CRCE Briefing Paper
East was Won:
What Next for NATO and EU One Year after Enlargement?
A CRCE Seminar
Sebestyén v. Gorka
like to look at the topic in the broad context of today, a year on - NATO, the
EU, how the East was won and whether the East was won? First, two fundamental
issues: what has happened in the last year, and how does my region,
What I would like to do is to give a snapshot first of what is going on in the region, what it looks like, and then move to my country in particular, Hungary, because there are some interesting things happening there which help to explain some of the problems in the broader context. Then I would like to look at the EU and NATO very briefly and discuss prospects for the future.
The snapshot: what do things look like in
But some interesting things are happening in
the countries around
The second important regional trend is that,
although we have to hold our breath for a while, there seems to be potential for
a wave of conservative victories over the next six months to a year.
What I see, which is also relevant to other
countries in the region, is the continuing legacy of communism. Most important
is the concept of “álambácsi”, or “Uncle-State”, the
sub-conscious expectation that I as a citizen should be looked after by the
state; that I should have job security; that prices should be kept low and that
health, welfare and education should simply be something maintained by the
central government. The idea that the budget is actually my money is not
understood. That the government is wasting money left, right and centre is
understood, but the idea that it is actually my money they are spending is
something we try to hammer into people’s heads every day. “State-capture” is
still very large, meaning the proportion of the economy
which relies directly or indirectly on the state represents a vast sector of the
economy. It is not as bad as
On a macroeconomic scale my country is going
in the opposite direction to its neighbours. Five years ago we were the regional
tiger; we were leading the pack of Central European countries.
I do not subscribe to the idea that there is
a vast octopus of communist secret police agents from
An example of how this becomes politically untenable, or should be, is that when the current Reform Communist Party took power in 2002, two weeks after the Prime Minister took up his position it was revealed by the last surviving conservative newspaper that he was a voluntary member, not an informer, but a serving officer, a major, in the secret police of the Communist dictatorship. This seemed to escape him when he presented his CV not only to his Party but also, because under the Hungarian constitution it is the President who appoints the Prime Minister, in his audience with the President after the election. He neglected to inform the President that he had been a serving major in the secret police. A huge scandal erupted and I was fortunate, or unfortunate, to be one of the investigators on the parliamentary committee investigating the Prime Minister.
Just as an anecdote regarding the levels of fear in the country and how well propaganda still functions, I shall tell you two little stories.
The first is that I was appointed as opposition expert on the committee and I started to give press statements. By this time the Prime Minister was saying that in the late 1970s he was a member of the secret police because he wanted to protect his country from the KGB. I responded that this was possibly not true, that in fact the KGB was in control of the secret police and we have to reassess what he is telling us. The statements were reported on television and in the newspapers. One of the consequences was that my babysitter’s grandmother, whom I had never met in my life, sent a coded message via her granddaughter that I should stop what I was doing or I was going to get killed. This was 2002, and this is the level of fear that many people still have in their hearts.
Secondly, one day after a committee session I took a taxi home and the driver recognised me. He was at least 55-60 years old so he grew up under the lion’s share of the dictatorship. He said, “Mr Gorka, can I ask you a question? If the British secret service ask a businessman to help them in their work, would this be a bad thing if he said ‘yes’, and helped them?” I said, “Well, you know, it depends on the individual, but the request would not be pejorative or illegal in itself.” And he looked at me and said, “So why are you giving our Prime Minister such a hard time?” I tried to convince him that there is a small difference between a security service functioning in a democracy and a secret police organ functioning in a dictatorship. After the third attempt it was clear to me I was wasting my breath. To him, a communist secret policeman was the same as James Bond. Forty years of propaganda had been quite successful for a large proportion of the population.
On a broader level, politically, there is an ideological mess in my country. The parties do not provide identities. We have a 35% floating vote, which is nonsense. It can go from the extreme left to extreme right in the last few weeks of the election. There is absolutely no inbred genetic tradition of identity-based voting. The former Communists, who now call themselves ‘Socialists’ and will change their name soon, I am convinced, to ‘Social Democrats’, espouse social sensitivity to all sectors, especially the poor and the elderly. Yet these are the people who have privatised most of the economy. They are more Thatcherite in their privatisation policy than Margaret Thatcher, especially when it comes to selling state assets to their friends and relatives.
