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Lord Kennet: My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Baroness to ask a factual question, as she probably knows more about it than anyone else. The conditions imposed by the Senate were upon ratification of an international treaty. To what extent would that ratification be called into question if a subsequent Congress were to reverse or lift those conditions?

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I should like to be a lawyer in order to reply to the question. My impression is that it would not affect ratification and that the conditions agreed by the Congress are binding directly on the President but not on other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, including the new members. Therefore, there is a limited impact of those conditions and it would be dangerous to believe that they might be exaggerated into qualifying NATO expansion.

Before turning from that subject, perhaps I may make one more comment. Often, European diplomats and politicians fail to recognise how crucial is the role of

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Congress and also fail to recognise that we therefore need to engage in a discussion and dialogue with Congress separate from the discussion and dialogue with the US administration. Far too many European governments believe that if they make their point to the administration they have, as it were, won the argument. They have only started to win the argument. There are at least two further stages to go. One is the Senate, more important in foreign affairs, and the other is the House of Representatives.

I wish to ask the Minister a direct question which flows directly from the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. Would we continue to regard operations outside the NATO theatre as being normally subject to the UN procedures and not outside those procedures?

I wish to raise two further issues and I apologise for keeping the House. The first relates to the costs, which matter was averted to by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. I have a deep concern essentially about the movement from the original Pentagon estimates referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and the subsequent estimates by the Office of Budget and Management of the United States Congress and then later by the Rand Corporation and others. It set at the lowest level the cost of 35 billion dollars, to which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred, down to the 1.5 billion over 10 years, which is the current figure and the one which the United Kingdom Government estimate their own share as being; namely, £110 million over that same period. I do not question that figure of 1.5 billion dollars but I believe I am right in saying that that relates directly to the NATO budget, a budget which is required to integrate the respective members into the overall NATO provisions.

The problem is that we have redefined what we mean by the "necessary costs of NATO expansion". We are now excluding from those costs, as the noble Lords, Lord Hardy of Wath and Lord Rea, pointed out, virtually everything that is required to bring up to date the military forces of the three new members.

In so far as there is a cost in switching over from Soviet-designed arms, Soviet training and Soviet weapons, that cost is to be borne by the new member states. Therefore, we are no longer counting that cost. It has ceased to be our concern. But every one of those three countries is in the process of joining the European Union. In that process, they are being given some help--40 billion ecus over a period of six years from the structural funds--and we all know, and the European Communities Select Committee has pointed out time and again, that the budget is as tight as it can be; that those countries are right up against the ceiling of what they will need to meet the requirements of the acquis communautaire of the European Union.

In this debate, and in the whole debate about NATO, we are simply disregarding the issue of how those huge costs are to be met and what priority those countries should give. In that context, I simply want to say that I am deeply concerned about what appears to be an extraordinary lack of consultation, even of an informal nature, between the European Commission, in the shape of the Commissioner for DGIA concerned with external relations, and the NATO authorities.

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Like many noble Lords, I welcome the membership of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. But I remain profoundly concerned that in a debate on NATO, we have, and the United States has, skated over some of the most critical issues without the kind of careful discussion which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and others have suggested we should have had. I believe that that is not the fault of Her Majesty's Government, but it is unfortunate that we have not explored those issues as fully as they deserve.

2.59 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I shall not make the customary remarks about the excellence of today's debate; indeed, it must be self-evident. Such debates show your Lordships' House at its finest, and that applies especially to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. Personally, I agreed with all that he said. Similarly, I shall not trouble noble Lords over too many details of the background of the debate to which so many have alluded so eloquently.

The Washington Treaty establishing the North Atlantic Alliance became permanent as NATO in 1952. Its primary purpose is to preserve peace and its member states' security through political solidarity, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Moynihan. NATO's collective security guarantee is outlined in the well-known Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which reads:

    "The parties agree, that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all".

I have quoted just that small part, as I know your Lordships are well acquainted with Article 5.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire, and with the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the countries in eastern and central Europe--or, as they were known, "the forgotten Europe"--eventually found their long awaited freedom. As these countries broke away from the communist yoke, the political map of Europe underwent dramatic changes. Without any obvious role, with the sudden apparent collapse of any immediate military threat, at least from land forces from the East, there followed many agonised discussions on the future role of NATO, as explained so clearly by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. These debates even brought forth suggestions that NATO be disbanded--or, at the very least, that its primary role be deemed as unnecessary. Luckily, those propositions found no support.

