Defence

“…defence expenditure has to be increased. There can be no ifs or buts about that. … Europe has been freeloading on the United States, as far as NATO is concerned, for long enough. Britain, coming out of the EU, has to demonstrate to the Americans that we are committed to NATO’s defence.

Lord Owen, speaking in the House of Lords Debate on UK Defence Forces, 23 November 2017.

Download the speech here: HLDefenceDebate23.11.17 

My Lords, the issue before us all is that defence expenditure has to be increased. There can be no ifs or buts about that. For the next five years, the National Security Council will have to find an increase from 2% to 2.5% as the bare minimum. That body is looking at cyber, development, defence and foreign policy. It is the right body to give a remit to this new review that it will be funded to this extent. Without that, frankly, it will not be serious.

Europe has been freeloading on the United States, as far as NATO is concerned, for long enough. Britain, coming out of the EU, has to demonstrate to the Americans that we are committed to NATO’s defence. Without that, we will not maintain the support of the American people for their commitment to NATO. Everything that we see indicates that that is vital. Why?

President Putin has admitted that he considered putting Russian nuclear forces on full alert at the time of maximum tension over Crimea, which shows how unwise it is to assume that Russian nuclear strategies are anywhere near the same as ours in NATO. It is also true that President Putin has threatened to base nuclear forces in Crimea and that he has deployed missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave in the Baltic Sea which neighbours Poland and Lithuania. I do not wish to exaggerate—Russian Federation military power is far less than that of the old USSR. The relevant concern we have is the growth in the belief among informed NATO military opinion that Russian conventional forces are now able to punch a hole in NATO’s conventional defences, particularly in the Baltic region. This is the rational case for increased NATO defence spending. Not to allow it is, in my view, to put NATO’s whole deterrent strategy at risk.

It is also vital that in this review we look at the role of the aircraft carrier. Aircraft carriers are huge and hugely expensive, so we have to find a way of making a contribution worldwide through a rapid reaction force committed not only to NATO but, more importantly, to the UN. It should operate worldwide from Oman, and be part of a global British strategy for the next decade that will be beneficial to us in achieving greater prosperity and a global profile. In that context, we must look at the amphibious forces. What is envisaged for the Royal Marines, and for the ships that are necessary, raises very serious questions. How many of us were pleased about the intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000? Without that amphibious capability, our capacity to intervene would have been negligible—in fact, the intervention would have been so dangerous that we could not have undertaken it.

There are big tasks ahead. We now have an integrated structure that looks at our overall international policy. If that means we have to take more from the overseas budget, I would, extremely reluctantly, accept it. There are ways of achieving it within the normal rules, provided that they are changed. For instance, the HMS “Ocean” mission to the British Virgin Islands during the emergency was not a defence expenditure and should be met out of the foreign aid budget. It is ridiculous to be told that OECD rules imply that we cannot use our foreign aid budget because this country was previously considered to be a medium-sized economy. A lot of those OECD rules are out of date and if they cannot be changed, we have to change them unilaterally. The foreign aid budget is potentially extremely important, but day after day we hear how it is grotesquely badly used. The British public will not go on accepting that. It may be that the House of Commons does not have the willpower to change the present resolution, but we in this House have a responsibility to remind Commons Members of their responsibility to the defence of Europe and not to allow this burden to be borne only by the American people.

Download the speech here: HLDefenceDebate23.11.17

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The world faces a very grave situation over what to do to contain the North Korea dictator.

Lord Owen in the Daily Mirror 5 September 2017

View the article here: DropMOABifDiplomacyFails

The world faces a very grave situation over what to do to contain the Korean dictatorship of Kim Jong-un after the sixth and most powerful nuclear test in defiance of international law and progressively tougher UN resolutions passed unanimously with the support of China and Russia.

This comes after a series of Korean missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads were launched demonstrating to Japan and South Korea that they can be hit and promising the same would be done to the island of Guam in the Pacific.

Guam is an unincorporated US territory whose inhabitants are automatically US citizens and it has been a critical place for US defence ever since the war against Japan in 1941.

The closest comparable threat to the US was during the night of the 26 October 1962 when Soviet troops in Cuba, ignoring President Kennedy’s earlier public demand for the removal of all Soviet missiles, moved three FKR missiles with 14 kiloton nuclear warheads, to within 15 miles of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

For that one night the Russians, without reference back to Moscow, had orders to fire if the US invaded the island.

