- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Last month at Camp David, President Bush stated his support for Europe's effort to become a stronger, more capable partner for the United States in deterring and managing crises. The United Kingdom is determined that the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) will improve Europe's capabilities; will do so in a manner that will also strengthen NATO and is fully coordinated, compatible and transparent with NATO; and will provide the fullest possible participation of European allies who are not in the European Union (EU).
In Washington this week, I will be emphasizing to the administration and to Congress that NATO remains the only vehicle for collective defense in Europe, and our first choice for management of security crises in and around Europe. I will emphasize the priority we have given to implementing NATO's Defense Capability Initiative agreed at the Washington Summit two years ago. I will also say that we need a European option to deal with crises when NATO chooses not to be engaged. The European Union already gets involved in crises across a range of economic, diplomatic and humanitarian fronts. Developing a military option in the European Union, linked to NATO, is the right approach: it must make sense to capitalize on the additional political will and momentum the European Union can generate.
There are two key conditions for ESDP to be successful. First, a strategic partnership between the European Union and NATO. We want full transparency and consultation between the European Union and NATO as a potential crisis develops. There will be no separate EU armed forces, nor any separate EU operational planning capacity. European forces will remain available to NATO as they are now.
Second, we need real improvements in European capabilities. British Prime Minister Tony Blair made that clear when he first proposed a new effort to invigorate European defense in October 1998. It remains essential today. Britain has taken a leading role in the effort to achieve this.
Anybody familiar with defense planning knows that improving capabilities is a long-term process. Securing increased resources is a tough political challenge. Europe needs to do more and we have made a start. Britain's defense budget will increase in real terms in each of the next three years. Other European countries are starting to do the same.
But the problem is not simply one of resources. Europe already has some two million men and women in uniform. And we spend around $160 billion a year on defense. The real challenge is to make our forces more useable and to spend our money more effectively. ESDP will give the political push needed to help make these changes happen. The Headline Goal agreed at Helsinki last year usefully complements NATO's Defense Capabilities Initiative and will help ensure that we meet the challenge.
Most important of all, European nations have major new equipment programs to bring real increases in firepower and mobility. They include equipment already in production like the Eurofighter fast jet, new combat and transport helicopters, and the Storm Shadow cruise missile and others in development, like the A400M strategic transport aircraft and the Meteor air-to-air missile.
The United Kingdom has been pursuing this modernization program for several years. When Mr. Blair's government came to office in 1997, we knew we had to adjust the roles and structure of our armed forces to reflect a new strategic environment just as the United States is doing. Our strategic defense review concluded that we needed a more flexible force structure to deal with challenges to our interests, not only in Europe but farther afield. We realized that we needed new capabilities in areas like command and control, and strategic lift. We are now investing heavily in those requirements. We are building a new generation of destroyers, acquiring Roll-on, Roll-off ferries to enhance our sea-lift capacity, and are buying next-generation air-to-air missiles. These new capabilities will benefit ESDP and NATO alike.
Britain's partnership with the United States is at the center of many of our modernization plans. British armed forces now deploy Apache attack helicopters, Tomahawk land attack missiles and Maverick precision-guided munitions. We are spending $1 billion to lease and support Boeing C-17s. All this reflects the high priority we attach to inter-operability with the United States, in missions like those we conduct jointly over Iraq. The flagship of our collaboration is the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program; we committed $2 billion in January for the development phase alone. JSF will be a vital capability for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, and will further cement the ability of American and British armed forces to operate together.
Our industrial links are equally close. BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and other British-owned companies are significant suppliers to the Department of Defense. The British Ministry of Defense in turn has placed orders and commitments in the United States over the past six months with a total value of almost $4 billion clear evidence of our commitment to an open defense market across the Atlantic.
Mr. Bush also spoke with Mr. Blair at Camp David last month about increasing cooperation in defense trade and removing unnecessary barriers, while preventing leaks of advanced technology to potential adversaries. That is a vital goal, and a vital stimulus to achieving the stronger military capabilities Europe and NATO need. Our common endeavors in this will help secure the more powerful, more effective NATO that remains our common aim.

Geoff Hoon is Britain's secretary of state for defense.

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