Rome, 20th-21st April 1993

Official Record

Office of the Clerk of the Assembly of WEU





Tuesday, 20th April 1993



The new international order

and problems south of the Mediterranean

General JEAN (Italy)

1. The new world order

It is almost paradoxical to speak of a new world order. The order instituted by Yalta has given way in Europe to the disorder of nations. States in greater numbers have increased their independence. This can be explained by the disappearance of the strategic constraints which the American guarantee granted to Europe imposed on the geo-economic competition between the two shores of the Atlantic. The disintegration of the East makes the process of European integration more difficult. The South no longer counts as much as in the past: it has lost the strategic importance it used to have for the West when Soviet penetration had to be checked, for instance in North Africa, when there were fanciful fears of NATO being circumvented from the South.

Furthermore, the South is competing with Eastern Europe and the ex-USSR for obtaining western economic assistance while lacking the latter region's economic importance and politico-strategic weight. It is sufficient in this respect to think of the ethnic conflicts in Europe and the enormous Russian nuclear arsenal which make the stabilisation of the East a priority for the West. The leading classes of the third world have lost their power of blackmail over the West and can no longer seek its assistance in exchange for their opposition to Soviet penetration. Instead, they offer to oppose Islamic fundamentalism, but this approach is less and less credible, although it is still very frequent: President Najibullah of Afghanistan himself adopted this approach with the United States. The only blackmail arguments that can still be used are the danger of massive and uncontrolled immigration in Europe and the propagation of ecological damage and underdevelopment. We had this experience in Italy in the summer of 1991, with the second wave of Albanian refugees which Tirana subsequently exploited to obtain economic assistance.

A more fragmented world system is thus taking shape, with competition and conflicts at local and regional levels. New regional poles are forming around leading powers such as Germany in Europe and Japan in the Far East, whilst new antagonisms, in addition to internal struggles of the type ethnic, nationalist and religious, are appearing around the periphery of these geopolitical poles; this is true mainly for states which, like Turkey, belong to different geopolitical regions.

It is in this context that we have to analyse the impact of the collapse of bipolarism on the geopolitical stakes in the Mediterranean and the threats to politico-strategic stability in the region and to western interests in order to define possible responses.

2. The incidence of the disappearance of the bipolar system in the Mediterranean area

The incidence of the collapse of the Soviet empire on the situation in the Mediterranean has been considerable although less far-reaching than in Central Europe. Less far-reaching because the whole of southern Europe has always had a place in the overall security policy of the United States both within NATO and out-of-area. The bipolar world also had problems such as the awakening of Islam, the Arab-Israeli conflict or the repercussions throughout the Mediterranean of antagonisms between other regions. It is not by chance, moreover, that the scope of the USEUCOM extends far beyond the southern limits of NATO.

The incidence of the collapse of the Soviet threat is far from negligible in the Mediterranean too. The incidences are both direct and indirect.

The main direct incidences include the radical transformation of Turkey's role, increased fragmentation in the region and the start of a race between Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean countries for obtaining priority in western policies of economic assistance.

Direct incidences are the slackening of links between southern and Central Europe, the rise of internal antagonism, greater opposition to the West - mainly because the non-alignment of Islamic countries between the West and the Soviet bloc has lost all significance - and finally the appearance of divergences between Europe and the United States, the latter having become less indispensable for ensuring European security in face of the Soviet threat, on the one hand, and the old continent having lost its importance in the eyes of Washington, on the other.

2.1. Direct incidences

(a) The transformation of Turkey's role

In the era of bipolarism, Turkey was a bulwark of NATO's eastern flank with the task of stopping the advance of Soviet expansionism towards the Mediterranean and the Middle East. This role suited perfectly well the political line traced by Kemal Atatuerk: secularity of the state, progressive Europeanisation of the country and first priority fr its internal problems. The collapse of the Soviet empire created a power vacuum in the Black Sea, the Caucasus and Central Asia. The Khomeini revolution first, then the defeat of Iraq, also gave Turkey increased weight in maintaining a balance in the Gulf and more generally throughout the Middle East. Finally, fighting in ex-Yugoslavia led Turkey to shoulder greater responsibility in the Balkans, as testified by the agreements concluded between Ankara, Tirana and Sofia. This evolution of Turkey's geopolitical role is also reflected in the internal political balance. The process of European integration, mainly political and strategic, is steadily moving Turkey away from Europe. Ankara is beginning to see new possibilities for playing an independent role in the East and in the South by giving priority to goals which increasingly seem to be different from those of Europeans, if not divergent.

