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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Lord is over his time.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, I crave the indulgence of the House for ten seconds more. There should be no self-appointed, self- legitimating world policeman but several regional or continental policemen at the service of the UN, all internally as democratic as possible and all expressly subordinate to the authority of a UN which we must also strive to make inclusive and democratic.

6.57 p.m.

Lord Carver: My Lords, the House should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for giving us the opportunity to discuss a subject which was not fully covered by the debate on 8th December on the Strategic Defence Review. That review said remarkably little about what strategy the North Atlantic Alliance should have, although it made a few remarks about it. It seems to me that the Government have done little to persuade their allies within the alliance to reconsider fundamentally what is the best way to try to ensure the future security of Europe and of its interests, and therefore of our interests, in the light of the statement in the Strategic Defence Review that:

I suggest that the first priority in the search for a secure and peaceful Europe is a sentiment which is included in the same chapter of the Strategic Defence Review on the subject of enlargement; namely, that policies and institutional arrangements should not lead to new divisions within Europe. My fear is that overemphasis on NATO as the principal means of assuring this is tending to do just that. By NATO I mean what that acronym correctly designates: the military organisation, dominated by the Americans, which is primarily still designed to meet a threat from the east, which the Strategic Defence Review dismisses as non-existent. What is more, that organisation is dedicated to the use--the first use, in some circumstances--of nuclear weapons. Therefore, it does

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not surprise me at all that many Russians in and out of government view the enlargement of NATO in its present pattern with concern. That is accentuated by steps to re-arm and reorganise the armed forces of the new members on the model of those of the United States.

I remind noble Lords that the celebrations to take place in Washington next month mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the North Atlantic Alliance, not NATO as a military organisation. It was the outbreak of the Korean war in June 1950 and the alarm that it raised that the Russians were drawing American forces into that part of the world in preparation for overrunning western Europe, greatly reinforced by a dramatic speech by Winston Churchill to the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg calling for a strong European army, that led to American agreement at a NATO meeting on 12th September 1950 to the establishment,

    "at the earliest possible date of an integrated force under centralised command in Europe"--
something for which, ironically, the French had been pressing for some time. Up until that time the American perception of the alliance was that the European members should get together to organise their own defence and build up their forces with US military aid, buttressed by economic aid under the Marshall Plan.

I believe that we should move back towards the original American perception of the alliance. More than once I have explained in this House my proposed reorganisation of NATO--I mean NATO--which is, briefly, that the military structure should be radically transformed so that it consists of three elements: first, the United States forces assigned to the alliance straightforwardly under their own national command, as they are in reality; and, secondly, a more or less integrated European military command, training and perhaps procurement organisation within the alliance, not separate like the Western European Union. Britain, France and Germany must be members of it. Any other members of the alliance that wished to join could do so. That organisation could operate under either American overall command or independently.

The third element would comprise the forces of those members of the Alliance that did not wish to assign forces permanently to this organisation but could do so for any operation in which they wished to participate. I suggest that the adoption of that proposal will remove many of the objections that have been expressed from time to time to the involvement of the alliance in peacekeeping or peace enforcement. It would also remove many of my objections to enlargement. It would have other advantages. It would make possible the abolition of NATO's huge bureaucratic headquarter staffs, which are bound to grow as the alliance is enlarged on NATO's present pattern; and it would be possible to wind up the WEU.

The principal problem would then be the relationship between the North Atlantic Alliance--I do not want to do away with that for a moment--and OSCE. I believe it is essential for the future peace of Europe and the security of its interests elsewhere in the world to incorporate Russia and the European former members

3 Mar 1999 : Column 1724

of the Soviet Union closely with all the arrangements, political and military, designed to provide security, prevent armed conflict and promote peace in Europe.

At present there appear to be too many different and ill-organised bodies and methods. The Contact Group for Yugoslavia may point in a sensible direction. The choice appears to be between, on the one hand, strengthening OSCE and devising better ways by which, under the aegis of the United Nations--it must take place under the aegis of the UN--the North Atlantic Alliance can provide it with support, including if necessary armed forces, and, on the other hand, enlarging the North Atlantic Alliance itself, revised as I have suggested to include Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine. That would have the further advantage that one could include the Baltic states without controversy. Certainly what is now going on in the Balkans is not satisfactory.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, this is a timed debate. I would be grateful if noble Lords would keep to the six-minute time limit.

Lord Carver: My Lords, I do not want the Americans to lose their interest in Europe, but I believe that we can have better arrangements. I do not know what will emerge from the Strategic Defence Review, but I am afraid that it will be much the same as it was before.

