MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
AN COMHCHOISTE UM GHNÓTHAÍ EACHTRACHA
Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs
Dé Céadaoin, 15 Iúil 1998.
Wednesday, 15 July 1998.
The Committee met at 11 o’clock
Also in attendance: Deputy B.Timmins and Senators J. Connor and R. Kiely.
DEPUTY D. O’MALLEY in the Chair.
Chairman: The committee is in public session. Are the public minutes of the meeting of 1 July 1998 agreed? Agreed.
I welcome Mr. Richard Kirby of the political affairs division of the NATO international secretariat. Mr. Kirby is a Canadian career diplomat. His oversees diplomatic assignments for Canada have been in the former Yugoslavia, the former. Soviet Union, Saudi Arabia, Romania and Indonesia. Since 1992 Mr. Kirby has been a member of the political affairs division of the NATO International Secretariat where he is Deputy Head of the Partnership and Cooperation division. He has been closely involved with the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and also with the Partnership for Peace programme. He has also been a key player in the evolution of NATO’s enlargement process and in all other aspects of NATO’s relations with central and Eastern European countries, notably the development of relations with Russia and the Ukraine. We are glad to have Mr. Kirby with us today to assist us in our examination of developments in the security architecture of Europe and in particular in looking at the role of the PFP.
The Committee, at its last meeting, heard from ambassadors of European countries with a tradition of neutrality and from Professor Patrick Keatinge, a specialist in European security affairs. Mr. Kirby’s presentation will allow us to hear the NATO perspective on the evolving security situation in Europe. After Mr. Kirby has addressed the Committee I will invite Members to ask questions.
Mr. Kirby: It is a special honour and privilege for me to be here this morning since my ancestors in both my parents’ families went to Canada from Ireland four or five generations ago, the Kirbys from Mayo and my mother’s family, the Redmonds, from Wexford. It is a particular thrill for me to be here in these circumstances.
The fall of Communist governments throughout central and eastern Europe marked the end of the Cold War period and the disappearance of the political, ideological and military divisions that were the basis for the adversarial bi-polar system on which security in Europe depended throughout that period. This created a new opportunity for a more positive security system based on democratic values and freedom of choice for all countries, an opportunity which NATO views as one in which a Europe, whole and free, can be built. I would like to sketch, very briefly, the ways in which NATO has changed in the new security climate and to describe more specifically the main features of NATO’s outreach programme of partnership and cooperation with non-member states through the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace.
In the 1990s NATO has been undergoing a profound transformation both internally and in its external relations. The threat of any large scale attack on the Alliance today or in the forseeable future is remote. The defence budgets of Allies have fallen, the readiness levels of Alliance forces have gone from something like two days to more like two months and the stock of Alliance nuclear weapons has declined by more than 80 per cent in recent years. The emphasis in our military planning has shifted from massive defence concerns towards smaller, flexible, rapidly deployable forces to deal with smaller crises where peace-keeping, humanitarian operations or other kinds of peace support activities might be required.
The Alliance has accepted that security in Europe is indivisible and must be viewed in a very broad context. Although the prospect of any widespread conflict is remote, security risks and challenges remain which could, in our view, upset peace in Europe. Ethnic animosities, virulent nationalism, social tensions, international terrorism and the risks of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are all sources which could cause instability or conflict threatening the peace in Europe and hence posing a threat to Allies and others alike.
The conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina and more recently in Kosovo, the area in which similar kinds of tensions produced the First World War, show that complacency about peace in Europe would not be a prudent course. Those kinds of smaller conflicts have the potential to escalate and to spill over with the risk of broader conflict which could affect the security of Allies and others. The emphasis of NATO’s policy in the 1990s to preserve peace in Europe has concentrated less on collective defence of member states and more on projecting security and stability beyond the NATO area, first with the aim of conflict prevention and second, if that fails the Alliance is prepared to undertake crisis management to prevent conflicts from escalating or spilling over. The collective defense ability to protect the security of all Allies, of course, remains at the core of the Alliance. All Allies want to maintain that. It provides an ultimate, reasonably priced security guarantee. It is a modest investment, if you will, in a national security insurance policy. The Alliance’s emphasis on dialogue, partnership and co-operation is a means to try to ensure conflict prevention and, if needed, effective crisis management.
Already, in 1992, the Alliance offered to undertake on a case by case basis peace keeping operations under the authority of the UN Security Council or the responsibility of the OSCE. The successive, NATO led peace support operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina under UN mandate include military personnel from all NATO Allies and from 21 non-NATO countries, including Ireland and a few countries from outside Europe. These operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina are the primary examples of the Alliance’s new engagement in peace keeping and also of the kinds of security risks that still exist in Europe for which responses are required.
In my view, NATO is pursuing a comprehensive strategy which is directed at building co-operative security in Europe for the benefit of all countries. There are several components of this overall strategy. They include: the enlargement process to open the Alliance to additional member states; the new Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council; the Partnership for Peace, newly enhanced in 1997; our efforts to develop a strong, stable and enduring partnership with Russia; the development of a distinctive partnership with the Ukraine; the development of dialogue and the beginnings of practical co-operation with a number of non-NATO, non-European Mediterranean countries. All of these are components of a broad strategy designed to create close, positive relations with all non-member countries but the various components are not dependent one on the other. We will try to do all successfully but if progress in one element lags we will continue to go ahead with efforts in other areas. The overriding objective since 1990 has been to build a comprehensive, co-operative and inclusive security system for the whole of Europe.
Let me now turn to the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace. In 1991, at the initiative of NATO, the North Atlantic Co-operation Council (NACC) was established. It was the predecessor of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council established last year. The immediate objective of the first organisation, the NACC, was to deal with the immediate divisive heritage of the Cold War period and to replace the old adversarial relationships of the NATO-Warsaw Pact stand-off period with greater mutual understanding, confidence and co-operation in dealing with security questions. The North Atlantic Co-operation Council was highly successful in dealing with those immediate problems and laid the foundations for the launching of the Partnership for Peace by the Alliance in January 1994.
