Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Second Report

7  European security issues


243. The province of Kosovo has been part of Serbia since 1913. Kosovo's population is now around 90% ethnic Albanian and 6% Serb, with smaller minorities including Roma, Ashkali, Egyptians, Bosniaks, Turks and Gorani. In 1989, the then Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic revoked the status which Kosovo had enjoyed under the 1974 Yugoslav constitution as an autonomous province within Serbia. This helped to provoke increasing resistance to Serb rule among the Kosovo Albanian population. This resistance took primarily a non-violent, passive form, led by the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) under Ibrahim Rugova. In 1998, Albanians who were prepared to use force to pursue independence formed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

244. In March 1999, NATO took military action against Serbia to halt Serb military operations in Kosovo against the KLA and the Albanian population. It is important when reflecting on Russia's attitude to the future of Kosovo and its view that there needs to be Security Council approval for any final status for Kosovo to recognise that NATO acted without explicit UN Security Council authorisation for the use of force, after Russia refused to support such a resolution. There is a great danger to the authority of the UN if, yet again, decisions are enacted with respect to Kosovo that ignore the desirability of there being agreement within the Security Council.

245. Since Serb forces capitulated to NATO in June 1999, Kosovo has been governed under UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Russia voted in favour of the resolution. Resolution 1244 effectively made Kosovo a UN protectorate, legally but not practically remaining part of Serbia. Without specifying a timetable, Resolution 1244 foresaw a future process aimed at determining Kosovo's final political status.[530]

246. The then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched a final status process for Kosovo in 2005 and appointed former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari as his Special Envoy. Both the decision to move to a final status process and Ahtisaari's appointment were endorsed by the Security Council.

247. Mr Ahtisaari's work on a final status settlement for Kosovo was guided by a set of principles put forward by the Contact Group for the former Yugoslavia, which includes both the UK and Russia, along with the US, France, Germany and Italy. Among others, the Contact Group principles were that the Kosovo final status settlement should: be fully compatible with international law and with international standards of human rights and democracy; contribute to the integration of Kosovo and the wider region in Euro-Atlantic institutions; strengthen regional security and stability; ensure Kosovo's ability to cooperate with international organisations; exclude the pre-March 1999 situation; exclude any change to Kosovo's territory; and exclude any unilateral solution.[531] The Contact Group added subsequently that the final status settlement needed to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo.[532]

248. After over a year mediating between Serbia and the Kosovo leadership, Mr Ahtisaari was unable to find a final status settlement acceptable to both sides. Concluding that further negotiations would be futile, Mr Ahtisaari presented his own proposals for a final status settlement to the Security Council in March 2007. It was originally envisaged that the Security Council would endorse the proposals later in the spring.

249. The Ahtisaari plan is for 'supervised independence' for Kosovo. The province would gain most of the attributes of statehood, but an International Civilian Representative would remain ultimately responsible for ensuring that the Kosovo authorities fulfilled their obligations towards Kosovo's minority Serb and other communities.

250. The UK supports the Ahtisaari plan. In June, the then Foreign Secretary told us that the UK's "goal is to get a Security Council resolution and to implement the Ahtisaari plan […] and to do that as early as possible."[533] In July, the Minister for Europe told us that independence for Kosovo "is the end. What is in dispute is the means to achieve that end."[534] Giving evidence to us in September, the Minister was still of the view that "The end point of this process is that Kosovo should be granted independence […] Our view is that independence for Kosovo along the lines of the Ahtisaari plan, in the absence of an alternative agreed by Pristina and Belgrade, is the best solution."[535] Like other supporters of the Ahtisaari plan, the UK is of the view that—in the words of the former Foreign Secretary—"the position of Kosovo is sui generis […] the Kosovo-Serbian experience […] has […] been tragically unique […] what happens with Kosovo does not have a read-across anywhere else."[536]

251. Russia argues that it has adhered diligently to the principles of the Helsinki Final Act which determined that there should be no arbitrary variation in the boundaries of the states of Europe and signatory states. Russia points to other areas where national minorities seek independence (including within the EU), as in the areas of Moldova and Georgia where Russian minorities would like to secede.

252. The Kosovo Albanian leadership supports the Ahtisaari plan, which has been formally endorsed by the Kosovo legislature. However, Serbia does not accept the Ahtisaari proposals. Belgrade rejects the idea that Serbia's borders could be changed without its consent, insisting on the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has said that Kosovo can have "everything but independence".[537]

253. Russia backs Serbia's position regarding Kosovo's final status. Moscow has committed itself to backing a Kosovo final status settlement in the UN Security Council only if such a settlement is accepted by Belgrade. Russia's objections to the Ahtisaari plan run along two strands. First, Moscow objects to the procedure which the plan's implementation would appear to involve, namely that it would be imposed on Serbia without Belgrade's consent. In January 2007, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Kosovo's status could "only be determined through talks and it has to be acceptable both to Belgrade and to the Kosovo population".[538] President Putin reportedly assured Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica that if a Kosovo status proposal were "unacceptable to Belgrade, neither can it be acceptable to the (UN) Security Council".[539] Second, Russia objects to the substance of the Ahtisaari plan—that is, that a separatist minority ethnic region should gain independence over the objections of the sovereign state concerned. In Moscow's view, this would violate principles of territorial sovereignty and integrity that are laid down in international law, including in the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. In the Helsinki Final Act, signatory states recognised the "inviolability" of their international frontiers and promised to refrain from "assaulting" them; promised to respect the territorial integrity of participating states and to refrain from "any action inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations against the territorial integrity, political independence or the unity of any participating State"; and promised also to "respect […] [peoples'] right to self-determination, acting at all times in conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and with the relevant norms of international law, including those relating to territorial integrity of States."[540] Russia has suggested that independence for Kosovo would set an international precedent that might be used by separatists to declare independence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia and Transnistria in Moldova. In January 2006, President Putin said "If someone believes that Kosovo should be granted full independence as a state, then why should we deny it to the Abkhaz and the South Ossetians?"[541]

