Friday, December 15, 2006

Lord Carrington Warns on the Future of NATO

There looks to be a fascinating conversation between Lord (David) Owen and Lord Carrington on the future of NATO on this Sunday's GMTV Sunday Programme. Here's an excerpt...

LORD OWEN: Then what about Afghanistan? I went to Afghanistan when I was a medical student and I remember when the Russians went in and everybody was full of gloom and doom and I thought to myself, “they’re going to get a bloody nose.” And I helped in some ways, in a little way, going into Pakistan in the ‘80s and supporting the mujahideen. I can’t see any alternative after 9/11, not going in. But now, you as somebody who was Secretary General of NATO must be very worried about NATO’s position. I mean this could be its first defeat if we’re not at all, not very careful.

LORD CARRINGTON: Not just defeat. I think it may be the death knell of NATO unless we’re very careful. I mean, when we get a situation in which so many countries in NATO are not prepared to join in, and those that do join in say that it mustn’t follow that they can be in the back. Really only the Canadians and the Americans and the British and the Dutch are fighting there. I think this is very dangerous for NATO. I think we ought to ask ourselves if this doesn’t work what on Earth NATO is for?

LORD OWEN: Well, I think we would lose something very, very valuable is we got rid of NATO. I just think that when you compare the handling of Kosovo which was a problem, but at least there were arguments between the Sakur (sp?) and Kadkan (sp?), but there was a command structure which we Europeans got used to and we could accept American involvement and to an extent dominance. But when you get into these multilateral military arrangements with the United States it’s much, much harder and I think if we lost NATO I don’t think Europe is going to be able to provide that. I mean, as you say, the French and the Germans are not pulling their weight in Afghanistan.

LORD CARRINGTON: The trouble is they aren’t. The trouble is they aren’t at the moment. NATO is not working. And I know the Secretary General is very worried about it.

LORD OWEN: Chirac’s role in helping to destroy NATO I think is very considerable, in marked contrast to Mitterrand. We can live with the different French view of NATO but I think the way that they are trying to always push European Union instead of NATO is going to get the Americans to say, to just say, “well, to Hell with it.”

LORD CARRINGTON: Well that is of course all because of the De Gaulle view of America, and America dominating NATO. I mean, when I was Secretary General I found that though the French has left the military side of NATO they co-operated rather well, and although they hadn’t left the political side they put a spoke in every wheel on the political side. It was very, very alarming.

LORD OWEN: Then the new members though, like Poland, the Czechs in a small way, they’re all pulling more than their weight, which is the best, the good side of it all. But I do worry very much about Afghanistan. I think we have to talk to the different factions and have to recognise that a strong social government is alien to Afghanistan and isn’t going to emerge.

LORD OWEN: But coming back to NATO, always a very difficult subject, but there is a balance to strike between letting the European Union have some form of policing activity strengthened by military such as we’ve got now operating in Bosnia, I think that’s quite rational. But the idea of Europe being of any use to… when the break-up of the former Yugoslavia and we both were involved, they were completely at odds with each other. And they are at odds with each other on Iraq. They’re probably more agreed on Lebanon than on most things, but the British position was certainly not alongside the rest of the Europe position. I see no sign of a single foreign policy from Europe emerging….

LORD CARRINGTON:How can you?

LORD OWEN:…for decades, frankly.

LORD CARRINGTON: But on every important issue in the last few years there’s been a dissention, a dispute in the European Union.

LORD OWEN: But NATO did seem to offer a hope. NATO was the vehicle for early enlargement and brought many people in. There is this new element. I think that a new attitude to NATO from Europe as well as America is called for. I think we need, in Europe, to rethink some of the problems of the last few years, and maybe a new French President which will be with us middle of next year could be a possibility. I don’t know.


LORD CARRINGTON: I think that what happens in Afghanistan is going to have an enormous effect upon the future of NATO. If we all, those of us who supported NATO and NATO intervention in Afghanistan feel that the rest of NATO, or large parts of NATO, are not really prepared to take any part of it, I think it’s going to cause great difficulty for the future of NATO. LORD OWENWell that requires more European commitment and I don’t see it coming.

16 comments:

RK said...

NATO is indeed at risk but what really would we lose if it passed away? Not much if the only alternative is the status quo.

The reason NATO is vulnerable is because of the very poor political performance of countries like France and Germany through to the very poor military capability of others.

A streamlined NATO replacement that saw these freeloaders removed would be a more meaningful organisation in terms of its ability to lead overseas deployments. Cut out the truculent French, the pacifist Germans and the miliary non-entities then you would also have a more ideologically coherent organisation that might just actually act now and again.

I suppose the question is what do you want NATO to be? A military operation with the capability to act or a pick-and-choose talking shop where different western world views (Atlanticist, Guallist, Pacifist) can be reconciled and the load shared.

towcestarian said...

With the greatest respect to Carrington and Owen, they are last year's men with last year's views. The next generation of UK leaders, such as DC and Miliband, won't have any of the cold-war affection for NATO and are likely to put the UK into a wholly European defence force led politically and militarily by the French.

Now I can't think of anything more alarming than that, but then again I am also a cold-war, atlanticist dinosaur.

Anonymous said...

Yawn Yawn Yawn...yesterday's men.

NATO is a device to help lying toe rag British prime ministers have an excuse for following lying toe rag US presidents rather than discuss things rationally with European partners and possibly feel outvoted.

i spy strangers said...

I suspect "sakur" should be SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe - a Major NATO Commander). Can't help with "cadcan" though.

