Weakness Of A Rapid Reaction Force

SIR - The United Kingdom and France are the two countries in Europe with global reach and influence. We both enjoy permanent seats in the UN Security Council, both carry the responsibilities of acting as nuclear powers with global projection and a global role.

While close co-operation should quite rightly take place, common cause does not mean that we should dilute our forces in a common army, navy or air force. As former Servicemen, we wish to voice our concerns at the manner in which the ability of our nations to protect our vital interests is being whittled away.

First, by penny-pinching, cutbacks in procurement and in force strength. Second, by overstretch, by committing reduced forces to increased global peacekeeping commitments, with disastrous effects on retention and morale. Third, and most important, by forging a common pseudo-identity in EU defence and foreign policy.

Our two countries have differing views on the future role and shape of Nato. But we can build on our distinctiveness if our armed forces remain under national flags. A common Euro army is incompatible with both of our approaches to this issue.

The actions of federalist politicians and technocrats playing at armchair generals, building a fictitious paper army, will only serve to weaken even further our national capabilities to the detriment of our own security and world stability. They should beware: paper tigers burn.

For the sake of our two countries and for Europe as a whole, we would counsel throwing the scheme into the dustbin of history before the fires begin.

Gen Pierre-Marie Gallois, Gen Alain Le Ray, Vice-Adml Michel Debray, Gen Jean-Marie Moreau, Gen Jacques Derenne, Gen Jean Remignon, Gen Sir John Akehurst, Adml of the Fleet Lord Hill-Norton, Vice-Adml Sir Louis Le Bailly, Rear Adml L. J. Lees-Spalding, Maj Gen Peter Martin, Paris


first published in Telegraph, 12.6.2001