254. Among other statements, Russia set out its stance regarding the Ahtisaari plan in an interview given by Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov immediately after Mr Ahtisaari had presented his proposals at the UN in March 2007. Mr Titov asked "How fair and sustainable can a scheme not consented to by one of the parties and obviously at odds with international law and a whole set of UN Security Council decisions be?" Mr Titov went on:

    How can […] borders be changed without the consent of a state to this? […] we still feel that only a negotiated solution that suits both Belgrade and Pristina can be the basis for a reliable settlement which would not provoke a destabilization of the region and the further redivision of borders, and not only in the Balkans […] It does not suit not only Russia, but also many other states, the prospect of unilateral sovereignization of the province, and scorn for the principles of international law. It is understandable that a chain reaction thus triggered may sooner or later touch any country, as the inviolability of sovereignty will no longer be guaranteed in any way. Separatism, rewarded in Kosovo, will receive a powerful impulse in other parts of the world. In the case of Kosovo the question of disjointing a province from a sovereign state has been raised for the first time. Therefore the unilateral solution will inevitably create a precedent and will be projected onto other situations.[542]

255. Of the two strands of Russia's position on Kosovo—insistence that any settlement must be accepted by Belgrade, and support for the principle of territorial integrity under international law—Moscow has held to the first the more consistently. For example, Ms Aldis told us that latterly Russia had been giving less prominence to the linkage between Kosovo and other separatist conflicts.[543]

256. Our witnesses differed as to whether Russia's rejection of the Ahtisaari plan reflected a principled commitment to backing Serbia's position, or an opportunistic attempt to use the issue as a bargaining chip in other disputes with the West. Dr Allison felt that Russia's "commitment to adopting a position against Kosovan independence is deep" and that Moscow would therefore not be prepared to swap concessions on the issue for gains elsewhere.[544] Giving evidence in July to our inquiry into the FCO's Annual Report 2006-07, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon told us that in his judgement, Russia had "proper and legitimate concerns about the precedents that [the Ahtisaari plan] may establish for Transnistria, for Abkhazia and so on" and was therefore "more likely to veto" any Security Council resolution implementing the plan, but he could not be certain.[545] Dr Pravda felt that Russia's position "reflects a concern of principle […] because of the precedent that it would set", but he also regarded Russia's stance as "part of a negotiating process" and did not think that Russia was "immoveable" on the issue.[546] Professor Fedorov believed that Russia's policy was "to use the Kosovo problem and voting in the UN Security Council as a kind of bargaining chip as regards the broader context of its relationship with Western countries."[547] Professor Fedorov suggested that "what Russia would like most would be for the West to agree on [its] special role in the former Soviet Union. That would be the basis on which Russia might make deals with Western countries."[548]

257. Due to Russia's opposition, as of autumn 2007 the UN Security Council had not endorsed the Ahtisaari plan. Russia indicated that it would not support any of a series of at least three draft resolutions put forward by Western states which would have implemented Ahtisaari's proposals, including in ways which sought increasingly to accommodate Russia's position. Backing Serbia, Russia insisted that there be further negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, and that the idea be dropped of the Ahtisaari plan coming automatically into effect at a specified time if the two sides could agree no alternative. In July, the Minister for Europe told us that the UK believed "strongly that the text that has been submitted in New York deals with the stated concerns of the Russians".[549] However, Moscow rejected the draft Security Council resolution incorporating even these requirements. In July 2007, the co-sponsors of the final draft text to fail—including the UK—announced that they were halting the UN process.[550]

258. Following the breakdown of the UN process, the Kosovo final status process passed to the Contact Group. The Contact Group is mediating further talks between Serbia and Kosovo, and is to report back to the UN by 10 December 2007. The EU has appointed as its representative in this phase of the process Wolfgang Ischinger, German Ambassador to London, who is working with representatives of the US and Russia in a troika format to represent the Contact Group. Supporters of the Ahtisaari plan hope that Serbia can be brought round to accepting it, unlocking Russia's position and opening the way to Security Council endorsement. Serbia hopes that Kosovo will accept its ideas for autonomy for the province, short of independence. However, the first new round of face-to-face talks between the two sides, at the end of September 2007, failed to record significant movement, although the two parties reaffirmed their commitment to further talks.[551] At further talks on 22 October, the troika put forward possible compromise proposals, in 14 points, which confirmed that "Belgrade will not govern Kosovo" but appeared to leave open the possibility of something short of complete sovereignty for the province.[552] However, the Kosovo delegation reiterated that full independence remained its objective.[553]

