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Column 395

Clapham, Michael

Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)

Clelland, David

Connarty, Michael

Corbyn, Jeremy

Corston, Ms Jean

Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Gordon, Mildred

Graham, Thomas

Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)

Gunnell, John

Heppell, John

Home Robertson, John

Hood, Jimmy

Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)

Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)

Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)

Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)

Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)

Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)

Lewis, Terry

Livingstone, Ken

Loyden, Eddie

McAllion, John

Macdonald, Calum

Madden, Max

Mahon, Alice

Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)

Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)

Pickthall, Colin

Sedgemore, Brian

Simpson, Alan

Skinner, Dennis

Watts, John

Wise, Audrey

Wray, Jimmy

Tellers for the Noes :

Mr. Neil Gerrard and

Mr. Andrew Bennett.

Question accordingly agreed to .

Bill read the Third time, and passed .

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Russia and Neighbouring States

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Lightbown.]

2.43 am

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire) : Even at this late hour, and after two very late evenings, I welcome the opportunity to raise the subject of the Government's policy towards Russia.

Before I became a Member of Parliament, I was deputy chairman of a manufacturing and broadcasting group, and had the opportunity to work and live in many parts of the world. It was my privilege to count the Government of the former Soviet Union as one of my clients, which enabled me make many visits to that vast and enigmatic country. I had the exciting opportunity to see the birth of a new nation at close hand, and on one occasion even became involved in a massive demonstration in Red square in the dying days of the Gorbachev era. I was also able to play a small part in the training of Radio Moscow news personnel in western news gathering techniques and editorial policy.

But no one--neither I nor my Russia friends, many of whom I have had the opportunity of entertaining here at the Palace of Westminster since my election--could have imagined the changes which have taken place during the past few years. The immediate aftermath of the failed August coup gave the impression that the new rulers of Soviet Russia were intoxicated with the liberalising ideal.

While Yeltsin banned the communist party, the statue of the hated Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the first communist secret police, was being pulled down in the Lubyanka square. Shortly afterwards, a thorough reform of the KGB was announced by its newly appointed head Vadim Bakatin.

A new dawn had at last arrived--or so it seemed. A couple of years after the coup, we witnessed the rise of Vladimir Wolfavitch Zhirinovsky. Hardliners have again been elected to the Russian Parliament, the Russian reform programmes have stalled, and KGB spies have been unearthed in America. Clear examples of Russian meddling have been exposed in the near abroad.

As Professor Martin Malia argued in an essay in 1989, Russia is caught between two worlds : an old world which refuses to die and a new one which is too weak to be born. Is it any wonder that the famous organ Pravda stated on the dissolution of the old Soviet Union :

"Some joyfully exclaim : Finita la comedia! Others are heaping their hands on their heads and ask what will be" ?

I welcome the opportunity in this debate to try to answer that question. In doing so, I intend first to comment on the unstable and dangerous political situation in Russia ; secondly to examine Russian intervention in the near abroad ; and finally, to offer proposals as to what the Government and the west can do to help ensure that the post-Soviet union moves progressively forward.

First, the current position. In 1990, Solzhenitsyn declared : "Time has finally run out for communism, but its concrete edifice has not yet crumbled. May we not be crushed beneath the rubble instead of gaining liberty."

Sadly, there are clear signs that the rubble is increasing. The election that took place on 12 December 1993, instead of ushering through a new era of democratic politicians, brought about the emergence of sovereign communism or

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communo-patriotism, as Zhirinovsky's misnamed Liberal Democratic party and other pro-communists gained 40 per cent. of the seats in the state duma.

The pro-reform forces won just 35 per cent. of seats in the lower chamber of Parliament. While the forces of darkness gained the upper hand in the Parliament, the forces of reaction took hold of the reins of power in government. Reformers like Prime Minister Yigal Gaidar and Finance Minister Boris Fydorov were usurped by grey men in wide lapels from the military- industrial complex. Those included men from the Brezhnev and Gorbachev era, such as Gerashenko as head of the central bank and Alexander Zaveryukha in charge of agriculture. The prospects for economic reform look bleak when the head of the central bank is beholden to the military-industrial lobby. The former western economic adviser to Yeltsin, Jeffrey Sachs, described Gerashenko as "the worst central bank Governor in history."