Both the European Union and NATO have endured long discussions on the desirability and the mechanics of enlargement. Both sets of processes have been difficult and complex tasks. The reason for the differences in NATO and EU approaches are clear: NATO produced major new programme statements in 1991 and 1994 and sees itself, as a defence organisation, still working well within the confines of those prescriptions. It is not driven to political introspection by any sense of lagging public confidence, or by the threat of irrelevance. Why? It is because the Russians are still building defensive equipment. Many of your

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Lordships will have seen their fast military jets at international airshows around the world. Their submarine forces still receive huge investment. They have chemical and biological capabilities, together with massive espionage capabilities.

I totally agree with my noble friend Lady Park on the subject: their aggressive intentions may have evaporated for the time being. In June 1997, Yeltsin signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act in Paris and announced a less aggressive nuclear targeting policy. However, President Yeltsin will not be there for ever. Indeed, I cannot totally agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, on Russia.

Jane Sharp, the eminent senior research fellow at the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College London, in one of her in depth articles, wrote:

    "The initiative for enlargement came from the former Warsaw Pact states, who felt caught in a security vacuum when violence erupted in the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union. Initially NATO offered the Partnership for Peace programme in late 1993. But it was Germany's interest in stability on its Eastern border that drove the Alliance to consider accepting new members. Germany felt the responsibility to right the wrongs of Yalta, and to bring back into Western Europe those pre-war democracies on whom Moscow imposed communist governments in the 1940s. Germany felt the responsibility to right the wrongs of Yalta, and to bring back into Western Europe those pre-war democracies on whom Moscow imposed communist governments in the 1940s.

    The other allies acquiesced, realising that if NATO did not supply security in Central Europe, sooner or later either Germany or Russia would, with unpredictable consequences".

Volker Ruhe said:

    "If we don't export stability, we shall import instability".

Long gone are the days of Lord Ismay's famous dictum that NATO's raison d'etre was:

    "To keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down".

There are no longer pressing calls for a peace dividend. The pressure for enlargement shows that the product remains in demand and the November 1995 Dayton Agreement has brought NATO new political unity and self-assurance as well as assigning the alliance the critical military role on the ground, as pointed out so clearly in Alyson Bailes' excellent piece in the IISS Survival quarterly.

At the Madrid Summit in 1997, decisions were taken to invite the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to start negotiations with the alliance. We heard Poland's case in the moving speech of my noble friend Lord Belhaven and Stenton. The problem regarding enlarging NATO has to be addressed from a very different viewpoint since 1989. Article 10 reaffirms that NATO remains open to new members, but it does not give any candidates for entry a prescriptive right to have their application automatically accepted.

The decision to admit the three was a unanimous decision taken by all 16 heads of state and government. As your Lordships will know, no votes are ever taken in a NATO Council meeting, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert. However, the vote on enlargement in the Senate garnered far more than the two-thirds needed to approve the resolution. It was an historic vote; it cut across party and ideological lines. Some 35 Democrats joined 45 Republicans in support, and

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only 10 Democrats and nine Republicans opposed the resolution. That was more votes than Germany got in 1954.

Enlarging NATO in this way will redraw the boundaries of Europe, pushing the military alliance 400 miles eastward towards Russia. Perhaps most important for the United States, an expanded NATO would for the first time commit US and UK military forces to the defence of Prague, Warsaw and Budapest as if they were London, Rome or Washington. The old chestnut that has plagued the European Union too for so many years of "widening or deepening" is still on the agenda. Personally I have always maintained the "or" should not be there as they are both necessary. Another old debate that challenges the European Union was aired again recently by Conrad Black's provocative lecture, "Britain's final choice; Europe or America?"

Reconciling this kind of "deepening" with "widening"--the admission of new full members--should superficially be easier for NATO than for the European Union. However, to return to Lord Ismay, it is here that NATO's true widening versus deepening dilemma lies today. Both will take a relatively long time to solve. What is their main aim now? What are the main problems? There are a series of problems. Many of them have been mentioned today. Some people say that large meetings can become unwieldy and risk too much talk and inertia. Others feel that enlargement is a price worth paying for greater political legitimacy and a new rationale in the post-Cold War era.