On the flip side, the Young Democrats, or the Hungarian Civic Party, whichever one you want to call them nowadays, are those who say they are conservative, and are yet the most etatist party in our country. They want to be in the market; they want to control the market; they provided subsidised loans for middle-class couples to buy houses; they scrapped university fees. So there is fundamentally a confusion of political identities.
Now to discuss the organisations we have
joined in the last few years. What is the EU, let us start with that question -
and of course you could write a PhD dissertation on it. I think the most
important thing to remember is, no matter who we blame for the creation of the
current monstrosity, whether it is Monet, Adenauer, Schumann or somebody else,
we are not going to just abandon Europe. On May 1st last year it was
all supposedly about “reuniting
teach this subject at university in
always ask my students at this point, how do you write a nation’s foreign
policy? Whether you are the
who predict the death of the nation-state are a little bit early in my opinion.
The buck always stops with the nation-state and what I hope for in the future is
that the new members will be in a better position to realise how much their
interests may be negatively affected by those sitting in
NATO is nothing like the EU. It is incomparable, it truly is a political organisation with military goals; it is not a military organisation, in my opinion. The problem with NATO is that ‘unfortunately’ it won the war without having fired a shot, and this is a big problem. As a result there is now a new environment in which its former adversary is allegedly its ally, where it has not been able to reform itself for the last twelve years. There is no agreement after 9/11 over threat perception.
A very good friend of mine, was adviser to four post-Cold War Secretaries General
of NATO. He advised on
Nowadays, after 9/11, I steal his anecdote
but I change it slightly. Even if there was a common agreement on threat
perception - let us water it down, Muslim fascism, or
international terrorism - how many people do we think in the now smaller NATO
HQ, of about 3500 people, have on their business card ‘Arabic Linguist’ or
‘Expert in International Terrorism’? None. It is a
bureaucracy. There are many people there who specialise in Cold War security
issues and like living in
Let me just finish at this point on the prospects for the future. It looks like the conservatives will come back - I have no doubt that they will. Maybe not in my country, at least not qua conservatives, but it is looking good for the right regionally. The left, the former Communists, are out of ideas. They have no ideas to put on the table. What they have is propaganda and confused policy messages: you cannot have a free market economy and a full welfare state at the same time. These are the kinds of things they do not realise, or rather are unprepared to resolve. As a result they are in more trouble than the conservatives.
For further information, my institute has published a couple of papers: a detailed examination of exactly how many former Communists now profess to be democrats and are members of Central European governments - names of individuals and their previous history. The second is a very different paper - a study entitled “The Death of National Security”, on how modern national security structures may not be the best tools for fighting the war against terrorism - a very security-oriented paper. Both can be accessed at www.itdis.org.
Helen Szamuely: It is my perception that people have not so much accepted the propaganda - but that they cannot be bothered. Also that so many people were involved in one way or another that it would be difficult to have complete lustration.
Sebestyén Gorka: I should have prefaced what I said with my
usual caveat: you will not understand the region unless you understand the
principle of contradictions. There is no black and white here. I do not mean in
the moral sense. If you are trying to understand the region there will be
internal contradictions to any given question. Now, many
people are not bothered, of course not. Why? Because for forty years
there was a parliament in
With regard to lustration - very important
in our country - I have to take you to task on the suggestion that it did not
happen properly anywhere. It happened in
the idea of the penetration of informers. I do
not like this argument. It is a very slippery slope: Well, everyone was a little
implicated so let’s not look for skeletons in the closet. This is the excuse
Medgyessy made when he was in front of us in the
committee. This is the man who was former Deputy Minister of Economics, a major
in the secret police and millionaire banker after the fall of Communism, and he
said, “Well, nobody really liked the regime but you just put your head down and
survived”. You could see he put his head down and survived, right? Wrong! If
that is the case, my father did not exist, and my father’s friends did not exist
- people who were put in prison, tortured, murdered, kicked out of university
simply because they said “Oh, democracy’s an interesting concept”. There is
something despicable in saying that it was just the nature of the regime. Also,
there are big differences. In
FIDESz as a political party - yes, they have a crisis of identity. To understand them we have to look at where they came from. Churchill said, “If you’re not a liberal when young you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative when old you have no brain”. This is what happened to them. They followed this example exactly. In the 1980s these were a bunch of college students who were pro-democracy, really hard-core anti-communist, but importantly, at the same time, anti-conservative, anti-clerical, anti-religion. They were liberal radicals but anti-communists. Then they spent eight years in the political wilderness as politicians. They went from being students to being politicians and never worked a day in their lives. They spent eight years at 7% in the Parliament, and boom! They win an election in 1998. In the eight years between being a radical student being beaten up by the police and becoming Prime Minister, what happens? They get married; they have children; they get soft around the middle, they become conservatives. But the six top leaders are first-generation intelligentsia from the countryside. They do not like the middle class, they never were middle-class, but they felt themselves becoming conservative. They saw the conservative Hungarian Democratic Forum implode and as a result they filled a political vacuum, but they have no ideological underpinning or understanding of conservative principles. How confused are they? I’ll give you an example. A month or two before the EU referendum on joining, this Party held a party congress on EU membership. Orbán gives a 50-minute speech on the EU. 45 minutes of the speech is, “Look at this bunch, we’re going to join and our farmers are going to get 25% of what French farmers get! We are not allowed to produce milk anymore because there is too much milk in the Union,” etc. - 45 minutes of slamming the Union, then in the last 5 minutes: “Oh, by the way, you had better go and vote ‘yes’ in the referendum because we want to return to Europe.” A complete identity crisis: are we pro-EU or anti-EU? They do not know. They want to have their cake and eat it.
