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Lord Kennet: My Lords, with all politeness and some grief, perhaps I may correct the noble Lord. I did not say that I believed that but that it was possible to believe it in 1945.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My apologies, my Lords.

Similarly in the OSCE there was a large question which perhaps the Minister will answer: what is the future relationship between the OSCE and NATO in maintaining order in Europe?

One of the problems with the OSCE is that, given the current state of Russian politics and the various divisions within the Russian state, we cannot entirely guarantee that the OSCE itself will be able to act as a maintainer of order, a vehicle through which one can prevent conflict within the wider European space. We have also, after all, seen problems with minority vetoes even within the European Union and the common Parliament security policy, with Greece blocking progress towards resolving the Turkish relationship with Europe, towards resolving the Cyprus problem, and the United Kingdom and others going into smaller groups--contact groups of one sort or another--in order to evade that veto.

There is no easy answer either way. There is no formula which can answer all of our needs. We do, however, need to maintain a close alliance with the

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United States. It may be a flawed super-power, but it is better than a world without a benevolent and democratic super-power. This is the case of a stronger European presence within NATO and within world affairs as such, for a more institutionalised Europe which plays a much more central role in managing the security of its own region.

10.31 p.m.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, as we draw ever closer to the 50th anniversary of NATO's foundation, I would like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, on securing this debate, although I anticipate and hope that we will have further opportunities to debate NATO issues in advance of the 50th anniversary summit to be held in Washington in April.

This evening's debate has provided a timely opportunity to examine the appropriate legal basis under which NATO should take action in today's geopolitical landscape which increasingly poses "out of area" security and stability challenges. It also provides an opportunity to explore the achievements of the relationship between NATO, the UN and the OSCE as interlocking institutions which provide a global framework for respect to human rights, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, security and common liberty.

NATO as an organisation has enlarged, evolved and adapted over the five decades of its existence. The founding fathers of NATO sought to safeguard the freedom and security of all its member countries through political and military co-operation in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. NATO's essential purpose, as set out in the 1949 Washington Treaty and reiterated in the London Declaration, pointed towards the establishment of a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe.

However, changing times have brought changes to NATO's functions. In the Cold War years the alliance was focused on the development and maintenance of collective defence and territorial integrity of its member states, enshrined in Article 5 of the Treaty of Washington, and on overcoming the fundamental political issues dividing Europe. At the beginning of this decade NATO underwent a process of far-reaching change to adapt itself to the new challenges of the post-Cold War world and the transformation of the European security environment. In many respects NATO's new strategic concept was introduced at the Rome summit of November 1991. It called for structures which would enable the alliance to respond effectively to the changing security environment by providing the forces and capabilities needed to deal with a wide spectrum of risks and contingencies. This included the capability to undertake crisis management and crisis prevention operations, including peacekeeping, while continuing its core mission of collective defence. This was because, in the words of the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, a ballistic missile attack using a weapon of mass destruction from a rogue state is every bit as much an Article V threat to our borders now as a Warsaw Pact tank was two decades ago.

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Largely as a result of this new strategic concept, the alliance has developed procedures and mechanisms for closer co-operation with its partner countries, for example, through Partnership for Peace, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the NATO-Russia Founding Act and the NATO-Ukraine Charter, as well as increased co-ordination and co-operation with other international institutions, such as the United Nations, the OSCE, the Western European Union and the agreement to make NATO's assets and experience available to support international peace-keeping operations.

Against that background, we are all agreed that it is vital to have a common vision of NATO for the 21st century and to equip NATO to make the maximum contribution to peace and democracy in a Europe that is truly free.

The Washington summit next April provides an opportunity to make sure our road map is leading us to the goal of a NATO strengthened by new members; a NATO capable of collective defence; a NATO committed to meeting a wide range of threats to our shared interests and values; and a NATO acting in partnership with others to ensure stability, freedom and peace in and for the entire transatlantic area.

We are all agreed that today's world of diverse and multi-directional risks poses a very different set of challenges to NATO than the world of 50, 20, or even 10 years ago. Threats to our security are less likely to result from calculated aggression against the territory of NATO allies. Instead, the serious economic, social and political difficulties, including ethnic rivalries and territorial disputes faced by many countries in central and eastern Europe, have the potential to undermine European stability and to lead to armed conflicts, as we have seen in Bosnia and in Kosovo. Those conflicts could spill over into NATO countries and could have a direct effect on the security of the alliance.

There is no doubt that the allies' security is inseparably linked with that of the other states in Europe, underlining the importance of dialogue and co-operation within all of Europe to help defuse crises and to prevent conflicts. There is no doubt that events beyond NATO's borders can affect vital alliance interests. That is why NATO acted in Bosnia, and that is why NATO must be prepared to act in Kosovo. There is no doubt that if such threats are not addressed early and effectively they could grow into Article 5 threats.

In those new circumstances, the increased opportunities for the successful resolutions of crises at an early stage must be grasped. The question facing NATO today is how it can fine-tune its political and military structures to be able to defend alliance interests in the future as effectively as it has defended alliance territory in the past.

