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Mr. Redwood: Will the hon. Gentleman explain why he thinks that a threat to Hungary should be taken seriously and that we should offer it the protection of a security guarantee, whereas a threat to Lithuania should not be similarly treated?

Mr. Lloyd: The tone of my comments in this debate has been to emphasise that NATO enlargement is a component of the European peace structure, but that it is no longer the only or even the central part of that structure. We should realise that Russia would have very different reactions to the inclusion in NATO of Hungary, for example, and of the Baltic states. The forthcoming Helsinki summit between Presidents Yeltsin and Clinton will be of paramount importance in ensuring a proper dialogue so that NATO forces can allay Russia's fears.

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I endorse the article by Madeleine Albright in The Economist, which was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood). She said:

She made it clear, and we endorse the view, that NATO's position must be to include Russia in the closest possible dialogue. It is not a matter of NATO versus Russia, as that is an outmoded part of the European framework. Such a framework was relevant in the cold war era, but it is not relevant in the current era. Russian participation must be central--not as a bolt-on extra, but as an essential player--in the NATO-Russian council and in NATO's overall planning structure. NATO should make permanent Russia's role within NATO headquarters. I believe that that is inevitable. We should also ensure that the charter--although we may quibble over its exact legal status--establishes clear principles by which consultation and participation will occur between NATO and the Russians.

Although I do not think that we can give any permanent guarantee, in practice the idea of nuclear deployments on the territories of potential new NATO states is unrealistic. After next year, the only land-based nuclear weapons will be those of the French and will be on French soil. I do not think that it is realistic to talk about siting nuclear weapons in Hungary, Poland, Slovenia or the Czech Republic. It is also unlikely that NATO troops will be permanently stationed in those states, although it must be said that NATO troops have recently been through--among other places--Hungary, when they were on their way to Bosnia. British troops have also engaged in exercises in Poland with Polish troops. Therefore, the mere presence of NATO troops need not concern the Russians.

We should go beyond the agenda of NATO enlargement and examine the agenda of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. At the December 1996 Lisbon summit, the Russians made clear the importance with which they regard the OSCE as a part of the overall security apparatus.

We should also consider a proper arms control agenda. I welcome Madeleine Albright's comments in The Economist on that aspect. We should first examine carefully the need to renegotiate the conventional forces in Europe treaty and consider lower levels of troop involvement across Europe. We must also realise that we can both achieve lower troop levels and provide mechanisms whereby long-term stability and transparency become part of the troop deployment issue.

A challenge for the British Government is to examine the role of nuclear weapons and the possibility of a third round of strategic arms reduction talks. The alternative would be to play on the concern expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House that Russia's fears could lead to a very different climate in Moscow and throughout Russia. For instance, the Russians could both refuse to ratify the current CFE treaty--in its current terms, that is quite likely--and begin a non-ratification process over START 2. The process could go into reverse. None of those consequences is necessary if enlargement is handled well by NATO and by the Russians.

If NATO is considering--realistically, I think that it is--including Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, those inclusions of themselves will not pose a threat to Russia. We cannot allow a Russian veto over

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that type of NATO expansion, but we must ensure that we take proper account of Russia's legitimate fears. NATO enlargement would then be simply one part of a process to enhance overall security across Europe. Russia's role and position could be greatly enhanced if the Russians were to engage in the dialogue in which we wish to engage them.

10.49 am

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Sir Nicholas Bonsor): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North Tayside (Mr. Walker) on bringing up this extremely important subject. It is clearly time that the House debated the expansion of NATO and I am pleased to have an opportunity to make some short comments on the subject.

Before dealing with the specific points raised by hon. Members on both sides, I should like to make some general comments on enlargement. Why should we enlarge? With the greatest respect, my hon. Friend the Member for North Tayside put the question the wrong way round. I see no way in which we could not enlarge NATO. I do not believe that it would be right for us in the west to deny the countries of central Europe the right to join an organisation which, had they not been under the boot of Soviet oppression for so many years, they would unquestionably have joined at the outset. We cannot deny them a guarantee for their security that they desire and desperately need. They have all been subjected to the traumas of war, as my hon. Friend so admirably said, and they are fearful of being so condemned again. NATO can offer a valuable cover for them; it is the best assurance for peace in that region, as it has been in ours since its foundation 50 years ago.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Tayside rightly stressed that the importance of NATO is not only military, but political. It offers an opportunity to the countries of central Europe to expand their security, stability and prosperity. We can already see signs of the benefits of the proposed NATO enlargement. Great efforts are being made in all 12 aspirant countries to establish democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They are also trying to deal with the border disputes that many of them have had in the past. There have been great successes on that: Hungary and Romania have dealt with their dispute; Romania and Ukraine are in the process of sorting out theirs; and in many other instances, some of which have been mentioned today, the difficulties are being resolved. The pressure of the potential expansion of NATO has been effective in ensuring that efforts are made to resolve disputes.