Lisl Biggs-Davison: Can NATO find a role and what should it be?
Sebestyén Gorka: The answer will fall on the issue of shared
threat perception. There is a very strange situation on the European continent
at the moment. If I were Osama bin Laden, after 9/11,
Last year I met the head al-Qaeda analyst in the BND, the Bundesnachtendienst, the German answer to MI6. It is clear if you talk to these
people off the record in the corridors that everybody in the BND is scared of
al-Qaeda. Frustration is not the word for it: their
political masters do not want to hear. They simply do not want to know because
it is too touchy an issue. I think the same may be said of
Helen Szamuely: Is there a sign that they are
recruiting Arabic speakers and dealing with the
Sebestyen Gorka: NATO as
such is not because the NATO central organisation is two-part. It has a large
civilian corps, the political division. People with some
security background but who are there to chair meetings. NATO has over
300 committees. It is a bureaucracy. Then there is the military side, the IMS
(the International Military Staff). Those are the people who are there to plan
and run operations. When NATO forces deploy out-of-area, to the Balkans or elsewhere, that is the chain of command through which they
are run. As a result, analysis and NATO’s intelligence capacities are very
small. We are talking about a couple of dozen people, and generally for vetting
and internal security, not for analysis and forecasting. For this,
unfortunately, you have to look to nation-states and that is what my article is
about: when you look at terrorism and organised crime the big problem is that
the enemy functions on an international level, completely transnational, across borders. We ourselves function within
nation-state structures. Now, to defeat the enemy, you have to think of clever
ways to co-operate with each other that are transnational. You have to work around the limits of the
Westphalian system without destroying it. National
security was easy under the Westphalian system. What
did you have to do? You had to defend the territory of your country, you had to
have a standing army and you had to have intelligence services you could send
into the enemy countries to gather military, economic and political information.
It was easy because you knew it was either
is the successor to the
Ross: You are
an exceptional person in terms of your background; you live in
Sebestyén Gorka: It is
always problematic, and I do not feel like apologising because that is why I am
here, when you dish the level of dirt on your fellow countrymen or you go into
too high a level of detail. FIDESz is a fascinating
animal and as a construct tells you a lot about
defence bureaucracy and NATO - I think it is Timothy Garden who often uses the
phrase that “NATO was a bluff”, and it really was a bluff. We won; luckily we
did not have to go to war because who knows if the plans would have come
together as they were meant to? Now, and I am sorry to contradict myself, but I
think this is one place where conspiracy theories are possible - creating an EU
conspiracy, an EU defence, for no purpose at all, just to stick it to
Washington. A Zbigniew Brzezinski article of about five years ago is a classic. It
says, even if Europe managed to cobble together 60,000 troops, even if they have
a new command structure independent of NATO, where are they going to deploy
them? What is the campaign on which the then EU 15 will agree? And he says,
well, we could maybe imagine stabilising
At the core of what I shall talk about today, is a problem that has developed out of an inherent lack of communication and mutual understanding to the point where the two major forces in the military world, are diverging both militarily and politically. Such are the implications of the European Union’s Galileo project.