259. As the former Foreign Secretary acknowledged to us in June, the absence of an agreed final status settlement for Kosovo carries security risks. Mrs Beckett said that "there are dangers in delay" and that the UK would have liked the issue "to have been agreed the week before yesterday".[554] The security risks attaching to the lack of a status agreement are partly those which prompted the UN originally to launch the final status process—namely, that a lack of confidence in the achievement of independence provokes violence from radical Albanians and a more general lack of commitment to Kosovo institution-building, and that the continuing failure to resolve the province's final status contributes significantly to Kosovo's dire economic situation. The delay and possible failure of the UN process now adds further risks. For one thing, the UN Mission in Kosovo has started to wind down in anticipation of Resolution 1244's replacement, weakening international capacity in Kosovo. The International Civilian Representative and the EU mission which are due to take over from the UN Mission as the international non-military presence in the province find themselves in planning limbo. More importantly, if the Security Council does not endorse something close to the Ahtisaari plan in December 2007, Kosovo is likely to declare independence. Lord Ashdown outlined to us the scenario at that point:

    I guess that the United States independently recognises the independence of Kosovo. I guess that other countries follow suit and that most of the major countries of the European Union do so, but I guess that some do not. Then there is a division in the EU.[555]

A division in the EU might arise because some Member States, with their own separatist ethnic minorities, have indicated that they would be reluctant to recognise Kosovar independence outside a UN process. Within the Western Balkan region, fragile regional relations might also be jeopardised by a Kosovo declaration of independence, with Serbia possibly breaking off ties with states which recognise the new country, and Albanians in Macedonia and Serbia possibly calling for unification with it, leading to dangers of internal conflicts and even partition. The possibility of Serbia breaking off relations with EU Member States which recognise Kosovo would also throw any EU accession process into jeopardy.

260. At the time this Report was finalised, Kosovo was preparing for parliamentary elections scheduled to be held on 17 November 2007. There may also be presidential elections in Serbia before the end of 2007, although the timing of the polls is linked to developments on the Kosovo issue.

261. The failure to secure UN Security Council endorsement for the Ahtisaari plan in a timely fashion raises the question of whether the UK and other pro-Ahtisaari Security Council members failed to anticipate Russia's tough stance. In July, the Minister for Europe told us that he did not think that the UK had under-estimated the Russian position.[556] Professor Light also felt that it was reasonable for the UK not to have anticipated the strength of Russia's position. According to Professor Light, "What the Russians tend to do is to say, 'No, no, no' at a rising crescendo and then, when they realise that they cannot stop it from happening, they suddenly accept it and quieten down […] If the reckoning is that it might happen over Kosovo, I would not find that surprising."[557]

262. In his evidence to our inquiry to the FCO's Annual Report 2006-07, Lord Ashdown argued that the mistake made by supporters of Kosovo independence had been not to force the issue and implement independence for the province much earlier. In his view, "Our failure to take a clear and distinctive position on Kosovo has left open territory for the radicals in Serbia to play upon and, indeed, for Moscow to use."[558] Lord Ashdown went on: "if there is only one solution, we need to adopt that sooner rather than later. The truth is that Kosovo could never again be governed by Belgrade […] That should have been evident to us in 1999".[559] Lord Ashdown was of the view that "in the end Belgrade will accept that Kosovo will move towards some kind of independent status through whatever mechanism is possible."[560]

263. We conclude that, whilst in principle we support the concept of "supervised independence" for Kosovo, we are concerned that the Government may have underestimated the damage to the authority of the Security Council, to bilateral relations with Russia, and to the very fragile democracy in Serbia.

264. We also reported on Kosovo in our Report on the FCO's Annual Report 2006-07, in the context of the FCO's conflict prevention work. In that Report, we recommended that the Government set out what representations it has made to other EU Member States in order to try to reach a common position on Kosovo.[561] We regret that, eight years after the Kosovo conflict, disagreement over the province may once again cause the UN to be sidelined. We conclude that Russia may be adopting an intransigent position now on the Ahtisaari plan for Kosovo in order to demonstrate its strength. It may also be using the issue as a way to encourage divisions within the European Union. However, Moscow would find it much harder to do so had the plan been accepted by Serbia. We conclude that the Government underestimated Russia's likely opposition to the Ahtisaari plan. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government inform us of the steps it is taking to try to win Kosovar Albanian and Serbian acceptance of a modified version of the Ahtisaari plan and to prevent a further outbreak of violence taking place.

Missile defence

265. The row which erupted with Russia in 2007 over planned anti-ballistic missile defence (BMD) deployments in Europe began with the announcement by the US Department of Defense in January that the US was opening talks with the Czech Republic and Poland on the deployment there of elements of its BMD system.[562] US officials had given initial indications in March 2006 that sites in Central Europe were being considered for BMD deployments. The planned US deployments in Central Europe would form part of the integrated multi-continental and multi-faceted BMD system which is aimed against the perceived post-Cold War threat of ballistic missile acquisition and use by rogue states or terrorists. President George W. Bush promised to develop such a system during his 2000 presidential election campaign and announced the plans as President in December 2002. The Bush Administration's BMD plans build on those for National Missile Defense set out by former President Clinton in 1999, but they are more ambitious, aiming to cover not only the continental US but also US allies and US troops deployed overseas, and to be able to intercept all types and ranges of ballistic missile at any point during a missile's trajectory. His wish to develop such a system caused President Bush, after negotiations with Russia had failed, to announce in December 2001 the United States' unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The ABM Treaty had placed severe limits on the deployment of BMD systems by the US and USSR, in order to sustain the form of stability that came with mutually assured destruction between the then superpowers.

