December 14, 2005

An Ill Wind of Change

Joe Katzman's blog Winds of Change has an important post on the future of the F-35 fighter program and specifically some export-control issues that threaten Britain's participation in it -- the US's only first tier partner. This is an important issue and one that I hope we will have further and more detailed posts on here.

However, what I found curious about Katzman's post is that he did not go more deeply into the major underlying problem, which is the US concern over leak of technology or information to undesirable third parties via the increasing integration of Britain's defense industries into pan-European structures and institutions. To put it a different way, we are being asked to rely on Jacques Chirac's guarantee that key US-developed defense technologies will not be sold to China, or for that matter Iran or North Korea. Even a nation that did not have the technology base to replicate an F-35 could use access to such technology to help design countermeasures against it in some future confrontation.

It's Tony Blair's delusion that he can, by clever footwork, continue to straddle the horses of trans-Atlantic cooperation and European integration. But these horses are running straight at a telephone pole and Tony is in the middle. Tecchnology transfer to third parties is that telephone pole, and Tony will soon have to jump one way or the other.

Joe suggests that the Congressmen who are pushing the technology transfer issue cease thinking in purely national terms, and consider the counterbalancing civilizational interests. I would be the first to second that motion -- the Congresscritters in question are not searching for real, long-term solutions, but merely reaching for a patch on the immediate problem. But it would also require the British authorities to "think the unthinkable" -- to reexamine their long-held assumption that they can finesse the conflict between a European integration that drives toward a pan-European control over the destination of technology, and the profitable and useful industrial cooperation with the USA and the very smooth interoperability that it makes possible. By many metrics, the UK has become the second most capable miitary power in the world (although its reach and scope is being compromised by further cutbacks), and that result is entirely bound up with its interoperability with US forces.

The ultimate solution may well be in what I have proposed in my book, an integrated "defense industry community" agreement between the US, the UK, and other nations willing and able to abide by its strict destination rules on thirrd-party transfer. (This would not be restricted to Anglosphere nations, but it's likely that such would be its core.) Within this community, technology transfer and cooperation would be essentially transparent, and mergers would be possible without many of the burdens that today limit and hedge foreign ownership of defense-sensitive companies in the US. Such a community would be a powerful carrot to the UK's high-tech and defense industries. However, it would almost certainly mean the curtailment of some portion of the UK's participation in pan-European mergers and combinations.

A combination of increasing (and largely valid) US concerns over third-party destination controls (fed by Clinton-era blunders in technology-transfer controls to China), and increasingly aggressive EU plans for defense integration, combined with a strategy of triangulation with the US's strategic rivals, is making the UK's position of choice over the past decades increasingly untenable. Blair, or perhaps Prime Minister Brown (or perhaps even Prime Minister Cameron, who needs to be addressing this issue) will soon have to make a choice. Americans should be thinking over a better offer to Britain than a continuation of the status quo, or the status quo minus further restictions. This is a moment for strategic, long-term thinking and an honest view of the real options. So far the only people doing this are the Europeanists, who already understand the choice and are working hard to ensure that Britain is pushed their way. It would be stupid of the US and the UK to let this happen by default.

Thanks to Rand Simberg for the link.

UPDATE: In a private exchange with Joe Katzman we have clarified some issues. Joe is in fact quite aware of the third-party destination issues the US has (and which are covered in the article linked in his post), and also of the short-term-outlook blindness of several key Congressional players. Discussing solutions, he suggested in the short term a bilateral US-UK agreement covering third-party-destination and other key issues, in return for a more workable situation under ITAR. Joe observed:

"There are options for the US that would let it dispense with ITAR below
a given threshold and begin with bilateral agreements for major joint
weapons programs that set out the limits - eventually expanding and
codifying into a more overarching framework. It worked for the Common
Law...."
.

I say, great! Let's do it!

One commentor remarked that the US would need to offer more than defense cooperation to the UK in order to get them to turn away from the EU. That in itself is debatablee (Britain's subjugation to EU regulations costs substantially more than the difference between free trade with Europe, and what tarriffs would be under GATT/WTO maximums, for a start.) Butt it's also worth noting the the US Senate offered the UK a free trade agreement in 2003, which Blair had to turn down because of conflict with EU treaties. Blair could have had anything he asked for in terms of cooperation with the US at that point, but he frittered away the goodwill he earned by pushing transnational agendas (the ICC, for example) that had no hope of passing in Congress.

