Non-offensive Defence [NoD] offers an alternative approach to military security as a stage in the peaceful reconstruction of international relations. NoD is based on the assumption that countries have a legitimate right to protect themselves but at a much-reduced level of military preparations and configured in such a way that they offer no offensive threat to others.
Programmes for short-range anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons should be supported for UN peacekeeping and territorial defence and Trident submarines would be dry-docked while a comprehensive nuclear disarmament treaty is negotiated.
The UK would have a policy of combined territorial defence and a contribution to a EU corps dedicated to peacekeeping operations, as the first stage in the replacement of Nato with a European security system based on a strengthened OSCE.
Tables in the report indicate that under NoD there would be scope for the UK to reduce the armed forces by half and to make large savings on arms spending by 2010 as the major offensive systems are cancelled and where forces are reconfigured for territorial defence and the specialist contributions to the EU corps.
Up to 2005/6 the sums saved would still be relatively modest taking account of programmes already in the pipeline and various industry compensation claims for cancellations or reductions. But the benefits would begin to accrue with savings of 25-30% in the five-year period up to 2010/11 and an annual defence budget in that year of approximately 40% less than 2005/6. By 2010 the armed forces would be cut by nearly a half, all major offensive systems stripped out of the procurement cycle and overall military spending down by at least a third and up to 40%.
There would obviously be strong domestic opposition from powerful vested interests, but this can be overcome, as demonstrated in New Zealand, by an informed and inclusive debate about the real security needs of the country and how best the UK can play a positive role in the international system.
The evolution of a new European security framework is also a process that would involve considerable political and diplomatic effort in order to succeed. But just as the establishment of the UN was a response to the urgent need for peaceful reconstruction at the end of World War Two, new thinking is desperately needed on a security architecture to end the spectre of war in the 21st century. NoD can play an important role as a first step away from the failed system of collective security and towards progress on global disarmament and common security.