The Partnership for Peace, like NATO, is firmly founded on internationally accepted democratic values and principles, including those enshrined in the UN Charter and OSCE documents. In joining the Partnership for Peace, all the participating states reaffirm their commitment to all those principles and values. The invitation from NATO to join the Partnership for Peace was and is addressed to all states in the OSCE which are prepared to sign the Framework Document of the Partnership for Peace with which I hope Members are familiar. In any event, I will leave copies for Members.
The Partnership for Peace is an open, inclusive and flexible programme directed at genuine security co-operation with all interested states for the benefit of all participating states. Some 27 countries have joined the NATO Allies in the Partnership for Peace programme and each of those partners shapes and decides its own involvement in the programme. The fact that Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland, all with very strong traditions of neutrality in international politics, have all joined PFP is perhaps the best demonstration that it is a genuinely open and inclusive programme. I know the committee has heard from representatives of the four states I mentioned about their participation in the PFP.
All states which join the Partnership for Peace do so by signing the Framework Document and by so doing also become members of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, which provides the overarching framework within which Partnership for Peace forms a distinct element for practical co-operation in the military and defence related fields. The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council has 44 member states and provides a forum for ongoing regular consultations at various political and working levels - Ministers for foreign affairs and defence, Ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives, Chiefs of Defence Staff and military representatives.
The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council is the forum which helps to guide and design the entire range of practical co-operation activities among the member states. The most important feature of ongoing EAPC consultations is the fact they take place with great regularity. They increase transparency and confidence and help to reduce or eliminate misunderstandings or problems. They can promote conflict prevention or serve as an early warning mechanism about potential crises. They emphasise and engage all member states in co-operative and inclusive approaches to security issues for the benefit of all EAPC members, including ways to deal with developing crises. For example, the situations in Bosnia and Kosovo are prominent features of the consultations in those EAPC fora in recent times.
An example of practical co-operation and partnership under the EAPC is the recent establishment of a Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Co-ordination Centre. The purpose of that centre is to co-ordinate, in close consultation with the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs, the response of EAPC countries to disaster relief in the EAPC area on the basis of relief requirements identified by the UN. The establishment of that centre, which is very recent, is based originally on what was a Russian proposal. On an exceptional basis, that centre is currently supporting UNHCR-led operations to deal with the refugee situation produced by the crisis in Kosovo. Refugees, however, are not its main thrust.
Within the Partnership for Peace, a principle focus is military co-operation in the fields of peace-keeping, search and rescue and humanitarian operations and it may extend to other areas which are agreed. Indeed, since the PFP was launched, the range and substance of activities under it has extended dramatically into areas such as civil emergency planning and civil military co-ordination in air space management.
Fundamentally, Partnership for Peace is based on co-operation between individual partner states and the Alliance - what we call a 16 plus one relationship - which is based on an agreed individual partnership programme between each partner and the Alliance. Each of those programmes is tailored to reflect the individual interests and capabilities of the partner state concerned. This is the principle of self-differentiation which applies to all partners. Each can select from a broad menu of issues and activities for co-operation, those which they wish to include and pursue through their own individual partnership programme. PFP partners also have the ability to influence the overall menu of activities and a principal objective of the enhancement of the Partnership for Peace in the past year has been to increase the involvement of partners in decision making within the partnership. Switzerland, for example, has introduced what it has called promotion and dissemination of knowledge of international humanitarian law and action into the PFP programme. This is a particular interest of theirs which has now been taken into the programme as a broad area of activity.
The 16 plus one basis for the Partnership for Peace does not mean we have 27 parallel 16 plus one relationships operating in isolation from each other. Indeed, many or most activities, particularly peace-keeping and other exercises and training are pursued in a multi-national format and bring together military personnel and other representatives from many of the partners in each activity.
I would like to dwell a little more on co-operation in peace-keeping, recognising Ireland’s long and distinguished engagement in international peace-keeping undertakings. First, it is important to recall that the United Nations does not have a significant - and the OSCE has no - standing capability to rapidly undertake a major multilateral military operation for peace-keeping or peace support. NATO more or less uniquely has a standing capability and a lot of experience in those kind of multinational operations. It is clearly important that the pool of capable peace-keeping resources on which to be able to draw be as wide as possible and that that pool be as inter-operable as possible - in other words, that they can effectively work together very quickly.
Without the early experience of Partnership for Peace peace-keeping co-operation, it would have been markedly more difficult to mount the peace-keeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina involving 37 NATO and non-NATO member states. Experience since the early days of Partnership for Peace, and particularly the lessons of the operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina are being used to make peacekeeping co-operation more effective. It seems highly likely that future peace support operations will, like those in Bosnia-Herzogovina, involve NATO Allies and PFP partners alike. The better prepared within the EAPC framework and more inter operable are the forces concerned, the more effective any future peace support operation will be and the safer for the peacekeepers involved. Partnership for Peace provides an excellent unrivalled framework for peacekeeping training and exercises. That is a valuable and fundamental aspect of PFP co-operation. In addition, a political military framework for future NATO led PFP operations is being prepared with the involvement of all partner states which would lay the ground work for all states participating in any future operation and to have an appropriate voice on how they are mounted and conducted. This is built on ad hoc arrangements for that purpose which have been used in regard to the Bosnia-Herzegovina operations. For some time already, there has also existed within the Partnership for Peace a planning and review process, referred to as the PARP, in which many, although not all partners, take part. The basic objective of the process, which is modelled on the defence planning concepts and procedures of the Alliance, is to maximise interoperability between Alliance and partner forces for peace support or peacekeeping operations.