With the demise of the USSR, NATO has found itself responsible for Balkan peacekeeping chores too. What happens if events in Kosovo spill out of its boundaries? It is curious that we have not heard mentioned once today the old dictum of "out of area" which was mentioned from time to time whenever we used to talk about NATO. How long will other countries such as Bulgaria--which have to wait for the second or even the third expansion--have to wait? The second and third wave countries are clamouring to come in. It is curious that the three post-neutral states, Finland, Switzerland and Austria, have shown little enthusiasm to join. They would probably be most welcome. There is, however, an on-going debate in Austria about membership.

"Just where do we want to draw the line on NATO membership? With Indonesia?", as Henry Kissinger asked at a conference on NATO's geopolitical destiny? That sentiment was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. Some officials worry about the immense burdens posed by the bureaucratic and infrastructure needs of so many countries and their divergent priorities. Even the scheduling of meetings poses a serious problem. NATO's Secretary-General, Javier Solana Madariaga, estimates that the number of meetings at NATO HQ has tripled in the past two years. He said:

    "Every wife in the harem wants to have her night of pleasure, and the alliance faces the problem of being overwhelmed by pressing demands from so many countries".

I was most interested to hear the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, who knows so much about enlargement.

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The alliance has committed itself to enlargement as an open process designed to stabilise the whole continent. I find it difficult to follow the fantasies of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, on enlargement. Instability in central Europe has triggered two world wars in this century. The rationale of NATO enlargement is largely about the continuous prevention of a third.

All opponents of enlargement, some of whom are well-meaning liberal arms control experts, should ponder the damage that they do. By continuing to encourage Russian nationalists and xenophobes to believe that NATO has not changed since the end of the Cold War, they are acting like Lenin's "useful idiots"--westerners who supported the Bolshevik cause.

A better way to enhance the NATO-Russia partnership and advance the cause of arms control would be to demonstrate to Russian sceptics just how much western governments and people, like the great benefactor George Soros, are investing in Russian reform, and by noting that during the 1990s NATO members have cut budgets, withdrawn manpower, drastically reduced nuclear and conventional forces in Europe, and overhauled the alliance's doctrine.

What will NATO enlargement cost the taxpayer? The answer depends on which countries join NATO and when they accede, and on what strategy and force posture is chosen to implement new Article 5 commitments. There are important questions regarding cost, mentioned so ably by the noble Lords, Lord Gilbert, Lord Moynihan and Lord Chalfont, by my noble friend Lady Park and by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and many others. We look forward to hearing the Government's response. I have not touched on the matter for lack of time, though I am fully aware of its importance.

As with the fall of the Berlin Wall, 10 years ago none of your Lordships could have imagined that this debate would take place today. My final questions to the Minister are these. What kind of NATO do we want? What is its role? That question was put very clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. Do we want a NATO capable of fighting a war; or do we want a Helsinki peacekeeping NATO? Will it become a loose security association? We all know the difficulties, but this has gone quite far down the road and, as the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, mentioned, we have to be careful in regard to costs.

I conclude by quoting paragraph 52 of the report of the Defence Committee in another place. It states:

    "In deciding whether to endorse ratification on the accession protocols of the proposed new members, Parliament must weigh the potential political advantages of enlargement against any potential short-term costs in terms of military effectiveness".

For our part we are clear that the benefits of increased stability, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Moynihan, in central and eastern Europe outweigh any military costs. I was delighted with many of the remarks of the Minister who opened the debate. There is obviously cross-party agreement on the subject. I look forward now to replies to the many questions that have been put from the Minister who is to respond.

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3.14 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, I am very grateful for the opportunity to close this important debate this afternoon. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in it. As the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, said, I shall do my best to answer the questions that have been raised, but I fear that if I answer all of them we shall be here till much later.

One or two noble Lords expressed misgivings about having this debate on the last day before the Recess. I am very pleased that in such a busy Session we are able, before the Summer Recess, to honour the commitment made by the Prime Minister and the former Leader of this House in July last year after the NATO summit in Madrid that both Houses would have the opportunity to debate enlargement before the Government accepted the protocols. The protocols were signed by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and all foreign ministers of our NATO allies in Brussels last December.