266. The initial phase of the planned US BMD system involves the deployment of radar and other sensors on satellites, at sea, and on land in Alaska, Greenland and the UK, and of interceptors at sea and at two land sites, Alaska and California. An initial BMD operational capability was achieved by the end of 2005 and the system was temporarily activated in July 2006 when North Korea tested a missile. The US plans involving the Czech Republic and Poland are for a further phase of the BMD system. The US plans the deployment of an early warning radar to the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles to underground silos at a site in northern Poland. The US plans to achieve initial deployment of its Central European BMD elements in 2011 and their full operational capability by 2013. With the deployment of further additional elements, the complete BMD system is planned to be in place by 2015. The entire BMD system is being funded by the US only. The bases involved in the planned US BMD deployments in the Czech Republic and Poland would remain the host states' sovereign territory, but host state permission would not be required for an interceptor missile launch.

267. Whether the full US plans for the BMD system will be realised, on time or at all, remains uncertain. There are doubts about the technical effectiveness of several elements of the system, and about the willingness of the US Congress to provide the necessary funding. Justifying their unwillingness to provide the full funding requested by the Administration, some US legislators have pointed to political opposition to the BMD plans in the Czech Republic and Poland, and to a perceived lack of adequate consultation with NATO allies.[563]

268. Russia has reacted angrily to the planned US BMD deployments in Central Europe. Partly, Russia denies that the threat from rogue states which the BMD system is designed to counter is likely to exist in the timeframe covered by the US plans. In his February Munich speech, President Putin said "Missile weapons with a range of about five to eight thousand kilometres that really pose a threat to Europe do not exist in any of the so-called problem countries. And in the near future and prospects, this will not happen and is not even foreseeable."[564] Russia also argues that the deployment sites in Central Europe are not ones that make sense if the aim is to counter missiles launched primarily from the Middle East.[565] Moscow alleges that the BMD deployments are in fact aimed at Russia. US officials have sought to counter such claims, pointing out that the few interceptors planned for Poland could have no impact against Russia's missile arsenal. However, Russian officials often seem to find such assurances inadequate, instead believing that the purpose and nature of the proposed Central European facilities could be changed once they are established.

269. Whether or not Russia's opposition to the US BMD plans reflects a genuine belief that the facilities could be used against Russia, our witnesses felt that Russia's opposition to the proposals definitely reflected their symbolic value and a general sense of Russian insecurity in the region. For example, Dr Pravda told us that "there is genuine concern about missile defence systems, but it is more of a symbolic than of a military material nature. They are seen as symptomatic of an offensive and aggressive intention on the part of the United States."[566] Dr Pravda went on:

    Moscow sees [the deployment of defensive systems] in Eastern Europe, alongside an extending NATO infrastructure, as evidence of American military expansionism. Russian protests reflect real concern about an expansive strategy that could impinge on and eventually embrace Georgia and Ukraine.[567]

Professor Light told us that "the question of missile defence and the placement of missile defence in the European countries bordering Russia is very deeply felt. It goes back to the genuine concern about the abrogation of the ABM treaty and what that has done to the strategic stability of the world."[568] Similarly, Ms Aldis told us that Russia sees the proposed US deployments in Central Europe as a "deliberate policy of encirclement of Russia by the West".[569]

270. At the G8 summit in June 2007, President Putin appeared to surprise President Bush by suggesting cooperation on BMD, via joint US and Russian use of an existing radar facility at Gabala in Azerbaijan which Russia currently leases.[570] The Minister for Europe welcomed the Russian offer, saying that "by the nature of the Russian offer there is an acceptance of the capacity of the equipment and the intention of its deployment and that is a positive signal."[571] Meeting President Bush in July, President Putin offered to transform BMD into a 'strategic partnership', perhaps involving joint early-warning centres. The US has also made proposals for cooperation on BMD. However, the US has made clear that it would regard the Azerbaijani radar at most as a complement to, not a replacement for, its existing BMD plans in Central Europe.[572]

271. In October 2007, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates went to Moscow for talks with their Russian counterparts, primarily on the US BMD plans. The US delegation proposed that Russian inspectors be given access to the planned BMD sites in Central Europe, and that Russia be included in some way in the BMD system.[573] The US officials also offered to delay activating the BMD system until Russia and the US both agreed that there was a threat from Iran.[574] Russian officials reportedly regarded this idea as "promising" and a "positive signal",[575] but Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov maintained that the planned BMD deployments themselves were "anti-Russian".[576] Russia wants to see development of the Czech and Polish sites halted while further talks take place.[577]

272. NATO appears latterly to be gaining a greater role in the discussion of the US BMD plans. Several NATO members, most notably Germany, have called for the BMD issue to be handled primarily through the Alliance, both among the Western allies and with Russia, via the NATO-Russia Council. At a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in April 2007, ministers noted that Russia had "fundamental concerns" about BMD and said that there was "consensus on the need to take this discussion forward in the NATO-Russia Council in the future, focusing in particular on threat assessment."[578] In his evidence to us, the Minister for Europe agreed that "The Russia-NATO dialogue is the key way of potentially resolving the issue".[579] In June 2007, the Alliance agreed by February 2008 to carry out an assessment of the US BMD plans. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has appeared most concerned about the prospect that the US BMD shield would cover only some European NATO members. In April 2007, NATO members agreed to try to link the US BMD plans with NATO's own for theatre missile defence, so as to create a shield covering the whole Alliance.