There is of course much more to PFP, as I hope have indicated. Partners contribute and benefit in different specific practical ways accordingly to their own situation and interests but the interaction, transparency and confidence that working together through PFP engenders is perhaps its greatest value. Today we have 38 officers from 13 partner countries serving in international positions within NATO military structures and an additional six partner officers from five countries in the PfP Partnership Co-ordination Cell (FCC) which handles the specific planning for PFP military exercises. All of those officers serve in international positions. They represent the interests of all PFP partners and not just those of their own country. In addition, virtually all of the NATO partner countries have now established diplomatic missions accredited to NATO which was something which was not possible until a couple of years ago. These missions are closely engaged on a daily basis in pursuing their country’s various interests in relations with the Alliance.
Let me close, as I began on a somewhat more personal note. My diplomatic career has spanned the latter part of the Cold War period and the new period of positive opportunity and co-operation in the security field. The old divisions are gone and they should not be allowed to come back. Balance of power, mutually assured destruction, spheres of influence, competing Alliances, buffer zones are all concepts which have been tried more than once in recent European history and all have sooner or later, with the fortunate exception of mutually assured destruction, led to a major conflict in which millions of Europeans, including Irish, and significant numbers of Canadians and Americans have died.
In my view, we have an extraordinary new opportunity on the threshold of the 21st Century to build a common security culture in the Euro-Atlantic area based on democracy and positive engagement in constructive co-operation which can benefit all. NATO in the 1990s has been actively leading in pursuing that kind of vision. The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace, the pursuit of strong distinctive partnerships with Russia and Ukraine and the dialogue with the Mediterranean States are all expressions of that vision and of NATO’s desire for close, peaceful and positive relations with all its partners and other non member states in the interest of a peaceful, prosperous and more integrated Euro-Atlantic area which will not require new war cemeteries and memorials.
I have visited Ireland on numerous occasions in a non official capacity and performed the standard ritual at Blarney Castle. I hope however, that you will regard my comments this morning and not being unduly influenced by that experience. Thank you very much.
Chairman: Thank you Mr. Kirby. I propose to invite members to ask you questions as they wish.
Deputy G. Mitchell: Thank you Chairman. First of all can I join with you in welcoming Mr. Kirby and to say that while many of us run our hands over what happened in Bosnia some very brave people went in and sorted out the problem. The least we should do is express our thanks for that because it meant people putting their lives on the line. Many of us sat back and believed in some moral authority but did not take on those tyrants. In relation to the change, I saw a programme last evening which suggested we are in greater danger now of atomic catastrophe than we were during the Cold War. What steps does NATO take either through the Partnership for Peace co-operation process or in any other forum to try to ensure that the security problem is tackled. In relation to the 16 plus one formula is it possible for example within Partnership for Peace that say Ireland, Britain and France could co-operate on security issues related to drugs interdiction. Would you agree that Partnership for Peace is not a route to NATO membership for those countries which do not seek it? What is the experience of Partnership for Peace in its relationship with Russia? I would like to conclude by saying there is a misunderstanding with states that no part of Ireland has been in NATO. Northern Ireland has been in NATO since 1949 and as part of the section 29 amendment to the Constitution with the British and Irish Agreement now enshrined. It is time that we did have a more healthy debate and that the word NATO was not bandied about like a four letter word like the way a Loyalist might throw around the word pathos. We are very good in the South of Ireland at pointing at people in Northern Ireland whose certainties are defended with closed minds. Our own certainties are defended with the same closed minds. I think it is time that this sort of debate and discussion was brought more into the open. I hope Mr. Kirby will be able to address the questions I have put to him.
Mr. Kirby: The possible proliferation of weapons of mass destruction whether they be nuclear, biological or chemical is obviously a growing concern with the prospect of new states obtaining them. It is certainly a subject which is inscribed in the priority areas for EAPC co-operation and it is a subject that has been raised in those fora and also in the NATO/Russia Permanent Joint Council.
NATO has some senior committees which have addressed this problem and one of them has concentrated on how to prevent proliferation and how to reverse it by diplomatic or political means should it occur. Out of prudence, there is also a committee examining how we would defend ourselves in case of proliferation. One of the successes of the Luxembourg Ministerial meetings of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, which included Ministerial meetings of the Permanent NATO-Russia Joint Council and of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, was the issuing of common statements on the Pakistani and Indian nuclear weapons tests. The willingness towards co-operation regarding proliferation and the recognition of the priority exist and they are subjects addressed in those fora.
As regards smaller groups of states cooperating for drug interdiction, all the activities undertaken within the EAPC are normally open-ended. We have been trying to encourage greater regional co-operation within that framework and within Partnership for Peace but without risking the fragmentation of the broad context. Regarding the kind of co-operation specifically mentioned, much of that now takes place among various groups of states but is not necessarily linked to Partnership for Peace. Drug trafficking is a subject upon which a number of states have suggested there should be greater focus in co-operation. One of the problems for Allied states is that, in most cases, responsibility in those states for the drug problem lies with a ministry other than the foreign or defence ministries. Therefore, much of the co-operation is done through organisations such as Interpol rather than NATO.
Partnership for Peace is not a waiting room for membership. It was not conceived as such nor was it conceived as an alternative to membership. For those countries which want to become members, it is a valuable tool in helping to prepare in that direction. For those countries not interested in becoming members, and there is a number of them, it serves as a valuable tool for co-operation which does not necessarily lead beyond that. It is up to the country concerned what is its purpose in joining Partnership for Peace.
Russia’s participation has not been as active as we would have liked. There are a few reasons for that. One is Russia’s negative attitude towards the prospect for a broader Alliance. That has been a political factor which has hampered its willingness to participate in Partnership for Peace. Nevertheless, since we concluded the NATO-Russia Founding Act in May 1997, relations with Russia have developed across a broad front, including a more active engagement in Partnership for Peace, and Russian forces took part for the first time in a PfP exercise a few months ago. We are making progress across the board in NATO-Russia relations, including within Partnership for Peace. We hope that will progress as broadly and as rapidly as possible.