Posted by James C. Bennett at December 14, 2005 01:19 PM
Comments

Actually, Dr Richard North wrote a very readable and interesting paper for the UK Centre for Policy Studies on that very topic of British procurement from Europe and its effect on transatlantic relations. You can download a copy of the PDF here or check out a piece on DefenseIndustryDaily.Com.

I hope David Cameron can return Britain to true Atlanticism in the coming years. Since much of the stuff outlined in below the radar, the Tories may want to consider blowing the whistle on this one. It not only undermines interoperability, but costs the British public a great deal more.

Posted by: Anton Traversa at December 14, 2005 02:37 PM

If we expect the Brits to accept such an offer we have to make it better than just military cooperation. The EU is offering them a heck of a lot more than that. Now, you can argue that integration with the EU would be more a curse than a blessing, but nonetheless a lot of Brits think it's an Ok idea.

Military cooperation, yes, but also more. The EU is also offering them free movement of labor, an open economy, merger of firms, and more. What are we offering them?

Posted by: Brock at December 14, 2005 02:52 PM

Brock - great point. Interesting thing is that EU lending/regulatory policies aren't too different than that of the IMF or World Bank, but you don't have the same kind of backlash. Difference, of course, is the chance to be a part of something, and that makes all the difference.

Posted by: Anton Traversa at December 14, 2005 02:58 PM

The concerns the republicans in congress have are explained here:

http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/2005/12/uk-warns-usa-over-itar-arms-restrictions/index.php

It is that Brittan doesn't have laws limiting exports of military tech so the US would have no way to know what the UK might do in the future. Even if the uk doesn't give the tech to china, they might concievibley give it to france who might give it to china. The recent consideration of lifting eu export restrictions to china exacerbates this worry.

So why doesn't Britian just get their act together? Blame the us for taking a decade to give a blanket waiver? why hasn't Brittian passed satisfactory laws in the same time?

The British will refuse extradition to the US of terrorists who could get the death penalty so they have to accept the idea that another countries laws affect what can be "exported"!

Posted by: icantthinkofastupidname at December 14, 2005 03:06 PM

As a case in point, consider two recent incidents regarding military technology transfer:

1) Late last month, Madrid and Caracas signed an agreement whereby some two billion dollars of equipment would be trasferred from the former to the latter. This includes transport aircraft made with US technology, to which Washington has strenuously objected. Both the other nations played the "sovereign and autonomous country" card, and since there's no international embargo against Venezuela (unfortunately) there it went.

Spain, of course, is an ally of ours.

2) Also last month, Caracas made noises about selling (or giving, as it might have been) a bunch of F-16s to Havana and replacing them with Chinese or Russian jets.

I don't rememebr what happened to that deal. But it is clear that while Venezuela was a US ally prior to Hugo Chavez, it certainly cannot be considered so any more.

NOTE that 2) above actually happened prior to 1), if it matters to you.

The concerns about technology transfer are very real. In the end game, nothing is iron clad, but honorable governments will at least respect their own laws, and I believe London to be an honorable government even when we are in disagreement.

In an odd sense, this is Britain's end of the EU integration and mobility issue, in almost perfect counterpoint to Turkey's. I claim that one of the main reasons that Turkey won't be granted full EU membership is simply because it shares borders with too many extremely undesireable neighbors. Once a terrorist gets into an EU-Turkey across the Syrian border, for instance, one can charitably assume that they can get all the way to Scotland without difficulty. It also works this way: That without good legal and practical safeguards, once military technology has been shared with London, it is prudent to assume that it can ride all the way to Bulgaria at the very least, possibly Turkey or the Ukraine depending on how various integration talks go.

Posted by: Marcus Vitruvius at December 14, 2005 03:46 PM

Britain has made its choice. It has simply not enunciated it clearly and the U. S. has chosen to listen with its deaf hear. Hyde is just making every one recognize explicitly what has been a fact for some time. Britain's military is going to integrate with Europe not the U. S.

This will likely prove to be a problem for Britain down the road, but it is her decision and not one about which we should enter some bidding contest.

The real tragedy is that ultimately it will affect the intelligence relationship as well.

