Defence Forces should increase co-operation with Nato, commission told

Government’s Commission on Defence is examining the future of the Defence Forces

The engagement of the Defence Forces with the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) through Partnership for Peace (PfP) will become increasingly important, the Department of Foreign Affairs has said.

In a submission to the Government's Commission on Defence, the department said regional bodies, including the EU, Nato and the Organisation for Security Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) will take on more responsibilities.

Co-operation under PfP with Nato “can ensure that the Defence Forces has the relevant capability and the necessary force protection elements to participate in increasingly demanding overseas missions”, it went on.

Calling for “increased specialised capabilities within the Defence Forces”, the department said these should include rapidly deployable units, bomb disposal teams, and more experts in peacekeeping and emerging military technologies.

It would also support targeted Defence Forces secondments to foreign and security policy posts in the United Nations, the EU and Nato, it told the commission, which is examining the future of the Defence Forces.

Defence attaches

Backing the appointment of defence attaches, too, the department said they should “naturally focus” on countries where the State “wishes to expand its military-to-military contacts and co-operation”.

In addition, they could be appointed to posts "in regions where Ireland is seeking to expand its global footprint and where co-operation could be built" with regional organisations needing peacekeeping training.

The appointment of defence attaches and the choices made by the Government about their location would represent “a significant foreign policy development”, the department told the commission.

Emphasising the importance of regional bodies, it said the United Nations is becoming more reliant on them to lead peace operations, adding that there has been no new UN Security Council-approved mission since 2014.

“The engagement of the Defence Forces with the EU, Nato, through Partnership for Peace and the OSCE will become increasingly important as regional organisations continue to take on more responsibilities,” it went on.

Such co-operation enhances “the capacities, expertise and international networks of the defence organisation” and supports Ireland’s belief in a rules-based international order.

Key element

Ireland’s participation in the EU common security and defence policy (CSDP) is a key element in this policy and is “likely to lead to an increase in the level of ambition” for such co-operation.

Urging more co-operation between the Defence Forces and other State bodies, the department said the Defence Forces should "prioritise building structures and resources – both human and technical – to work on a more closely integrated cross-Government basis, including through the National Security Analysis Centre (NSAC), in support of the whole-of-government approach to address the security and defence challenges posed by emerging and evolving cyber and hybrid threats".

Meanwhile, it said the Government is scaling up investment in Ireland’s influence on issues such as global governance, human rights, humanitarian assistance, security, health, climate action and economic recovery.

The State's "growing strategic engagement" on international peace and security will require ongoing support through progressive, forward-looking co-ordination between Foreign Affairs, the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces, it said.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent