Rome, 20th-21st April 1993

Official Record

Office of the Clerk of the Assembly of WEU




Wednesday, 21st April 1993


Conditions for a European anti-missile defence policy


A worldwide, regional or national system implications of the choice

Mr. BARTHELEMY (Sous-Directeur a la Delegation aux affaires strategiques, Ministry of Defence, France)

I am about to present to you the politico-military analysis of the French Ministry of Defence of the implications of a global, regional or national choice for a possible system of anti-missile defence for Europe.

First, however, I wish to return rapidly to three important points discussed here this morning. 1. First, the context for implementing such a defence system. In order to assess the expediency of anti-missile defence among other security means, I think a clear distinction must be drawn between the case of external interventions - for instance, humanitarian or peace-keeping operations in a multinational framework - and the case of an aggression or threat of aggression on national territory. The stakes are not the same, nor are the defence objectives; the possible role of defence systems will depend on them as will the risk of their being circumvented. 2. Second, the word "deterrence" has been used many times. There was even a reference to the failure of nuclear deterrence. I am afraid we do not all attribute the same meaning to this magic word. The Americans are fond of talking of deterrence by denial and deterrence by punishment. I think the existence of an effective anti-missile defence system - or even the technical and political capability to introduce one rapidly - comes under the heading of deterrence by denial. It may disturb the potential aggressor's procurement plans. He will perhaps find them of less interest if that really is the main reason urging him to equip himself. We are far from nuclear deterrence which, in the case of France, for instance, has a very precise meaning for the protection of our vital interests. We know French nuclear deterrence must be adapted to threats which evolve; the protection of vital interests is still necessary.

Let us not ask nuclear deterrence to counter what it is not designed for (doctrine and means). NATO has been referred to many times by various people: NATO nuclear strategy, or United Kingdom nuclear strategy, is something quite different again. We must probably not overdo theory in a world that is changing fast, but I believe these precisions necessary.

So be careful of the word deterrence, which may create confusion, like the words "theatre missiles" or "tactical defences".

However, the balance between deterrence (in the wider sense) and defence must be adapted in terms of the strategic stakes, the capabilities available to us (in particular, technological and financial) and, finally, the credibility of the response to an aggression. It is clear that, between the protection of the territories of European countries and the protection of intervention forces, all these criteria differ.

We should also talk about the means of taking refuge from nuclear blackmail. 3. Finally, I think everyone more or less agrees on the technical assessment of the maximum short- and medium-term threat and even on proliferation mechanisms. Conversely, little has been said about the motivations of the proliferating countries. They are probably mainly regional, in terms of prestige, power or security; there is sometimes also talk of aggressive sanctuarisation. This point is important in assessing the role and probable effectiveness of one or other means of fighting proliferation, ranging from co-operation, through regional security guarantees or confidence-building measures to defence systems (deterrence by denial). Ballistics must also be slightly demystified.

This being said, no preventive system is guaranteed 100%, including possible global disarmament measures; hence the risk of having to face up to long-range weapons cannot be ruled out and, in any event, short-range missiles already exist.

It is then a matter of priorities: either one takes out "insurance" against this risk to the detriment of other things or one "finesses" in favour of other defence policy aims, since one is working with limited budgets, as has perhaps not yet been said enough so far. European co-operation can probably reduce these constraints a little. I cannot unfortunately go any further today. As Mr. Soell, President of the WEU Assembly, recalled yesterday, governments are cautious on this subject. No doubt you know that the French Government has decided to draft a white paper that will certainly give some elements of an answer to this question: what is the possible place for defence systems in the fight against proliferation and its consequences and, vis-a-vis accidental firings, what should be given priority in defence aims and the corresponding means?

This symposium, that France wanted and supports, will certainly help to make these choices clearer.

I now turn to the subject announced.

In order to determine our subsequent ideas and to provide firm foundations for our comparisons, let us concern ourselves with an early warning system that seems inevitable if we are to obtain all-round defence, including theatre defence which will cover intervention forces. The possible options for developing and implementing the system would be dictated by three types of criteria, as the Spanish speaker who preceded me said: political criterion, strategic criterion, economic criterion.