7.4 p.m.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: My Lords, I begin by thanking my noble friend Lord Kennet for initiating this extremely important debate. Noble Lords may have noticed that I have been sandwiched between two former Chiefs of the Defence Staff. I regard that as my great good fortune because it means that when people read Hansard tomorrow they will at least be forced to scan my speech.

This is a big subject with many consequences for our Armed Forces. In a sense, it is the other half of the debate that we had last week which was concerned with overstretch in the Armed Forces. It is to the credit of our Armed Forces and their lobbying abilities that last week there were more speakers about overstretch than there are this week about NATO's response to meet that overstretch.

The strategic concept along with the Washington Treaty itself is one of the fundamental texts of the Alliance. We know that the new strategic concept will address the circumstances in which the Alliance now finds itself: the new risks in central Europe, the CFSP, enlargement, crisis management and reform of the command structure. All of these have combined to prompt the United States of America to call for a re-defined role for NATO as a major player on the world stage. For the Americans this is the main aim of the summit. However, for Europeans the summit provides an opportunity to address the huge shortcomings in European action exposed during the 1990s. At the same time as European leaders signed the Treaty of Maastricht, which for the first time mentioned a CFSP, their response to the outbreak of war in the former

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Yugoslavia exposed a lack of policy and an inability to act. Bosnia, Iraq and Kosovo have underlined that fact. The Washington Summit is of major importance for European defence. I hope it will show that we have moved a long way since the Treaty of Maastricht.

I believe that there is good news on European defence. Finally we are moving away from our historic ambivalence as to what European defence actually means. I believe that European defence is now accepted by everyone, including France, to be the business of NATO. It is also accepted by everyone, perhaps especially France, that real defence works only on the basis of mutual guarantees, and as long as four members of the European Union do not share such guarantees the EU can neither become NATO's rival nor its successor. I believe that that is now common ground and represents real progress.

Therefore, the real debate at Washington will be about European defence action within NATO that may be European-led in defence of European values and interests. It is to the credit of the Prime Minister that his initiative at Portschach followed by the St. Malo agreement have given real momentum to addressing European defence action without getting bogged down in endless debates about European defence structures.

However, the bad news starts as soon as one addresses the methods for European action. George Robertson's famous question is: What happens when one presses the button? The button is wired to the European capitals and that is where the system fails. France believes in strong action and Europeanisation but not multinationalism; Britain believes in strong action and multinationalism but not Europeanisation; and Germany believes in multinationalism and Europeanisation. Noble Lords can guess the rest. It is to address this problem that we look to the Washington Summit.

Based on my understanding, the United States quite reasonably does not want to establish a European Union bloc within the Alliance. It would rather see the WEU maintain its decision-making autonomy within NATO. The American attitude above all shows a desire to see Europe assume greater responsibilities within the Alliance without in any way undermining the Alliance itself. In practice the debate today is how to establish a European chain of command within NATO to enable Europeans to act on their own initiative using NATO forces and assets. Surely that is a reasonable aspiration. I hope that the Minister can give some reassurance on that point.

I hope that my noble friend can offer some reassurance on two further points. The first has been alluded to by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. It is the position of members of the Western European Union who are not in NATO or the EU. My noble friend will be aware that there are some 28 members of the WEU in differing categories of membership. I would argue that that has been the WEU's greatest strength and has reinvigorated that institution since it was pretty much moribund in years past. I hope that my noble friend can reassure me that the contribution made by those countries is properly recognised in whatever

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institutional arrangements are agreed, and that institutional relationships can be built on, as has been achieved by the WEU in the past few years.

Secondly, I hope that my noble friend can reassure me on the position of the assemblies: the NAA, the WEU and the OSCE. Those assemblies are poodles and lapdogs. They roll over and Ministers tickle their tummies. They have no real power. Surely the time has now come to have fewer assemblies but with more real powers. Can the Minister reassure me that she believes in parliamentary assemblies with real powers?

7.10 p.m.

Lord Bramall: My Lords, I do not think that any noble Lord would question the value of NATO over the past close on 50 years. It has provided an effective framework for Western defence and deterrent in the face of a formidable Warsaw Pact capability and periodical belligerent diplomatic and sometimes military moves, all of which could not be ignored. It bound Western Europe together and healed internal wounds before the European Community had taken hold. It kept the United States fully involved in underwriting the defence of Europe and away from any dark thoughts of isolationism. More recently, it has provided a formidable military agency to carry out peace-keeping and even peace enforcement operations on its borders and on behalf of the UN. Its contribution to half a century of peace, historically quite an achievement, and the bringing about of the collapse of militant communism have been quite outstanding.

