Examination of Witnesses (Question 60-79)|
STRAW, MP, MR
CMG, MR PETER
TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2001
60. If we are going to continue to apply pressure
to regimes like Saddam Hussein to accept inspection, it is very
difficult for us and the major NATO countries to say, "We
will expect other people to but we will not be subjected to inspection
ourselves." Would you agree that there might be a solution
here, to go down the same route that was eventually adopted in
the United States in relation to the Chemical Weapons Convention,
whereby the US administration did eventually agree an inspection
regime? It is subject to a presidential right of opt out but that
would be very much better than what we have now which is putting
the whole of the negotiation back to square one.
(Mr Straw) That would be a much better way. I agree
with you about your general statement on the importance of this
Convention and the fact that you can only prevent the spread of
biological weapons by direct inspection.
61. Do you think the case for missile defence
has been strengthened since 11 September? It strikes me that it
is in our interest to have America engaged and having the United
States taking risks on behalf of its allies. It is more likely
to take those risks if it feels secure from missile attack and
therefore the case has been strengthened.
(Mr Straw) The overall case for new forms of missile
defence has been strengthened since 11 September, not least because
the world is much more aware than it was of the extreme nature
of the threats that we can face. Before 11 September when I was
writing about this, there were some people who were going in for
a relativist argument which you will be very familiar with, having
been on the same side as myself in meetings which we both used
to attend, where if you presented people with one set of uncomfortable
facts they dodged it and went on to say, "But, what if ?"
If you have missile systems which are capable of very serious
death and destruction on nations and they are not in responsible
hands, it is entirely reasonable that people should try to develop
defensive systems against those. One is then left with the argument
that, if the terrorists want to, they could always smuggle a suitcase
onto an aeroplane or use biological weapons. Yes, they can or,
as was unimaginable before 11 September, they can use an aeroplane
packed with people as a bomb, with unimaginable consequences.
The very fact that they are willing to do that and to escalate
what they have done before shows that if these weapons get into
the wrong hands there is no knowing what terror they will cause
in the world. Secondly, I spoke about the development of new systems
of missile defence because this is an area which is more full
of myths than any other area I have come across. From some of
the debate, you would think that we are starting from a blank
sheet of paper on missile defence, that there is no missile defence
system in the world up to now and none has been thought about
since "Star Wars" was not pursued in practice by the
Reagan administration. People have been trying to seek ways of
defending themselves from missiles as long as missiles have been
there. We were one of the first countries in the world to suffer
from very serious missile attacks. There was some defence against
the V1 missiles. There was practically no defence against the
V2 missiles. Though I am younger than Mr Olner, I remember people
telling me, my relatives and my parents, how terrible it was to
be in suburban London and to have no warning at all of these things.
If we had had a form of missile defence against the V1s and, above
all, against the V2s, I would suggest the war would have ended
earlier because the terror which the V2s were able to inflict
enhanced the confidence of the Nazi regime at a point when it
was otherwise failing.
62. Things are getting worse, are they not,
because we must all have read articles in the press which are
speculating on rogue states developing ballistic missile systems.
The United Kingdom and the United States may not fall within the
range of those. I thought helpfully yesterday John Bolton, the
Under-Secretary of State for arms control, took the unusual step
of naming and shaming six rogue states which he said had developed
biological weapons. They are Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya, Syria
and The Sudan, so it strikes me that the case for missile defence
and the United Kingdom's position is more supportive than it was,
say, three weeks ago.
(Mr Straw) We should not generalise about this. There
is an overwhelming case for missile defence in principle. We have
sought to develop our own forms of theatre missile defence. Theatre
missile defence is allowed by the ABM Treaty. That is a range
I think up to 3,500 kilometres. It enables people within that
kind of theatre, particularly in islands and on the edge of continents,
to be defended. It does not enable people within land masses to
be defended. That becomes very much an argument about shades of
grey, not an argument on huge issues of principle. It also needs
to be borne in mind that the ABMT allows for each side to develop
one system for strategic missile defence. It happens that the
United States started to develop in one of the Dakotas and dropped
it. The Soviet Union, as it then was, developed a full system
of missile defence and put it round Moscow, so Moscow is the only
city in the world which has full strategic missile defence. That
has to be remembered before we go on to talk about what next.
Our view is that the United States is fully entitled to want to
develop systems of missile defence. We will make our own judgment,
particularly about our cooperation with them, when we see precisely
what their systems are, what their downsides are as well as their
63. I notice that the Russians and the Americans
did not agree at the Crawford Summit recently so we have not got
that kind of commonality of interest that we thought there might
be a little while ago. What happens if the Russians and the Americans
cannot agree? What happens if the Americans pull out of the ABM
Treaty and where does this leave final dates?
