Rome, 20th-21st April 1993

Official Record

Office of the Clerk of the Assembly of WEU





Tuesday, 20th April 1993



Situating the problem

Mr. ANDO (Minister of Defence of Italy)

First I wish to welcome the members of the WEU Assembly to Rome and to express my approval of this initiative which will allow a question that is most important for Europe's security and future to be studied in greater depth.

Events in recent years have considerably diminished the hopes of firm international stability raised by the end of the cold war. In spite of major changes in the politico-strategic situation in Europe, we have reduced the prospects of generalised conflict and, inter alia, restored to foreign policy a whole series of means and instruments that had been absent for more than forty years; however, in fact, far from diminishing, breeding grounds of conflict and regional and local tension, long-standing or born of positive transformations, have increased, also involving states possessing weapons of mass destruction or on the point of obtaining them.

We can all see the consequences of the situation with our own eyes. This is, moreover, not unconnected with the delay in ratifying or fully applying major treaties aimed at enhancing the stability of the world order, an aim that we are all anxious to see achieved.

Our continent is in fact in a transitional period which will probably last a long time, marked by great opportunities but also by the risk of new tension that a country like Italy feels especially, turned as it is not only towards Central Europe and the Balkans but also the Mediterranean and Middle East, regions that are by definition unstable.

This fluctuating period of transformation must be cut short as soon as possible by giving shape to the new security architecture that was designed as the blocs fell and at last organising relations between the various institutions that will have to build it.

To ensure that these efforts are effective, we must first oppose the proliferation of weapons, particularly weapons of mass destruction or those using advanced technology.

I am convinced that we must pay atttention as a matter of priority to these most disturbing phenomena and, in the relevant bodies, strive to set up the political and technical instruments that will allow proliferation to be mastered, limited and, it is to be hoped, eliminated.

However, it must not be forgotten that it can also be discouraged by defensive means that would play a deterrent role vis-a-vis possible blackmail and convince countries in the danger areas of the uselessness of their arms race.

This premise being made, in the new security architecture to which I have just referred the United Nations and the CSCE will have to be the principal political references. The United Nations is proving increasingly capable of intervention, although it is reasonable to think that, at least in the near future, it will continue to rely on the military means of member countries, in particular through collective institutions to which the latter belong. It is enough to think of the crisis prevailing in former Yugoslavia and the fact that the United Nations had to resort to NATO and, where the embargo is concerned, to WEU.

For these various reasons, there is no doubt that the two western organisations will play a leading role by laying the foundations of a new system of European security. These organisations, a feature of which is the complementarity of their structures and resources, associated with a sharing of tasks and responsibilities that will avoid competition or mistrust, will truly become the pillars of a stable, peaceful Europe, while pursuing an intelligent policy of co-operation and dialogue with the Central and Eastern European countries, including Russia.

WEU in particular will have to be able to back the political action of the Twelve by all appropriate operational means so as to make it possible for integrated Europe to bring its full weight to bear.

I thought it useful to describe briefly the politico-strategic data marking this stage in international life and hence to help to circumscribe the question that is the subject of your symposium. Europe will have an even stronger political personality if it is able to act secure from the threat of tactical missiles carrying conventional weapons or, still worse, chemical, bacteriological or even nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, there is no denying that it is wise to study means of defending our territory and forces against the threat from this type of device. The growing effectiveness of means of delivery and the increase in the number of countries which have missiles have led to a change in the traditional concept of deterrence which no longer seems able to meet this type of threat at regional level. This was confirmed by the Gulf war.

The contribution of WEU, encouraged by the Assembly, therefore seems most timely.

It should be recalled that Italy, even before the blocs collapsed and as soon as a new type of East-West relations emerged with Gorbachev's rise to power, had advocated a strategic concept no longer based solely on the balance of offensive nuclear weapons. We believed, on the contrary, that it was possible to achieve strategic balance based on an appropriate mix of offensive and defensive means, at the lowest possible level. Our position was defined in the days when President Reagan was launching the strategic defence initiative, which heralded, at conceptual and technological level, the current debate and projects relating to anti-missile defence. Italy's interest in the United States' proposal to its allies for setting up a global anti-missile defence system is in direct line with this initiative. What we find particularly attractive in the American offer is the prospect of opening the project to a whole range of countries, including Russia. We appreciate the stabilisation possibilities of this step.

From the perhaps impulsive ambitious SDI to the more realistic GPALS, the various American initiatives have raised the very real problem of security, which has serious consequences for Europe and should also be studied from our point of view.

I shall recall certain aspects of the problem later in my address, tackling briefly the aspects relating to:

- the context of the threat to Europe, especially its southern flank;

- the fight against the proliferation of armaments, particularly weapons of mass destruction;

- the possible use of an anti-missile defence system as a confidence- and hence stability-building measure.

