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Mr. Duncan Smith: The right hon. and learned Gentleman and I were both in Sierra Leone in July. Does he accept that, for whatever reason, the UN lacked the determination to take on the rebels and push them back from the areas that they held? That is why the country remains so destabilised and why the vacuum that is created tends to suck in British involvement. If the UN had such determination, that might lead to a quicker solution and put the Government of Sierra Leone into a stronger position.
Mr. Campbell: I have a great deal of sympathy for that view. The hon. Gentleman may recall that it was explained to us that the trained forces of the Government were to be responsible for taking ground and that the UN should follow them and hold that ground. That suggests that one cannot draw an artificial distinction between training a sufficient number of suitably competent Government forces and the UN effort. They are two sides of the same coin. The duration of the commitment in Sierra Leone can only be lengthened by the fact--as the hon. Gentleman rightly points out--that there appeared to be no sufficient enthusiasm or drive at the top or elsewhere in the UN force to fulfil its mandate. It is not a question of the terms of the mandate, but of the political willingness to enforce it.
On Kosovo, we have recently received the report of the Select Committee on Defence. So far as the report makes a point about the ruling out of a ground campaign from the beginning, that vindicates the position taken on behalf of the Liberal Democrats by my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Paddy Ashdown), who consistently argued that the threat of ground attack should be maintained. So far as the report says that air power alone did not achieve success in Kosovo, I agree with it. So far as it suggests that Russian influence on Mr. Milosevic should not be discounted, I agree with it, too. However, I cannot avoid the recollection in this most adversarial of Chambers that the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) was at pains to call for the ground option to be ruled out at the very beginning of the operation.
The report identifies shortcomings in equipment. Many of them were well known and date from much earlier than the life of this Government. The report identifies that mistakes were made and that things might have been done differently. All of that is true, but much of the report seems to be an assembly of earlier evidence on the Kosovo operations. It is expressed in language that I regard as unduly apocalyptic, and I can corroborate my view by comparing the language of the report with the extremely measured speech made by the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), last Thursday in a debate that was ostensibly about defence procurement.
Those who criticise the Kosovo operations because of their consequences should be put to the test of telling us their analysis of what the consequences would have been if there had been no intervention. The 800,000 people who were driven out of Kosovo had absolutely no doubt in their minds as to what was required. I heard that directly from some of the people whom I met in one of the refugee camps that I visited with the then Secretary of State for Defence, Lord Robertson.
We may not have won as well or as easily in Kosovo as we would have wished, and present circumstances may be far from ideal, but it is worth reminding ourselves that, after years of repression and months of persecution, arcadia or utopia are difficult to build. We are entitled to draw encouragement from the successful conduct of local government elections in the past few days.
I am in no doubt whatever that the conduct of any war and this war in particular requires a blunt post-mortem examination. For example, lack of precision-guided munitions and the use of cluster bombs--to which the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) referred and about which I feel considerable apprehension--were severe defects in NATO's armoury and they led to an excess of civilian casualties.
We should acknowledge that. If we are to improve and if we want to avoid civilian casualties, we might need to invest in some more expensive weapons. It is notable that the most vociferous critics of the use of cluster bombs or the absence of precision-guided munitions have rarely been the most enthusiastic supporters of any increase in defence expenditure.
Mr. Campbell: The hon. Gentleman makes a sound political point. Let us remember that Dr. Rugova was, as it were, pushed to one side just before the worst of the excesses of the Serbs, and exiled to Italy. For some time, Mr. Thaci appeared to hold centre stage politically. The interesting feature of the elections is that Dr. Rugova appears to have regained his prominence, although Mr. Thaci won a significant percentage of the vote and therefore a significant percentage of seats. Not only the facts but the outcome of the elections is encouraging.
It is my firm belief that without intervention--however flawed and imperfect it may have been--rape, murder and brutality would have won the day and Milosevic would have been even more difficult to dislodge than he ultimately proved to be.
The subject of Kosovo leads me neatly to discussion of the European security and defence policy, which has bulked large in this afternoon's proceedings. It now appears that, if George W. Bush becomes United States President, Miss Condoleeza Rice and Mr. Colin Powell are likely to be driving forces in the Bush Administration. One would have to search assiduously to find any evidence on the record of their enthusiasm for any United States presence in the Balkans.
Mr. Powell was the subject of that rather withering question from Madeleine Albright at the height of the difficulties in Bosnia, when he once again made the case that not a single American soldier should be there on the ground. Madeleine Albright famously asked him, "Well, what are all those soldiers for, then?" He holds a perfectly legitimate position, but has a long history of not wanting United States involvement on the ground in Europe--so, too, Condoleeza Rice.
The Secretary-General of NATO, Lord Robertson, our former Secretary of State for Defence, is reported in today's newspapers as saying that he thinks that the Bush Administration would not withdraw troops from the Balkans. The fact that he has to say that shows that there is some doubt. That doubt is in some measure corroborated by reports in American newspapers over the past 10 days that suggest something rather different.
That tells us--it certainly tells me--that a European security and defence policy is not desirable but necessary. Europe left to its own devices--save in the matter of collective security under article 5 of the Washington treaty, by which the United States would always regard itself as bound--must find the means of organising its resources so that capability is maintained. We should not shrink from the conclusion that capability may require additional expenditure. Too often, that is finessed in European capitals by saying that we must spend better rather than more. It might be possible to spend better, but if we want to maintain capability in an area where the inflation rate is always higher than either the underlying or headline rates in the countries concerned, additional expenditure might be necessary.
How can we possibly provide 60,000 troops who are capable of rapid deployment, properly supported and capable of being sustained for 12 months, unless they are properly funded and resourced? I say to those who have sometimes a visceral anti-Europeanism that the truth is
I was disappointed that the Secretary of State was a little dismissive of such a proposal. It has great merit--militarily and politically. It ensures that NATO--by which I mean all its members--will never be left out. It particularly deals with the problems of Turkey, which was one of NATO's guardians of the southern flank for so long and which has not yet been admitted to the EU--for some good and compelling reasons. To Turkey, European Union membership is a matter of some psychological anxiety. The proposal would ensure that it would not feel in some way eliminated from such considerations.
The proposal would also deal with the problem of the countries that have recently joined NATO, such as the Czech Republic and Hungary, which immediately had to take some difficult decisions in the course of the Kosovo operations, only to find that there might be European activity from which they would be excluded because they are not EU members. That is damaging to the fabric of NATO and its cohesion.
The right of first refusal, which does not seem to be as difficult to organise as the Secretary of State appeared to think, would mean that the first group of people to consider a crisis would be NATO ambassadors in Brussels. What could be better designed to ensure that NATO felt that it was not being pushed to one side by European enthusiasts and zealots?