We need a broad European defence force in the brave new world

John Lloyd rightly identifies the post-Kosovo logic for a separate European defence capability, but argues that this will require renewed growth in arms spending ("Prepare for a brave new world", 19 April). But more money is not the answer to Europe's pathetic military power. EU members already spend two-thirds as much as the United States on defence to deploy perhaps as little as a tenth of the useful capability.Throwing more money at European defence under current arrangements would be to pour good money after bad.

As each nation has taken its peace dividend, the front-line combat units have been markedly reduced. Yet each of these tiny capabilities still requires the full panoply of their own national headquarters, training empires, logistic support structures and operational planning centres. If European nations are to raise the effectiveness of their defence spending, they must be prepared to pool their capabilities and train, operate and support them at the European level. This cannot be achieved overnight, but a number of opportunities will arise within the next five years.

Five nations are procuring exactly the same front-line fighter aircraft. We could have an EU Eurofighter force of 400 with very effective modern weapon systems in place by 2005 if we start planning now. Such a supranational force is not unprecedented. Nato operates its Airborne Early Warning aircraft in just this way. Seven countries are currently seeking to procure a common military transport aircraft. The UK has put aside money for two new aircraft carriers. An EU force of five carriers, with associated support ships, would be far more effective. By starting now with a number of such European force elements, we could build on the experience to develop over, say, 15 years a broad European capability which would match that of the United States.

Tim Garden & John Roper
London SW1

What George Orwell would have thought about the Balkan war (Letters, 9 and 19 April) is probably the least important matter for our consideration. However, I seem to remember him saying the choice between communists and fascists in prewar Germany was like "the choice between rats and rat poison". I think the choice may be even clearer now.

The only long-term solution for Kosovo is an international protectorate: the alternatives are the success of the pogrom against the Kosovars or the complete loss of any rights for Serbs in Kosovo when the majority population eventually returns. Achieving this will require the armed force of an outside third party, which is likely to include Nato. Why can't the appeasing New Statesman realise that sometimes you have to choose the least bad of evils and urge us to reach for the rat poison?

Robert Davis
London NW10

From time to time I have had a run-in with John Pilger. I think he was the first person to draw from me the admission that I "prefer animals to people". Today I am writing to congratulate you on carrying, he on composing, a brilliant piece on US military expansionism and the conformist timidity of the British media (19 April).

If neither the political left nor self-styled "investigative" reporters will intrude on what is going on, what hope is left?

The only exceptions are a few back-bench MPs like Tony Benn, Tam Dalyell and myself, who are heckled and shouted down (just as our predecessors were in 1938) by our parliamentary colleagues.

The Rt Hon Alan Clark MP
House of Commons, London SW1

This article first appeared in the 26 April 1999 issue of the New Statesman, The great Balkan lie