Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Mr. Donald Anderson: Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it is more plausible to argue that although there is no serious threat of North Korea launching a missile at the continental USA, the USA's policies in other theatres, such as defending South Korea, might be imperilled by the possibility of that threat? The threat is therefore indirect.

Mr. Campbell: There has been little consideration of the consequences for other areas if NMD were deployed.

4 May 2000 : Column 346

For example, there has been some suggestion of the considerable unease of the Chinese. Some statements imply that they might feel compelled to increase their limited arsenal of 15 or 20 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

There is also a problem in Europe, which France and Germany have voiced, about the deployment of NMD. They cite the need for improved relations with Russia. They also make the point that some NATO members could become safer than others if some countries deployed NMD. That raises interesting questions about the obligation of mutual defence.

Mr. Duncan Smith: The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned understanding whether a threat existed through intention. He should recognise that the current concept of deterrence also existed in the mid-1980s. When the former Soviet Union deployed its SS20s, we did not say, "That's all right because our nuclear deterrent will deter them." We met the threat at the required level. The missiles may not be tipped by nuclear weapons; the threat may be biological. To be fair to the United States, it has established a domestic preparedness programme, which considers how to deal with the sarin threat on the tube. We have done nothing similar.

Mr. Campbell: The deployment of cruise and Pershing depended on the then central NATO doctrine of flexible response. That involved a staircase of nuclear responses to specific scenarios. The compelling argument for Pershing and cruise was that if we did not deploy against the SS20s, the doctrine of flexible response would have a large hole in it. We could thus have found ourselves moving from nuclear shells to be used on the battlefield--or short-range nuclear weapons, such as Lance or its equivalent--to intercontinental ballistic missiles or Polaris. Without a deployment equivalent to the SS20, the notion of flexible response would have been substantially damaged.

What is in it for the ruling elite in Baghdad if its members fire--or even threaten to fire--a missile at Washington? The consequences for Baghdad would be horrific, and the ruling elite would not be exempt from them. Therefore, as the hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green said, although the notion of threat is firmly rooted in capability, sufficient account has not yet been taken of the fact that threat involves not only capability, but intention.

Mr. Quentin Davies: rose--

Mr. Campbell: I must make progress--I have spoken for rather longer than I had intended--by briefly referring to Kosovo.

NATO did well in Kosovo, but it is an organisation of defence, not diplomacy and nation building. I find myself closer to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) than he might otherwise believe in that we have a strong, compelling obligation to do much more about how Kosovo is being managed and about how the Balkans should be reconstructed. That is why a conference on reconstruction, a Danube co-operation pact or something similar represent the creative thinking that should be happening now. NATO was right to intervene and the

4 May 2000 : Column 347

intervention was effective, but I am less than comfortable with what has happened in Kosovo since the end of the successful military operations.

I cannot remember when Iraq was last debated in the House, yet it remains the United Nations' most high-profile and intransigent headache. Iraq brings into sharp relief the authority under which the United Nations operates and the means at its disposal to enforce its resolutions. Since the Iraqi troops were ejected from Kuwait, the allied powers--to use that slightly dated language--have maintained strong forces in the region. The United States maintains up to 30,000 military personnel in the region at times of tension. The United Kingdom currently has 1,048 men and women servicing the no-fly zones in the north and south of Iraq and nearly 1,900 on the carrier group operating in the Gulf region. Those are substantial commitments.

There are almost daily confrontations between allied aircraft and Iraqi air defence forces. Between last October and April, coalition aircraft have been fired on by surface-to-air missiles or anti-aircraft artillery on more than 200 occasions and, in response, have attacked almost 90 targets related to the Iraqi air defence network.

Mr. Dalyell: Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Campbell: I want to make progress, if I may. Since 1992, the Ministry of Defence--

Mr. Dalyell: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said, understandably, that he did not know when there had last been a debate on Iraq. There have been three Adjournment debates--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. The hon. Gentleman is in clear breach of the rules of the House in trying to make that point in that way.

Mr. Campbell: I freely acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman has been at pains to raise the issue of Iraq--[Interruption.] On as many occasions as he cares to tell us, but there has not been a debate such as this, open to the whole House and taking a day, when Iraq and, especially, the extent of our military commitment have been debated. I mean no disrespect to him.

Since 1992, the MOD has incurred additional expenditure of almost £900 million as a direct result of operations in the Gulf. There have been reports in The Times that the costs to British forces amount to about £4.5 million a month. I confess that I am anxious about what we are doing in the north and the south of Iraq because it could be interpreted as more of an attritional campaign against Iraqi defence systems and military infrastructure than an attempt to fulfil the original purposes of the no-fly zones. Of course, that has had consequences--action and reaction--because there are increasingly credible reports of deals, bargains and other arrangements between Iraqi and Russian weapons manufacturers and importers. Indeed, there are reports that Belarus has recently signed a £56 million deal to upgrade the Iraqi air defence system.