(Mr Straw) Almost all treaties within international
law have provisions within them for notice to be served by one
party or the other on the treaty's revision or its termination.
The exact terms will vary from treaty to treaty. The United States
has made it crystal clear to me, as I think it has publicly, that
it has no intention of breaking international law in the steps
it is taking. It may decide to exercise its right under the Treaty.
There was no strong agreement at Crawford on this but neither
was there strong disagreement about this and I think discussions
on it will continue. As to the use of our facilities here, when
and if we receive an application from the United States for their
further use for a new system, we will consider it.
64. Can we try to clarify where we are at on
missile defence? What used to be called NMD until a couple of
months ago, we understood, was a defensive system of the United
States against a preemptive attack by missiles from a rogue state.
In recent months, it has become missile defence rather than national
missile defence which encompasses a wider level of interest. In
that context, is it not the case that what was sold as a means
of defending the United States against a preemptive attack has
become an instrument in the United States' capacity to go on the
offensive? It would enable the United States, perhaps in the pursuit
of the war against terrorism, to pursue such a conflict by conventional
means in a third country safe from the prospect of retaliation
through a missile attack from such a third country. In a way,
it is not quite what it has been sold as. Clearly, it seems to
me the United Kingdom has a very large stake in what happens within
the development of missile defence and I would like to ask firstly
whether you are comfortable with the fact that the current discussions
on the ABM Treaty should not involve the United Kingdom because
we have clear interests in what happens next. How do you feel
the United Kingdom can best influence the shape of this future
missile defence system? Would it not be sensible if the Cabinet
had set out its own criteria for what we as a country would wish
to see in this missile defence system before we got involved in
deciding whether we would agree or disagree with what was proposed?
(Mr Straw) First of all, I do not agree that the United
States have any intention of using missile defence systems now
or in the future as part of an offensive against other people.
65. That is not the view shared by your counterparts
in the States, but never mind.
(Mr Straw) You were suggesting they would go on some
66. No; the pursuit of terrorism.
(Mr Straw) In that case, you would need to get advice
from military experts but the chances are they are going to be
using theatre or very limited missiles. In a particular theatre,
maybe people have missile defence systems. They exist at the moment;
they are entirely lawful under international law. That will go
on as part of a particular offensive. People will want to make
sure that they stop missiles coming at them and that their missiles
are not stopped. That desire is as old as warfare. There is nothing
new here. To believe that this system, which is scarcely on the
drawing board yet and will take years and years to develop, is
somehow going to be a magic wand to enable the United States and
the other coalition partners to deal with specific threats of
terrorism from particular areas, with great respect, is simply
not the case. It cannot be the case because the system is not
there. Do the proposals threaten the safety of the world? No,
they do not, not remotely. They are designed to make the world
safer. I note that, after Crawford, as part of the communique
the two Presidents acknowledged continued differences of opinion
on MD and the ABMT but said they would maintain their dialogue.
Putin added: "Whatever final solution is found it will not
threaten or put to threat the interests of both our countries."
Although there is some difference of view between the US and Russia,
it is not something which Putin regards as threatening. Down the
track, I think we will find that this is resolved by discussion.
Whether it is within the Treaty or outside, I am not certain,
but one of the things which I have noted in the five and a half
months since I have been doing this job is how opinion has moved.
You ask about the position of the British Cabinet. We have not
any particular proposals. There have been discussions. If you
want briefing papers on it, I am happy to provide them. Far from
not wanting this discussed, until 11 September when other things
took over, debate on missile defence was at or near the top of
my agenda. I initiated discussions, for example, inside my own
party here in Parliament, published articles about it, issued
briefing notes and so on because I wanted to generate what I saw
as a more sophisticated debate on this than we had before. As
to the nature of the discussion, the ABMT is a bilateral treaty
between what was the former Soviet Union and is now Russia and
the United States of America. The key discussions are bound to
take place between them. Of course, we discuss the implications
for us and our interests with the United States and also with
interlocutors in Russia. I do that continually with colleagues
in the US, but I did it with both Sergei Ivanov, the Defence Minister,
and Igor Ivanov, the Foreign Minister, when I was in Moscow about
two and a half weeks ago and again with Igor Ivanov when I saw
him in New York last week.
67. Thank you for that detailed answer. Given
the perspective that you have said many times now that you have
not yet had a proposal put forward to the government which you
can comment on regarding missile defence, how are you therefore
responding to the United States or communicating with the United
States in what you would like to see in such a proposal, because
surely you are not just waiting for something to happen?