Andy D said...

I think this says more about the EU than it does about NATO. Clearly the French, and the Germans think that the EU is the future and not NATO.

The problem with the EU is that it needs to either be full integration, or not at all. As it is at the moment you have a flim-flam of semi-offical status, but with several countries still trying to pull the strings.

This is most clear on foriegn policy. It is impossible to have 20 odd seperate countries, from the UK, to France, to Greece etc to agree on things like this, especially when our culture of how to deal with other countries and our historic ties and alliances are so different.

If the Eurocrats were really serious about the European project, then lets have a vote for a United States of Europe, and let the people decide which direction they want the EU to go in.

Cicero said...

SACEUR- Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the General Wesley Clark

Commander KFOR- then General Sir. Mike Jackson

The dispute?

"Jackson served in the NATO chain of command as a deputy to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Wesley Clark. In this capacity, he is best known for refusing to block the runways of the Russian-occupied Pristina Airport, to isolate the Russian troops there. Had he complied with General Clark's order, there was a chance the British troops under his command could have come into armed conflict with the Russians; doing this without prior orders from Britain would have led to his dismissal for gross insubordination. On the other hand, defying Clark would have meant disobeying a direct order from a superior NATO officer (Clark was a four-star general; Jackson only a three-star). Jackson ultimately chose the latter course of action, reputedly saying "I won´t start [F**cking] World War III for you!",

The jabberwock said...

Towcestarian said at 1:55 PM

The next generation of UK leaders, such as DC and Miliband, won't have any of the cold-war affection for NATO and are likely to put the UK into a wholly European defence force led politically and militarily by the French.


So we'll be part of the Eurabian dhimmi armed forces? God help us all (only He won't - read Revelation). And we'll be targetting our nukes on Israeli cities from now on, will we? Why did my parents' generation bother with fighting the Nazis and standing up to the Communists - they might just as well have not bothered.

Anonymous said...

We should not lose sight of the fact that when Foreign Secretary, Owen was an arrogant, useless tosser (New Conservative parlance). He probably still is. His expenses claims during his Bosnia excapades were legendry. By contrast Carrington is a Gent. I have met both.

chatterbox said...

Very interesting discussion between Lords Owen and Carrington.
The solution is simple, Nato is either a coalition of the willing or it is not.
There is something very distasteful about watching countries like America, Canada, Britain and Holland take all the risks with their troops in the "danger zones" and the other countries paying lip service to a combined effort.
What happens when our troops are experiencing heavy fighting, can the Nato commander's even call in reinforcements from other countries troops in the Afghanistan?
Have calls for rapid reinforcements from other Nato troops been denied if requested in the past?

Voyager said...

the Sakur (sp?)

SACEUR = Supreme Allied Commander, Europe

Sabretache said...

NATO has lost its way and morphed into something never intended at its inception. I gave up a lot of time through the early eighties speaking for the BAC at various 'peace-movement' type meeting through the early eighties. At one such event - standing in for Sir Anthony Buck in Billericay at the time of an emergency Commons debate on the Falklands - I recall apologising for the absence of 'the Big Guns' and nearly getting myself lynched by the assembled peace-lovers for my pains - hey ho. That said, the fundamental purpose of NATO is/was that any external attack on a member would be treated as an attack on ALL members - a defensive alliance in other words. How on earth did that turn into becoming the world's policeman/spreader of 'democracy' I wonder? (rhetorical question that). Afganistan is a long way from the North Atlantic. It is not a NATO member and any suggestion that any NATO member is threatened by Afgan attack is laughable. So just what the Hell are we doing there? - as if the experiences of my own Somerset Light Infantry at Jalalabad were not sufficient warning of the quagmire awaiting.

realist said...

Didn't the Romans have multicultural, multi-national european army under a fairly unified command structure? Then again, that was a couple of thousand years ago and they didn't piss around with political correctness, like we do now.

NewSisyphus said...

Two things leap out at me while reading this:

1) NATO is dying because it's purpose has been achieved and no longer as a role. The US will recognize this eventually.

2) Britain's elite, like those on offer here, continue to insist that Britain is a "European" power despite noting, quite rightly, again and again and again that it is Britain's position which is not shared by her continental "brothers". Eventually, as with US coming to grips with reality in NATO, the UK will come to grips with the fact that it is not, never has been and never will be a "European" power.

And when the two governments realize that their current marriage arrangements don't work, it wouldn't surprise me at all to find the two newly-single powers realizing that they have a natural mate they've been overlooking as too obvious for over 60 years....

Voyager said...

NATO is a US overlay on top of the EU being used as a way of keeping Us influence - by extending the remit of NATO into Afghanistan the US is trying to create a foreign policy dynamic to show its influence over NATO states outside EU foreign policy.

Also it is the only surviving alliance from the series set up - CENTO or The Baghdad Pact is dead, SEATO or The Manila Pact is dead, and only NATO survived

billy said...

Anonymous said...
Yawn Yawn Yawn...yesterday's men.

NATO is a device to help lying toe rag British prime ministers have an excuse for following lying toe rag US presidents rather than discuss things rationally with European partners and possibly feel outvoted.

2:28 PM

How do you discuss anything rationally with the French?

Anonymous said...

How can I get hold of a full copy of the discussion between Carrington and Owen? I watched it on sunday morning from my sick bed and despite feeling ill I found it the most interesting commentary on post-9/11 foreign policy I have seen for years but can find only one reference to it on the internet (this one) and nothing at all on the GMTV website.