But what of the future? American involvement is, I believe, as important as ever, because without American forces and money Europe cannot be defended and aggression cannot be properly deterred should a threat there ever reoccur. Nor can Europeans engage in any military operations worthy of the name without some American support and in some cases its lead role. With the United Nations lacking any proper military staff or standing military forces, there is also, I suggest, an ongoing requirement for some European-based, US-backed reaction force which can produce teeth for the UN Security Council decisions in areas directly affecting the present NATO area.

Those reasons alone call for the continuation of NATO in some form. At the same time, with the frontiers of NATO now being extended out to the borders of Belarus and the Ukraine--here I agree with my noble and gallant friend Lord Carver that it is possible that we followed the US initiative too rapidly over this, but I think that it is probably too late to go back; and the concerns of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have to be met somehow--now that the deed has been done it is more important than ever to alter the image and character of NATO if we are not to return to the language and posturing of the Cold War, and in areas far less advantageous to ourselves.

NATO, I suggest, would be a better stabilising influence if it became more of a European Security Pact, as has already been said, which not only looked for exchange of information, harmony and non-aggression agreements within its own borders but also tried to

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establish good mutual relations and non-aggression pacts with its neighbours as well. That will give us a long overdue opportunity to run down and reduce the NATO top heavy command organisation designed for war fighting on three fronts and controlling Army group corps and divisions in fast moving operations. That is no longer necessary, as has been said repeatedly by my noble and gallant friend Lord Carver; and I entirely agree and support his views.

In this new-look NATO, it would do no harm--indeed, it would be enormously helpful--if there were to be a marked European Community pillar of NATO which could, if required, provide the decision-making and command machinery to take on smaller humanitarian and peace-keeping operations in the European area which do not necessarily require or cannot get US involvement. This would invariably require a common European defence policy. I greatly support the Government's efforts to achieve that.

The Russian Federation and some of the other former Soviet Republics no longer have, in military terms, the international clout which they had in the Cold War, nor the capability to transform the balance of power at a stroke. But they want to get back into the international action and to continue to be considered a world power. Indeed, their co-operation could prove valuable, as to some extent it already has, in places like the Balkans and the Middle East.

So NATO's challenge for the future is how to work with Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine (whose interrelation is obscure) in the international arena so as to spread peace and stability and not friction and conflict, and without of course restarting the Cold War.

Perhaps I may conclude with a bit of a fairy story, albeit a true one. Thirty years ago I was commanding a brigade of our strategic reserve which was carrying out a big exercise on Salisbury Plain. It was being watched by a Russian military attache, a major general. In the course of the exercise, a battalion was dug in on the reverse slope preparing to beat off an attack by Fantasia tanks. As I looked at the position, two riflemen signalled me over. One of them said, "Excuse me, sir. My mate and I are having a bet. Is there a Russian general out on this exercise?", to which I replied, "Yes, I will get him to come and talk to you". As I walked away, the other said to me, "My mate and I have got another bet, sir. Could you tell us: is Russia in NATO?" When I told the Russian general, 30 years ago, to come and talk to two soldiers who wanted to know whether Russia was in NATO he was somewhat nonplussed. But perhaps those two soldiers were more prophetic than they realised.

7.17 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Kennet for his introduction. His constructive comments were followed by those of the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Carver and Lord Bramall, whose soldier colleagues were, I hope, prophetic. I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Ponsonby for the fact that in recent times he has brought in a note of optimism. Many of us had soldiered along for a long time in the WEU where the mood of pessimism seemed entirely justified.

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It is now more than a decade since the transformation of central and eastern Europe became inevitable and yet western Europe may still not have come fully to terms with it. The umbrella of mutually assured destruction may not be required. Unfortunately, western Europe failed to understand that it still could rain rather heavily. The difficulty has been that the failure is an historic one. The previous strategy began after the Second World War and certainly after the Berlin airlift. It lasted a long time and brought about a considerable degree of stability. However, we have to understand that during part of that period conflict was regarded as almost inevitable. Study of government papers in the early 1950s leads one to realise that the Ministers in key positions in Cabinet regarded a conflict with Russia as unavoidable before the end of the 1950s.

It was right that the start of that strategy Britain should make an enormous contribution. The remainder of western Europe was ravaged by the war and incapable of contributing properly to its own defence. From the very start, the United Kingdom accepted extremely heavy commitments. Looking at the position in the late 1940s, one can read how the United States was pressing the Labour government most vigorously to increase their expenditure on defence. They wished the Labour government to increase their spending in cash terms in the late 1940s to £6,000 million per year, which was an enormous amount then. The government were able to increase it to £4,500 million. That made sure that they lost the next general election but one because they had to introduce such things as prescription charges.