Does the Minister agree that the future success of NATO policy will require a coherent approach determined by the alliance's political authorities choosing and co-ordinating appropriate crisis management measures as required from a range of political and other measures, including those in the military field? Does the Minister agree with the US Secretary of State who has called for an updated

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strategic concept to deal with instability when it is at arm's length rather than when it is knocking on our door? What assessment have the Government made of fears in some European member countries that the United States' stated desire for NATO,

    "to be able to act in the area that it now acts in and able to have missions out of area that affect the interests of NATO members",
is indeed an attempt to create a global NATO or an American-led policeman of the world guided primarily by US global security interests which, accordingly, would downgrade the security of Europe in its lists of priorities? The matter was explored in some detail by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet? That raises the issue of mandates for missions beyond NATO's periphery. Article 1 of the Treaty of Washington makes it clear that NATO is bound to act according to the principle of the United Nations as set out in its charter. But can the Minister say what flexibility the Treaty of Washington, by which NATO was founded, offers to adapt the alliance to the realities of the new strategic environment? What assessment has the Minister made of the suggestion that NATO should not need the backing of a United Nations resolution for out-of-area operations, most recently expressed by the US Secretary of State in an interview with the French newspaper, Le Monde, last week, following the meeting of NATO foreign Ministers in Brussels. In a statement to the North Atlantic Council, Mrs. Albright stated that:

    "NATO will--in all cases--act in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter, while continuing to address this issue on a case-by-case basis".
Does the Minister agree that this is very different from accepting that NATO should only act out of area when backed by a Security Council resolution? Does the Minister agree that NATO should pledge to respect international law, but that the mandate of the UN Security Council resolution should not be compulsory? Can the Minister clarify the position of the Government on this absolutely critical issue which has major implications for future NATO operations.

In response to the crises such as Iraq and Kosovo, time after time the UN Security Council has fractured down familiar lines of dissent. We know from experience that indecision, disagreements, prevarication, even mere shades of opinion within the Security Council can be exploited by the leaders of rogue regimes in a dangerous game of divide and rule. The end result is deeply detrimental to the diplomatic and moral authority of the international community and risks the erosion of its credibility. Does the Minister accept that the requirement for a UN Security Council resolution would make any NATO action vulnerable to vetoes from China and Russia and could threaten to paralyse the western alliance, fatally weakening its effectiveness?

Perhaps I may pursue the example raised this evening by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, in Kosovo. During the summer, while Kosovar-Albanians were being murdered in their hundreds, we witnessed months of dithering, delay, disunity and disarray on the part of the international community. Sanctions were imposed, relaxed, then reimposed. In the Security Council there was deadlock with Russia, already dissociated from some of the Contact Group's wider economic sanctions.

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Even NATO's response was hesitant, unenthusiastic and sluggish. Having finally drawn up contingency plans for military intervention, its members operated a talking shop for months on the possibility of a preventive deployment force to the Kosovar-Albanian border and bickered over the legal basis for NATO military action. Russia's Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, told the UN General Assembly in September that NATO military action could provoke a big war in Europe and he repeated threats that NATO air strikes would be ruinous for international peace and could provoke a return to years of the Cold War. The speaker of Russia's Duma, Gennady Seleznyov, threatened that the Duma could try to rescind the Russia-NATO founding Act if NATO military action was taken.

How far does the Minister believe that Russian Government statements, such as the one on 6th October that:

    "the use of force against a sovereign state without due sanction of the UN Security Council would be an outright violation on the UN Charter undermining the existing system of international relations"
were bluster for domestic consumption? How far does the Minister believe that NATO air strikes without prior UN approval, which would be unprecedented although the circumstances demanded such action, did indeed risk splitting the alliance and polarising relations with Russia?

It is no wonder that President Milosevic, scenting weakness and division, ignored all the apparently ritual denunciations by the West and instead chose to tough it out in defiance of the international community until late in the day when his bluff was finally called. The fractured international response and the disjointed policies of NATO and the UN allowed him a window of murderous opportunity.

Kosovo remains the critical test not only for NATO but for Europe's largest security structure. There is consensus that we have a political interest in promoting a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Kosovo based on the fundamental principles of democracy and respect for human rights, while we have a humanitarian interest in seeing an end to the bloodshed and the pain of innocent people. I would be grateful if, in considering this example, the Minister could outline the Government's policy on the legal basis under which NATO may take action out of area, given that its policy must be reconciled with the need for unity within NATO, for without unity the alliance will not have credibility and that it must be consistent with NATO's fundamental objective.

In conclusion, I want to turn to the critical issue of preserving NATO as the linch-pin of European security. NATO is the embodiment of the transatlantic partnership between the European members of the alliance and the United States and Canada. It is the permanent link between the security of North America and the security of Europe. It is not an over-statement to say that NATO is the most successful defence alliance the world has ever seen. Its unique military capabilities, and its politically stabilising framework have given its members unprecedented peace since its foundation in 1949.

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On that note, what assurances have the Government given to the United States that the St. Malo declaration will contribute to NATO's vitality and will preserve its prerogatives? What assurances have been given that the Government's initiative on European defence will avoid the US Secretary of State's three Ds: the diminution of NATO, discrimination and duplication? Finally, what assurances have the Government sought from the United States that NATO and the transatlantic link will continue to have the highest priority in America's overseas security commitments?

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