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10.25 am

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North Tayside (Mr. Walker) on obtaining the debate, which has brought forward some thoughtful and useful contributions from hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber. I invite the House to consider yet another proposition.

Western policy is now predicated on the assumption that there has been discontinuity in Russian long-term strategy, and on a naive willingness to believe that, with the resignation of Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1991, everything changed. In fact, nothing changed, other than the west's incredible abandonment of reasoned analysis and caution.

In the autumn of 1989, the Soviets launched their treaty offensive, as a result of which bilateral treaties were made between Russia and, first of all, Finland in October 1989; Canada; Czechoslovakia; France in February 1992, replacing a treaty signed by President Gorbachev in October 1990; Germany; and Greece in July 1991. Incidentally, the Greek treaty was accompanied by three parallel intergovernmental agreements, one of which covers


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    which probably explains the Greeks' refusal to allow NATO access to Greek airfields at the outset of the Bosnian campaign, notwithstanding the fact that Greece is a full member of NATO. There were bilateral treaties also with Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain, Norway in March 1992 and ourselves in June 1992.

I wish to make three points in relation to these bilateral treaties. First, the dates of the bilateral treaties demonstrate that there was no discontinuity of Soviet foreign policy following the resignation of Gorbachev and the supposed ending of the cold war. Secondly, the text of the treaties follows a similar pattern, which is hardly surprising given that they were all drafted in Moscow. Thirdly, they complete the entrapment of the countries involved in what can be described only as a collective.

It may surprise the House to know, for example, that article 3 of the treaty between the UK and the Russian Federation states:


the contracting parties--


    "affirm that relations between them will be governed in particular by their commitments under the documents of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, including the Helsinki Final Act, the Charter of Paris for a new Europe and the Helsinki Document of 1992."

Time prevents me from attempting to explain the relevance of other treaties such as the Franco-German treaty of 1963, but, from what I have already said, it should be apparent that the Russians have created a veritable spider's web of treaty obligations, which, taken together with the proposed enlargement of NATO, effectively prevents individual nations, in deference to or by dint of the collective thus established, from acting in their own national interest. By definition, a collective can act only in its own interests, not in the interests of its component parts--a fact that is amply demonstrated by the difficulties and frustrations that are experienced as a result of our membership of that other collective, the European Union.

In making up its mind on this crucial issue, the House will want to consider to what extent the protagonists of NATO enlargement have understood, or misunderstood, the dialectic. Has there perhaps been a failure to recognise that the ending of confrontation that was the cold war--the thesis--has given way to the antithesis of apparent peace out of which the synthesis, that is, the collectivisation of western security, is now emerging, and that the synthesis represents everything that the Russians have striven for--the neutralisation of NATO, which is the most successful defence alliance of all time?

In a similar debate on 8 June 1995, I warned the House about the dangers of collectives. That warning is contained in column 367 of the Official Report of that date. I warn the House again and conclude by citing in support of my argument Sergei Rogov, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of the United States and Canada. He writes of


Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will say whether he entirely rejects the words of Mikhail Gorbachev, as reported by Sir William Stephenson, who was formerly Sir Winston Churchill's personal representative and

26 Feb 1997 : Column 270

director of British security co-ordination in the western hemisphere. Addressing the Politburo in November 1987, Gorbachev said:


    "Gentlemen, comrades, do not be concerned about all you hear about glasnost and perestroika and democracy in the coming years. These are intended primarily for outward consumption.


    There will be no significant internal change within the Soviet Union, other than for cosmetic purposes. Our purpose is to disarm the Americans and let them fall asleep".

10.32 am

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury): My hon. Friends are right to say that it is essential to discuss this important matter before the events that are likely to take place in a few months. We should heed the warnings of George Kennan of the United States, whose experience goes back to the last war and who perhaps understands the issues better than anyone.

In 1995 I was privileged to visit the Vladimir region of Russia. I saw prostitutes on the streets with babies, and workers sitting in factories not because they were on strike but because they had not been paid. I also met police officers who had not been paid for several months. The leader of the communist group on Vladimir regional council said to me, "Mr. Brazier, you panicked in the west 10 years ago because of one piffling explosion in a nuclear power station. Imagine what could happen to this country with 40,000 nuclear weapons."

The Russian people feel insecure. They have been invaded four times this century--by Japan, Germany and Poland, and then again by Germany. To the south they face the threat of Islamic fundamentalism and the Chinese are on their border. They are also concerned and confused about Russia itself. In the words of one of my hosts, "How can it be right that we are now asked to produce a passport to visit Aunt Nellie in the Ukraine?" Kiev was once a Russian capital. Indeed, the Cossacks come from there and today the Crimea is the home of the Black sea fleet.

People persist in the politically correct notion that democracy is a buttress against war, but it is wholly untrue. After his military coup, Napoleon was endorsed by the largest popular vote ever given to a French leader and he plunged Europe into war. The German conquest of Belgium in the first world war was overwhelmingly endorsed by the German Parliament and all of Germany's local governments. Hitler came to power through the precarious and unhappy democracy of the Weimar republic.

