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Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): The figure of £110 million over 10 years is called into question in the

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Select Committee report. Has the Ministry of Defence examined the £110 million projection? If so, are the Government prepared to stand by it?

Mr. Cook: I assure the hon. Gentleman that any figure given by a Cabinet Minister to the House is one which the Government are prepared to stand by. There is a memorandum in the Library--hon. Members are welcome to consult it--which compares our estimates of the cost with those made by others.

Mr. Dalyell: Two years ago, The New York Times reported that the congressional budget office had estimated that the price tag might be as high as $125 billion over 15 years. The American estimates seem very different from the one that my right hon. Friend has given the House. Is he saying that the American estimates are baloney?

Mr. Cook: The agreed NATO costs, which embrace the Americans' support, is a total of $1.5 billion, of which the UK share is the £110 million to which I have referred. I invite my hon. Friend to consult the papers in the Library, which go into some detail about why we believe in the figures and why we believe that other estimates are exaggerated.

I have explained the costs to the House, and I welcome the interest of hon. Members in making sure that it is convinced of the figures. However, it is broadly agreed that the cost of enlargement will not be great, to either existing or new members. I hope that the House will agree, without the necessity to consult the Library, that the rewards of a successful enlargement will be great for both existing and new members.

The reward is a NATO that unites, rather than divides, our continent. Enlargement of NATO is a logical response to the end of the cold war and the collapse of the iron curtain. I therefore hope that the whole House will join today in offering a warm welcome to our new partners in the Atlantic alliance.

10.2 am

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon): I agree with much of what the Foreign Secretary said, but I am slightly more cautious than he is. He made a diplomat's speech, but there are military considerations in the further expansion of NATO which I wish to touch on in rather more detail than he did.

Before I go on, I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to the House, as I cannot stay to the end of the debate. I have already apologised to the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence. I also wish to say to the Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), that, in preparing for the debate, I found the Committee's report extraordinarily valuable and comprehensive. We all owe him a debt of gratitude.

Like the Foreign Secretary, I wish to spend a moment on the background. NATO was formed as a defensive alliance nearly 50 years ago, in response to a clear military threat from the Soviet Union and its allies. It is worth reminding ourselves that it is and was a collective defence organisation with a commitment to mutual military defence. The Foreign Secretary referred to

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article 5. That is a serious commitment for one state to make--that it will consider the invasion of another state or a threat to its territory as a threat to itself.

As a result of that commitment, we developed in NATO a highly integrated military command structure, and we committed troops and equipment in Germany to resist any attack. That was a commitment to the forward defence of the whole NATO area, and it has been an incredibly successful venture. By any standards, the result of the cold war has been victory for the west.

That victory poses problems and challenges about the identity and purpose of NATO, which we must address. The Madrid summit last year contained many items in its further programme of activity, but I wish to mentioned four: the admission of the three new states, on which the Foreign Secretary spent time and which we wholly support; NATO's commitment to an open-door policy; the enhancement of the programme for peace and the creation of the European-Atlantic partnership council; and the instruction that NATO staff should examine the strategic concept of NATO and come back to the conference next year to carry the discussion forward.

The purpose of NATO after the end of the cold war is the big question that ought to be addressed before we consider how far NATO's expansion might go. The old objective was substantial and involved the possibility of total war, including the use of nuclear weapons. Those threats have largely disappeared, and all member states of NATO have significantly reduced defence spending as a result.

The future role of NATO must be to defend the vital interests of NATO members. That extends from resisting external attack on NATO territory--improbable though that currently seems--to intervention in non-NATO regional disputes and to defending NATO interests outside the NATO area.

The immediate threat of a Russian attack has considerably diminished, but territorial threats remain,at least potentially--the poverty and Islamic fundamentalism of the Maghreb countries in north Africa; rogue states, such as Libya and Algeria, with biological and chemical weapons capability and, in some cases, the possibility of nuclear weapons; and potential instability in Russia, Ukraine and other countries in the region.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): The hon. Gentleman has mentioned nuclear weapons twice in the last few moments, and he emphasised earlier the importance of the security guarantee to be extended under article 5 to all members, including new members. That security guarantee includes, if necessary, the use of nuclear weapons, which tends to underline the solemnity of the guarantee and the extent to which we should appreciate what we are to extend.