Deputy De Rossa: Deputy Mitchell’s remarks are tendentious. Those of us who opposed aggressive military intervention in Bosnia did so to save lives and not to give succour to those engaged in ethnic cleansing or genocide.
I welcome Mr. Kirby to the meeting. I suggested at a previous meeting that he should be invited despite the fact that I am strongly opposed to Ireland joining NATO in its current form. I have a few questions relating to the current nature of NATO, especially concerning its nuclear deterrent policies.
Why does NATO believe it must continue with a nuclear deterrent policy and maintain a first strike capacity? Would Mr. Kirby indicate the level of nuclear weapons capability in terms of numbers and tonnage stored on European soil? At whom are they targeted? Who is the enemy against whom NATO believes nuclear weapons could be used? The main threats outlined by Mr. Kirby, such as ethnic conflicts, nationalism and terrorism, are hardly subjects which nuclear weapons could resolve. Why, therefore, is there a desire to maintain such weapons?
What is the relationship between NATO and the arms industry? Clearly the arms industry has a major interest in maintaining a strong nuclear weapons based defence posture. Does any relationship exist?
Regarding the issue of what action NATO takes against members who engage in ethnic cleansing, I never heard it as a body condemn the genocide of the Kurds carried out by one of its members.
The Partnership for Peace can be whatever the country which joins wants it to be. It can be a waiting room for membership or it can be a way of ensuring defence of its interests. Could Mr. Kirby indicate what Irish interests he believes would be served by joining Partnership for Peace?
Mr. Kirby: I had hoped my introductory remarks would indicate some of the areas which would be of interest to Ireland in terms of joining Partnership for Peace. It represents an unparalleled method of training peacekeeping forces effectively for operation in multinational forces. The more effective those forces, the safer peacekeeping operations are for those participating. There are several hundred kinds of activities available across a broad spectrum and any nation concerned can sort through them and decide which areas are of interest to it. Peacekeeping, search and rescue and humanitarian operations are the basic ones but virtually all NATO committees, including those dealing with civil emergency planning, science, ecological concerns and defence related aspects of economic issues, are engaged in partnership activities of one form or another. It would be up to Ireland to decide which are of most and direct benefit to it.
In terms of nuclear deterrence, I do not believe the prospect of that going away any time soon is likely. For one thing, it is effective. As I said in my remarks, the stock pile of nuclear weapons has declined by over 80 per cent in recent years. As far as I am aware, all that is left is a small number of bombs which may only be delivered by aircraft, so they are not targeted. Indeed, I spoke earlier about the risks of proliferation. While those risks exist, it is unlikely that anyone would want to give up the nuclear deterrent. The Soviet Union used to talk about a non first use but more recently Russia has given up that approach which means it is now in the same league as NATO which never espoused a non first use. As I said, the number of nuclear weapons is radically down but they will not disappear entirely, certainly in any unilateral way. There is the risk of proliferation.
On NATO and the arms industry, the only connection is that since NATO has a military component, NATO Allies are periodically in the market for buying military equipment. Other than that, there is no real link between NATO and the arms industry. There is no sharing of arms markets among Allies. Indeed, Allies are strong competitors with each other in supplying military equipment. The Alliance espouses the principles of the free market. Any country is free to make its military equipment purchases from whatever source it finds most effectively meets its purposes. Obviously, those who make and market military equipment are interested in selling it. That is something which is done by private enterprise and not by the Alliance. Even in terms of the new members which will join NATO, there is no prescription on what kind of arms they need or should have or where they should buy them. There is no prescription on the kind of modernisation or purchases they should make in the future. That is a sovereign decision on their part.
On human rights, NATO is based on democratic values and a strong proponent of full respect for human rights. However, it is not an organisation specifically devoted to the monitoring of human rights issues because there are several which are specially devoted to that purpose, including the Council of Europe, the OSCE and other UN organisations. NATO does not try to do everything. There is a variety of international organisations which have particular purposes and assets to deal with various issues. The monitoring and promotion of human rights, although one of our values, is not a specific activity in which we try to compete with other organisations which are more particularly devoted to following those issues.
Proinsias De Rossa: I referred specifically to the Kurds. As regards the recent conflict in Kosovo, NATO has not been at all reticent in expressing view and offering to become involved in that conflict in which a state was effectively attacking part of its population.
Mr. Kirby: I am not sure it is fair to say we were not reticent.
Proinsias De Rossa: In making preparations.
Mr. Kirby: The firm preference of the Alliance is that there would be a diplomatic solution.
Proinsias De Rossa: It was making military preparations to become involved, if necessary.
Mr. Kirby: If necessary.
Proinsias De Rossa: But that is not the case in relation to the Kurds.
Deputy G. Mitchell: Would it be fair to say it would do so at the invitation of the UN? Is that the normal procedure?
Mr. Kirby: When NATO gets involved it has always adhered to the position that it would be on a relevant legal basis. That does not necessarily mean one needs the UN Security Council in that it depends on what one is going to do. If, for example, one is going to do an air exercise, one does not need a UN Security Council resolution. If one is going to do something more robust, one may need a resolution - it depends on the kind of activity one is going to undertake.
Proinsias De Rossa: If a full member of NATO was involved in the kind of activity being taken against the people of Kosovo at present, what action would NATO take? It is clearly not taking any action where such activity is being taken against the Kurds. What is the difference?
Mr. Kirby: When a state has signed the North Atlantic Treaty there is no provision for withdrawing membership. If one looks at human rights practices, for example, the United States Congress produces a thick volume annually on human rights reports throughout the world, one will find many Allies which appear in it and which may be criticised in one respect or another for some practices which have taken place. Nobody’s record is perfect.