Posted by: Richard A. Heddlesonr at December 14, 2005 04:17 PM

Richard, this "bidding contest" is not a zero sum game. We could have a win-win agreement with the UK. Nor has "Britain" made a choice. A few bureaucrats have made a choice in the name of Britain, and have lied about it to the people. Given the information and the choice (and given that we offer a sensible win-win proposal, which we are not doing at the moment) I don't think the majority of the British voters would choose the second-rate European option.

Now is not the time for defeatism that plays into the hands of those who do not wish us well.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at December 14, 2005 04:39 PM

"A combination of increasing (and largely valid) US concerns over third-party destination controls (fed by Clinton-era blunders in technology-transfer controls to China),..."

Ah, those weren't blunders, they were intentional. Clinton sold out for a million in campaign contributions, see the American Spectator report.

Posted by: Jabba the Tutt at December 14, 2005 05:15 PM

I certainly don't know what the majority of British voters would chose, nor what they would chose two years later, but they do keep sending Blair back and there is no question that he is a Europhile. Likewise, their procurement is making their military more and more European.

At the end of the day France and Germany are going to tell the UK either you're one of us or you're out. And they will chose to be European.

If there is some win-win alternative, we should put it on the table now, because time is running down.

Having Europe "united" under French and German direction is not an appealing thought. We may be happier having the UK on the inside moderating the continental powers.

And in any event, I'm not sure how much even Britain can afford to keep up with us militarily. There is something to be said for diversification of weapons systems as well as interoperability. Particularly now that there is not one clear mutual enemy. So I don't necessarily view this as a defeat, though if handled poorly, it can be turned into one.

Posted by: Richard A. Heddleson at December 14, 2005 07:25 PM

Richard - "We may be happier having the UK on the inside moderating the continental powers."

There is certainly an advantage to America in having Britain on the inside. But I wonder if the UK can play this role in the long run. It is hard for me to see the EU remaining permanently in its present stage: it will either transform into something more compatible with Anglosphere societies, in which case a moderating UK role shouldn't be needed, or the EU will continue to integrate in ways that transfer more and more authority to Brussels, in which case the influence of the UK will diminish. Unless I underestimate the ability of the EU to remain as it is for a long time, a moment of truth may be coming.

"And in any event, I'm not sure how much even Britain can afford to keep up with us militarily. There is something to be said for diversification of weapons systems as well as interoperability. Particularly now that there is not one clear mutual enemy. So I don't necessarily view this as a defeat, though if handled poorly, it can be turned into one."

This points to a deeper question: the policy consensus in the United Kingdom on the use of force, particularly whether Britain will back the United States if and when America goes to war in new places outside the North Atlantic treaty area. How far Britain tethers itself to America in the future may depend on how closely the two nations see eye to eye in these contingencies. How the United States frames its objectives in using force could be decisive here.

Posted by: David Billington at December 14, 2005 11:57 PM

The "White Man's Burden" theory of British EU membership ("bind your sons to exile in Brussels, send out the most glib ye breed...") has been around for a long time. It's more or less the official line of the US State Department. The problem is, the French and Germans have been reading this stuff all along -- they're ready for it. Every time the UK tries to move the EU in an "Anglo-Saxon" direction, the centralist axis has figured out a way to head them off -- usually with money from the British over-contribution. In the last two elections Europe was the only issue on which the Tories polled as "more trusted" than Labour -- it's just that the electorate rated the whole issue fairly low in their priorities. Voting for Tony didn't mean voting for Europe, it was clear they voted for Tony in spite of Europe. In the trial polls for the Single Currency and European Constitution referenda, both were slated to go down in flames, and the occasional trial poll on withdrawal from the EU outright has had it winning at least a plurality. Whenever it is put to a test Europe has lost.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at December 15, 2005 12:12 AM

Jim,

Every time the UK tries to move the EU in an "Anglo-Saxon" direction, the centralist axis has figured out a way to head them off -- usually with money from the British over-contribution.

Germany is the biggest contributor by far, not Britain, which gets a huge rebate.


Whenever it is put to a test Europe has lost.

A federalist Europe to be sure. Nobody wants that.

That in itself is debatablee (Britain's subjugation to EU regulations costs substantially more than the difference between free trade with Europe, and what tarriffs would be under GATT/WTO maximums, for a start.) Butt it's also worth noting the the US Senate offered the UK a free trade agreement in 2003, which Blair had to turn down because of conflict with EU treaties.

