U.K. and Middle Power Constraints

No sooner did I click the “Publish” button on this post than I ran across the following, from Financial Times:

Britain is calling for enhanced military co-operation between the UK and France, saying greater defence collaboration with the European Union may be essential if the nation’s armed forces are to operate on a reduced budget.

Ina green paper to be published today that sets out the terms on whichBritain will conduct its forthcoming Strategic Defence Review, theMinistry of Defence will reassert that no military alliance is moreimportant to the UK than the one with Washington.

Butthe document, drawn up by Bob Ainsworth, defence secretary, will put anunexpectedly strong emphasis on the need for the UK to work with the EUif it is to maintain its role on the world stage.

Here’s the BBC’s version:

The Green Paper, which will be debated by MPs on Wednesday, isexpected to address Britain’s future global role, what its armed forcesshould be capable of, and how they should be equipped. . . .

BBCdefence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said the Green Paper would containa warning that Britain could not afford to do everything it was tryingto do in defence and would need to adapt its forces faster.

Needless to say, the prospects of an upcoming Tory government don’t augur well for the recommended approach. But the fact that it is being broached at all is nothing short of a sea change in U.K. defense circles. Given Poland’s recent recommitment to EU defense, this could represent the beginnings of a strengthened middle in support of further capacity-building.

It will be very interesting, then, to see the response from Paris. One very immediate signal France could send would be to deep-six the sale of a Mistral amphibious assault vessel to Russia. The deal is only in the exploratory stages, but it has already raised the hackles of various U.S. observers, and would only confirm Poland and the U.K.’s distrust of France’s approach to Russia.

Interestingly, in the context of the previous post on Australia, what the U.K. and France enjoy that the Aussies don’t is the EU as an alternative force mulitplier to the U.S. security relationship and NATO. A bit more on that, in the context of the EU-U.S. summit contretemps later.

Update: You can read the report, which the Ministry of Defense just released, here (.pdf).