Deputy O’Kennedy: We know who you are, Mr. Kirby, but I do not know if you know precisely from where each of us come and I intend to give you an introduction. I am a member of Fianna Fáil, the major party, which has since its foundation consistently applied the principle of neutrality in our relations and has tried to establish a particularly useful role with our partners in all international organisations. This is based to a considerable extent on our acceptability as a result of our neutrality. That has been our generally principled approach.
Having said that, the position of Partnership for Peace as presented -I do not want to accuse you of concealing matters from us - would have to be acceptable to all those concerned about international peace. We would be anxious to be involved in Partnership for Peace. Whoever suggested the term should be congratulated because it is certainly a reassuring and positive one, if not a euphemism. One of the questions which arises when we start to query the role of Partnership for Peace is how could one possibly be against it. Let me outline some of our reservations. Mr. Kirby said NATO espouses the principles of free market which I presume includes the international armaments industry. We have strong reservations about that industry - at least some of us have - and weaponry of death. We would have considerable reservations about an organisation which espouses the principle of free market in terms of where one purchases these weapons and to whom one sells them.
Where the weapons are purchased and to whom they are sold result in us having very considerable reservations. We do not want to be seen to endorse in any way some of the actions of our partners, not only those in NATO which has responsibility for its members’ actions throughout the world, be it in Africa, the Iran-Iraq conflict, etc., where they seem to become involved on both sides. Does NATO have any role in imposing sanctions, restrictions, etc., in respect of its members who are clearly involved in selling weapons of death in areas where there are regional conflicts? As an international organisation promoting Partnership for Peace, NATO should have a very strong supervisory role and, if necessary, be in a position to impose sanctions.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes: who supervises the supervisors? All the ideas in relation to the partnership which we have heard this morning are commendable. We have no problem with them and have been involved in the areas outlined. We are interested in reducing the human capacity of those involved in Government and private enterprise to impose such horrific suffering. The Cold War is over, but there are issues surrounding biological warfare. Some of the partners in NATO - although it is far from exclusive to them - have belatedly acknowledged that they have been engaged in the research and development of biological warfare. What sanctions, controls or regulations are operated by NATO in the context of this the huge new threat?
At all times Ireland has been involved in promoting nuclear non-proliferation. It has been a main and consistent focal point of Ireland since the early days under Frank Aiken and more recently has been raised in the UN by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Andrews. We want everything done to bring about a reduction in nuclear weapons on all fronts. We do not wish to exempt those powers which have had a nuclear capacity for a long time from this international partnership.
In recent times NATO has been engaged in effective peacekeeping and we have been associated in some way or other, in conjunction with our operations under the UN, with some of those activities. While there is a financial advantage to be gained, particularly by the armaments industry which is linked to information technology, we would be very naive to think there is no longer a risk of global conflict simply because the Cold War is over. We wonder whether NATO is in the best position to reduce the tension.
Mr. Kirby: The prospects of global conflict in the foreseeable future are close to nil and therefore they cannot be reduced much further. Allies do not want NATO to go away just in case something does go wrong.
My personal view is that it does not matter what type of arms one has. What really counts is whether a person decides to use them. My philosophy is that it does not matter to me what the potential opponent has as long as a fight never occurs. Those who fight will do so with whatever they have and the end result will be death one way or another. The process of being killed might be faster or slower or be in bigger or smaller numbers of people, but in the end humanity has always fought with sticks, stones or fists and people kill each other. We should try to eliminate the need for the conflict as it does not matter what type of weapons people have, although this is a strictly personal view.
NATO is not a supranational organisation. We do not tell individual Allies the type of weapons or equipment they should have. Such matters involve sovereign national decisions. If a NATO Ally believes it needs a nuclear force then it will have one and NATO will not tell it otherwise. NATO has a military component and therefore requires military equipment which comes from the arms industry. If the world becomes such a peaceful place that militaries are no longer needed, then presumably there will be no arms industry. However, this prospect seems a long way off.
The Alliance is a proponent of arms control measures. We are eager for anything which strengthens the non-proliferation regime, be it biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. We have promoted a variety of arms control agreements, including the Conventional Forces Treaty in Europe which we regard as a cornerstone. At present, we are actively trying to maintain the integrity of the Treaty while taking into account changes which have taken place since it was originally concluded. We support the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Open Skies Treaty. NATO cannot be described as a promoter of greater armaments, but we do use armaments which are necessary in the context of our military component. If, in the future, we do not need a military component we will not need an arms industry. In the meantime, the arms industry will continue.
Senator Mooney: I welcome Mr. Kirby and I understand the emotional impact of his visit to Ireland, the country of his ancestors, in a professional capacity. It is unique for us to have a representative of NATO address a joint committee of the Oireachtas.
I wish to explore the justification for the continuation of NATO. It was born out of World War II and the need for the countries of the North Atlantic to coalesce in order to prevent any future confrontation, a noble and worthy aspiration. The Cold War was perhaps the best raison d’étre for a continuation of NATO. The Warsaw Pact no longer exists and the countries which wish to become members of NATO are looking for protection against Russia, their Big Brother, more than anything else. Poland, in particular, would see itself as being more secure through membership of NATO rather than remaining outside an Alliance.
The creation of Partnership for Peace was a means by which the NATO Allies could justify the continuing existence of the Alliance rather than dissolving it after the end of the Cold War. Few of us could find fault with Mr. Kirby’s presentation. A former Taoiseach used to regularly ask regarding the Northern conflict who was afraid of peace. PfP has been very positive and one could find resonances of our own position on neutrality in the presentations of the delegations from neutral countries whom we met at our last meeting. It made me wonder more why we are not part of PfP.
In deference to my colleague, Deputy O’Kennedy, who is a distinguished former Minister for Foreign Affairs and who would have been at the coalface of Irish policy in this regard for many years, while I support my party’s policy in this area, I have not always enthusiastically embraced it. I always refer to the benchmark of a former Fianna Fáil Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, who said Irish neutrality was based more on pragmatism than ideology. We were invited to join NATO in 1949 and the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Seán McBride, and the Government opposed it according to public records because a member of NATO, Britain, occupied a part of this country. The prospect of nuclear war was not as real then, despite Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then, the greatest opposition Irish people have had to involvement in a military Alliance is the nuclear capacity of NATO. If NATO did not have a nuclear capacity or if nuclear weaponry were consigned to the scrap heap, Irish people might have a different view but that is an academic point.