This process has been accentuated by several factors: Turkey's frustration in regard to Europe, accused of having paid, through greater assistance and integration, the price of the support Ankara gave to the anti-Iraqi coalition; the feeling that Europe is attaching greater importance to integrating EFTA countries and penetration in Central and Eastern Europe; the hesitation of certain European countries about bringing into play the Allied Command Europe air-mobile force during the Gulf crisis; the absence of protection offered to Muslims in Bosnia; the persistence of the dispute with Greece which has been allowed to join the EC and WEU; the anti-Islamic xenophobia of many European countries and the criticism of Ankara in regard to respect of human rights in the context of the Kurdish and Armenian problems.

In spite of its economic development and the strengthening of its military apparatus, Turkey cannot act in a totally independent manner, however. The maintenance of internal political balance, moreover, implies maintaining priority for integration in Europe. However, this goal seems more difficult to achieve and less attractive than in the past.

(b) The disintegration of the Mediterranean area

Since the end of the Roman empire, the Mediterranean basin has never constituted a unitary geopolitical system and relations with outside powers have played a predominant role there.

In the era of bipolarism, confrontation between East and West and opposition between the Sixth Fleet and the Fifth Squadron gave some strategic unity to this area, even if bilateral relations with the United States held sway over multilateral contacts in NATO. The disappearance of the Soviet threat brought out specific sub-regional and local characteristics. Only the American presence in the context of the problems of the Arab-Israeli conflict allows some cohesion of the system to be preserved around the United States. In the event of the conflict being settled or the consequent withdrawal - although improbable - of the United States, a completely different situation would be created calling for new solutions to ensure stability and security. An attempt was made in this direction with the proposal to apply a CSCE-type approach to the whole of the Mediterranean. However, the CSCM, which was to establish rules and joint principles starting with a system of regional security and stability, has not managed to prevail due to the instability in the countries of the region, their lack of homogeneity and the conflicts between states which make it impossible to maintain the status quo which is essential for any mutual security agreement.

There is another reason, however. This proposal ran counter to the politico-strategic interests of the United States in the region and its irreplaceable task of balancing the instability which the national forces of the region itself could not manage to do at the present time.

The unifying influence that used to be exercised by the Soviet threat cannot be equalled by that of the Islamic threat which, as we shall see later, is quite different, in particular because Islam lacks the unity and the force that was characteristic of the USSR.

(c) The race for development aid between the Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe

The end of bipolarism and Moscow's regulating ability in the Soviet empire drew much of the West's financial resources towards the East. The South is feeling the brunt of the world economic crisis and is finding itself pushed increasingly towards the sidelines. Pro-western governments in particular, which to some extent base their internal support on their ability to obtain western aid, feel they are being abandoned. Their only weapons for blackmail and pressure are the so-called Islamic peril and the prospect of uncontrollable waves of immigrants.

This situation led to a fragmentation of the Mediterranean region and made a Euro-Arab dialogue more difficult, in particular because, while Europe is moving towards greater unity, the Islamic world has been deeply divided by the war in the Gulf which destroyed the little unity that had existed before.

