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A useful reinforcement

Posted by Richard Friday, December 10, 2004 ,

Trailing in the footsteps of this Blog - which has been watching the incremental progress of EU Defence integration with growing dismay – comes a paper, "New Frontiers in Defence: Between Global Opportunities and Continental Policing", written by an anonymous senior foreign and security policy official, published by the New Frontiers Foundation think-tank.

Muddled, verbose - its 74 pages betraying the fact that it was rushed into print more with a view to establishing Dominic Cummings’s place in a debate which had started without him - it nevertheless makes a contribution to the debate and has triggered some useful additional publicity in The Times and The Sun.

The points made by the paper are in fact better summarised in the Times piece, which states that Britain is increasingly "paralysed and bewildered" as it tries to respond to differences between Europe and the United States over defence.

The report continues, elucidating the New Frontiers Theme that the government is putting its defence links with America at risk in order to enhance its credentials with the EU and particularly France, which is keen on a superpower alliance with China.

We are told that the anonymous author of the paper has said. Britain should reject attempts to turn the EU into a defence bloc that opposes US foreign policy in principle, adding that "Britain's defence strategy has been confused by the lack of a coherent vision and the desire of political elites to be part of the European project."

In particular, the official "reveals" a "new risk" to transatlantic relations over the development of Galileo, the EU’s space-based navigation programme "which has been poorly thought through and practically ignored", an odd claim seeing as how much the Galileo issue has been the subject of a Bruges Group paper last June, and over 25 postings on this Blog, which in turn have fuelled numerous newspaper articles, not least in The Sunday Telegraph, The Business and, latterly The Daily Telegraph. One would be more charitable about the New Foundation paper if it had acknowledged previous work instead of trying to claim it had just invented the wheel all by itself.

Nevertheless, it is helpful that the official should reinforce the message that the Americans are rightly concerned about the consequences should a future adversary get control of the system, for which collaboration with China is being proposed – exactly the issue raised in the Bruges Group paper.

The paper's central failing, though, apart from its limited grasp of military technology – for instance, treating Network Enabled Capability (NEC) and the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES) as if they were different things, when they are the same, then wrongly describing FRES as "Future Combat Vehicles", which completely misunderstands the nature of the project – is that it understates the degree to which technical integration is already underway, to the extent that we are already deeply embedded in the EU defence machine (see also here).

Despite this, the paper is worth a read and, with luck, it will trigger something of a further media response, in which case the debate can develop and the further issues can be explored.