Mr. Maples: The hon. and learned Gentleman makes his point very well, and I agree. We are extending our military umbrella, which includes the availability of nuclear weapons from the United States, France and ourselves, to the defence of those other countries. That throws into stark relief the extent of the commitment we are making.

Mr. Dalyell: How does the hon. Gentleman reply to the view of Dr. Arbatov that the Russians have admitted

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that the parlous condition of their conventional forces makes them more reliant on their nuclear weapons? Does not that have serious consequences for East-West tensions?

Mr. Maples: I wanted to look later at the problem from the Russians' point of view. It may be the fault of the lawyer in me that I like to look at things from the other side, but it is probably a virtue in a diplomat as well--to try to see things from a different point of view.

Mr. Corbyn: I thought the hon. Gentleman was a politician.

Mr. Maples: I am a lapsed lawyer, I am afraid.

It is worth reminding ourselves that there are many heavily armed states with modern weapons outside NATO--40 have modern aircraft, 20 have ballistic missiles, 12 have chemical and biological capability and some, as we know, are developing nuclear capability as well. Threats to our interests remain--for example, the instability and war in the former Yugoslavia, the possibility of a spillover into south-eastern Europe from middle east disputes, and the need to protect commercial interests, as we saw in the Gulf recently.

Such threats--which are unforeseen precisely because no one can predict what they will be--will arise. The possibility of a resurgent Russia may be remote, but we should take it seriously. When we consider the conflicts in which we have been involved over the past 16 or 17 years, we should remember that the Foreign Office did not predict the Falklands conflict or the Gulf war, so the chances that the next conflict will be predicted are remote.

An advantageous feature of NATO is that it has made war between its member states unthinkable. Without its military structure and the integrated military command, that may change, which would be a dangerous departure.

Mr. Corbyn: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the whole thrust of NATO expansion--right up to the borders of Russia and down through south-east Europe--may encourage increased militarism in the countries that it borders? The military in those countries will be encouraged to demand increased resources at the expense of an often very deprived population. Should we not demilitarise Europe rather than increase militarisation on its borders?

Mr. Maples: I shall deal later with how expansion appears, and what the consequences may be, in Russia and some of the other countries of the former Soviet Union. I do not agree that our response should be to demilitarise NATO; I have enumerated some of the threats that we may have to meet with military force.

We must decide what kind of NATO we want--do we want a hard NATO or a soft NATO? We clearly need it to have a crisis management, peacekeeping function, as has been shown over the past few years. As the Foreign Secretary said, we need to foster understanding and good relations with the countries of the former Warsaw pact and the former Soviet Union.

The three successful applicant countries--and, indeed, the other applicant countries--want to join NATO because of the territorial security guarantee. They do not

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want to join it because they regard it as a nice western political club; they want the security guarantee that article 5 of the NATO treaty will give them.

It would be foolish to disband NATO's integrated military command structure, which gives it the capability to handle such military threats; if we did, we might have to put it together again at rather short notice. We should remember that, in the Gulf war, the NATO command structure enabled the British and the Americans to work closely together. Indeed, the French found it difficult to work with their allies; as a result, they played a somewhat peripheral role.

NATO keeps the United States committed to European defence and involved in any military operations, which I regard as vital. We should ask whether the United States would be involved in Bosnia if NATO did not have a hard military element and whether, without the United States, we would be involved in Bosnia. Europe has been reluctant to become involved in such disputes without the support of the United States--most of NATO's hard dimension depends on the United Kingdom and the United States.

NATO is not a political club; it is a military alliance. Membership is not a reward for good behaviour; it is about mutual military defence and the efficiency and rapidity of response. We are all aware of the letter that was sent to the Prime Minister in May by 23, I think, distinguished military and diplomatic figures, who referred to the

We must ensure that NATO retains those characteristics.

Any new members must be defendable without huge extra expense or risks to the existing members, and they must make a real military contribution. We must ask some difficult questions. Are we prepared to go to war to defend their territory under article 5 of the NATO treaty? How practical would it be for NATO to defend the Baltic states? NATO obligations could lead to a general war in Europe. Are we prepared to allow that to happen for the sake of the defence of some of the applicant countries? We must consider the military commitments very carefully.

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