Why does Mr. Kirby believe NATO should continue in its current form? The OSCE is a broadly based organisation which covers all Europe. Prior to the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty by Ireland, one of the major debating points centred not on the many important areas of the treaty relating to social policy, justice and human rights but on the threat to this country’s neutrality by signing the Maastricht Treaty. It may surprise Mr. Kirby to know that because there was nothing in the treaty to suggest that might happen. Given that the European Union could give rise to an embryonic European army or European military defence mechanism for member states, what is the justification for the continuation of NATO? As the EU expands, it will obviously develop a common foreign policy because of the glaring deficiencies in that area highlighted by the break-up of Yugoslavia. This will be followed by a debate on a common defence policy. In that regard, what is the justification for continuing with NATO?
I have not dealt with the United Nations of which Ireland has been a strong supporter. We have involved ourselves in activities in the former Yugoslavia along with NATO and non-NATO countries but under the UN umbrella. We have always sought to strengthen the role of the UN, something which has not been a major political priority of NATO and some of its major members. A facility was inserted in the UN charter for the establishment of a unified military command but that has not been developed by any of the Allies or Security Council members. There seems to be a self-justification for the continuation of NATO but I am curious to know what is Mr. Kirby’s view. While he has explained it previously to a large degree, it is in the context of the evolving changes in Europe - the end of the Cold War, the establishment of other areas for partnership, embryonic policy developments within an expanding European Union and the area of common foreign and defence policy - that I wanted to discover his thinking.
Mr. Kirby: I will briefly touch on a number of points. It was asked why NATO still exists at the end of the Cold War and the Warsaw Pact has been dissolved. The fundamental difference is that the Warsaw Pact states wanted to dissolve it. The Allies which are members of NATO do not want to dissolve the Alliance because they see in it a continuing value. We have no enemies at present but members still see a use for maintaining the organisation. Part of that is the transformation from concentrating on a major threat to how the current situation of peace and positive engagement is kept durable. That is the shift in focus about which I spoke. The basic difference is that the Warsaw Pact states wanted to dissolve their Alliance. The NATO Allies want to keep theirs.
I am often asked why NATO still exists after the Cold War as it has no enemy. I do not accept the argument that, if there is no enemy, there cannot be an organisation in which members work together usefully. All that the Alliance has done in terms of partnership and co-operation in the past several years has been highly positive. It is not targeted against anyone; it is an attempt to have a comprehensive approach to keeping peace which is relatively novel in recent European history. Many of those who ask why the Alliance should be maintained are members of it. I always say to them that there must be something useful about an Alliance which so many countries have lined up to join. NATO has a unique role to play in trying to maintain security by various means, not only through collective defence but also by projecting security and stability.
My native country, Canada, has been a member of the Alliance since the beginning. We are not a nuclear state and we are not keen on nuclear weapons but we are a member of the Alliance. The fact that some of the Allies are nuclear powers should not prevent a non-nuclear power from being involved in or joining the Alliance. The majority of Allies are not nuclear powers. The reason for an Alliance is a collective defence effort to which all contribute. Some are obviously larger and have larger weapons to contribute. Defence is not a moral issue. NATO is a defence Alliance. What weapons states have is not a moral issue.
Deputy O’Kennedy: The question is against what or whom is the threat.
Mr. Kirby: Against whatever may threaten.
Deputy G. Mitchell: I would say India or Pakistan or some organisation which is undisciplined.
Mr. Kirby: The Alliance does not view anyone as an enemy today. In theory, if matters can become so much better so quickly, they can become much worse very quickly. The Allies are not yet prepared to forgo the insurance the Alliance represents against whatever undefined threat may exist. It is a security against threats. It is not defined in terms of identified enemies but of sources of potential threat, such as nuclear proliferation. It does not name who might be involved or who may threaten. It is a defence against threats, not specific enemies.
One of the fundamental features of the Alliance is the transatlantic link. Canada and the US are not and will not be members of the Western European Union. In addition, the difference in the capabilities of the WEU and NATO is significant. All European Allies want to maintain that transatlantic link to preserve European security. If a time comes when Europe is no longer interested in the transatlantic link, there will be no reason for the continuance of NATO but I do not see that happening soon.
One of the areas in which the Alliance has changed internally in the last few years is that is has been agreed to develop the European Security and Defence Identity within the Alliance. A great deal of effort has been put into strengthening that within the framework of the Alliance. There is greater co-operation between NATO and the WEU. Extensive arrangements are being worked out to enable the WEU to use NATO assets if there is an operation which the WEU might undertake in which, for some reason, the north American NATO Allies would not want to take part. That is the principle of separable but not separate assets.
My native country and one of our former Prime Ministers, Lester Pearson, would have been overjoyed if the UN had established a military command. In recent times Canada, Norway, the Netherlands and some other countries offered to place forces at the disposal of the UN. The reason there was no unified military command was due to divisions of the Cold War. There was no way that consensus could be achieved to establish that command. Circumstances have since changed and maybe there will be changes but they have not happened to any great degree yet.
NATO has never tried to compete with the OSCE or the UN. Our basic concept is that there are enough security problems to keep all the institutions busy. It is a messy picture but our view is that all of the institutions can be mutually reinforcing. There will be some overlap but that will not hurt as long as the bodies are not going in opposite directions. All of the NATO Allies and partner states are highly conscious of not trying to undermine or compete with organisations such as the OSCE. There are no specific rules to avoid that but the view is that as long as everyone is conscious of not stepping on each other’s toes, and trying to serve the same objective, there is room for many different institutions. We are not trying to compete or impede other organisations.