(Mr Straw) These are proposals which are coming from
the United States. They are at a very early stage. One of the
issues is whether some of the research testing does not come within
the ABMT. There is an interesting debate amongst some international
lawyers as to what comes within it and what does not. Russia is
reasonably relaxed, as far as one can judge, about its interpretation
of the terms of that Treaty. We are taking an interest in that
obviously. Are we putting forward our own proposals to the United
States for missile defence? No, we are not, because it is a matter
for them to come forward with these proposals. They are a long
way down the track, Mr Chidgey.
68. Turning to European security and defence
policy and one or two NATO issues, do you have a view on whether
the United States looks upon the European security and defence
policy as a threat to NATO? Is it looked upon as a source of irritation
in United Kingdom/US relations?
(Mr Straw) No. In the time I have been doing this
job, nobody in the US administration, including those who have
cartoons on their walls, has said anything disobliging about the
ESDP to me, not one word.
69. The guy with the cartoon also gave John
some interesting views on some of the treaties which they have
a difference of opinion with. How far has the recent crisis affected
the US Government's views on the development of the ESDP?
(Mr Straw) There is a general point to be made about
the recent crisis which relates to earlier questions. There has
long been a debate in the US about the exceptional nature of their
societyand it is an exceptional society in every sense
of the word, and a very admirable societyand how far the
exceptional nature of that society should lead them towards an
isolationist view of the world or a more multilateral view of
the world. That debate goes on. Quite a number of leading commentators
in the United States, including Francis Fukiyama who wrote his
celebrated essay on the end of history after the collapse of the
Cold War, have suggested that the atrocities on 11 September will
shift the balance of opinion in the United States much more towards
engagement internationally than was there before. That is also
my observation from my vantage point. If you look at what President
Bush was saying in his speech to the General Assembly
70. Or Colin Powell in the Middle East speech?
(Mr Straw) Or Colin Powell in the Middle East speech,
you will see that the United States is, as it always has been,
alive to its responsibilities but now it is very engaged on an
international agenda and volunteers repeatedly its support and
respect for the role of the United Nations. President Bush did
not have to give up a Saturday to go to New York to speak to the
United Nations; he did. He spoke very warmly. That is our overall
71. I was going to turn to the issue of Turkey,
the NATO argument against the ESDP, and ask whether the fact that
we took a robust stand in relation to Turkey withholding agreement
on the use of NATO assets for the ESDP has had any influence on
UK/US relations? If Turkey had had a role in any peace keeping
initiatives in Afghanistan, would that have had an impact on negotiations
there as well, bearing in mind that some commentators have said
that a European defence force is going to have to go wider than
its own borders?
(Mr Straw) I am smiling at you because Mr Ricketts
is the world expert on the terms of the Istanbul text and other
matters relating to Turkey, ESDP and NATO. I am not a bad expert
on it either. There have been the most extensive and intensive
discussions on this with Turkey. I went to Ankara three weeks
ago for discussions with the President, the Prime Minister and
the Foreign Minister. They were followed by Mr Ricketts's more
intensive discussions and they continue. Has there been a rubbing
point between us and the United States? No, far from it. We have
worked very closely indeed, cooperatively, with the United States
in order to try to achieve a position which takes account of Turkey's
concernsand they have genuine concernsbut also meets
the essential requirements laid down in the Nice text for ESDP.
(Mr Ricketts) We and the Americans have been working
together to find the best possible arrangement for Turkey to be
associated with ESDP, bearing in mind Turkey's importance as a
military power and its record in crisis management, and to give
it the most generous and forthcoming offer possible of participation,
subject to the framework that has been adopted in successive European
Councils, laying down the arrangements for invitation of non-EU
Member States to participate in ESDP actions. That is a reflection
of the fact that the Americans now come to see that ESDP is helpful
in providing another option for crisis management, given the range
of possible threats that we might face, and wanting to do that
in the most NATO-friendly way possible and therefore with the
best possible terms we can reach with the association of the non-EU
72. Can I ask you a question on NATO in general?
Some commentators have made the point that the coalition has been
just basically the United Kingdom and the United States of America;
and probably the United Kingdom is one of the countries which
is serious about the NATO Alliance as a military alliance, as
opposed to a political alliance. Do you have a view on that? Would
the government agree or disagree with that?