What is Galileo? First I shall introduce the concept of Galileo and then discuss the military applications followed by the political implications. Galileo is the EU version of the American GPS global positioning system. It is a constellation of initially twenty-four satellites but has somehow grown to thirty high orbit satellites, as a separate autonomous EU-run system to provide global coverage - basically navigation and allied activities or applications. At its outset, interestingly, GPS is nothing more sophisticated than a talking clock. These satellites do nothing more or less than tell the time, but very, very accurately. The basis of it is quite simple: you have a ground station receiver, which can receive signals from preferably three of the constellation satellites each of which is constantly feeding your ground station: usually a handheld or vehicle mounted receiver. Those satellites are simply telling the time, and your ground station is doing the same. Since these satellites are several thousand miles away, each satellite gives specific differing readings and then the ground station measures the difference in the times.
We know from the very simple formula, speed
equals distance over time, therefore distance which is speed times time, speed
is constant as the speed of light, you know where the
satellite is. Therefore you can calculate the distance from the time and then it
is a simple matter of triangulation, which then gives your position accurately
within, depending on the system, down to as little as two or three feet. That is
a modern miracle because you now can have a little mobile battery-fed unit with
which anywhere in the globe - except in the extreme northern regions where
satellites do not work effectively - you can tell your position to within
sometimes inches. In military terms that is phenomenal. The history of military
adventures is a sort of history of disaster. I remember an amusing incursion by
the Royal Marines into
The ability for military forces to be able to tell where they are to this enormous degree of accuracy revolutionises warfare in very many respects. First, it provides a command and control facility where for the first time in history senior officers and tactical officers actually know where they are, and more importantly know where their own forces are. As the great aphorism says: no plan survives first contact with the enemy. The fog of war, as described by so many authors, is real but we are now getting to a situation where a battlefield commander can sit in an air-conditioned portakabin, as it usually is, with a three-dimensional electronic display that can accurately, with enormous precision show every tactical movement under his command in real time. Now, tied in with high-level and hugely complex electronic and other intelligence capabilities they can also do the same with the enemy. Thus the modern battlefield is now transformed. For the first time in history commanders can, in theory at least, identify the whole of their forces, thereby controlling them, and also identify all the enemy forces. I do say in theory. They can therefore dispose of their own forces with maximum efficiency in a way that enables very small forces to punch above their weight and dominate the battlefield, because they know exactly what they are doing. At the core of this is Galileo because that satellite facility affords the ability to identify and position their forces. That is how important Galileo is to the point that global positioning in that sense and that sense alone is as much a revolution in warfare as was the transition from the musket to the machine gun. It makes the modern battlefield totally different. (See R. North Galileo: The Military and Political Dimension: The Bruges Group, 2004)
Now there is another aspect to Galileo in terms of the military hardware and that is in terms of precision guidance. We have all seen the dramatic footage of the first Gulf War, where I think the public were aware, again for the first time in history, military forces could aim weapons at an object and have a good chance, in fact a 90% chance, of actually hitting it. That in itself is a military revolution. In the Second World War it is estimated that it took 200 rounds and, that was from the largest bombs to bullets, to a kill a man, and now you can achieve a 90% certainty of a kill with a weapon; hit first time. The degree of accuracy is actually extraordinary and the latest developments are quite staggering. Two months ago the United States tested its first GPS-Guided artillery shell so we are now talking about field artillery, where you can dial in your co-ordinates and literally guarantee that that shell is going to hit exactly where you say it will. If you like, the combination of those two issues provide, in theory as I say, complete battle dominance and then the ability to take out targets with a very high degree of certainty.
Now, if that is the hardware side, what are the military and then the political implications? This is where it gets seriously interesting. It also starts to become very muddy because, like every good theory, it does not work in practice. Unfortunately, our politicians, and especially French politicians, are quite happy if it works in theory and are not terribly concerned if it does not in practice. There was that old story you know it works in practice but will it work in theory. To explain the significance is actually quite difficult and I have to regress and I speak again about hardware, particularly in the context of rapid reaction forces and European military integration. It is all about threat perception. From the certainties of the Cold War where we knew where and what the enemy was, and when we were still basically fighting a variation on the theme of Second World War battles based on the classic armoured divisions: big guns, big tanks, with the expectations of huge numbers of tanks rolling through a gap and being met by a similar number of tanks and various other weapons. These were lovely military certainties knowing your enemies, and you knew how to deal with them, and where they were. In the war against global terrorism it is extremely difficult to: a) to know who your enemy is, b) where your enemy is going to be and c) whether you can actually get your own forces there, to deal with them. It is not only a question of the logistics: It is also a question of politics, whether you will be allowed access both by way of mountain bases in friendly or allied countries as in the Gulf War, or being allowed airspace access for logistics purposes or for even military strikes, so it becomes extremely complicated.