2.2. Indirect incidences

(a) The slackening of southern Europe's links with Central Europe

The Soviet threat and the presence of the United States from the North Cape to the Mediterranean linked the West strategically to Central Europe. These links have now slackened. Several states in the centre and north of Europe are inclined to consider the problems of security in the Mediterranean as being problems for the countries of southern Europe. This withdrawal can also be seen, at least potentially, in certain countries such as Italy where a divergence has appeared between continental interests which are subject to the attraction of unified Germany and Mediterranean interests which pull in another direction. Many measures have, in fact, been taken to minimise this split. Germany is taking a more direct interest in security in the Mediterranean, as can be seen from the presence of growing numbers of German naval units. The EC and WEU, each in its sphere of responsibility, have paid growing attention to Mediterranean problems. The accession of Portugal, Spain and Greece to the EC and to WEU has given greater weight to countries of southern Europe in the Community. The extension of the Five plus Five Group to include the EC and Germany and the build-up of the NATO rapid reaction force and NATO's permanent naval force in the Mediterranean with the participation of navies from countries of Central and northern Europe and other such steps are so many positive signs, even if a real crisis would be necessary in order to verify their true significance. Many experts are somewhat sceptical about this because of the hesitation already mentioned in regard to the deployment of the air-mobile force in Turkey during the Gulf crisis and the impact of the disappearance of the Soviet threat on the reliability of the collective western security system.

The static arrangements for forward defence included an automatic anti-defection mechanism which guaranteed the cohesion or, if one prefers, the linking of the alliance. Conversely, outside interventions are optional and imply prior political decisions by the various member states. Security being indivisible, allowing a country to benefit from it without paying production costs, there will always be a doubt about the possibility of truly collective retaliation, particularly in the event of a major crisis. The creation of multinational forces is not a cure for such a fundamental political weakness, particularly because there is no true specialisation of their roles. At the present time, only American leadership is capable of guaranteeing western cohesion. As long as this is ensured, Europe will not be absolutely obliged to adopt alternative measures to ensure its security and defence independently.

(b) The rise of internal antagonism and instability in Islamic countries

The political presence of the USSR and the adoption of a planned economy had stabilised the internal situation of countries such as Algeria, at the same time making the system rigid and creating the conditions for the present collapse. Only one country, Syria, quickly abandoned alliance with the USSR to complete agreements with the United States, profiting by the Gulf crisis and the need to settle the Lebanese conflict. In other countries, the situation has deteriorated, the leading classes trained in Moscow having lost their legitimacy. It is not by chance that leaders of the Algerian FIS have been to French universities. The weakening of Arab nationalism has left the way free for fundamentalism and Islamic solidarity programmes intended to fight against the inefficiency and corruption of the leading classes and against the West, which has been accused of being the true cause of the difficulties throughout the whole of the Islamic world and which is suspected of wishing to maintain the latter in conditions of exploitation and subjection.

Even if such anti-western feelings are based on memories of the colonial era, the West's support for Israel and the economic and demographic crisis, it is beyond doubt that the end of bipolarism exacerbated the feeling of frustration throughout Islam.

(c) Less cohesion between Europe and the United States

The Soviet threat had a unifying effect. Europe's strategic dependence put a brake on geo-economic competition between Europe and the United States and toned down the divergences between European policies and those of Washington towards the Arab world and the conflict in the Middle East. Although European euphoria was considerably dampened by the crisis in the Gulf and in former Yugoslavia and by the difficulties encountered in the process of European integration, there is a possibility of a progressive divergence of interests and policy between Europe and the United States, particularly with regard to Mediterranean problems.

3. The problems of security and stability in the Mediterranean basin: threats and retaliation

The problems of security in the Mediterranean basin are only marginally attributable to direct military threats against Europe. Such threats are limited to terrorism that might spread through the millions of Muslims who have emigrated to Western Europe or may lead to air and naval techno-terrorism against the maritime lines of communication in the Mediterranean. Even more serious are airborne threats from missiles and weapons of mass destruction, such threats being at present limited only to southern Europe but in the next ten years will also concern the rest of the continent.

Instead of being directed against independent targets, these threats will materialise in regard to western interventions to protect their nationals and economic interests or will take the form of retaliatory measures against humanitarian interventions destined to put an end to massacres and to restore the stability compromised by action by radical Islamic groups.