273. We conclude that Russian opposition to US ballistic missile defence (BMD) plans in Central Europe largely reflects Moscow's sensitivity about the presence of NATO infrastructure in its former satellite states. As such, Russian opposition will be hard to overcome. We welcome signs that the US, Russia and the NATO allies may be engaging in a more substantive dialogue and search for cooperation on BMD. As long as it remains committed to the US BMD plans, we recommend that the Government seek ways to build cooperation around them, both within NATO and with Russia, so that they do not become a source of further divisions in Europe.

274. As for the UK's involvement, in 2003 London agreed to a US request for the upgrading of the radar at RAF Fylingdales, so that it could be incorporated into the BMD system. However, on 25 July 2007, in a written statement the day before the House rose for recess, the Government announced that equipment would also be installed and operated by the US at RAF Menwith Hill to receive satellite warnings of missile launches. The Government's statement ran:

    On 5 February 2003 the Secretary of State for Defence announced the Government's agreement to a request from the US to upgrade the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System radar at RAF Fylingdales. The UK already makes a contribution to US capability in the area of missile warning, through our operation of the radar at RAF Fylingdales. That upgrade process is now complete and we expect that the radar will switch its operations to the new equipment from August 2007. There is no change to the existing UK-US mission for the radar and the station remains under full UK command. Its primary mission is to warn of ballistic missile attack, with secondary functions of space surveillance and satellite warning. The radar will contribute to the US ballistic missile defence system, alongside a global network of other US-owned sensors based on land, at sea and in space and the data it produces is shared between the UK and US military authorities. The UK will have full insight into the operation of the US missile defence system when missile engagements take place that are wholly or partly influenced by data from the radar at RAF Fylingdales.

    Also, at RAF Menwith Hill, equipment will be installed and operated by the US Government to allow receipt of satellite warnings of potentially hostile missile launches, and will pass this warning data to both UK and US authorities. The data will also be fed into the US ballistic missile defence system for use in their response to any missile attack on the US. This will guarantee the UK's continued access to essential missile attack warning data, as well as enhancing the US's ability to deal with any attack aimed at their country.

    The Government welcome US plans to place further missile defence assets in Europe to address the emerging threat from rogue states. We welcome assurances from the US that the UK and other European allies will be covered by the system elements they propose to deploy to Poland and the Czech Republic and we have been exploring ways in which the UK can continue to contribute to the US system as well as to any future NATO missile defence system.

    These developments reflect the Government's continuing commitment to supporting the development of the US missile defence system. We continue to regard this system as a building block to enhance our national and collective security. NATO has made no decisions about acquiring missile defence for the alliance, and we want to examine how the US system can be complemented and built upon to provide wider coverage for Europe. We have no plans to site missile interceptors in the UK but will keep this under review as the threat evolves. We also want to reassure Russia about the defensive nature and intent of the US system as it develops and to take forward alliance cooperation with them in the field of missile defence.[580]

275. The previous substantive Government statement on BMD came in a written answer on 4 June. On that occasion, the Government had said that "discussions are at an early stage and there are no formal proposals."[581] We regret the manner and timing of the Government's announcement that RAF Menwith Hill is to participate in the US ballistic missile defence (BMD) system, and the resulting lack of Parliamentary debate on the issue. In its response to this Report, we recommend that the Government inform us of the date on which it received the formal proposal from the US to include Menwith Hill in the BMD system. We recommend that there should be a full Parliamentary debate on these proposals.


276. Russia's response to the US European BMD plans has come in three areas in particular: the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty; the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty; and missile targeting and development.

CFE Treaty

277. The Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty was one of the late Cold War-era arms control treaties, emerging from the framework of the Conference for Security and cooperation in Europe (later the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe [OSCE]). The Treaty was negotiated between the member states of NATO and the Warsaw Pact and signed in 1990. The CFE Treaty currently has 30 states parties.

278. The original CFE Treaty set limits on conventional weapons for each of the two political-military blocs. In 1999, the signatories negotiated an Adaptation Agreement for the CFE Treaty. The Adaptation Agreement revised the structure of the arms limitations so that they applied country-by-country, rather than bloc-by-bloc. The Adaptation Agreement also took account of developments since 1990, such as the creation of new states and the enlargement of NATO. The Adapted CFE Treaty can enter into force only when it is ratified by all signatories.

279. The Istanbul summit which negotiated the Adapted CFE Treaty also adopted other associated documents. In these, Russia committed itself to withdrawing its military forces wholly from Moldova by the end of 2002 and significantly from Georgia, in order to comply with the new force ceilings imposed by the Adapted CFE Treaty. The NATO states committed themselves not to ratify the Adapted CFE Treaty until Russia had fulfilled these obligations. As Russia has not yet completely fulfilled these obligations, the Adapted CFE Treaty remains unratified. Only Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have ratified the Adapted CFE Treaty.

280. In his February 2007 speech in Munich, President Putin suggested that, while Russia continued to fulfil its obligations under the Adapted CFE Treaty and work towards withdrawal from Georgia and Moldova, the NATO states had not ratified the Treaty, and meanwhile the US was planning to open new bases in Eastern Europe. President Putin suggested that NATO was using the situation created by its Member States' non-ratification of the Adapted Treaty to "put its frontline forces on [Russia's] borders".[582]