Three conditions need to be fulfilled to buttress peace. The first is prosperity and, above all, prosperity based on trade between the NATO powers. My hon. Friend the Member for North Tayside (Mr. Walker) spoke about that. Secondly, there must be constitutional depth and stability, which is precisely what is missing from a country whose President had to order tanks to fire on his own Parliament within the past two and a half years. Thirdly, there must be armed strength in those countries which are stable and are currently members of NATO.

Time is short, so I shall not repeat the cogent arguments made by other hon. Members, but I should like to stress three final points. First, if we are not willing to go to war for the extra countries, we should not admit them. Secondly, if we are willing to do that, it means drawing a line to exclude those countries most likely to be the

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victims of a dictator, if one were to arise in Russia or eastern Europe. Thirdly, we must always remember Teddy Roosevelt's dictum:


    "Speak softly and carry a big stick."

Alas, we are in danger of doing the reverse.

Despite the Minister's close interest and the constructive meetings by the Secretary of State for Defence just before Christmas, the expansion of NATO is seen by the Russians as us shouting at them while at the same time throughout NATO, and especially among our European partners, we are steadily involved in whittling away the stick. The priority and the balance are wrong. We must think again--and the American whose words we should heed is George Kennan, not Madeleine Albright.

10.36 am

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford): I shall continue where the. hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) left off by saying that if he is correct, it may be a shame that Madeleine Albright is the Secretary of State in President Clinton's Government because that is the Government with whom we have to deal and not nonagenarian commentators in the wings.

I congratulate the hon. Member for North Tayside (Mr. Walker) on this timely debate. The comments about the need for a more protracted debate were well made and I hope that the Minister will confirm that the matter must return to the House. Certainly, an enlargement of NATO would need the assent of the House and that of legislatures throughout NATO.

Before I rose to speak, my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) said to me that in view of the alliances that have been forged this morning in the House, it might be possible for any kind of alliance to come into being in Europe. Hon. Members agree that over the 50 years since the last war, NATO has been the cornerstone of our defence system. Labour certainly sees NATO in that role. We support, with qualifications, the enlargement of NATO by the inclusion of some other countries. I concede that many of the fears that have been expressed in the debate are real, but they can be dealt with and they simplify the reality of our life in Europe.

None of us can predict the future of Russia or its internal security, but it is a historical fact that more people have died in Europe over the past five years than in the 45 years that preceded them. We must treat seriously the importance of providing a security framework which considers not just the possibility of conflict on the classical post-war scale, but the kind of conflict that broke out in the former Yugoslavia and which has cost not only those who were directly involved but the world so dearly.

Within that framework, it is almost extraordinary to say that we would cede a veto to Russia because of Russian fears of NATO enlargement. Such a veto would prevent us creating the future security architecture of which enlargement is a part. I endorse the words of the Defence Select Committee, which said in its report:


Those comments are central to this debate. We must insist that NATO's future is,

26 Feb 1997 : Column 272


    "if not enhanced, at least not weakened by enlargement".

That is a primary point.

Labour believes that we should also ensure that the enlargement process takes account of Russia's very real fears. Enlargement will be pointless if it is not conducted with the necessary sensitivity and in a manner that breaks down barriers and the sources of division. We should insist that enlargement does not create new barriers. As hon. Members on both sides the House have said, we should create not only a more widely embracing framework to promote peace and stability, but one which includes a clear role for Russia, not simply as a peripheral bolt-on extra but as a central player. We must ensure that Russia is included in the wider European security framework.

I should like to express a few observations on the wider security framework. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have correctly mentioned the need for economic engagement, but such engagement of itself will not be sufficient. All the heady talk of half a dozen years ago about the ability to reconstruct former eastern bloc economies, particularly Russia's, was not matched by an equivalent effort. We should return to that theme and recognise the need in Russia for a relatively successful level of economic progress to underpin its future. We should also examine opening our markets and the roles of the International Monetary Fund and of the European bank for reconstruction and development. Those factors are central to the process.

As I have said, we must consider Russia's very real fears. In 1995 Russia began to talk about a "cold peace", having clearly heard warning bells in relation to expanding NATO in the wrong way. I also do not think that we can take it for granted that the opinion of the Russian Government will automatically be the same as that of the Russian people. We should take that factor into account and be realistic in ensuring that we do not begin a destabilisation process.

Russia obviously regarded the collapse of the Warsaw pact as the collapse of its own defence system. It regarded the dismantling of its air defence system in a similar manner and feels particularly vulnerable to attack from the west. It saw how the conventional forces in Europe treaty of 1990 became hopelessly outdated as the balance of power shifted. With the possibility of NATO expansion, the former allies of the then Soviet Union became firmly locked into the NATO system and Russia saw a massive change in the balance of power.


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