Is it any wonder that genuine economic reform in Russia has faltered ? Is it a surprise that the talk in Moscow is not of democracy and liberalisation, but of coups, President Yeltsin's ill health and Russia's impending slide towards dictatorship ? What are we going to do to stop that slide ? What can we do ? Before coming to any conclusions, we must also consider the continued flourishing of the Russian intelligence services and the strength of its military forces. As we cut back on our defence budget, we would do well to remember the maxim :

"The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."

Russia has continued to developed weapons of germ warfare at special laboratories--known as the Biopreparat project--in defiance of international agreements. In late 1992, a Russian defector told the Central Intelligence Agency that, despite Yeltsin's claims, Russian researches into and development of new strains of genetically engineered super-weapons were continuing apace.

As James Adams wrote in The Sunday Times on 27 March 1994, a secret new facility is being built in St Petersburg. Far from the Biopreparat biological warfare programme being shut down, it has undergone considerable modernisation. When we give financial aid to Russia, should we not first consider how much money is being spent on such programmes ?

Can my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister confirm the report in The Spectator of 23 January 1993 that the Foreign Secretary and the former United States Secretary of State, Mr. Lawrence Eagleburger, wrote a letter on 24 August 1992 to Andrei Kozyrev, stating :

"We are very concerned that some aspects of the offensive biological warfare programme, which President Yeltsin acknowledged as having existed and which he banned in April, are in fact being continued" ?

Since that letter, far from any scaling down of that research, Russian scientists have been put on trial as recently as February this year for revealing a "state secret" in the Moscow News about a lethal new chemical weapon called Novichok.

What are we to make of the revival of the activities of the Russian intelligence services ? Last November, Michael Smith--an electronics engineer--was jailed for 25 years on three charges of spying for Russia, including giving Russian intelligence notes about the star wars project. When speaking for the prosecution, our Solicitor-General said :

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"The political situation in Russia was, and still is, unstable and Russia cannot be ruled out as a potential future enemy."

In the United States too the CIA has been rocked to the seams by one of the worst spying breaches in history.

Soviet and anti-democratic revivalists are sadly still on the march, and while some progress is being made towards reform, for many people in the former Soviet Union, the end of the cold war has not yet thawed much of the political system. Cold thaw politics must not be allowed to evolve into a cold peace.

What about Russian activities in the near abroad ? The Government should note with increasing concern the actions of Russia in the former Soviet republics. Do we want a genuine commonwealth of independent states, or are we content to sit by and see a new Soviet Union mark 2 emerging--a new Russian empire in which the republics are mere satellites of the Kremlin once again ?

Recent months have witnessed a resurgent Russia, intent on ensuring that the republics remain in Russia's sphere of influence. Russian troops seem intent on staying in Estonia and Latvia. In other republics, such as Georgia, Moscow has established virtual protectorates, signing so-called treaties of "friendship, good neighbourliness and co-operation." The treaties allow the Russian army to establish three military bases in Georgia.

In other republics, such as Azerbaijan and Belarus, by engineering local coups, Moscow has made certain that democratically elected presidents are replaced by leaders sympathetic to Moscow. That is why former Politburo member and ally of Brezhnev, Geidar Aliev, now rules Azerbaijan, and why the reformer Stanislav Shushkevich was replaced by a former senior Soviet policeman, Mecheslav Grib.

In the Ukraine, Russia seems intent on stirring up civil war by encouraging and supporting pro-Russia candidates.

Will the west stand by as Russia attempts to regain its old colonial empire ? As the famous historian Richard Pipes has remarked,

"One can understand Russia's resistance to international forces operating on what had hitherto been her domain ... But by what right does Moscow assert the privilege of intervening in neighbouring countries whose sovereignty it recognises ?"

Pipes makes an important point here. Why should the Russian army be allowed to intervene in sovereign states like Moldavia ?

So I come to my third and final point : what can be done ? What should be Government policy towards Russia ? Churchill said that Russia

"is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma".

Yet there are some things that the Government, together with other countries in the west, can do to persuade Russia to embark on a genuine programme of reform and liberalisation.

Schemes like the know-how fund are excellent and should be expanded. It is a shame that Members of the European Parliament have frozen half the European Union's TACIS budget. I very much welcome the excellent activities of the all-party group the Future of Europe Trust. These should be supported every step of the way.