But in as much as there is a military
dimension to the war against terrorism, and that of
course is a massive debate as to what is the relative proportion of your civil
and intelligence effort devoted to anti-terrorism and the extent to which you
are using military forces and military hardware against terrorism. It has led to
the evolution of what is actually a colonial concept of expeditionary warfare,
and the buzz word if you like, within the planners
minds and being discussed within NATO and
Where does Galileo come into this? We come to another buzz phrase “situation of awareness”. The theory, and again it is theory, is that if you look at traditional response to the design and building of armoured vehicles you are looking a three concepts. You are looking at protection which is in terms of armour; you are looking at mobility in terms of engine, tracks, to give you all-terrain performance; and you are looking at a weapon to give it aggressive capability. A main battle tank ends up as a compromise between the three. If you have too heavy armour you suffer on mobility and you suffer in your armour. If you have too big a gun you have to cut back on your armour and so on, and you end up with a compromise that is technically as good as you can get. If you are then going to cut your weight from sixty-five tons to twenty tons something has to go and what goes is armour. This means you are putting your troops into theatre in lightly-armed vehicles, armoured vehicles, which cannot protect their crews from potential threats. So you approach this differently, and the theory is that by developing electronic systems based around Galileo and around complex and sophisticated electronic intelligence on the battlefield, you are able to detect threats very early within your battlefield, before they get into sufficient range for them to do any damage. You then develop an integrated battlefield relying not only on your armoured vehicles, but also on stand-off missiles, on extremely high-tech artillery such as the Galileo-guided shells plus a layer of air support ranging from helicopters to satellites and drones able to take out that threat before it gets near enough to cause any damage.
Now that is the theory, and it is a lovely theory! It means you can then wander around in a lightly armoured vehicle, and you are not too worried because they will never get close enough to hit you. At least that is the theory. However, there are two problems. First, when dealing these days with issues relating to terrorist threats, your enemy rather inconveniently, refuses to wear a uniform. In some cases he is actually wearing your uniform provided by you and using your weapons. Secondly, as experience is showing us, they have become aware that if they stand in the middle of the desert and wave weapons around they get slaughtered, so that anything up to 80% of any “hot” confrontation will occur and is occurring in urban environments. And there, where you are seeking stand-off ranges to protect your forces, of a thousand yards plus, you are down to confrontation in terms of yards and unable to detect that enemy with any certainty, or at all, before they have struck. We now have a huge conflict with the military philosophy centred round the concept of developing a first strike capability. The intent is to take your enemy out before they can get near you but the reality is that you are almost back to the original way of warfare where the first time you know where your enemy’s position is when you have taken the hit. This came to a head, and the lessons still have not percolated through the system where what was known as the American concept F.C.S. future-combat system. The Americans have in principle committed something like over a hundred and ten billion dollars and climbing, towards a complete re-equipment of the American army, where tanks became dismissively described as heritage platforms and where MICVs, the Abrahms and what are loosely called armoured personnel vehicles, became totally obsolete. The idea was to bring in four, six and sometimes eight wheeled lightweight armoured vehicles, tested out in theatre where we see the Americans with now up to three striker brigades, the new armoured vehicle.
Then the battle of Fallujah in
This not only revolutionised warfare but also threw into total disarray the whole concept of “expeditionary warfare”. The whole point here is that if you are running an “expeditionary warfare” system your equipment must be air portable. But suddenly with tanks back in fashion the equipment that you need to use is not air portable and the equipment you are going to buy is not survivable. The planners have got themselves in a bind now, and rather like the dinosaur the message has just hit the tail. Whether it will actually percolate the brain is a moot point because of the political issues. The driving force behind “expeditionary warfare” is not actually geared specifically to deal with identifiable threats because we do not actually know what the threats are going to be, or whether or not politically we can deal with them but it sounds like a good idea. It looks good, and to have a European rapid reaction force is a political imperative.