From a political point of view, reference to such a system and its deployment has major diplomatic repercussions because of the very serious threats that it would have to meet. The fight against proliferation is an operation that mobilises a large number of countries and interventions outside national territory generally take place in a multinational context. In this context, it seems inconceivable for an individual European country to have its own anti-missile defence system. Conversely, while a regional system seems a logical answer to a security problem that is itself regional, the will of certain countries, including France, to respect their commitments wherever necessary would, in this case as in others, lead to regional systems being integrated in a worldwide architecture. Here we find the same ideas as for the French proposal in the United Nations for confidence-building measures in space (notification of ballistic missile firings and space launchers), with provision for worldwide processing of data that might be supplied by regional warning or observation satellites. However, we should not try to do everything at once. We must also have reliable means of assessing proliferation.

Still from a political point of view, it is clear that a project like this one can be a powerful stimulus for the progressive formation of unified strategic views among European countries, at least because it means a joint analysis of security problems that each one perceives differently, as we have seen since yesterday morning, and because these questions must be analysed in the already existing framework of security policies that vary considerably from one country to another, as is the case for nuclear policy.

Finally, a last factor would tip the balance towards the choice of a global system: the confidence- and security-building instruments must try to be as universal as possible if they are to be accepted and used effectively; this raises the question of access to data processed by early warning systems. From a strategic point of view, two notions have to be taken into account: a more or less high degree of dependence for operational implementation depending on the choice made, and the inevitable link between anti-missile defence systems and the deterrent systems to which I referred earlier. It is the problem of the stability of the offensive/defensive relationship that is involved, even if one avoids the framework of nuclear deterrence and even strategic relations. The more systems are controlled at regional or world level, the more I believe stability will be ensured. Nitze's criterion, i.e. the

investment one forces a potential enemy to make by investing oneself in an offensive or defensive system of given effectiveness and cost, also applies in the case with which we are concerned. It is also to be feared that the shell and armour race may be renewed, not to speak of the problem of the circumvention of defences already mentioned. Here there is a real risk of an arms race and not only in space.

We should also consider the risks of the proliferation of anti-missile defence systems and their possible impact on regional stability.

The deterrent factor of the existence of one or other type of defence will, of course, be modulated by its procurement context: global, regional or national. Finally, from an economic point of view I believe we should be thinking in terms of constraints rather than of implications. It is each country's ability to finance and implement systems, if of course they consider this meets a security requirement, that will, to a large extent, determine its attitude vis-a-vis the possible choices. I think such a system would be possible only in co-operation and, moreover, the "first bricks" that now exist are being developed co-operatively, as has been seen. From previous addresses, I note the possibility of progressiveness and the importance of the time-scale.

In conclusion, I consider two channels might be explored which might help to answer the question of whether the choice should be global, regional or national. First, the "global-regional-national" classification is fixed neither technically nor in time. Some functions can be shared out at world level, others handled at national level, possibly at the cost of redundancies. Political co-operation may be global, the actual systems regional and, finally, nations can participate progressively in common defence systems. Second, the risks vary and will vary in time from one part of the earth to another; if one is interested in the security of national territories, this militates in favour of a largely regional approach, since interests are often governed by regional logical. Conversely, in the context of external interventions, this leads to a global approach, since such interventions are increasingly multinational.

Only by setting the question of defence systems in the wider logic of preventing proliferation and limiting its consequences by various appropriate means will the right choice be found and priorities appropriately defined.

(The sitting was closed at 12.58 p.m.)

1. See "L'importance politique et strategique de la guerre du Golfe", Major A. Stahel, Revue Militaire Suisse, No. 9, 1991.

2. "Defense antimissiles : les enjeux", Dominique David, Liberation, 13th April 1992. 3. "Defense antimissiles : les enjeux", Dominique David, Liberation, 13th April 1992.


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