The UK will not be asked in advance to approve any US action against North Korea but the UK was part of a UN force that the Labour Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, agreed should fight in defence of South Korea in June 1950.

The Korean War was brought to an end in July 1953 after President Eisenhower had used the Indian Prime Minister Nehru to warn the Chinese leader Zhou Enlai in May

that the US would use atomic bombs north of the Yalu river in North Korea unless peace talks in Panmunjom between North and South Korea made rapid progress.

In 2006 the deteriorating situation in North Korea was part of an “uncertain world too big a risk for our defence” that convinced another Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to renew our UK nuclear deterrent. More recently some 170 Labour MPs supported that decision in Parliament, later confirmed in Labour’s manifesto in the recent 2017 General Election.

So Britain cannot wash its hands of the dilemma the US faces and disown any decision President Trump might make particularly if it emerges it had the support of the Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis.

President Trump has talked directly to the Chinese President Xi in person and by other means many times. If Chinese diplomacy cannot change the mind of the Korean leader what will short of force? Perhaps initially using the Massive Ordnance Air Blast bombs on all nuclear sites will suffice, leaving nuclear bombs as a last resort only if South Korea is attacked.

These MOAB bombs (also known as Mother of All Bombs) were used for the first time ever in April against an ISIS tunnel and cave complex in Afghanistan. It is an horrendous choice the US is facing.

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Eventual Eurozone reform and improving Russian/European relations

Speech by Lord Owen to the Progress Foundation’s 43rd Economic Conference on ‘Which Future for Europe?’, Zurich, Friday 28 October 2016.

Extracts only. Read the full speech here: zurichspeech2

The EU is wisely, four months on since the UK referendum vote to leave the EU, less inclined to dismiss Brexit as an event of little significance, a matter just for the British. The EU is more likely now, in the wake of Brexit, to start to face long overdue reform….

Defining a core Eurozone involving a Fiscal Union and a Banking Union will have to be openly discussed, as already has been done informally by Germany and the Netherlands. Initially at least with Belgium and Austria. Even if something dire happens to the Eurozone these four countries will ensure that a small Eurozone continues. The question is who will be their partners?

As for France, a lot will depend on the outcome of the French elections. But for the first time, whereas it would have been automatic in the past that Germany would insist on French membership, there may not be the level of public support after the elections in Germany to include France initially.

It is very unlikely that German public opinion will accept any system of automatic money transfers to Italy….

Other countries that would want to be part of a core Eurozone are Spain and Ireland. Finland in the past would have expected to be a member; perhaps not now. Luxembourg will want to participate but they, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta, may need to face tax haven questions first as it is very undesirable that any unacceptable practices should be inherited by a new Fiscal and Banking Union…..

The core Eurozone countries cannot throw a number of countries out of the Eurozone given the practical politics of the EU. What they can do is make them ineligible to be part of a core because of the way that core has fixed the initial criteria for a Fiscal and Banking Union. The weakest economies would become more vulnerable to speculative moves aimed at destabilising some of their economies, but if they can ride out speculation they might be able to stay in the Eurozone even though they were not protected as would be members of the core. Aware of their vulnerability and anticipating such speculation, some might prefer to leave rather than await being forced to decide to leave at a time of crisis. The best outcome would be if Italy voluntarily chose to leave the Eurozone for they would have the power to lead a serious restructuring of the EEA and ensure it was not unduly influenced by core Eurozone members. And others like Greece and Portugal might follow.

A core Eurozone will not be a North-South Eurozone in the sense of a formal geographical divide, though this may be the appearance. A divide will happen because of the design and disciplines of the core. Some countries that stay in the Eurozone and make the transition will be able to qualify to be part of the Fiscal Union and Banking Union over time. In effect this core will become a federal Europe.

… Besides Eurozone reform, there is the need to face up to President Obama’s criticism that Europe is “freeloading” within NATO and the disappointing record of the European External Action Service, EEAS.

… Only in a revived NATO, where European countries are no longer as President Obama rightly accused us of being ‘freeloaders’, and we make a greater financial contribution, will Europe redress the imbalance between us and President Putin’s Russian Federation.

Read the full speech here: zurichspeech2

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Outside a dysfunctional EU with its common defence agenda, we must champion and strengthen Nato

Lord Owen writing for the website brexitcentral.com

….The EU policy paper Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe. A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy was presented to the Heads of Government Brussels summit meeting on 28th June 2016 quickly followed on 13th July by the publication of the German White Paper on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr. Both papers had been held back deliberately to avoid debate during the UK referendum. These documents are likely to be the defining moment in the creation of a continental United States of Europe and the deepest political reason for the UK voting to leave the EU.