Deputy Briscoe: I am conscious that if it were not for the existence of NATO, Ireland and some other western European countries would have been behind the Iron Curtain a long time ago. I am grateful for the existence of NATO. I was in the House when Seán Lemass stated that in the face of communism we were not neutral and that if it came to conflict we would not be neutral.
The condition for membership of NATO is that existing borders must be accepted. That was a key reason why Ireland would not get involved in the early years. We would have had to recognise permanently the situation at that time. Members recognise existing borders. When newly established or re- established states, as happened in Eastern Europe, join NATO what is NATO’s outlook regarding existing difficulties between those new members and their neighbours? If the neighbour attacks a country which has joined NATO, will NATO prevent an attack by a nonmember on that country?
You mentioned that NATO consisted of 44 member states.
Chairman: No, that was the PFP.
Deputy Briscoe: I would like to know how many member states there are in NATO and how many new members have joined since the break up of the Soviet Union.
NATO is engaged in an evolutionary process as a result of the changes since 1991. My own belief is that the wars of the future will be terrorist in nature, not fought conventionally between two states. There was a saying that after the third world war the fourth world war would be fought with sticks and stones.
Ireland has been fortunate, we have not experienced the insecurity which many European countries have. I understand they are very conscious of a lack of security to the extent that they want to join NATO to protect their future.
Mr. Kirby: I understood that the Committee was interested in the possibility of membership of Partnership for Peace. Membership of NATO is a different question.
Originally there were 12 NATO Allies when the organisation was formed in 1949. In 1952 Turkey and Greece joined, Germany in 1955 and Spain in 1982. By the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty in April 1999, we expect to have welcomed Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary as members. That will bring membership to 19 in total. Once a member has acceded to the Washington Treaty, it is covered by all provisions of the treaty, including article 5, which states that an attack on one member state is an attack on all member states. All members of the Alliance have full rights and benefits and also have full obligations.
The Alliance has underlined that the door remains open for other new members. Article 10 of the original treaty provides for adding new members. We have done this a number of times and we are still open to adding new members on the basis of an invitation agreed with the consensus of all Allies. There are nine more countries which have expressed an interest in becoming members of the Alliance. When the Alliance has its summit meeting in April 1999, the heads of state and government will review the enlargement process and decide what happens next. That does not necessarily mean that there will be more invitations the. Nor does it mean there will not be. They will have to decide what they want to do then.
The stated objective of the countries interested in NATO membership is not to do primarily with protecting themselves against an enemy or a threat. The fundamental case they make for joining the Alliance is that having undergone a far-reaching democratic transformation process - in many cases a painful one - they believe it is legitimate that they join organisations of other like minded democratic states. Their argument for inclusion is not threat based, rather it is based on being integrated into European institutions from which, in many cases, they feel they were artificially excluded because of the Cold War conditions. The states seeking membership do not seek it on the basis of needing protection against an enemy.
Undeniably, recent history makes them nervous about larger neighbours. However, all of them understand and support the notion of good relations with all countries being essential for the best security system in Europe. NATO has underlined to the countries which seek to join that one of the basic factors to be considered by Allies is that they should have resolved bilateral disputes with their neighbours before they joint the Alliance.
Senator Mooney: History teaches harsh lessons.
Mr. Kirby: I am not sure which the Senator has in mind.
Senator Mooney: Poland.
Senator Lanigan: I welcome Mr. Kirby. He said that there must be something right about an organisation which has applicants queuing to join. That is a fact. Many of those seeking to join were part of the Warsaw Pact. The western countries among them wish to join to seek protection from the possibility of an expansionist Germany in the future. Their eastern counterparts seek protection against the possibility of an expansionist Russia.
Mr. Kirby has indicated that NATO is not involved in selling arms and that countries who buy arms will do so on the open market. The applicant countries must maximise their armies to bring them up to NATO standards and it is expected in the Czech Republic, for example, that it will cost 1 per cent of GNP to bring its army up to standard. It means that the people of the countries who must improve their armaments will spend the money in the US, France or Britain, three major NATO members. There is an element of the sale of arms which is to the advantage of certain NATO countries. The people of the countries who join NATO will be poorer because of joining because more of their states’ resources will go into arms purchases.
As Deputy O’Kennedy said, who could be against Partnership for Peace? I have hardened in my attitude against the PfP which is now being brought forward. Mr. Kirby has cemented my thoughts on it as an integral part of NATO. As Mr. Kirby said, if we were members of PfP we could participate in committees of NATO. Therefore, they would be integrated to a degree into NATO.
Mr. Kirby: Could be, not necessarily would be.
Senator Lanigan: It hardens my attitude in that it is a back door into NATO.
Chairman: Does Switzerland think that?
Senator Lanigan: I do not speak on behalf of Switzerland and my questions are directed to Mr. Kirby.
Mr. Kirby pointed out that PfP would give Ireland an opportunity for training peacekeeping forces. That would appear to be a denigration of what has happened in this country. I suggest that our forces which have participated in many UN peacekeeping missions have been well trained in peace-keeping. They do not need to be brought into PfP or NATO to get expertise. It is naive to say that this would be a benefit of joining PfP.
There is no doubt that the biggest arms suppliers in the world are the major players in NATO. Mr. Kirby indicates that the stockpile of nuclear weapons has decreased by 80 per cent. However, that is not across the board; less than 20 per cent of that reduction would have been in the NATO countries.
I have heard nothing that would change my view against joining PfP because it is a back door to NATO. There is no discussion about this; if people were asked whether they wanted to join, I suspect 90 per cent would ’not even know what PfP is. I welcome Mr. Kirby and his open presentation of NATO and PfP. A members of PfP we would be members of the EAPC which is also an integral part of NATO. PfP is not a stand alone arrangement it is an integral part of NATO. The people do not want to join NATO.
