Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Defence carnage – the EU dimension

In The Times this morning, details are given of the carnage to which our historic English regiments are to be subject, with several regiments earmarked for merger or disbandment.

For instance, the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, which dates back to 1685, and The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment (RGBW), formed ten years ago but whose origins go back more than 300 years, look set to be amalgamated, although one option remains to disband the RGBW altogether. The King's Own Royal Border Regiment, dating back to 1680, is also looking vulnerable to amalgamation or disbandment.

According to The Times, these "radical options" for the English regiments have been forced on army planners because of the announcement in the Defence White Paper in July that four battalions of infantry had to be axed, with a shake-up of the whole infantry structure, to create larger regimental formations. This makes it inevitable that the smallest regiments would be combined into “large regional military families”.

But what The Times – and to date no other newspaper – has done is highlight or even identify the EU dimension in all this, even though – as we saw – as recently as Monday, we were told of plans to create EU "battle groups", with the UK providing troops for two of them.

The connection, of course, is that these "battle groups" are eventually to form part of the much larger EU rapid reaction force, perhaps numbering 60,000 troops, which are to be geared to what has become known as “expeditionary warfare”. And it is here, that the FRES concept comes in, with integrated, armoured forces, using "network enabled", wheeled armoured vehicles, all of which will be air-portable.

The core of these new formations will be the infantry, but our traditional regiments do not fit the new structures needed to man them. Therefore, the whole of the infantry must be restructured, to provide units capable of working with the FRES equipment, in order that Tony Blair can fulfil his personal commitment to that crook Chirac, and provide the resources for the EU Rapid Reaction Force.

Some military commentators may argue that these changes would have been needed anyway, but this is not necessarily the case – and would only be the case if we wanted to mount the types of operation envisaged by the EU – independently of the US.

As it stands, the traditional British regimental structure is ideally suited to performing the low-level policing and counter-insurgency role, alongside the better-equipped US forces, as in Iraq, or in support of long-term peacekeeping commitments.

However, as always, nothing of this will be aired in the mainstream media, and once more, the damage caused by the rush towards EU defence integration will pass unremarked.

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