Efforts are also being made to bring the armed forces of those 12 countries under full democratic control with transparency in defence planning. I do not believe that that would be the case were it not for the prospect of joining NATO as a result.

In the short time available, I will deal with some of the specific points that have been raised. My hon. Friend the Member for North Tayside said that he did not think that military alliances or treaties were the way to establish peace. He preferred trade. I agree that the establishment of free trade internationally is a guarantor of peace and one way in which we can try to get rid of poverty and the rivalry between countries that is so often the cause of excessive nationalism, leading to war. However, as my

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hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) rightly said, trade is not adequate, any more than democracy is, in itself, adequate. Military strength and the military alliances necessary to create that strength are a vital third pillar for the establishment of lasting peace.

I understand entirely the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for North Tayside about what happened in Poland and our having to go to war in 1939, but it is wrong to draw the conclusion that he appears to draw that we should not have had a treaty with Poland in 1939. That would not have resulted in peace. The apparent weakness of the allies and the fact that Hitler did not believe that we would go to war over Poland caused the war, not the treaty, in which we made a guarantee that we ultimately honoured.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) mentioned several points--some of which I have already covered--and focused particularly on cost. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) that the cost is more likely to be in the $35 billion bracket than the $125 billion bracket. However, that is in the hands of NATO and it has not yet resolved how to go ahead. We shall have to watch the cost of expansion closely.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) asked five questions, which I shall try to deal with briefly. What will the Russian reaction be? Mr. Primakov's many talks with my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and with Mr. Solana and others lead me to believe that Russia will accept a limited and reasoned expansion of NATO in the first wave. Although there will be some rhetoric against it, I do not believe that there is genuine hostility to that reality, which I think that Russia accepts. However, there is genuine and understandable fear among the Russian people, who have been brought up on years of Stalinist propaganda to believe that NATO is an aggressive potential enemy. We must move with great care to ensure that those fears are assuaged and that the Russian people understand that NATO is no threat to Russia and is never intended to be so.

My right hon. Friend asked whether the applicant countries had stable frontiers. I agree that that is a primary criterion on which we shall have to decide whether any aspirant country is allowed to join. I have said that one of the advantages that we have reaped so far is that many countries are desperately trying to solve their frontier disputes so that they can join.

My right hon. Friend also asked what contribution the new members will make. That is another very important point. We make it clear to all the countries that wish to join that this is not a one-way street. There is no free guarantee given by existing NATO members. The new countries will be asked and expected to play a full role in NATO operations, and particularly peace-keeping operations. We expect them to increase defence

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expenditure when necessary, to bring their armed forces up to the level of NATO armed forces and to ensure interoperability. We are making great progress on all those fronts. The many joint exercises, such as Ulan Eagle with Poland last year, show how we are moving forward on that. The value of potential NATO membership is already becoming evident.

Can we defend the applicant countries? I agree with my right hon. Friend that that is a vital criterion. We must ensure that that is a realistic and feasible guarantee for every country that we allow to join NATO. We must not give a guarantee that we cannot honour. Nothing would weaken NATO more. We shall have to examine that closely.

I disagree with my right hon. Friend's comment that we should have an ultimate aim of a specific number of new NATO members. We must have a specific long-term aim to establish freedom and peace throughout Europe. That aim has never been crystallised in the past. NATO has expanded three times and I believe that it will expand again on a number of occasions. NATO is evolving continually--it is not a static finality--and we should recognise that fact in the way in which we take the matter ahead.

Many other points have been raised, and I am sorry that I do not have time to answer them all. We must expand NATO, taking great care not to antagonise Russia or to make it unnecessarily fearful. We must have a partnership with Russia and with the Ukraine reflecting their different, but equally important, concerns about their position after the first step of NATO expansion. Those processes should go ahead in parallel, and all the NATO countries are working hard on that.

We must develop other security alliances which overlap NATO. It important not to go back to a cast iron dividing line between east and west, with NATO on one side and hostile or fearful countries on the other. We must consider the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the "Partnership for Peace" programme, the status of the Western European Union and the council of Baltic sea states, all of which can play a valuable role in ensuring that NATO is not seen as the only security guarantee, with Russia and her allies outside it and some countries that we cannot allow in standing between the two blocs. That must not happen again. The only way to ensure that it does not is by enhancing and building up other security arrangements so that the dividing line is blurred until it disappears.

The American proposal that we should form an Atlantic partnership council for "Partnership for Peace" members would be a useful step forward. We must bring in Russia and the Ukraine and make sure that the Baltic states do not feel insecure. We must expand NATO cautiously, as the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) said, and make sure that there is no final status whereby some countries are left out. That is extremely important.

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