Mr. Kirby: I disagree with the Senator. PfP and EAPC are linked to NATO but they are not integral parts of NATO. There is no commitment among partners or by NATO to partners to defend them in case of an attack. The heart of the North Atlantic Treaty is the collective defence commitment, which does not apply to PfP partners. They are not bound to defend any other partner nor any NATO ally, nor are we bound to them in terms of common defence. The thrust of EAPC and PfP is to try to avoid situations where anyone would be under threat or attack.
If the thrust of NATO enlargement was to sell more arms, then we should invite everybody who wants to be a member to join at once. We have not done so. There are 12 countries who wished to be invited and we have invited three thus far. If our motive was to sell weapons we should invite and recruit everybody and we are not doing that. Our openness has been in response to requests. NATO is not trying to recruit Ireland or any other country in particular to become a member. That is a sovereign decision for each country.
PfP is not a back door entry to NATO. One does not get the collective defence guarantee. For those countries who wish to have the possibility of becoming members, PfP allows them to be closer to the Alliance while, for those countries which do not, it is a means of having a co-operative arrangement with the Alliance and there is no obligation of any kind with respect to membership.
I also disagree with the notion that countries which wish to join will be poorer because they will have to spend more on defence. A basic reason for joining any Alliance is that defence will cost a country less than doing it on its own or at least that one will get a greater return on one’s defence investment. It costs money to be a member of NATO, but less than 1 per cent of NATO members’ defence budgets is related to common NATO costs. There are costs for those that join in terms of achieving compatibility with the other members, but the amount is not onerous when considered in terms of what they will spend whether they are members or not. In the long run, defence for them should be cheaper because collective defence is cheaper. That is one reason all Allies belong to the Alliance.
It is an exaggeration to say countries which join NATO will be poorer and, indeed, the point has been made by countries which have been invited to join that the prospect of integration into an organisation such as NATO has positive benefits in terms of the way they are perceived by foreign investors and those who develop industry in their countries who regard their being part of NATO as an element of stability which is good for economic development. The picture is more variegated. The nation that they will be poorer because they join is wrong.
Chairman: You told the committee that more than 80 per cent of NATO’s nuclear weapons stock has been decommissioned. What would the corresponding percentage be in the former Warsaw Pact countries, particularly the former Soviet Union and Ukraine because there are not many nuclear weapons outside of them? Belarus does not have nuclear capacity. What is the level of reduction in those countries?
Mr. Kirby: It is complete in the Ukraine. It is now a non-nuclear weapon state and a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty. If any weapons are left in Belarus or Kazakhstan, they are non-operational and in the process of being withdrawn to Russia. Russia is the only country with unclear weapons among the post-USSR independent states. I do not know the numbers, but it still has an extensive nuclear arsenal.
Chairman: Can you estimate its percentage in terms of what it formerly was under the Soviet Union?
Mr. Kirby: No, but I am sure it has not reduced by 80 per cent.
Chairman: Can you estimate the reduction of their biological warfare capacity?
Mr. Kirby: No, I am not an expert in the arms control field.
Chairman: I thank you for the manner in which you dealt with members’ queries and for your submission. Your comments were very interesting and I hope it could be fully reported because, as you will have observed from listening to members of the committee, there are grave misunderstandings about NATO and the PfP. Unfortunately, those misunderstandings are reflected throughout Ireland partly because of a lack of information. I am disturbed we are still somewhat isolationist in this respect in spite of the obvious fact we are not so in many other aspects of international activity.
I acknowledge that a representative of NATO is present. It is a significant event and I acknowledge as a western European that, were if not for NATO, I and hundreds of millions of other western Europeans would probably have been enslaved during the 1950s or 1960s. NATO is probably the most successful military Alliance in the history of the world and it achieved its success without having to fire a shot in anger and because it had the capability to deter any aggressor foolish enough to attack it. That is not sufficiently fully realised in Ireland because we are the beneficiaries of that protection as much as any other western European country. We should take our safety over that past 40 years less for granted and acknowledge it stemmed from the strength of NATO.
I listened to the arguments put forward about the reduced nuclear capacity of NATO but it is unreal that, at a time when we are aware that China, Iraq, Iran, India, Pakistan, Israel and formerly South Africa have nuclear capability and now Russia too, Europe and North America should be urged to denude themselves of that which kept them safe for 50 years. It is unreal to expect Europe and North America to remove all their nuclear weapons at a time when nuclear arms are unfortunately proliferating elsewhere and where some of the countries concerned are unpredictable, maverick and potentially dangerous. I hope a debate is opened up in Ireland on PfP.
I was struck by what you had to say about its objectives and methods. One of the more important words describing the principles underlining it is self-differentiation, which is open to each of the 44 members as the Ambassadors of four European countries which recently joined explained the last day. They are all perfectly happy with it and their people’s are perfectly happy with it. I fail to see that the Irish people are so fundamentally different from all others in Western Europe that we, alone, should be as unhappy as some speakers suggested when everybody else in Western Europe, including the most neutral of the neutrals, seems to be able to live perfectly easily with it.
It is a pity that it has not been possible to date to disseminate in Ireland more information about PfP and NATO of a factual rather than a consistently antagonistic nature. I would hope that your visit and the committee meeting two weeks ago will help restore balance to some extent because the debate in Ireland has not been as open and balanced as it should have been. I noted also that you stated that practically all the PfP members or partners had diplomatic relations with NATO. Ireland is almost unique in Europe in not having such representation. That is one of the disadvantages from which we suffer in terms of obtaining information. That is another reason that your visit is important. What you had to say is important. I hope it will lead to a more informed debate in Ireland than the one to date.
I thank you and congratulate you on the fact that you are the first witness to appear before this committee at which 16 of its members were present at once. As Chairman, I am proud of that because sometimes we find it difficult to get a quorum.
The Joint Committee adjourned at 1.04 p.m.