281. President Putin expanded on his criticisms of the situation regarding the CFE Treaty in his Annual Address to the Federal Assembly on 26 April 2007. In his speech, President Putin suggested that if no progress could be made towards ratification of the Adapted Treaty, Russia would "examine the possibility of suspending [its] commitments under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty". President Putin said that "the right course of action is for Russia to declare a moratorium on its observance of this treaty until such time as all NATO members without exception ratify it and start strictly observing its provisions, as Russia has been doing so far on a unilateral basis." President Putin implied that the CFE Treaty made no sense following the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and said that under current circumstances the Treaty meant only that Russia "face[s] restrictions on deploying conventional forces on [its] own territory." While Russia had observed its obligations under the CFE Treaty, President Putin said that the Treaty's NATO signatories had not ratified the Adapted Treaty and were meanwhile "taking advantage of the situation to build up their own system of military bases along [Russia's] borders" and planning missile defence deployments in the Czech Republic and Poland. President Putin said that Russia was working towards fulfilment of its Istanbul commitments, but denied that there was any legal linkage between these and ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty in any case.[583]

282. On 14 July, President Putin signed a decree ordering the suspension of Russia's participation in the CFE Treaty. President Putin gave instructions that the other states parties to the Treaty be given formal notification of Russia's decision to suspend its participation. [584] As provided for under the Treaty, suspension of Russia's participation will take effect 150 days after such notification was provided (i.e. 12 December 2007).

283. The CSRC suggested that Russia wanted to withdraw from the CFE Treaty—and the INF Treaty, discussed below—in any case, and was using the US BMD plans as an excuse.[585] Professor Fedorov pointed out that a suspension of Russian participation in the CFE Treaty was a less provocative response to the US BMD plans than possible withdrawal from the INF Treaty, a step which Russia has not so far taken. However, Professor Fedorov was of the view that securing international observance of the Adapted CFE Treaty was "militarily very important for Russia".[586] Russia's suspension of its participation in the CFE Treaty would appear to make NATO ratification of the Adapted Treaty even less likely.

284. The FCO told us that it rejected the linkage that Russia had made between the US BMD plans and the INF and CFE Treaties.[587] The Minister for Europe told us that he did not regard Russia's action as to do with the CFE process at all, but as "a continuing part of Russia's assessment of itself and its international posture, and its continued, understandable intention to be a world player, across the globe, but more importantly for it, on its borders."[588]

285. Our witnesses agreed that the main immediate impact of Russia's suspension of its participation in the CFE Treaty would come via Russia's presumed withdrawal from the Treaty's mutual inspection regimes. Ms Aldis said that these "have been a major stabilising factor in mutual confidence building".[589] According to Dr Allison, Russia's withdrawal from the inspection regime "is likely to further undermine trust and transparency in Russian security relations with NATO."[590] We are concerned by Russia's decision to suspend its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty with effect from mid-December 2007. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government provide us with its assessment of the practical and political impact of Russia's step. We further recommend that the Government update us on the steps it is taking to encourage Russia to fulfil its Istanbul commitments.

INF Treaty

286. Under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed in 1987, the US and the USSR agreed to eliminate all their ground-launched nuclear-armed missiles with a range of 500-5,500 kilometres. Following the Soviet Union's dissolution, its commitments under the Treaty were taken over by Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The relevant missiles were destroyed by 1991, although the associated verification system was wound up only in 2001.[591]

287. In his February 2007 Munich speech, President Putin hinted that the global proliferation of missiles might cause Russia to question the INF Treaty. The agreement did "not have a universal character", noted President Putin. He went on:

    Today many other countries have these missiles, including the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, India, Iran, Pakistan and Israel. Many countries are working on these systems and plan to incorporate them as part of their weapons arsenals. And only the United States and Russia bear the responsibility to not create such weapons systems. It is obvious that in these conditions we must think about ensuring our own security.[592]

288. Later in February, Russia's army Chief of Staff General Yury Baluyevsky said explicitly that Russia might unilaterally withdraw from the INF Treaty. Justifying the possible move, General Baluyevsky said that "many countries are developing and perfecting medium range rockets". However, he also linked Russia's possible withdrawal to the US BMD plans, saying that "What they are doing today, creating a third positioning region for the anti-missile system in Europe, is inexplicable."[593] The commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, General Nikolai Solovtsov, stated shortly afterwards that it would be "easy enough" for Russia to resume production of the missiles banned under the INF deal.[594]

289. In October 2007, during the Moscow visit of US Secretary of State Rice and Defense Secretary Gates, President Putin said that unless further countries were to come into the INF regime, "it will be difficult for [Russia] to keep within the framework of the  treaty  in a situation where other countries do develop such weapons systems, and among those are countries in our near vicinity."[595] However, President Putin's spokesman said that "our joint goal is to take measures for international security, and it would be wise for all of us to think of modernising the  INF treaty".[596]

290. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government provide us with its assessment of the likelihood and possible implications of a renunciation by Russia of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Missile targeting and development

291. In February 2007, the commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, General Nikolai Solovtsov, warned that Russia could target the proposed locations of the US BMD deployments in the Czech Republic and Poland if the two countries acceded to the US request for their participation in the system.[597] The general warned, "If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic take such a step, the strategic  missile  forces will be capable of targeting these facilities".[598]

292. In early June 2007, ahead of the G8 summit, President Putin similarly appeared to threaten to retarget Russian missiles at European targets. President Putin said, "It is obvious that if part of the strategic nuclear potential of the United States is located in Europe we will have to respond […] What kind of steps are we going to take in response? Of course we are going to acquire new targets in Europe."[599] In subsequent remarks, both Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov and the President's spokesman clarified that President Putin had meant to refer only to the proposed BMD deployment sites, not to other possible European targets.[600]