Turkey and Israel are an exception to this analysis. The former may be involved in conflicts either with Iran because of disputes in Central Asia, the Caucasus or Northern Iraq, or because of the backing Tehran accords to Kurdish terrorism. It may also have to face up to Russia, should there be an extension of the conflict between Azeris and Armenians, linked to the Russians by the Tashkent treaty of mutual assistance and security. Israel, for its part, might be dragged into further fighting with the Arab states in the event of the failure of the peace talks and above all of the destabilisation of Egypt and the assumption of power in Cairo by fundamentalist Islamic groups.

The West may also be caught up in action to restore peace and to ensure the maintenance of peace throughout the region, for instance, following fighting in the Maghreb or a resumption of Libyan activism against Chad and Tunisia or again if Iran launches an attack against the Gulf states.

Apart from military-type threats which fundamentally find their roots in the internal destabilisation of countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean and in the Middle East, i.e. in the economic and social crisis that might lead to fundamentalist Islamic groups assuming power, the security of the West is threatened by the possibility of a massive influx of immigrants, who might be of two types: either large numbers of poorer classes looking for work or the westernised social classes of North Africa and the Middle East fleeing their country after Islamic revolutions.

Again, a blockade of energy supplies by Libya and Algeria might affect important western interests. The impact would be considerable for Italy because of the structure of the network of gas pipelines which makes it difficult to reverse the South to North flow and also the chemical characteristics of Libyan oil which alone can be used by many industries in Italy. One way or another, except in the event of a permanent blockade, which would seem difficult in view of the dependence of the Libyan and Algerian economies on oil exports, the effects could neutralised, although with difficulty, and would certainly not call for military action.

This being so, security in the Mediterranean is therefore guaranteed mainly by measures of the preventive type such as development assistance, immigration policies, backing for the political stability and progressive democratisation of the region, with all the limitations that the adoption of a western democratic model may involve in non-secularised Islamic societies based on the Sharia and not statute law.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the interests of short-term stability are in opposition to longer- term interests. Democratisation and political pluralism would in the short term help the accession to power of fundamentalist forces which openly declare that, once in control, they would eliminate the democratic institutions imported from the corrupt West in order to restore the purity of Islamic law. On the other hand, repression can only be a temporary measure. With a state of siege policy, the army and the pro-western political classes would quickly become prisoners of their own society unless they can considerably improve the economic and social living conditions of ever-poorer populations and galloping demography. The risk is always there of the instruments of repression, i.e. the army and the police, sooner or later splitting into opposing factions leading to the outbreak of civil war.

Internal instability increases the political danger for western investment and, by limiting such investment, puts a brake on development. In parallel, the corruption of the leading classes increases since they are inevitably induced to transfer money abroad in order to guarantee their future. In brief, the situation is explosive. Explosions of violence will probably occur as will massive emigration towards Europe which will be obliged to repulse these boat people, if only to avoid giving a foothold to right-wing xenophobic movements. The example in Italy of the second wave of Albanian refugees is symptomatic of the situation that might arise; in the event, it was a mini-crisis compared to what might follow and fortunately, not only in Italy but more generally in Europe, those who had to handle the crisis were people of considerable ability who could link firmness with moderation.

The so-called Islamic peril is above all an internal peril for Islamic states, but - except for the Gulf region, where it is critical because of essential oil supplies - it is only marginally and indirectly a threat to Europe. The creation of an Islamic bloc and the threat of southern Islam towards christianity is pure invention. Furthermore, western military superiority in the conventional field is total, although firmness and the political determination to use its means in an appropriate manner, i.e. quickly, is less so as has been seen in the case of Yugoslavia.

The only real danger is that a progressive radicalisation of the situation, in particular if the Islamic populations residing in Europe are mobilised, might lead to an intense terrorist campaign. The West would have difficulty in reacting with conventional means against states encouraging such a campaign if the latter had missiles and weapons of mass destruction. The bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986, so effective in halting Libya's support for international terrorism, could not be repeated and, in any event, would raise far more problems.