We need to link aid more to the behaviour of Russia in the near abroad. We have to be careful that Russian aid does not allow the Russian Government to evade hard economic policies such as the cutting of subsidies. Money should be more specifically targeted and ring-fenced for the purpose for which it is intended--for education, for training and for clearing up the environment, and so on. As

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George Soros recommends, aid should be given in the form of hard currency, and should go directly to the people, by- passing Parliament.

The successful reforms carried out by the governor of Nizhy Novgorod should be examined closely by the west as a model of successful reform. The governor of the region, Boris Nemtsov, has achieved miracles in his economic reforms, and should be encouraged in every way possible. We should encourage the development of modern politics even more than we do already. We should actively encourage democratic political groups to present clear and cogent proposals for reform and end their internal divisions.

A vigorous coalition of pro-democracy forces would present a real threat-- as it did during the 1991 August coup--to the forces of reaction. Such a coalition, with a sensible programme of reform, would gain respect and support from western nations. In turn, this would bolster and encourage the granting of aid to help smooth the difficulties created by price liberalisation and unemployment. If President Yeltsin is to fulfil the ideas so cogently argued in his memoirs "Against the Grain" he must be persuaded once again to ally himself with the democrats and to move away from the cold embraces of those opposed to reform.

The balance of constructive support with internal interference is a difficult tightrope to tread. We must all be aware of that fact. Mother Russia and her people have a long and heroic history, and we must be ever aware that no citizen of any country, let alone of a super-power, welcomes interference from a foreign power.

Yet, while wishing the Russian Federation and its people godspeed in their long trek to democracy and prosperity, we must be ever alert to prevent that nation's slide into another hell, which could drag the whole world into its inferno. As Milton said in "Paradise Lost",

"Long is the way and hard that out of hell leads up into light". 2.55 am

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg) : This issue is indeed an important one. I congratulate my honFriend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) on the knowledge and learning that he has displayed, and on his understanding of the problems that beset modern Russia. He has illuminated the debate. As the hour is wholly inappropriate for discussion of a matter of such gravity, I propose to be very brief. My hon. Friend focused on three issues--the current position, the near abroad and main pillars of policy. I shall make just a few remarks under each heading.

First, on the current position, my hon. Friend is pessimistic, and there is cause for pessimism. I am less pessimistic than him. I believe that policies of reform are

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still alive. However, if there is not substantial economic progress within the next two years, prospects are pretty bleak.

My hon. Friend went on to discuss the near abroad. Russia has legitimate concerns within the former Soviet Union, but we must never accept that Russia has the right to assert political or military hegemony over the countries of the former Soviet Union. It is essential that we recognise that the countries of the former Soviet Union are independent sovereign states.

That recognition should underpin our policy towards Russian policy in what they refer to as the "near abroad". In so far as Russian forces may be committed within the Commonwealth of Independent States, it is important that those forces are committed either with the genuine consent of the countries where they operate or under proper international mandate and authority--by which I mean either the mandate of the United Nations or the mandate of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, should that body be in a position to grant a mandate.

On the third question--the main pillars of policy that we should adopt--my hon. Friend made a number of sensible suggestions. I agree entirely with the need for technical aid, and I am glad that my hon. Friend was complimentary about the know-how fund.

I believe that encouraging trade--Russia's ability to trade with the west-- is of critical importance. Unless Russia has access to western markets, it will be extraordinarily difficult for it to attract inward investment. Unless it can attract inward investment, the prospects of developing its own indigenous industry so that it matches western standards in terms of quality and design are, again, pretty bleak.

I agree, too, with what my hon. Friend said about financial support. We should be careful about giving financial support because Russia is the proverbial black hole, and if we are underpinning the Russian economy, we must be sure that, for its part, it is fulfilling the programmes established by the International Monetary Fund and the World bank. There is a high degree of conditionality between the two.

Finally, on security, the concept of partnership for

peace--establishing a working partnership or relationship between NATO and the countries of the former Warsaw pact, or former Soviet Union, depending on one's classification for those purposes--is of critical importance. It is central to that issue that NATO and Russia develop a full partnership for peace agreement that covers the whole range of co-operation, joint exercises and strategic discussions, which are essential if Russia is not to feel isolated and somehow excluded from the European security institutions.

I know that I have been brief, and have not done justice to my hon. Friend's speech, but the hour is extremely late, and I have tried to reply to the main points that he made with great eloquence. Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at three minutes past Three o'clock.

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