So far we have talked about this
extraordinary battlefield technology, both in terms of intelligence and in terms
of Galileo which is part of the system. I briefly mentioned the American system
of GPS and we conclude that the theoretical thinking being translated into
practice at enormous expense is now diverging into two systems. To date, the
NATO standard has been American GPS, but the Europeans, in building their own
autonomous system, are developing their own electronic technology. We now have
another word which is the nightmare and as I read in one report recently, it is
not just a word, it is the word, and that word is
inter-operability. Interestingly, the Americans have just spent
twenty-three million dollars, which is a relatively small amount, on their U.S.
Marine Corps for one purpose and one purpose only: to allow the Marine Corps to
talk to the army on the battlefield because they have actually built systems
that do not talk to each other. But that is a small problem compared to the
problem we are going to see vis-à-vis European forces based on Galileo and
American forces based on GPS, it is a divergence in the technology to the point
where the two systems dominating the battlefield are unable to communicate with
each other. If you rely on electronic intelligence in the battlefield and your
system cannot see your allies’ assets, and cannot communicate with each other
thus battlefield intelligence cannot be shared. In short allies cannot share the
battlefield because they will be identified as enemy and taken out. This
highlights the political significance of the Europeans developing autonomous
systems on a different technical standard to the Americans. There will be a
political divergence. They can no longer operate as allies, and for
It gets worse. In order to finance Galileo,
the Europeans have sold access to the system to a number of very shady companies
and not least the PRC,
NATO standard is a byword in military circles, within the whole of the NATO alliance. And it is the sine qua non. After all there is no point in having allied forces working together if your F-16 lands on an allies’ airfield and your fuel bowser is unable refuel it. So this unsung bureaucratic technical work of making sure that everything fits and works together has in fact underpinned the whole NATO alliance. In this almost unheard of EU commissioned paper on defence procurement it was clearly stated that we shall move away from NATO standard towards CEN and develop our own European standards.
one sentence it writ large that the European defence identity is moving away
from NATO because we are moving away from
we are heading for a disaster. On what is possibly actually a flawed military
concept of air portable lightweight forces built on the basis of technical
theory, we have committed ourselves to rapid reaction forces which increasingly
are becoming, and will eventually become, totally inoperable with American forces. By sharing such technology with potential enemies of
This is an interesting situation with
enormous significance and it is causing great concern. I have noted with
increasing despair that the issue has been almost totally ignored by virtually
the entire western media though reported vibrantly in
Obviously in spite of what you said about
the brilliant qualities of the GPS system, it still has limitations. Any GPS
system, no matter how complex, effectively relies on a line of sight to the
satellites that it operates from. There was an instance in
Returning to the effectiveness of heavy
armoured vehicles, I think that it is very difficult to draw conclusions only
Regarding your point about the reliability of electronics, I recently read of a post-battle report about Stryker brigades where I used that phrase ‘situation of awareness’ - where the commander within the armoured vehicle has a laptop, or what certainly looks like a laptop. It is almost like playing computer games because on the screen are little icons showing where all your friends are, all your assets etc Then a situation ensued when armoured vehicles were going into dead-spots with no reception. They found to their horror that after they had lost reception and then rebooted, the laptop refused to show any of the other vehicles; it showed only themselves! Everybody else had gone off the map! So there are enormous technology and reliability problems. However, in the Air Force, when we had all these wonderful navigation-aids, they still insisted on teaching us how to navigate manually, because we were told that all these electronics break down. If you rely on them totally and everything goes down then you are lost, unless you have that capability to pick it up again. The issue is that troops are getting so reliant on the technology that they are actually incapable of operating around it. Also the technology is now becoming so complex that it exceeds the capability of the soldiers you are able to recruit to operate it. The American army is recruiting an extraordinary high percentage of graduates as non-commissioned officers to operate this technology. However, another problem arises in they are not suitable for ordinary soldiering duties and do not take kindly to them. Now to the issue of tanks: the tank demise has been forecast ever since they were first produced, and military thinking like everything else goes in fashions, whether it is hem-lines or military equipment, exactly the same fashionable ideas pervade military thinking. I was making the point that about ten years ago it became fashionable to say that tanks are no longer any use at all on the battlefield and we are going to get rid of them completely and replace them with this new generation. The British Government is now more or less committed to the removal long-term of all our heavy armour brigades to be replaced by a system called FRES, Future Rapid Effects System. We are told this will cost, for something we have not yet seen, six billion pounds and this is just the procurement, with a lifetime cost of twenty-four billion. This raises a third and very interesting concept, because if you take the total value of the equipment, you are talking about a lightweight battle vehicle with a price-tag of something like five or six million pounds. This vehicle can be taken out by a dissident with a ten-dollar rocket projectile. So we reach the point where the equipment is too expensive to use, and the asset to risk ratio so disproportionate that we can imagine situations where there are stockaded compounds full of highly valuable armoured vehicles, and armed soldiers preventing anyone using them. Furthermore, the soldiers would be actually travelling in Land Rovers because they would be the affordable vehicles.
