Sunday, 3 June 2012

Lord Browne Leads Excellent Debate on DDPR

Former Defence Secretary (Lord) Des Browne initiated a  debate in the Lords this week on the Defence and Deterrence Posture Review (DDPR),asking he government:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the outcome of the NATO Deterrence and Defence Posture Review and the implications of clarifying NATO's deterrence posture for European security and the relationship with Russia.
 It's a question worth asking, and one the government had done its best to ignore, not least because the outcome of the DDPR was a complete mess. As Lord Browne said;

As part of the necessary "real change", NATO spent the year before Lisbon rewriting the alliance's main doctrine-the strategic concept-but it did not finish the job in time for Lisbon. The alliance managed to agree that, "as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance".The apparent clarity of that statement masked an inability of member states to agree on key issues about NATO's nuclear deterrence. At the same time, NATO agreed to,"develop the capability to defend our populations and territories against ballistic missile attack as a core element of our collective defence". However, that, too, hid significant differences about the role of ballistic missile defence in the alliance's future mix of capabilities.
Browne also highlighted the divisive nature of nuclear and missile defence politics in the Alliance, a theme NATO Monitor has regularly returned to in past posts. He also noted that no progress had been made at the Chicago Summit on the withdrawal of US tactical nuclear weapons from Europe. Indeed, as he said, the Obama administration is now embarked on a upgrade programme for the B-61 bombs based in Europe and the US, which will make them more accurate and suited to warfighting, tailored deterrence policies.

NATO Monitor is bound to point out that this stands in stark contrast to President Obama's past undertakings that he would not introduce an y new nuclear capabilities into the arsenal, and to his Prague speech of 2009 calling for nuclear disarmament. It is also worth noting that President Bush, condemned for his nuclear weapons policies withdrew hundreds of B-61 bombs from Europe, while Obama has withdrawn none.

Several Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour peers spoke during the mini-debate, mostly in agreement with Lord Browne and agreeing that the government should stake out a strong position in favour of nuclear disarmament in NATO, and friendship and cooperation with Russia. All were concerned that the government had had nothing to say on the DDPR since it was initiated by the Lisbon Summit in 2010.

Ending the debate, Lord Howell of Guildford, an FCO minister, defended the government, the DDPR and the status quo:
The threats that we must be ready to counter come from many different directions and in many different forms. The capabilities available to us have certainly broadened. The DDPR has presented a timely opportunity to reassess NATO's defence and deterrence capabilities to ensure that they are able to respond to the modern, multipolar world. That means not only where they have come from and where we are now, which is the realistic moment that we live in, but the future as well.
 It was pleasing to see a peer of Des Browne's experience leading a debate, and recommending sensible security building policies grounded in arms control measures and cooperation with a potential adversary. It is deeply to be regretted that a president with a Nobel Peace Prize is unable to offer the same kind of leadership, leaving NATO with not one but three nuclear use doctrines.

The whole debate can be read at:

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