293. In July 2007, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said that Russia could site missiles in its Kaliningrad exclave, between Poland and Lithuania, if the US plans for BMD deployments in Central Europe went ahead.[601]

294. Russia has also linked the US European BMD plans to the development of new missiles. In February 2007, President Putin said that Russia would develop a new generation of missiles capable of penetrating the planned BMD shield.[602] In May 2007, Russia successfully tested a new RS24 intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of carrying multiple warheads, and an improved version of its short-range Iskander missile. First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said that the "new missiles […] are capable of overcoming any existing or future  missile  defence systems."[603] In August 2007, the commander of the Russian Navy, Admiral Vladimir Masorin, announced that Russia had decided to start production of a new Bulava-M submarine-based intercontinental missile, following a successful test.[604]

295. We recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government share with us its assessment of the likelihood of Moscow retargeting its strategic missile forces if the US ballistic missile defence deployment in Europe goes ahead.


296. Russia's relations with NATO are governed by the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, one of the flanking measures undertaken by the Alliance to reassure Russia at the time of the Alliance's first enlargement to Central Europe. Russia's relations with NATO now take place through the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), established in 2002—with then Prime Minister Tony Blair playing a leading role—and encapsulating Russia's brief post-September 11 alliance with the West.

297. The Minister for Europe characterised the role of the NATO-Russia Council as being "very important'".[605] Dr Allison told us that the NATO-Russia Council has become "established as a channel for security dialogue". According to Dr Allison, "a key issue for Russia has been that the NRC, unlike the EU, does not discuss the domestic affairs or political values of its partners".[606] At a more practical level, the CSRC told us that "By planning and programming standards—joint exercises conducted, joint forums established, the volume of meetings and exchanges—NATO-Russia cooperation functions at a high level."[607]

298. On a political level, our witnesses reported a troubled NATO-Russia relationship. The CSRC told us that "in political and psychological terms, [cooperation] is at one of its lowest ebbs since the end of the Cold War."[608] The CSRC added that "The notion that NATO is not […] an anti-Russian alliance is, in Russian eyes, […] risible".[609] According to the CSRC, "the premise of Russian military planning and policy" continues to be "that any activity undertaken by NATO near Russian territory is a threat to Russia."[610] Furthermore, "[t]here [...] continues to be great suspicion of NATO among senior Russian officers".[611] We welcome the Government's appreciation of the importance of the NATO-Russia Council. We conclude that the body has the potential to become a much more effective forum for ongoing security consultations between Russia and the West, and we recommend that the Government work with its partners to exploit its full potential.

299. Given Russia's lack of trust in NATO and its attitude to its former Soviet neighbours, the prospect of further NATO enlargement into the former Soviet space is one of the major irritants in NATO-Russia relations. The next states in line to become NATO members, perhaps receiving an invitation in 2008, are Albania, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, none of which were members of the Warsaw Pact when it was dissolved. These states are all implementing NATO Membership Action Plans (MAPs). However, since 2005 and 2006 respectively, Ukraine and Georgia—which were part of the Soviet Union—are both in Intensified Dialogue with NATO, the stage prior to the receipt of MAPs. While Ukraine's commitment to NATO membership remains uncertain owing to its domestic political situation, Georgia under President Saakashvili is pushing hard for closer ties with NATO, and its membership aspirations are receiving strong support from the US in particular.

300. Of all the CIS states, Georgia has probably the worst relations with Russia. As well as energy disputes, 2006 saw Russia ban imports of Georgian wine, water and agricultural products, and close land border crossings. After Tbilisi expelled four Russian army officers whom it accused of spying, Russia halted air links between the two countries and expelled Georgians from Russia. In August 2007, Georgia accused Russia of violating Georgian airspace and firing missiles onto its territory.[612] Dr Allison told us that Georgia was a country "where there is a potential for considerably more serious tension between east and west in the years to 2008 and afterwards."[613] Dr Allison expanded:

    it is possible that that an acute crisis in Russia-Georgia relations, close to or in the context of the 2008 Russian presidential elections, would draw in the US or NATO politically. The unresolved conflicts around Abkhazia and South Ossetia provide the flashpoint for a possible confrontation.[614]

301. As already noted, Russia continues to maintain troops in Georgia's separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Russian troops in Abkhazia constitute what is formally a CIS peacekeeping force for the region, under UN auspices and in association with UN monitors. Given the ongoing presence of Russian troops in Georgia, it is unlikely that NATO would be in a position to make good on the Washington Treaty's Article 5 security guarantee were Georgia to become a member of the Alliance and then face military attack from Russia.[615] Under current circumstances, Georgia's possible accession to NATO therefore risks undermining the credibility of Article 5. In the perspective of the country's NATO membership aspirations, we recommend that the Government continue to encourage Georgia to resolve its internal conflicts and to develop more stable relations with Russia.