The Foreign Secretary's mission Statement made on 12th May 1997 laid particular emphasis on the Government's commitment to the security of the United Kingdom. He said that this would be achieved through,

    "an enlarged NATO and strengthened security partnerships in Europe".

It naturally includes maintaining and developing the transatlantic partnership, which is fundamental to Europe's security.

As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said, it is Her Majesty's Government's view that NATO is the cornerstone of European security. Her Majesty's Government believe that it has served us well since 1949. It has established a community of nations with a commitment to common values and common defence. It cements the political and military capability of each member country. It has made war in Western Europe unthinkable.

But of course life has changed. Since the end of the cold war, NATO's role has been transformed. Former opponents are now partners in co-operation. Many noble Lords have expressed great concern about Russia and I remind the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, that in particular the NATO-Russia Founding Act, signed last year, recognised Russia's key role in European security. I say to my noble friend Lord Rea that in the new Permanent Joint Council, NATO and Russia are sitting down together to contribute jointly to the security of Europe. From political consultations on crises such as Kosovo through to practical co-operation between armed forces, those discussions are taking place. With Ukraine, too, allies have signed a charter and we are working together with common aims to promote security for the whole of Europe.

I am happy to note that Britain, together with Russia, Ukraine, the United States and other countries, will jointly participate in Operation Sea Breeze in the Black Sea this year.

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The noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, spoke about the Partnership for Peace. NATO's Partnership for Peace programme with countries extends right the way across Europe and has developed into a permanent feature of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture, offering partner countries opportunities to train and exercise alongside NATO allies and, in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, enabling political consultations and discussions on a wide range of security issues.

But I remind my noble friend Lord Hanworth that when he expressed misgivings about how NATO was operating, the important thing to remember is that NATO in this context operates on a basis of consensus. I am happy to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that NATO's new role includes its vital mission in Bosnia, where, with forces from both NATO and non-NATO nations, including the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, it implements the military aspects of the Dayton agreement and supports the wider international efforts to bring about the civilian reconstruction of Bosnia. NATO is also working through Partnership for Peace to contribute to the security and stability of nations in the region, including Albania and Macedonia.

Several noble Lords mentioned both Bosnia and Kosovo and I should like to say a little more about them. The value of the multi-national NATO-led force in Bosnia has long been recognised by the international community. It was recognised in the peace implementation council in Bonn last year which said that the presence of the NATO-led force in Bosnia had been the greatest single contributor to peace and security since the signing of Dayton.

As we look to Kosovo, the situation on the ground has been deteriorating and NATO is becoming more closely involved. We have already agreed an immediate package of concrete measures to reinforce stability in the region, including enhanced co-operation. We are planning a full range of other options. The NATO air exercises in June have already demonstrated NATO's capability to project power into the region. The important point is that this is NATO talking to Russia through the contact group. I believe that we have learnt some of the sad lessons from Bosnia.

I am sorry to disagree, at least in part, with something said by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. The invitation to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to join NATO is a natural development of the alliance. It is not the first enlargement. Twelve countries signed the Washington Treaty in 1949; in 1952, Greece and Turkey acceded to the treaty. The Federal Republic of Germany joined the alliance in 1955 and, in 1982, Spain also became a member of NATO.

Many countries in Europe are eager to gain the political and security benefits of NATO membership, while contributing fully to the aims, ideals and activities of the alliance. It is right that those who will contribute should not be denied this. By enlarging NATO we enable new democracies in central Europe to join NATO's collective defence, instead of evolving national defence policies or forming rival alliances which might be seen as potentially threatening by neighbours.

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Heads of state and government of NATO decided unanimously at their summit in Madrid in July 1997 that at this point it was right to invite those three countries to join. The current enlargement of the alliance is limited and manageable. That is the clear point I would make to the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings. It involves credible candidates with reliable democratic credentials and a real ability to contribute to collective security. Furthermore, the alliance can only enlarge at a measured pace which does not impact adversely on its effectiveness. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, pointed out, that is enormously effective.

But why those three? There is no mechanical checklist of criteria for membership of NATO. Of course, members must support the aims and principles of the alliance. In practice, this means democratic government, including minority rights; it means a market economy and settlement of internal and external disputes. They must also be able and willing to contribute to the NATO alliance and work harmoniously within the alliance's political and military structures; and their membership must enhance European security. As my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath pointed out, other countries were disappointed at not receiving an invitation at Madrid. But as the governments of NATO allies have made clear, and as we continue to do so, NATO's door is not closed.