(Mr Ricketts) I would not agree with it. It is a matter
of fact and record that the US has provided the overwhelming amount
of assets to be deployed in Afghanistan and the United Kingdom
is second. We have been actively engaged in the conflict to a
degree that our other European NATO partners have not but NATO
has been involved. For example, as you will know, what NATO has
provided is the AWAC system to cover the United States whilst
their AWAC system is moved to the theatre of Afghanistan. They
need that not least since 11 September. France has provided assets
in the theatre, a few frigates, and there has been detailed discussion,
some of which has been written about in the press, about deployment
of other assets. You will be familiar with the offer which has
now been agreed by the Bundestag, by Germany, for the provision
of up to quite a large number of ground troops. For all sorts
of reasons, not least because our systems are more integrated
and our forces are modern, we are more able rapidly to deploy
in that kind of theatre than our partners and we were assisted
by the coincidence of the Saif Sareea exercise which had taken
place in Oman over that period, where we had 20,000 troops and
a lot of assets roughly speaking in the right place at the right
time. Several partners, including France and Australia are providing
naval forces in the Indian Ocean alongside the United Kingdom
and the United States. We now have a fleet in the Mediterranean
whilst the US fleet has moved off to the Arabian Sea. Other NATO
countries have been able to assist the United States. There are
now discussions taking placeas you may know, Lord Robertson
has been in the lead on theseabout the degree to which
NATO, as NATO, could be assisted in the Afghanistan region in
the current situation.
Chairman: Can I give you early warning that
the Committee has decided to launch an inquiry into Turkey, focusing
both on the EU aspects and defence.
Sir Patrick Cormack
73. Could I bring you back to something you
said at the beginning of the session this afternoon? In talking
of the special relationship you said that you felt that the personal
rapport between the Prime Minister and President Putin had been
particularly helpful in providing a basis for the relationship
between President Bush and the President of Russia. I think that
is a fair summary of what you said?
(Mr Straw) Yes.
74. Would you agree with me that the American/Russian
relationship is potentially the most important positive development
since 11 September?
(Mr Straw) Yes. If you are looking at things that
have happened since 11 September, the way in which the relationship
has developed has been remarkable. It was getting there before
that and it had very significantly warmed up. The reason why I
was careful about my choice of words earlier is because, in the
nature of this relationship, it is extremely important to avoid
appearing to be condescending on either side. You cannot ever
just point to direct cause and effect but what I said is a good
example of where the Prime Minister was able to develop a relationship
and then provide some reassurance to the US administration. Yes,
it is a very important relationship and it is interesting how
President Putin has seized the moment to do things that he has
presumably wanted to do for some time but he lacked the opportunity.
I think he has applied himself brilliantly. I was struck, when
I was in Moscow, by how very significantly he is literally in
the lead, although it is a country with rumbustious politics.
However, in saying what is the most important relationship in
the US, (a) you will have to ask them but (b) I would observe
that the relationship with China is extremely important and that
too has strengthened and warmed considerably during the course
of this year.
75. I would entirely agree with that. The fact
that the US and Russia are now very much closer is something we
can all applaud and, in so far as you and our Prime Minister played
a part in that, that is all to the good and we should congratulate
you all warmly with no reservations whatsoever. To what extent
do you think the Prime Minister's proposals for a Russia/North
Atlantic Council have been based upon the Prime Minister's discussions
with President Bush or is this very much a British initiative
which you hope the US will latch onto?
(Mr Straw) No, this is not a proposal which has suddenly
been pulled out of the pocket. This is a proposal which has been
the subject of intensive discussion with Washington and Moscow.
76. In what way will there be value added to
the Permanent Joint Council of NATO, following the founding Act?
(Mr Straw) One of the concerns of the Russians is
about the way the PJC has been operating and they want to see
a more intensive relationship. That is part of the purpose of
these proposals. If they develop, this will be a good example
of where, in our position to some extent, to use a phrase which
the Prime Minister has used, as a bridge between the United States
and Europe in its widest sense, we have been able to develop an
initiative which I think will turn out to be acceptable to the
United States and also to Russia.
Sir Patrick Cormack
77. Presumably this is going to be very much
at the forefront of the agenda this week when Lord Robertson is
(Mr Straw) Yes.
(Mr Ricketts) These ideas have been developed very
much with Lord Robertson. They are a response in some way to the
proposals and the requests from President Putin himself in the
weeks from 11 September. He came forward saying he wanted to see
a step change in the relationship between Russia and NATO and
Russia and the west more generally. These are proposals which
have been developed in discussion very much with Washington as
well, seeking in specially, carefully defined areas to move beyond
the PJC to give the Russians a greater sense of engagement with
other members of the Alliance in carefully selected areas, while
reserving discussion on the key, core NATO issues for the allies
78. How do we, as a government, intend to implement
our ambitious goals to promote global peace and security because
presumably Russia and China have a stake in that as well?
(Mr Straw) They certainly do. They are permanent members
of the Security Council, along with us.
79. After what happened on 11 September, the
(Mr Straw) Let me talk about what we are doing. The
best example of what we are doing