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Mr. Gerald Howarth: How does the right hon. and learned Gentleman square his natural anxieties, which we all share, with the very clear statement of some of our European partners that they see the creation of the force as an embryonic European army? Surely that poses a threat to the very heart of NATO, which he is anxious to protect.
Mr. Campbell: There would be a threat to NATO only if there were universal acceptance of the position that the hon. Gentleman describes. The United Kingdom Government are not alone in saying, as I understand, that they are not in favour of what is loosely described as a "European army". If, as the hon. Gentleman says, all EU members were to sign up to some of the rather overblown rhetoric, the risk would exist. However, let us remember that the treaties provide for nothing other than unanimity.
It is worth reminding some of our Conservative friends that the fons et origo of much of this debate is the Maastricht treaty. The shadow Defence Secretary has, shall we say, taken a consistent position on the Maastricht treaty. I was about to say an honourable position--
Mr. Campbell: Very well; I shall concede that his position is honourable, too. However, that was not his party's position, as others may remember. Those of us who survived will remember three-line Whips, 10 o'clock
The United States' determination to proceed with national missile defence depends on a flawed assessment of threat. It is true that there are rogue states or states of concern. There are some deeply unpleasant regimes, but we must ask ourselves whether they are so lacking in comprehension that they would threaten to use, or actually use, weapons of mass destruction against the overwhelming nuclear and conventional military superiority of the United States. I simply do not believe that they would. The classic definition of threat is capability plus intention. States of concern might acquire the capability, but it is difficult to envisage circumstances in which they would have the intention of using it because of the extraordinarily damaging, even apocalyptic, consequences of doing so.
Mr. Frank Cook: Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it was the Korean flight of the Taepo Dong II across Japan that gave rise to the hysteria in the United States; and that now, with improved relations between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong Il recently cemented by Madeleine Albright, that hysteria will fade away?
Mr. Campbell: Traditionally, there were four states of concern. In respect of Iran, we are doing our best to ensure that Mr. Khatami's efforts to modernise that country receive as much encouragement as is helpful to him--but not too much, in case it makes his domestic position difficult. Colonel Gaddafi of Libya has made available the two persons alleged to have committed the Lockerbie bombing. Madeleine Albright has paid a visit to North Korea and I understand that the United Kingdom is about to open an embassy there. As for Iraq, the policy is one of containment and has been for the past 10 years. It strikes me that those four states, often cited as the raison d'etre of national missile defence, do not measure up to the seriousness with which they are apparently regarded by some on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Duncan Smith: Surely, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is approaching the matter from the wrong angle. Two problems remain: first, that those states continue to develop and to obtain such missiles--I mentioned Iran recently testing a missile with a range of about 900 miles; and secondly, the terrorist threat. However, the real point is that the overwhelming capabilities of NATO show such states that a conventional conflict precludes the possibility of them influencing events, whereas a cheap, simple option is available whereby they use threats to get their way. The west's fear might deliver a different result from the one that was achieved in Kosovo.
It is worth noting that in the "Joint Vision 2020" document, United States defence planners identified China as a potential threat to US security in the 21st century. Are we expected to believe that, once a so-called limited missile defence has been established to protect the US from states of concern, domestic pressure in the US will not grow to expand it to cover larger missile capabilities? Can the US square the circle by insisting on protection against North Korea, but accepting vulnerability to China?
If the system is deployed in a limited fashion, the case will be made to deploy it far more extensively, which will trigger a response in the form of an increased effort to increase nuclear capability. The Chinese have already made that plain. That would inevitably evoke a response from India, which would, in turn, evoke one from Pakistan. How will the United States profit if global security systems are rejected in favour of competition between states to increase nuclear stockpiles? NMD will neither provide the security for which its supporters hope, nor bring stability and certainty to the rest of us. NMD has a remarkable capacity for damaging relations within NATO, weakening the cohesion of that alliance and dividing Europe from the United States.
NMD will undermine the principle of deterrence on which the fragile strategic balance is built at a time when opportunities to achieve an overall reduction in nuclear weapons have never been greater. As Russia encounters increasing economic difficulty in maintaining nuclear weapons, we are presented with an obvious opportunity to negotiate, through a START 3 treaty, far greater reductions on both sides than have previously been envisaged. It would be a great pity if those opportunities were to be given up. Matters are not made easier by the fact that the United States Senate rejected ratification of the comprehensive test ban treaty. That decision carries considerable implications--at least in the mind of those in the Duma--regarding the extent to which multilateral nuclear disarmament can be achieved and maintained.
Dr. Godman: The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentions the Foreign Affairs Committee, of which I am a member. It said that if a new occupant of the White House sought to implement NMD, there would be profound consequences for the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. Our report also pointed out that terrorists--mentioned repeatedly by the hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith)--can carry powerful devices in something as small as a suitcase. What can NMD do in that respect?
Mr. Campbell: I remember a briefing from the director of military intelligence when I was a member of the Select Committee on Defence. I believe that the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) was also present. The director produced a flask about 4in high containing about half a pint of liquid: he said that, by putting it in the London water supply, he could get rid of all the people in London. It seems extraordinary to erect a system that will destabilise the balance of deterrence and has the capacity to cause problems with the cohesion of the alliance in the knowledge that something so small that one could put it in one's hip pocket could achieve what one is trying to prevent without there being any question of identification or anything of that sort. NMD is extremely important, and it is high time the Government told us what their position is.
This is probably the last defence debate before Remembrance day 2000, but such is the state of the Government's management of business that we cannot discount the possibility that we shall be here next week. We talk about defence in the abstract, although some of us have experience of its reality and some of us--voyeur-like--have seen the reality when we visit places such as Kosovo and Sierra Leone. In 10 days' time, at cenotaphs up and down the country--not only here in London, but at tiny war memorials in villages throughout our constituencies--we shall remember those who made a sacrifice for their country. As we talk about defence in the abstract, we do well to remember that those of us who have responsibility for policy and the obligation to influence it have not been called on to make the sacrifice that many ordinary men and women here in the United Kingdom have had to make, and we should never allow their sacrifice to be far from our minds.