To conclude, the variety of the equipment will obviously depend on the terrain, but it is my belief and it is certainly now the American belief and that you would suddenly stop seeing them mothballing Abrams heritage vehicles. BAE as you know took over UDI, united defence industries which makes the Abrams, so instead of getting rid of these - now no longer “heritage platforms” - they are actually being upgraded to incorporate the latest electronic technology. But while the Americans are now looking at increasing their tactical shipping ability so that they can transport them in high-speed specialist cargo vessels, we Europeans, if we British are included, do not have that ability at all. So we are, for political reasons, maintaining the myth that everything can be air portable even though the reality is a moving concept and forcing other people to change. That is why I said it is getting very muddy because the theory no longer supports the practice.
One year after the EU enlargement to the east, which took in eight former Communist states and at a time when most East European countries have achieved NATO membership, it is time to look at the whole process and its political repercussions.
Certain tensions have already manifested themselves in the European Union and it would seem that these are likely to increase. There is some dissatisfaction among the new member states about economic matters - the hoped for large amounts of financial help have only partially meterialised, whereas the fears of regulatory difficulties have proved to be all too true.
The tensions to do with foreign policy,
particularly with the construction of a “European common foreign and security
policy” have, on the whole, been more manifest. This, too, was predictable, and
I claim credit of saying so a year or more before Donald Rumsfeld’s famous speech about “old”
It is worth looking at the actual process of
accession and its supposed popularity in
The East European countries were anxious to join NATO and would probably have passed on the European Union if there had been some alternative economic and political arrangement they could come to. The EU could not countenance such an arrangement for various reasons of its own, just as it did not encourage the formation of parallel structures such as the Central European Free Trade Association (CEFTA), a potentially very useful organization but one that was effectively destroyed by EU demands during the accession negotiations.
The immediate slogan for East European
countries was, as Vaclav Klaus put it: “Back to
In fact, as some people in both Eastern and
Nor does it make any kind of sense to talk
The propaganda campaign in the run-up to the referendums in the accession countries tended to emphasise the positive points made above and tried to exclude any analysis. There was some discussion of economic benefits (of some importance in the countries that had lost the Soviet market but had not had it replaced by the European one because of the general protectionist tendencies of the EU) but as little as possible of the possible problems that a detailed and inappropriate regulatory regime might produce.
Nor was there any discussion (and, to be fair, there is very little of it even now across the whole of the EU) of the difficulties that separate European defence structures might cause for NATO and the western alliance, which the former Communist states were anxious to be part of.
Nevertheless, and despite the enormous
amount of money, often provided by the European Commission spent on the yes
campaign, the referendums, with some exception were not the decisive affirmation
of faith in European integration that had been hoped for. Though the vote was
overwhelmingly in favour, the turn-out in most countries was very low. In
The problem with the no campaigns throughout
the region was that these were dominated, by and large, by either the ultra
nationalist parties or the unreconstructed communist ones. Nationalist parties
can turn quite ugly in most countries but in
Only a small and barely visible proportion
of the no campaign concentrated on free-market and liberal political ideas. Even
then, as the example of Vaclav Klaus shows, the tendency was to support
membership of the EU, though with all sorts of reservations. President Klaus,
for example, has made it clear and he is not alone in this, that he is against
the proposed Constitution for
In the light of all this, it is not surprising that people showed their lukewarm attitude by staying away from the electoral booths during the successive referendums.
The governing outlook in
The EU’s more
“traditional” stance has been anti-American, or, to be quite precise, putting
itself forward as the necessary rival to the
Despite the move away from
Another Problem was the result of politics
in the west, specifically in
What actually happened was a shift within the Conservative Party during or just after the last lot of European elections and the MEPs were forced to rejoin the EPP, thus leaving the new members with no options but to do the same or disperse among the other groupings.