Proliferation is, therefore, the main threat and it must be considered as a reality. It can be slowed down but not stopped. Military planning must take it into account here and now. Not that it is desirable to resort systematically to preventive surgical attacks like the Israeli attack against the Iraqi nuclear reactor Osirak, the influence of which was very positive at the time of the Gulf crisis, since it allowed operations against Iraq to be limited. In this respect, however, it is essential for all countries guilty of proliferation to be aware that the West may react in an extremely tough manner, either preventively or by attacks such as the one made against Lampedusa. In this respect, a firm reaction by the international community vis-a-vis North Korea, which has denounced the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, might have beneficial preventive effects on stability in the Mediterranean. Such an initiative would illustrate the danger for any state wishing to procure arms of mass destruction which might constitute a threat to regional and world balance.

In this context, Europe should equip itself with operational and information means allowing it to react in the event of proliferation. The existence of American and possibly Franco- British nuclear deterrents - which might be associated with a no first use strategy so as not to appear unduly threatening and aggressive towards the Islamic world - being a fact, it is necessary to procure offensive and defensive conventional capabilities.

The offensive capability, that might be either NATO or European, should include an air component, a naval component and a land component capable of using the American Imint and Elint satellite network pending a European capability. The air component should be multinational of the Desert Storm type and, in addition to heavy fighter bombers equipped with precision- guided weaponry against land targets for the suppression of air defences, it should include interceptor and supply aircraft, AWACS and SAR combat aircraft. The naval component should include cruise missiles with conventional warheads in the 600 to 800 km range. The land component should be formed mainly of special forces. The necessary land and air capabilities are already available. Through ad-hoc agreements, WEU should also be able to use NATO's integrated command structure to which it should also be possible to add Spain through more organic links. The air command and control system should be reviewed in the light of the above requirements and NATO's infrastructure programmes should be adapted accordingly.

The introduction of means of defence against ballistic missiles encounters major difficulties, particularly in view of the cost. Sooner or later, such means will be essential in view of the uncertainty of a political decision authorising a preventive attack and the disastrous consequences of a nuclear or biological explosion over highly-populated regions of Europe. The anti-missile system linked to the American GPALS should be jointly financed in Europe since the threat and the defence systems for responding to the threat are identical except for terminal, zonal or theatre defence systems.

We shall not examine this question in greater detail in the framework of this address since other speakers will develop it further. It is enough to emphasise here that such an initiative, even taken independently from any other, has a usefulness of its own and would also be a stimulant and tangible encouragement for the European defence identity. Its political impact would perhaps be greater than that of establishing the future WEU satellite reconnaissance system. Even if implemented in co-operation with the United States, this European defence initiative would be specifically European and not NATO: in other sectors, as for conventional deterrence combat forces, European security might be ensured more effectively by NATO.

4. Regional organisations for security and co-operation in the Mediterranean

In the Mediterranean area, there are no collective institutions such as the CSCE or NACC which bring unity to European security along the East-West axis. In spite of the efforts and progress made, WEU's capabilities are very limited, on the one hand because of the still low level of European political integration and the political differences already reported between the states of Central and Northern Europe and those of the Mediterranean, and, on the other hand, because the reduction of European defence budgets will not allow Europe to equip itself, in the near future, with the information, operational and logistic means now provided by the United States.

The task of NATO is still therefore fundamental; its territorial limits laid down by the Washington Treaty clearly refer to the place where an attack occurs and not the origin of the attack. If, for instance, a missile launched from the Sudan struck Italy, NATO would certainly have the right to destroy the launching pad.

There are other institutions for co-operation and security: the Euro-Arab dialogue between the European Community and the Arab League; the Five plus Five Group for the western Mediterranean to which the European Community and Germany belong; the MAU (Maghreb Arab Union) which has started a regional dialogue and which, at the Casablanca conference in October 1991, laid the foundations for its institutionalisation; the Mediterranean conference, which has taken interesting co- operative initiatives in ecology and civil protection. Finally, the CSCM proposal was made to adapt to Mediterranean countries a collective security system similar to that of the CSCE.

