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Nato Secretary General Lord Robertson
"I am going to be ramming home the point that the Europeans need to do more about getting capabilities for the future"
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Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 10:33 GMT
Euro armies 'paper tigers' - Nato boss
No plans exist to scale back the peace-keeping force in Kosovo

Nato Secretary General George Robertson has delivered a blunt warning to European ministers to spend more on defence.

He branded European armies "paper tigers" ahead of a meeting with defence ministers at Nato headquarters in Brussels.

Kosovo: Special Report
His remarks came as the Alliance pondered handing control over the Kosovo peacekeeping force to Eurocorps.

Nato's supreme commander in Europe General Wesley Clark will make the decision by the end of the year.

A range of logistical obstacles stands in the way of him agreeing to the move, which was requested by France and Germany.

Britain's General Mike Jackson led K-For into Kosovo
The current K-For mission in Kosovo is composed of 42,000 troops, mainly professionals, while Eurocorps totals just 6,000 under its direct command and contains many conscripts.

K-For's working language is English, while the European force communicates mainly in French.

But Nato officials readily admit political factors will weigh as heavily as military considerations in the ruling.

The idea was only made public last week, when the French president and German chancellor issued a declaration in Paris on Tuesday welcoming "progress towards its [Eurocorps'] taking over the rotating command of K-For".

Speculation also exists that some European leaders view Eurocorps as a prototype for a fully-fledged European army.

But Lord Robertson points out European nations must commit substantially more funds to defence just to meet their existing commitments to Nato.

Lord Robertson: "Ramming home the point"
Kosovo showed European Nato members lacked the ability to provide rapid-reaction forces, he argues.

"What we're talking about is getting the Europeans to have more of their troops that are better trained and more deployable more quickly," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"It's pointless having great new fancy institutions in Europe to try to get the Europeans to do more of their defence if we don't have the proper capabilities.

"At today's defence ministerial meeting, I am going to be ramming home the point that the Europeans need to do more about getting relevant capabilities for the future.

"That means re-ordering spending priorities and, in a lot of countries, spending more on defence if we are going to have the investment in security for the future of the continent.

The UK would be prepared to commit troops to a Eurocorp force
"What we've got are two million troops in Europe in uniform, but we were struggling to get 40,000 to go as a peacekeeping force into Europe, so we've got at the present moment a paper tiger in European military terms and we've got to turn that into real forces on the ground where the crises happen."

But UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, who replaced Lord Robertson when he moved on to Nato, backed the move to get Eurocorps into Kosovo.

"What is important is that Eurocorps is translated into this kind of headquarters operation," he said.

Britain had "demonstrated the abilities that are required to organise these kinds of campaigns" and "if they need our help we would certainly be prepared to give it", he said.

Asked how many officers or units Britain might contribute, he added: "That's a matter we'd have to look at."

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See also:
02 Dec 99 |  Europe
Eurocorps may run Kosovo mission
16 Nov 99 |  Europe
Plans for European force
25 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
UK and France bolster defence ties
08 Sep 99 |  UK Politics
EU needs stronger defence - Robertson

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