Yet the biggest problem of all that bedevils East European politics is the continuing presence of the old nomenclatura, as has already been mentioned. Many of those who negotiated the accession to the EU were members of this body who, understandably enough, have taken to the ideology of the European Union, based as it is on similar ideas of centralization and regulation as well as government control and welfare from cradle to grave. They, presumably, also have a sympathy with the general anti-entrepreneurial attitude of the European Commission and, often, of the various Councils of Ministers. Either way, these people are likely to stand in the way of substantive market reforms.
The inevitable tensions revolve round
economic and security matters. As we all remember
There was a fear that an intake of so many
nations who are likely to be in the German sphere of interest would further
On a more prosaic level France rightly feared for its own funds out of the Common Agricultural Policy with the inflow of largely agricultural countries, one, Poland, very large, and all of them poor. As we have seen the agricultural agreements were fudged in various ways and the CAP funds have been tied up till 2012. After that it will be more difficult for France and the present recipients of large subsidies to insist that the situation should continue unabated. However, even before that there have been various frictions on the subject of richer countries getting more subsidies than the poorer ones. The still unsettled next EU budget has added fuel to the debate.
A separate economic problem is one of taxation. Several of the incoming East European countries have lower corporate taxes than the other member states. This is necessarily attractive to businesses both inside and outside the EU and there has already been some move towards the east. Much of that happened before accession but movement has not stopped.
Clearly, this undermines western
competitiveness but, instead of drawing the obvious conclusion and reforming the
tax system, the various member states with high corporate tax levels, led by
Germany have demanded at various times that the eastern countries should fall
into line. This would, naturally, undermine their competitiveness and the
businesses are likely to move even further east. However,
Incidentally, the tax question and the move
towards harmonization may also adversely affect
I have already mentioned the tensions in
security matters that are based on a different outlook. The East European
countries tend to see
Finally, there is the problem of interests
that are peculiarly those of the East European countries and cannot fit easily
into a supposed single foreign and security policy. Not so long ago we have
Of even greater importance is the
relationship with the other former Soviet republics. It was
NATO and, in particular, the United States
has made it clear for some time that it would appreciate greater financial input
from the European countries. The statement at the 50th Anniversary
This will inevitably raise tensions within NATO and might even lead to its effective dissolution. What the Europeans will do then if, say, trouble in the Balkans erupts again, seems unclear.
At the same time, the East Europeans are
showing signs of crisis co-ordination between themselves outside both NATO and
EU frameworks. It was, as I mentioned above, particularly noticeable during the
Ukrainian crisis. At present battle units that involve
There is one more problem with the East European members of NATO. Because there had been no proper lustration within those countries and many of the old Communist nomenclatura is still in place, there are serious doubts about the reliability of some of the high military and security personnel. Given that the Americans are already wary of European military and security integration and anxious about sharing information that might fall into the wrong hands, the continuing presence of cadres whose reliability is questionable at best leads to lack of confidence and further tensions.
At this stage it is hard to predict how the enlarged European Union and NATO will function. Many of the problems and developments will depend on factors that only marginally affect the new former Communist members, though their presence adds to the various tensions, as we have seen.
However, it is fair to say that the East did
not have to be won. It was always part of
The immediate problem the former Communist countries are facing, however, is the need to complete the revolution. They need to remove the last decaying but surprisingly tenacious vestiges of the Communist system. That would finally set these countries on the path to democracy and prosperity.
up and educated in the UK After the fall of communism in
publishes articles and monographs internationally on the topics of terrorism,
Central European military reform,
is a regular commentator on television in
Most recently he was the official expert on a parliamentary commission investigating the secret police background of the current Prime Minister. Sebestyén is Director of the Institute for Transitional Democracy and International Security (ITDIS).
After a brief career in the Royal Air Force, Dr Richard North became a local government officer, then ran his own consultancy business for two decades. He moved into trade politics and thence to the European Parliament as research director for the group of European Democracies and Diversities
Through this professional work, Richard obtained first-hand experience of the damaging effects of Brussels directives and their interpretation by UK officials on British businesses, and has gained an unrivalled insight into the workings of the European Union.
Along with Christopher Booker the Sunday Telegraph columnist, he is the co-author of The Great Deception, the seminal history of the European Union. Dr North has also written two books on bureaucracy and the EU, with Christopher Booker, and one on the death of British agriculture.
Helen Szamuely was born in
has recently contributed a paper to a forthcoming volume of “alternative
history”: What if Lenin’s sealed train
had never reached