar on it and has expressed the French vision. Let me add, as minister of defense, that a "multi-polar world" cannot be considered as a dream world, a sort of strategic Nirvana. On the opposite, it is a difficult world where each one takes his own responsibilities in the limits of his capabilities and within the scope he is able to manage. It means that a lot of issues should find their solution in a regional framework whenever possible. It means also that regional issues are regionally dealt with and that global issues are dealt with globally. It is very demanding. It means a high capability of inter-action and co-operation.

In this context, we all recognize the role played by the United States as extremely positive. But we have to acknowledge that, after the bi-polar confrontation of the cold war, we are now in a world which is both uni-polar and globalised. The supremacy of one country is the result of its great dynamism, a high capability of creation, an extreme sense of initiative, an awareness of the importance of moral values, human rights, freedom. We feel very close to many aspects of this vision of the world. At the same time, we all know that the truth is the product of confrontation of diverging views.

Against this background, it would be irrealistic to consider – or to wish – that Europe and the United States are "drifting apart" as sometimes argued by some analysts in Washington or elsewhere. We share a lot of interests and values with the US, which allows us to express when needed diverging views. But we do not wish the US to depart from their involvement in European security. We simply intend to have the possibility to act on our own in our continent, when our American allies are not involved in a specific crisis. It opens options for the Europeans and for the Americans.

It is the essence of a multi-polar world to be co-operative, based on dialogue and mutual understanding. For the Europeans, it is essential to envision this not only in a transatlantic way, but also in a "pan-European" way. In short, it means that we have to properly involve Russia in the European security equation.

The EU as such is very active there too but we have also an approach of our own through a bilateral relation between the EU and Russia. Its consistency is embodied in the first "common strategy" adopted since the Amsterdam Treaty and encompasses security issues, including regarding nuclear safety questions or organized crime. We add thus to stability and security in the whole Euro-Asian area.

A few words on NATO and the Partnership for Peace that might lead to some questions here about what is sometimes considered as an expansionist trend. There is a historical background to that: when the Soviet Union collapsed, we decided to keep in the then CSCE all the former Soviet Republics, including those in Asia. When we considered that all "former adversaries" should be regarded as "partners" by NATO, this was also applicable to any former Soviet Republic. That being said, the membership in "PfP" can in no way be assimilated to NATO membership. I will add to that the Washington NATO Summit recognized that the Alliance cannot allow itself to operate without a UN mandate; NATO’s area of activity is the Euro-Atlantic zone.

This touches directly upon a series of global issues regarding peace and security, universality of norms, the use of force, etc, on which I believe that India and France feel pretty much on similar lines, despite some differences due to history and geography. Global issues require global answers. To restrict myself to security-related issues, proliferation is a global challenge even if the security of our countries is to be considered in closed relationship with its direct environment. If a global tool is to be weakened, the implications are worldwide.

As France and, to-morrow as EU, we are and will remain working in the UN framework, thus reinforcing the international norms and taking our part in the duty of supporting international peace and security. I see India, as a country, as also very committed to Peace Keeping. In the present circumstances, I particularly salute the very high commitment of Indian soldiers in UNAMSIL, as another example of the great professionalism of the Indian forces. You have also several hundreds soldiers in UNIFIL. And we remember the Indian-French military brotherhood in Somalia. Our two countries have been experiencing the challenges of peace-keeping as a necessary and risky duty. The "European Defence" is intended to comply to such a framework and to our obligations according to the UN Charter.

You know that France supports India’s permanent seat at the UN Security Council in the framework of the reform presently underway, thus taking stock of its record as a great country which bears responsibilities in peace and stability. This takes place in a more global trend to reflect in the composition of the Security Council the new balances in the world: great countries of the "South" must have seats there, taking into account their ability to act in a responsible way, at local, regional and global scales.

The emerging "political EU" is already also a partner for Asia and a partner for India, in a variety of formats, like ARF, the first and only forum for dialogue on security questions in Asia. Since it was formed, Europe has been a partner in the ARF dialogue and has been involved in the works on confidence-building measures, sharing her common experience in this field gained in the OSCE framework. You know that France places great store by this forum and favors effective and constructive European participation. But its development requires time and perseverance. As you know, France sincerely wants to participate on a national basis in the activities of the ARF, as the presence of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council would benefit the debates.

A new step is being reached soon towards India as it is now recognized as a full partner by the EU: the first EU-India Summit next June in Lisbon will reflect this turning point. Such a development will allow other possibilities of dialogue and co-operation in the most comprehensive way. We value very much the prospect of deepening the political dialogue between India and the EU.

Indeed, European nations have major economic interests in Asia. A quarter of Europe's external trade is with Far-Eastern nations and European exports to Asia are almost as significant as those from the USA; finally, European direct investment in Asia - nearly 80 billion dollars - is roughly comparable with that from the USA or Japan. We estimate that about 3 million European jobs are directly associated with Euro-Asian trade. Naturally, this means that Europe has a direct and substantial interest in the maintenance of peace and stability in Asia.

May I remind you that India is the first receiver of EU aid in Asia, with financing amounting roughly 100 million Euro each year, France participating to 18% of it, i.e. 120 million francs. This is a contribution to development and to economic co-operation. This is a tangible expression of our faith in India’s future, in India’s skills and potentialities: we do not like to spend money useless.

Although they have not received much media attention, Euro-Asia defense relations are significant and developing constantly. May I recall that France is physically present on the borders of the Asia zone, in the Indian and Pacific Rims. This involves a military presence, mainly naval, of some significance, which enables us to play a permanent and active role in this region, via numerous ship visits and joint exercises. This military presence from European nations like, apart from its political significance, enables the development of operational relations between our armed forces; exchanges of experience and information contribute directly to the capability of your defense apparatus. I am happy to notice that our bilateral co-operation is developing.

Let me conclude with a few broad considerations:

The future is not given: we have now a substantial, difficult debate in Europe on the future of the EU, its enlargement, its nature, the attributions of its institutions; but the basic trend is very powerful and difficulties have always been overcome; moreover, they have been challenging enough to allow bold new steps;

  • interaction can only be based on a proper combination of idealism and realism, each new idea appearing initially as irrealistic before being implemented;
  • you can consider us as reliable partners, seriously committed to all possible co-operations and never trying to play games with rules, but complying without any surprise with existing rules; the EU framework is a very reliable one; it is predictable;
  • whatever "regional constructions", dialogue between nations and civilizations remains vital and essential; it is especially true with France and India.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).