….There are people in the UK who take a largely French view that Europe alone can deal with its own defence, that we do not need the US and need not worry about a decline in NATO. The facts simply do not bear this out in terms of the money EU countries spend, the numbers in the military and the quality and total armaments held. Indeed, it is questionable whether some of our European neighbours have the necessary will and resolve in foreign affairs to make the difficult decisions.

Read the full text here: brexitcentral

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If the UK leaves the EU, we can champion Nato and put the resources we currently spend on EU defence and foreign policy into Nato and global diplomacy.

Letter to The Times, Wednesday 4 May 2016.

Read the full text here: TimesLetter 4.5.16

Extracts: If the EU pushes ahead with the idea of two centres for defence in the EU, one in the EU and one in Nato, as the recent leaked German proposals imply, then we can expect to see the day that the United States withdraws its commitment to Europe.

….it is utter pretension to think that the EU can mirror the defence capabilities of a united single country – unless of course, as many of us believe, it is yet one more step towards a United States of Europe.

…If, as I hope, the UK decides to leave the EU, we can be the champion of Nato and put the resources we currently spend on EU defence and foreign policy into Nato and global diplomacy.

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Outside the EU, the UK has a unique opportunity to shield itself from a future collapse in the Eurozone by starting to negotiate global trading arrangements and improving our competitiveness and simultaneously demonstrating a greater commitment to NATO. 

Lord Owen addressing Princeton University conference on ‘Europe and the challenges of Brexit’: 15 April 2016

Excerpts: When you are a member of a dysfunctional organisation like the EU that can neither reform nor restructure you have two choices: either to reluctantly remain in the organisation or be brave enough to leave. That is the choice that faces individual British voters on 23 June.

President Obama’s first Secretary of the Treasury has used some very tough language about the Eurozone in his book Stress Test published in 2014. In writing about 2010 he says, “The second drag on our recovery was Europe, which was in financial and economic disarray,” and “the European mess was a serious threat to us.”….”The sudden panic in Europe was shocking.”….”Now Europe was burning again, and it did not seem to have the tools or the desire to control the fire. The Eurozone was sixteen [now 19] nations with sixteen fiscal policies and sixteen banking systems,..”

Geithner writes in words with which I totally agree. “For all the flaws of the U.S. system, our fragmented regulatory agencies were at least part of the same nation, with a common language and traditions. And we routinely transferred resources to economically weak regions through our national budget.”

…. The U.S. Defense Department for decades has been hostile to EU “common defence” and to “autonomous defence” in the EU as well as to having two planning centres for defence in Europe, one in the EU and one in NATO. That is no secret and a factual judgement which I and many other people in Britain share.

….President Obama in his recent interview for the Atlantic magazine, correctly, and in the view of many Europeans rightly, openly criticised us in Europe for ‘freeloading’ on the NATO defence budget. It is clearly not tolerable for the U.S. voters that they should pay 73% or 75% of the NATO budget. That direction of travel has got to be corrected and soon. But it will not be done by the EU.

While the EU is dysfunctional, NATO is not.

Read the full text here:PrincetonUK PRESS RELEASE

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The case for a new start for Britain grows stronger by the day. The Dutch vote should encourage voters in the UK to vote to leave in our referendum.

Lord Owen speaking at a Civitas seminar on EU foreign and defence policy, 7 April 2016:

Just as in 2005 when the Dutch voted down Giscard d’Estaing’s Constitutional Treaty, they have now blocked ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. No-one, not even the Prime Minister, can say that the Dutch vote is anti-European.  It is anti the dysfunctional EU that is dragging Europe down in its economic performance and its foreign and security policy. The French will be even more reluctant to risk a referendum to reform the euro and so the euro crisis will go on, reform will be shelved, relative stagnation continue. The case for a new start for Britain grows stronger by the day. The Dutch vote should encourage voters in the UK to vote to leave in our referendum.  There is another Europe that is starting to emerge and it is one which the UK can work happily with.

Britain must give primacy to NATO and demonstrate to Americans that we in Europe will not continue to be ‘freeloaders’. In the process we will ditch the pretence of a European foreign policy that bears a heavy responsibility for the mess we are in over the Ukraine.”

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Trident and options for the UK’s nuclear deterrent

In a letter to The Times, Lord Owen suggests alternatives that could enable the SNP to support Scotland-based nuclear-capable submarines. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

TimesTridentletter_opt-2

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