Apart from those I have just mentioned, other questions are worthy of attention:

- the effects of an anti-missile system for the alliances;

- the possible consequences of space-based weapons, with particular reference to the ABM Treaty;

- the importance of the industrial and financial aspects.

I believe that studies in NATO and WEU, far from duplicating each other, are coming just at the right time if we are to tackle the various problems linked with anti-missile defence from a standpoint that is both Atlantic and European.

The twofold role played by WEU should also be recalled; it is the European pillar of NATO and is destined to become the defence pillar of the European Community. This dual position is an advantage that should not be abandoned. It allows WEU to assess an anti-missile defence system first as a means of defending specifically European aims and second as part of the joint defence of the North Atlantic area.

The vulnerability of the allies to the threat of tactical missiles may differ depending on their respective geographical positions on one side or other of the Atlantic; however, this difference must not be a reason for weakening cohesion in the area covered by the treaty instituting NATO.

It is therefore legitimate to examine Europe's specific strategic-military situation as a region marked by very great instability, be it internal or due to events in far-off parts of the world.

The Iraqi crisis showed the dangers inherent in the reckless policy of certain neighbouring states or states near to Europe's southern flank.

According to reliable studies, in the late nineties there will be no less than fifteen Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries able to possess tactical or theatre ballistic missiles and some of them will be able to equip these missiles not only with chemical and biological but also nuclear warheads. This situation is a definite threat to Europe's entire southern flank and makes countries such as Italy extremely vulnerable: they are in the presence of a military threat fed by religious fanaticism, nationalist aspirations, adverse economic and social conditions and ethnic conflicts which, associated with growing over-population, might induce some regimes to behave irrationally.

A very topical case will give us a revealing example. As a result of the conflict prevailing in former Yugoslavia, Italy naturally increased its state of alert in respect of its air space and anti-terrorist surveillance. However, one may wonder about the implications from a military security standpoint of the absence of protection against the possible threat of missiles, a threat which should admittedly not be dramatised but which cannot be ruled out completely.

Without forgetting our obligation to give priority to the search for political solutions to crises, it would be prudent, in order to ensure our security and general stability, to acquire the necessary defensive means of facing risks and discouraging the arms race.

As I said earlier, the fight against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the related technology must be pursued by appropriate means, be they national or international, if we wish to prevent the export or smuggling of such weapons. However, such means alone might prove inadequate. The difficulties certain countries have in controlling their own arsenals are well known just as we frequently see critical economic situations pushing many states to acquire strong currencies by all possible means, which hardly encourages some exporters to coanti-missile protection, mainly the detection and monitoring components, might be able to carry out some of the following essential functions:

- observing, possibly with the assistance of its sensors, the proliferation of missiles in relevant areas;

- deterring states intending to use their capabilities for terrorist intimidation purposes from taking any such action;

- on a reciprocal basis, offering a guarantee to countries participating in the system.

A defence system restricted to the North Atlantic or NATO Europe might fulfil the first of these two functions; conversely, if the system of protection were to be global and open to the participation of other countries, even if they had different levels of economic and technological means, it might fulfil all three functions. By this I mean that globalisation -and I use this word to indicate a tendency and not an immediately attainable goal - of such a protective network might encourage greater confidence and subsequently give rise to a mechanism allowing crises to be controlled.

The need to increase confidence is confirmed by the growth, in and around Europe, of tensions and conflicts that are often marked by great violence.

Of course, it would be hazardous and not very realistic to claim that an anti-missile defence system could, at a wave of the hand, create stability and avert crises. However, it would certainly be possible to curb attempted abuses of power or escalation of force to attain political aims by rendering such moves ineffective from the outset.

The situation I have just described - and here I turn to the second part of my consideration - confirms what I said at the beginning: there may be two types of anti-missile defence, differing not by their architecture, which is essentially the same in both cases, but by the extent of participation in establishing them.

Indeed, a system can be studied that would meet the requirements of the European member countries of NATO and WEU or a network bringing together a larger number of nations.

In each case, there must be close co-ordination between WEU and NATO where an anti-missile defence system is now under study. As I said at the beginning of my address, it would be very dangerous for Atlantic circles and Europeans to move towards different security goals or strategic concepts.

In the event of a defence architecture being considered for a wider geographical area than that of the members of the Atlantic Alliance, I believe it would be natural to think of the CSCE framework.

However, one might go further and take a wider region as a reference. One might imagine setting up a system covering part of the African continent, where conflicts are almost permanent, or the Middle East, as a result of lessons learned from the Gulf war, or, finally, the Far East. In the latter part of the world a dangerous proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has begun which, associated with increasingly sophisticated ballistic technology, may lead to a perilous nuclear arms race, even in countries which had hitherto refrained from such a course. All these circumstances are liable to cause conflicts which, however far away, would inevitably have worldwide repercussions.