No one could sensibly argue other than that the commitments Britain made at that time, when Europe was incapable of contributing to its own defence, were right. But we have continued to bear an inequitable burden since then. All right, our spending has been restrained by a transfer from conscription to professional forces, and no one can doubt the capacity of our Armed Forces today. But, unfortunately, Europe has done very well without making up for the inadequacies of the first part of the period during which the strategy applied. The result has been that failure to come to terms with modern reality that has led to the horrors of Yugoslavia, despite the fact that there was a very long lead time during which warnings of such horror were manifest.

I am not at all happy that those in Europe who still believe that they can ignore the United States and that they can adopt the posture of the powerful without providing the capacity to match it are being entirely reasonable. That is why it is essential for the Government to maintain the view that NATO must continue; that there should be a proper parliamentary structure in Europe. Unfortunately, that has not been so.

I shall not bore the House by repeating some points I have made before. But I recall the time when the Royal Navy was steadfastly maintaining the blockade on the maritime movement of armaments into the former Yugoslavia. The Council of Ministers of the WEU was proclaiming that it had all the information about the land movement of such weapons and yet proposed to do nothing about it. That must have read very badly to any

3 Mar 1999 : Column 1729

sailor maintaining that blockade to find that our colleagues in Europe were not prepared to match on land that which the British forces were doing at sea.

For that reason, we should press for the approach which my noble friend has urged us in his brief but important contribution, because we must secure not merely a realistic approach from Europe but also one in which it accepts responsibility as well as some power. We accept the right for Europe to have a real degree of independence, but there must also be a capacity for Europe not only to defend itself but to contribute to that stability, which is certainly needed even if it is delegated to the regional organisations to which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, quite properly referred.

7.23 p.m.

The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for introducing this timely debate. I thank him also for his provocative and challenging remarks to which we can respond.

I begin by wishing a month in advance a very happy birthday to the North Atlantic Alliance. I also wish it many more successful and fruitful years. If it dies or needs to die, I hope that it has a peaceful and painless demise. But I believe and hope that it has much more to do before it passes away since the world is a very dangerous place and people, as well as organisations, at the age of 50 must begin to transform themselves for the better.

I hope I may be permitted a personal observation. I celebrated my 50th birthday last month thanks to NATO, I believe. I held my birthday party in the Apsley House of Estonia, the General Johan Laidoner Museum; General Laidoner being the Estonian equivalent of the Duke of Wellington. He was removed in 1940 with 10 per cent. of his compatriots to concentration camps in Siberia and elsewhere. The Estonians, like their neighbours, have not forgotten that and never will.

My speech in Estonia was televised. I noticed that the two minutes shown on television did not show the British-Estonian parliamentary group handing over a cheque but showed me saying:

    "The path of enlargement upon which NATO has embarked with its partners and aspirant members should, in the case of the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, be carried to its logical conclusions as soon as is sensibly possible".
I very much hope that in Washington next month the leaders of the nations which form part of NATO will be able to demonstrate not only positive support but also to lay down a timetable since anything less may damage the still fragile process of democratisation of those nations which are emerging from half a century of tyranny. Also, we do not wish to send the wrong signal to the Russian Federation.

We are told by some--the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for one--that we must do nothing to irritate the Russian Federation. I have heard it said that the Duma will not countenance enlargement which will, one day, bring in the Baltic states. Let us be careful when we use those sentences. I suggest that it is the conservative and reactionary forces rather than liberal forces within the

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Russian Government and the Duma who are shouting the loudest and who do not want the enlargement of NATO. We must be careful not to listen to the wrong voices and we must encourage those Russian deputies who bravely strive to turn their nation towards liberal democratic situations and priorities. Otherwise, we shall do them and the Russian people a gross disservice.

Apart from enlargement, what do we want to achieve at the Washington summit at a time when the air, land and naval forces of the NATO alliance have decreased since 1990 by 37 per cent. and defence expenditure has decreased by 22 per cent.? First, we must welcome the three new nations into NATO; secondly, as the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, said with clarity, we need to agree to an enhanced European role within NATO; thirdly, to continue to search for ways to reduce nuclear weapons; and fourthly to continue the process of transforming NATO so that simultaneously, when required, it is able to act proactively in crisis management organisation with the ability to act quickly, as was not apparent in Bosnia and Kosovo. It must also form the defensive security for all member nations, as it has done over the past 50 years with startling success.