Mr. Donald Anderson: It is a proxy for Russia.

Mr. Campbell: As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, it is a proxy for Russia. If Iraq were to succeed in

4 May 2000 : Column 348

bringing down allied aircraft, that would boost Saddam's internal position and put Iraq firmly back on the domestic agenda in the United States and the United Kingdom in a way in which all of us who are interested in such matters would not necessary find comfortable. I support the policy that we have maintained for 10 years, but I should be wrong not to say that I have had some reservations about it from time to time. The time may not be far distant when we may be forced to review the policy.

The old certainties of mutually assured destruction have been replaced by an environment of proliferation and increasing uncertainty during the past 10 or 15 years. The glue of the NATO alliance--the most successful defensive alliance in history--has largely been loosened by the reduction of the acute nuclear threat. That threat has been replaced by other, more complex challenges that, unfortunately, do not have the same unifying force. All that continues to show the vital importance of the United Kingdom playing a significant, well-founded role in defence in the world, but I cannot resist concluding by saying that we must ensure that we have the resources to do so.

4.6 pm

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) and the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), both of whom speak with a real commitment to defence and enormous knowledge of the subject built up over many years. [Interruption.] I am glad that I have stopped the right hon. Gentleman in his tracks. I was especially interested in what he said about asymmetric defence, which can take many forms.

The terrorist bomb that went off in the City could have crippled our financial capital if it had been a little closer to the centre of operations. I understand that that problem has now been solved, but the incident showed the enormous damage that can be done. For example, computer hackers could have gained access to the United States power system on the east coast, and biological weapons could be fitted into a milk churn. There are all manner of asymmetrical responses to the power at the disposal of the US and its allies. A major debate is taking place in the US on that matter, but, alas, there is little debate in the United Kingdom.

I have found the reversal of roles in defence debates since 1997 interesting. I took part in defence debates in the early 1990s and recall criticisms of the various reviews--"Options for Change" was described as Treasury led--and of the reductions in the Territorial forces. There were debates about heavy lift, the procurement of the C-17s and so on, so I have a feeling that this is where I came in. I was amused that the hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) says that he has converted to the idea of a defence review, although he wants it to be more foreign policy based. However, the right hon. Member for Bridgwater suggested that perhaps the Foreign Office did not have all the answers.

The summit of the knowledge of the Greek philosophers is said to be, "Know thyself." That is not a bad motto to apply to our defence capabilities. To know oneself means, in effect, to know where one has come from, one's history, geography and current position,

4 May 2000 : Column 349

and the challenges that might be faced in future. Our history has clearly given us a unique place in the world. I shall refer to some of the factors that might represent the security and political underpinning of a defence strategy, which the right hon. Gentleman said was lacking from the strategic defence review.

Given our history and our reduced economic status, we have a remarkable position in the world in comparison with, for example, Japan and Germany, which, although far stronger than us economically, do not benefit from the range of international organisations and the range of expertise that are available to us. I am thinking of, for example, the United Nations Security Council, the European Union, the Commonwealth and the G7 membership. A key part of Britain's role over the past 50 years has involved adjusting to the new realities that followed the elation of the victory in the war--a victory, certainly, but a very exhausting victory for this country.

Our special relationship with the United States, which resulted from co-operation during the second world war, is still very much alive. That is true in terms of intelligence, and in another sense. When the chips are down, the United States looks around for allies, and we are always there--as we should be when our interests are coterminous with those of the United States, as they almost invariably are. In any event, the hangover from our wartime co-operation remains, in terms of personnel and institutions.

We have managed to move away from the illusions of the mid-1950s. I recall that at that time, Sir Anthony Eden spoke of the "three circles" involved in United Kingdom foreign policy. He was referring to our relationships with Europe, the United States and the Commonwealth, and to circumstances in which we would never have to make a choice--circumstances in which we would become involved with the Continent only in our traditional role as restorers of a balance of power that might have been destroyed by a Napoleon or a Hitler. That assumption, which was wrong then, is even more wrong now, but it is still flirted with by some who talk in political terms of a North American Free Trade Agreement relationship.

I joined the Foreign Office in 1960, when we were just beginning to readjust to the idea of European union after an attempt to bypass the realities through the formation of the European Free Trade Association. Following the withdrawal east of Suez, we had to adjust our commitments to the resources that we were prepared to make available. It is possible that we were able to fulfil an independent role in certain areas during the 1980s. We did so successfully during the Falklands operation, but we would not be able to mount a similar operation now. Now, given that Hong Kong is part of the People's Republic of China, with the Falklands assured and a democratic Argentina, only through alliances will we be able to play a defence role. That was recognised in the strategic defence review.


Next Section

IndexHome Page