I would suggest another subject for you to think about, i.e. the link between anti-missile defence systems and the possible modification of the ABM Treaty and the problem of the militarisation of space.

The ABM Treaty is in principle a bilateral agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union, whose commitments were passed on to Russia and the other successor states of the Soviet empire having nuclear weapons (Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine). This treaty was signed at a time when the number of countries able to procure ballistic technology or produce weapons of mass destruction was relatively small. Under the ABM Treaty, the purpose was mainly to make the major part of the territory of each of the superpowers hostage to the strategic missiles of the other.

The situation has now changed. When talking of anti- missile defence systems, one now thinks of the threat of tactical means of delivery, normally with conventional warheads but which can be equipped with more devastating warheads - chemical, bacteriological or even nuclear - even of limited power. One also thinks of a more dispersed threat, not limited to the reciprocal threat between the only two countries which, at that time, ensured the balance of terror and world peace.

The new circumstances should encourage the attainment of a consensus thanks to which it would be possible to achieve a different strategic situation: on the one hand, there would be greater recourse to the strategic arsenal than authorised by the ABM Treaty and, on the other hand, we should have to avoid a dangerous, pointless and costly space-based arms race that might at present be attempted by "risk" countries.

The last but not least topic for reflection concerns the industrial, technological and financial aspects of establishing an anti-missile defence network.

Such a network, whatever its concept and magnitude, will clearly require considerable investment, which is difficult in a time of generalised economic crisis. On the other hand, our security and the stability of the world are too valuable to be neglected on the basis of a simple economic calculation.

Hence a balanced solution will have to be found that takes account of justified industrial and technological aims while being economically advantageous.

Bringing together in this undertaking WEU countries that have homogeneous economic and industrial systems and closely converging interests would allow us to work on firm bases and provide an opportunity for reflection: if necessary, NATO should be allowed to benefit from it since it receives the flow of the financial, technological and industrial resources of the United States and Canada.

Once again, Europe's legitimate industrial and technological aspirations will have to be reconciled with awareness that, at a time of serious economic difficulties, we must avail ourselves of all possible synergy.

Larger-scale programmes in which countries with different economic and technological levels would also participate obviously raise various problems which can nevertheless be solved with strong political determination. A system of such magnitude, even if based on technology that is very advanced in relation to the capabilities of all possible participants, must allow each one to contribute actively within the limits of its respective possibilities while guaranteeing valuable economies of scale.

Moreover, if we consider it probable - in view of the time required - to extend a future anti-missile defence system, how can we think of leaving out countries far from our own but technologically advanced such as Japan, for instance? Or other countries whose resources would allow them to make a valid, effective contribution not only at technological but also, and above all, at political level in view of the influence some of them exercise in certain parts of the world?

These considerations underline the importance, to which I have already referred, of thinking about the dimension of a future anti-missile defence system. Without closing our eyes to the fact that there may be objections that are far from superficial, we must bear in mind the positive aspects, from the standpoint of stability and crisis prevention, of an "open" system and the advantages from which we would benefit by avoiding widening still more the present gap between north and south.

To sum up, it must not be forgotten that an anti-missile defence system restricted to the NATO area or Western Europe in the light of the similarity of security interests, behaviour and technological and financial capabilities, might, in the outside world, be considered not as an instrument of defence and stability but as a means of aggression and coercion.

Conversely, allowing countries with different orientations and geographical situations to use a protective shield is justified by the will to give them a means of observing each other and, in the longer term, increasing their mutual confidence and curbing the arms race. By this means, wealthier and technologically more advanced states and regions will be able to meet those which are less favoured. This system is therefore really one that can contribute to detente and stability.

So we must now start to examine the aspects that will, in any event, require more detailed analysis later. The questions I have just raised will have a decisive influence in carrying out the project. Suitable solutions must therefore be sought through various types of agreement and co-operation (both bi- and multilateral) providing a fair return for each participant.

In this context, I believe the WEU partners can and must play a decisive role in associating political prospects and necessarily diverse industrial and technological requirements.

I have been able to mention only a few aspects of the topic to be discussed at the symposium today. I am sure the in-depth thinking that is to follow will allow very valid ideas to be contributed to the discussions.

However, there is no doubt that the subject you are to tackle is vast and complex.

As a representative of the WEU Chairmanship-in-Office, I can assure you that the governments will study attentively the conclusions you reach and they will draw upon them in pursuing their work.

With that assurance, I express my very sincere wishes for the success of your initiative.