I can assure the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan, Lord Chalfont, and my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath, that we look forward to the day when it will be possible to invite further European democracies to join the alliance.

But even though no other invitations for membership have been issued, NATO is making available its experience and its resources to assist non-members. We and our allies encourage all European countries to participate fully in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, which enables them to discuss with NATO members a full range of political issues. And the Partnership for Peace gives partners the opportunity to engage in military discussions and exercises. These initiatives will serve them in good stead whether they ultimately join NATO or whether they simply wish to work together with allies and their armed forces.

In particular the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, drew our attention to Romania. The Government are fully aware of the commitment by the Romanian Government to NATO and the popular support in Romania for NATO membership. We are encouraging the Romanian Government to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the enhanced Partnership for Peace which we hope will further and deepen that country's ties with NATO.

Noble Lords have expressed doubts about the costs to both current and new members of NATO of enlargement. I am going to take a little time to try and explain this further. Following a NATO study last year the defence ministers of the alliance accepted

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that the cost to NATO's common funded budgets over the next 10 years of the three new members would be US$ 1.5 billion. Britain's share will be some £110 million. We believe, as many other noble Lords have said, that this cost is a small price which the Government believe is worth paying to enhance European security. Earlier figures were based on radically different political and military assumptions from those now accepted and, in some cases, included costs not directly attributable to enlargement.

One or two noble Lords have expressed worries about the actual cost to the countries joining. The invited countries will be asked to contribute to NATO's common funded budgets, but they will be asked to do so in proportion to their ability to pay, and that is a very important point. On this basis, the Czech Republic has agreed to pay 0.9 per cent., Hungary 0.65 per cent. and Poland 2.48 per cent., a total of some £1 billion annually. We believe that these are small amounts in relation to their national defence budgets. May I remind your Lordships that an MoD paper was placed in the Library of both Houses in March explaining the cost estimates agreed at last December's NATO ministerial meetings, and that paper also explains the current costing's relationship with the earlier higher estimates. It does bear very careful reading.

The three new members must of course be ready to make a full contribution across the spectrum of alliance business as soon as possible after their accession is complete. To prepare them for this they now attend a wide range of NATO meetings, though they have no decision-making rights. We believe that that is the best possible training ground for the three countries concerned. Their practical preparations include working within the NATO force planning system, in which they have accepted target force goals which will guide the adaptation of their armed forces to NATO requirements. This is not going to be an easy transition for them, but we are confident that the three countries are preparing themselves for membership seriously and professionally.

I turn to some of the specific points which your Lordships have raised without trespassing too much further into time. I feel it is important to try to pick up some of the specifics that have been mentioned. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, was very concerned indeed about the accession of the three countries affecting the military capability. A capacity and clear willingness to accept the full range of military commitments involved in membership has been one of the criteria set out (if I can use that phrase), notably the willingness and ability to participate in integrated military structures in defence of all NATO allies. NATO's aim is to make this integration as smooth as possible, so I assure the noble Lord and all other noble Lords that there shall be no falling away from the highest standards for military effectiveness which NATO has rightly set itself.

To that end, we are now having the detailed discussions which I have already described to your Lordships. However, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked me specifically about the Government's reaction

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to the signed letter which was sent to the Prime Minister earlier this year. I should like to quote the Prime Minister's response to that letter. He said:

    "I agree with you that NATO's ability to make effective assessments and, when necessary, rapid decisions"--

a point about which the noble Lord was particularly concerned--

    "needs to be protected. Consensus in the alliance or elsewhere is never easy to achieve. There is no evidence, however, that enlargement to include the three countries will make the achievement of consensus more difficult. They will have a strong interest in ensuring that NATO continues to function effectively. Their integration into the alliance will enhance its ability to assess the security situation in Europe and to contribute to crisis management and resolution".

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, had a rather different concern. He asked where enlargement will stop. In the Government's view the important thing to remember is that it is not numbers that matter here but the cohesion of the alliance. We are confident that the alliance of 19 members will be able to work every bit as effectively as the alliance of 16, perhaps even more so as the three new members will be enthusiastically committed to the common cause.

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