All these organisations and initiatives are certainly useful for promoting co-operation, fostering development and dialogue and averting tension. However, the elaboration of an effective system of co-operation and mutual security in the Mediterranean based either on security- and confidence-building measures or on structural measures for reducing armaments is encountering considerable objective difficulties. In reality, acceptance of the status quo is an essential condition for any collective security agreement. The situation in the Mediterranean, on the North-South axis, is very different from that which prevailed in Europe between the two blocs. In the North is a stable, united, powerful alliance. In the South, on the other hand, there is instability and fragmentation. Furthermore, Islamic solidarity comes into play between peoples and not between governments which are nationalistic and believe they are in duty bound to defend themselves against each other and against external threats to the region. If Saudi Arabia builds up its armaments to defend itself against Iran, it automatically increases the threat to Israel and so on and so forth. Any global security agreement in the Mediterranean means, in the last resort, solving the Arab-Israeli conflict.

For all these reasons, the Italian-Spanish proposal made in Palma de Majorca for the creation of the CSCM has not been very successful but it does not deserve to be abandoned.

In the long term, it offers a general method and approach to local sub-regional and regional agreements. It will be possible to achieve such an agreement only with moderation and caution, as and when the conditions are determined; above all, care should be taken not to hamper the action of the United States which is fundamental for balance and stability throughout the region. In fact, it is rightly feared in Washington that the CSCM, as at the time, the CSCE, might push NATO to the sidelines and reduce its flexibility of intervention.

One way or another, it would be possible to act in certain sectors: in confidence-building measures to avoid misunderstanding and the possibility of surprise attacks, in that of an agreement between countries which export armaments and sensitive technology to take account of the requirements of security in the region, in non-military sectors of security such as ecology and civil protection. For example, the installation of a system for monitoring the environment at regional level, with the European countries providing services to those on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, might be very useful for promoting collaboration in areas in which there is a broad convergence of interest between all the Mediterranean countries. This would be a regional programme which might be integrated, as was underlined by the Italian defence minister at the WEU meeting held in Rome at the end of March 1990, in the global IDNDR (International Decade for National Disaster Relief) programme of the United Nations. Thanks to the use of polyvalent satellites, it would be possible to help to increase links between the countries on the shores of the Mediterranean in the few sectors of co-operation which are acceptable to all and on which the Mediterranean basin shows considerable unity. Moreover, the provision of services and systems would guarantee the West against the proliferation of technology and the transfer of means of information which are critical for its own security.

To sum up, Europe can tackle the problems of security in the Mediterranean in various ways. It might adopt the following measures:

(a) installation of a multilateral safety belt to protect itself against the instability and crisis prevalent among the countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean, priority being granted, inter alia, to deterring clandestine immigration, at least until Europe has solved the problems of Eastern Europe and can concentrate its efforts on the development of the South;

(b) mainly bilateral co-operation between the various western countries and countries of the South, the latter being divided into areas of economic influence; this would be supported by regional policing countries such as Egypt and Turkey backed by mobile reinforcements provided mainly by the United States; encouragement would be given to policies of co-operation and development directed initially towards the economic interests of each of the European countries;

(c) multilateral co-operation in security, the economy, demography etc. centred on development assistance.

The third solution, i.e. multilateral co-operation, particularly in terms of stability and security, is certainly the most effective and the one that would lead to the greatest stability.

Co-operation does not exclude deterrence, however, which is, moreover, a necessary condition for the effectiveness of co- operation. In order to avert instability and conflicts, the West must ensure that there is a capability for intervention and deterrence and consequently must maintain its strategic flexibility. Clearly, security cannot take the place of a policy of co-operation. Apart from the fact that it is an obligation of states to guarantee the protection of their own nationals, the combination of deterrence and co-operation should not provoke negative reactions in the countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. Just as the populations of Central and Eastern Europe are grateful to the West for not having bowed to Soviet threats, similarly the Arab nations would be grateful if it does not give in to the blackmail of Islamic fundamentalism, particularly if they manage to respond with moderation and without resorting to other forms of fundamentalism.

In this context, a main fact of security in the Mediterranean is not so much a question of demonstrating strength; it is rather a question of deterring the proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Since this can only be slowed down and not stopped once and for all, the creation of a conventional deterrent force, on the one hand, and a European anti-missile defence initiative, on the other, are the necessary components of security in the Mediterranean after the end of the period of bipolarity.