How about a new attempt for a Transatlantic free trade zone. That would be the one thing I'd find preferable to the European Union. The French would
want to veto it again, just as in the 90s, but might not dare to considering the union of 25.

Posted by: Ralf Goergens at December 15, 2005 03:18 AM

Jim - I think it can be argued that British and eastern European membership has helped blunt anti-American ambitions in the EU. The problem is that the strategy of widening rather than deepening has run its course and created new problems of EU governance.

I agree that the British are not going to move closer to Europe. What worries me is the danger that Britain will distance itself from the United States. I agree with you that we need to provide the British with alternatives, and soon, and I especially agree that we need to be thinking in larger and longer-range terms.

Posted by: David Billington at December 15, 2005 03:21 AM

Ralf:

Thanks for the thoughtful points.

Even with the rebate, the UK pays well in excess of the benefits it gains. And as for the German overcontribution (which as you say is the biggest in the EU), I suggest you get back to M. Chirac about the Common Agricultural Policy again (good luck!)

However, I'm in full agreement about a North Atlantic Free Trade Area (or wider). I endorsed the idea in my book and repeatedly in my UPI columns when I was writing them. Particularly, every time I talk to an Eastern European, this is something I point out that Americans, Canadians and Eastern Europeans can push for. (In fact the Poles and other eastern Europeans should be getting this message across to their diaspora communities in the US and Canada. Every time the Polish ambassador speaks to an ethnic group in Chicago or Toronto he should bring this up as something for them to lobby for.)

David, you wrote:

The problem is that the strategy of widening rather than deepening has run its course and created new problems of EU governance.

Ah yes. The trick would be to create something that did not require governance. The EU should be shedding functions, not adding them. The only way to square the circle between expansion of free trade and effective administration of programs is for the EU to become what it was sold to the UK as (but never was), a free trade zone, with a number of cooperative programs on a "variable geometry" or coalition-of-the-willing basis. The EU can't stick in the status quo, it must move forward to a federal state (which has its own and worsening problems) or devolve into something managable.

I agree with you that we need to provide the British with alternatives, and soon, and I especially agree that we need to be thinking in larger and longer-range terms.

Yep, that's what the Anglospherist project is all about.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at December 15, 2005 09:35 AM

James:
I'm unsurprised with the Americans shabby treatment of the Brits. Here in Canada we've experienced something similar with softwood lumber. I'm deeply disappointed with the current administration (but I'm also disgusted by the cheap antiAmericanism of the current federal governing party)
Nevertheless, I'm becoming increasingly offended by the attitude by the American political elite from both parties that treats allies as if they were satellites. As if Britian is America's Bulgaria and Canada, the Cuba.
I don't know where this attitude came from but it's delusional to think America doesn't need allies; or worse, expects suck ups who cheerlead all that America does

Posted by: xavier at December 15, 2005 07:53 PM

Xavier:

It should be clear that this is a two-way street. The British authorities have not taken American concerns about third-party destination controls seriously enough, partly because to do so would put them in conflict with the EU. But it's also true that trade barriers, tariff or non-tariff, act as a type of public good and are subject to capture by narrow domestic lobbies with much to gain from succh barriers, while the anti-barrier interest is diffused through the entire populaton and typically has no lobby. So barriers and disadvantageous trade rules proliferate. One aim of the Anglospherist project is to build a broad movement against such barriers, for the general good.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at December 15, 2005 08:56 PM

Jim:
Thanks for your reponse. OK let,s say that the Brits come around, accept that the Americans have a valid point and take steps to address those anxeities, would the American political elite moderate their position towards the Brits and the F35?
As for the tarrifs, I do hope that Anglosphre can keep free trade alive.
xavier

Posted by: xavier at December 16, 2005 05:05 PM

Joe Katzman's solution of a bilateral US-UK destination control agreement would by its nature resolve the immediate aggravations to the relationship. It wouldn't be perfect, and there would still be issues, but then there would be a framework for resolving the next set of problems.

After all, the US Constitution began with a bilateral negotiation between Virginia and Maryland over use of the Potomac. This worked out so well that they decided to start negotiating about oother issues, and invite the other states to send delegates. Soon it became obvious that a broader framwork was needed to deal with any of these issues, much les all of them. So they sent out a suggestion that the states meet at Philadelphia...

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at December 16, 2005 06:04 PM
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