530   We reported on Kosovo under Security Council resolution 1244 and the start of the final status process in Foreign Affairs Committee, Third Report of Session 2004-05, The Western Balkans, HC 87-I. Kosovo is also considered in Foreign Affairs Committee, First Report of Session 2007-08, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2006-07, HC 50. Back

531   "Guiding principles of the Contact Group for a settlement of the status of Kosovo", 7 October 2005, via Back

532   "Statement by the Contact Group on the future of Kosovo", London, 31 January 2006, via Back

533   Oral evidence taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 19 June 2007, HC (2006-07) 166-ii, Q 187 Back

534   Q 151 Back

535   Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 12 September 2007, HC (2006-07) 166-iii, Q 306 Back

536   Oral evidence taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 19 June 2007, HC (2006-07) 166-ii, Q 194 Back

537   "Serbia rejects Kosovo trade-off", BBC News online, 31 July 2006 Back

538   "Putin reassures Belgrade over Kosovo's future", Financial Times, 17 January 2007 Back

539   "Putin reassures Belgrade over Kosovo's future", Financial Times, 17 January 2007 Back

540   Articles III, IV, VIII; text available via Back

541   "The Kosovo talks are about much more than just Kosovo", Financial Times, 10 May 2006 Back

542   Original in Rossiiskaya Gazeta, 29 March 2007; English translation via the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Back

543   Q 59 Back

544   Q 12 Back

545   Foreign Affairs Committee, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2006-07, Q 177  Back

546   Q 14 Back

547   Q 59 Back

548   Q 61 Back

549   Q 144 Back

550   "Statement issued on 20 July 2007 by Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States of America, co-sponsors of the draft resolution on Kosovo presented to the UNSC on 17 July", via Back

551   "No breakthrough on Kosovo status", BBC News online, 28 September 2007 Back

552   "International troika ups efforts to break Kosovo deadlock",, 22 October 2007 Back

553   "New plan for future of Kosovo", The Independent, 23 October 2007 Back

554   Oral evidence taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 19 June 2007, HC (2006-07) 166-ii, Qq 184-185 Back

555   Foreign Affairs Committee, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2006-07, Q 181 Back

556   Q 140 Back

557   Q 13 Back

558   Foreign Affairs Committee, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2006-07, Q 176 Back

559   Foreign Affairs Committee, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2006-07, Q 177 Back

560   Foreign Affairs Committee, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2006-07, Q 177 Back

561   Foreign Affairs Committee, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report 2006-07, para 42 Back

562   This section draws on "Ballistic Missile Defence: Recent Developments", Standard Note SN/IA/4378, House of Commons Library, 29 June 2007 Back

563   "US House panel cuts East Europe missile shield funds", Defense News, 2 May 2007 Back

564   Text available via Back

565   "Arms race fears as Putin attacks US missiles plan", Daily Telegraph, 2 February 2007; "Russians accuse US of European military expansion", Financial Times, 10 February 2007 Back

566   Q 15; see also Ev 136 [Dr Marshall]. Back

567   Ev 20 Back

568   Q 17 Back

569   Q 69 Back

570   President Putin made his offer concerning the Azerbaijani facility while we were in Baku; see Ev 175. Back

571   Q 152 Back

572   "US missile plan to forge ahead", Financial Times, 15 June 2007 Back

573   "Defence shield offer to Russia 'makes progress'", The Daily Telegraph, 19 October 2007 Back

574   "Washington offers to delay activating missile defence shield", The Guardian, 24 October 2007 Back

575   "Washington offers to delay activating missile defence shield", The Guardian, 24 October 2007 Back

576  "Putin on the attack over US missile defence", The Independent, 13 October 2007 Back

577   "Washington offers to delay activating missile defence shield", The Guardian, 24 October 2007 Back

578   "NATO-Russia Ministers hold intensive discussions", NATO press release, 26 April 2007, via Back

579   Q 152 Back

580   HC Deb, 25 July 2007, col 71WS Back

581   HC Deb, 4 June 2007, col 237W Back

582   Text available via Back

583   Text via the Kremlin website, Back

584   "Vladimir Putin signed a decree on suspending Russia's participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe", statement available via the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Back

585   Ev 28 Back

586   Q 70 Back

587   Ev 80 Back

588   Q 154 Back

589   Q 70 Back

590   Ev 19 Back

591   "Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction", Standard Note SN/IA/1404, House of Commons Library, 9 December 2005 Back

592   Text available via Back

593   "Russia threat to quit nuclear treaty over US shield plans", Financial Times, 16 February 2007 Back

594   "Russian missile threat to Poles and Czechs over US shield plan", Financial Times, 20 February 2007 Back

595   "We will dump nuclear treaty, Putin warns", The Guardian, 13 October 2007 Back

596   "Putin on the attack over US missile defence", The Independent, 13 October 2007 Back

597   "Defence shield sites threatened by Russia", Daily Telegraph, 20 February 2007 Back

598   "War of words as east Europeans welcome US missile shield", The Guardian, 20 February 2007 Back

599   "G8 Summit 2007: Putin in nuclear threat to Europe", Daily Telegraph, 4 June 2007 Back

600   "Russia backs down over threat to aim missiles at Europe", Daily Telegraph, 15 June 2007 Back

601   "Russians threaten missile site to counter US shield", Financial Times, 5 July 2007 Back

602   "Arms race fears as Putin attacks US missiles plan", Daily Telegraph, 2 February 2007 Back

603   "Russian missile test adds to arms race fears", The Guardian, 30 May 2007 Back

604   "Russia ready to produce missile after successful long-range test", Financial Times, 6 August 2007 Back

605   Q 161 Back

606   Ev 18 Back

607   Ev 27; for a less sanguine view of NATO-Russia military cooperation, see the evidence from Major General Williams at Ev 153-156. Back

608   Ev 27  Back

609   Ev 27  Back

610   Ev 27 Back

611   Ev 19 [Dr Allison] Back

612   See the letter from the Chairman of the Georgian Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, at Ev 175. Back

613   Q 19  Back

614   Ev 17 Back

615   Ev 141 [Dr Marshall] Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 25 November 2007