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Lord Kennet: About time!

Lord Chesham: My Lords, they are not ready yet.

The areas for co-operation cover a wide range of subjects, from promoting peace and stability, democracy and development around the world, to working together to promote transatlantic and global open markets. The agenda for EU/US co-operation closely reflects UK ideas and priorities, particularly on trade liberalisation and joint action to combat international crime.

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The UK/US relations are based on a shared world outlook and a commitment to common fundamental values; for example, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Defence and security have long been the bedrock of our relationship. Shared ideals of peace and freedom are pursued through membership of NATO, the United Nations, G7, OSCE and many other bodies.

We are, of course, conscious of Russia's concerns about enlargement, a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. We must convince the Russians that they have nothing to fear but much to gain from the enhancement of European security which enlargement represents. The key to this is the development of a good relationship between NATO and Russia. The agreement at the NATO ministerial meeting last week that Russia would contribute troops to the implementation force in Bosnia is, therefore, a very important development. We hope that it will lead to increased and enhanced co-operation between NATO and Russia on a wide range of issues.

We welcome the continued US commitment to the security of Europe which is demonstrated by her leadership of NATO and her very significant contribution to its defence structure. United States' participation in NATO is vital to European defence. There are 100,000 US troops stationed in Europe and the US also provides most of the alliance's strategic and substrategic nuclear forces. NATO membership also serves US interests. NATO is still the key instrument to defend the institutions and promote the ideals that America values.

In response to the point about proliferation, I should make it clear that the United States' counter-proliferation initiative is exactly that--a United States national initiative. However, Britain is very closely involved in the work that NATO is undertaking to ensure that our defences are fully capable of meeting the challenge of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This is an important and positive element of the alliance's adaptation to the new security environment. Its intention is to enhance international stability and the security of NATO members. It does not represent any change to the essentially defensive nature of the alliance.

NATO's policy remains to prevent proliferation or, if it occurs, to reverse it through diplomatic means. We are wholly committed to the existing non-proliferation regimes which have achieved considerable successes in preventing proliferation. The report recently endorsed by NATO Ministers fully recognises the importance of supporting and reinforcing these measures. At the same time, it is only prudent for the alliance to consider what capabilities it might need to defend its members from possible threats.

The world in which we live is changing fast. We are faced with new opportunities but also with new threats. The noble Lord drew attention to the changing roles of China and Japan and the emergence of the newly dynamic economies of South-East Asia and the Pacific Rim and to the effects of this on the regional and global balance of political and economic power. Europe and the United States have a responsibility as well as an

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interest in responding flexibly to change. Our aim must be to promote stability, democracy and prosperity around the world. The EU/US summit declaration of 3rd December acknowledged that and set out proposals for ways in which we might do more to support these aims.

Noble Lords have expressed their views about the importance of close political and military relations between Europe and the United States. I can only reiterate that the enhancement of transatlantic relations is a top foreign policy objective of Her Majesty's Government. The success of President Clinton's recent visit to the UK demonstrates the excellent state of the bilateral relationship.

More widely, US military links with Europe are of the utmost importance. A European security system without direct US involvement would be neither credible nor

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effective. We must not underestimate the importance of continued US commitment to the security and stability of Europe. As regards the European Union, the EU/US initiative complements the rich network of ties which already exist between ourselves and our European partners and the United States. It helps to set the agenda for future transatlantic relationships. I am sure that we all agree how important it is that that relationship should remain healthy and active.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down perhaps I may ask him a rather general question. Has he said anything in his speech which he could not have said 10 or 20 years ago?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, I certainly have, because I came into this position in July.

        House adjourned at nineteen minutes before ten o'clock.

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