The Times – 27 November 2000
From 1945 until the collapse of Soviet power there were two great deterrents to war in Europe. The first was the possession of nuclear weapons by the Western democracies; the second was the knowledge that war with any of them would immediately involve war with the United States.
During the Cold War, many Labour MPs – including Tony Blair – tried to undermine the one by supporting unilateral nuclear disarmament. Now the Government is undermining the other by reopening the prospect of conflict in Europe without American involvement.
The attempt to draw a distinction between crisis management by an EU force (letters, November 22, 23 and 25) and war-fighting by NATO is naive and illusory. The Second World War arguably, and the First World War certainly, grew out of crises which spiralled unpredictably out of control.
Cabinet Office files contain a 1931 memorandum by Sir Maurice Hankey. It notes how:
"A fortnight after the murder of the Austrian Archduke, a debate took place in the House of Commons on foreign affairs. The European situation was hardly referred to at all... We really had, at the outside, not more than ten days’ warning"
of the First World War.
It is reckless beyond belief to reopen the prospect of the use of force in Europe by European states without US participation. Of course, when a crisis becomes a war the Americans will probably intervene – but it will be too late, by then, to restore the deterrence which could have preserved the peace.
Continental security would have been immeasurably stronger in 1914 and 1939 if any European crisis had automatically triggered American military action. That prize was eventually secured by the creation of NATO. It is now being put gravely at risk.
Dr JULIAN LEWIS MP
(Secretary, Conservative Parliamentary Defence Committee)
House of Commons