But whether we like it or not--and I do--the Washington summit will be remembered as the occasion when Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic came out of the cold. There is an irony here. They are the nations in central Europe which see themselves as the least threatened. But they will be the first to become members.

I solve jigsaw puzzles. I tend to start with the corners and the edges and I wish that the NATO organisation had done that in respect of enlargement. Last month saw the publication of a report by the International Defence Advisory Board to the Baltic states whose chairman is General Sir Garry Johnson, that distinguished former Gurkha and rifleman, our last NATO commander of NATO's northern flank. The work of his team of distinguished ex-servicemen and diplomats from eight nations from America, Scandinavia and Europe has been outstanding in assisting the Baltic states and others.

In its conclusion, the report draws attention to the commitment of the Baltic states which share western values, and which are on the threshold of NATO, to the general concept of the Euro-Atlantic alliance and the giant strides which have been made by creating--they had to start from scratch--democratically controlled defence forces on the NATO model. There is a need for that to be recognised at Washington. Has the Minister read that report; does she agree with its conclusions; and will she please draw it to the attention of her right honourable friend the Prime Minister before he travels to Washington?

7.28 p.m.

Lord Rea: My Lords, six minutes allows only one or two bullet points to be made in this debate. As all noble Lords know, NATO was created as, and remains, a defensive alliance. During the Cold War, that did not make it any less of a perceived threat by the USSR, however false that perception may have been. Its continued existence, now with three additional

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countries, does not make the Russians feel comfortable, despite the NATO-Russia Founding Act, and Partnership for Peace and the other liaison that NATO has with Russia.

As my noble friend Lord Kennet and others have often warned, the unstable economic and political situation in today's Russia is a breeding ground for political extremism, with not only the tirades of Zhirinovsky, but more recently Duma deputy, General Maslyukov mouthing flagrant anti-Semitic hatred, fanning the flames of smouldering nationalism and militarism. The slow pace of progress towards the signing and implementation by Russia of the SALT II Treaty and conventional forces reduction in Europe is in part a measure of residual Russian resentment at the West's actions in maintaining and enlarging NATO, but excluding them, in effect, despite the placatory declarations.

However, as several noble Lords have pointed out, NATO can be a force for good in peacekeeping and conflict resolution. The Dayton Agreement, imperfect though it is, could not have been reached without NATO, and particularly US, muscle behind it. And now, in Kosovo, the possible air strikes against Serbia would, again, be under NATO command. But, like some other noble Lords, I feel that Europe needs to ask why it is not possible to contain problems, such as those in former Yugoslavia, without transatlantic help, through the United Nations Security Council and European organisations such as the OSCE, possibly with the participation of the WEU. Serious military strategists doubt whether the WEU could ever form an effective force. As Senator Helms said, in his speech to the Senate on NATO enlargement last April,

    "With all respect to our friends in Europe, the EU could not fight its way out of a wet paper bag".
It could be held that there is a germ of truth in that withering remark, though I would suggest that careful extraction from a wet paper bag rather than fighting out of it might be a more effective and less messy process.

The nations of Western Europe collectively are many times richer and more populous than Yugoslavia and have, even now, a far greater military capacity; yet decisive action seems to have required the participation of the United States. Is that inevitable? I suggest that Europe needs to look very carefully at the wisdom of its apparent military dependence on the United States and strengthen its collective security arrangements.

As my noble friend Lord Kennet has warned us, the United States and Europe have different agendas. The "New World Order", US-style, is not something we should accept as a fait accompli. In its pursuit of military and economic ascendancy, the United States downplays the role of the United Nations, disregards international law and cultivates some very doubtful allies. One of its most stalwart supporters in NATO is Turkey, which incidentally is over 2000 miles away from the North Atlantic. Originally, of course, it was brought into the organisation to buttress the southern flank of the former Iron Curtain. It is as a member of NATO that it has been able comprehensively to equip its armed forces which have been deployed for its own purposes to invade Cyprus and hold down its Kurdish

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population. The CIA, as described openly in the International Herald Tribune two weeks ago, was largely responsible for the capture of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdish resistance movement in Turkey. That was, perhaps, in gratitude for Turkish help in the continuing Gulf conflict with Iraq.

My plea to the Government is that, while acknowledging the power and potentially beneficial role of NATO, we should be very watchful that it is not used as a vehicle to promote the interests of its most powerful member. At the same time, we should rapidly increase the effectiveness of the OSCE, possibly with the WEU, in conflict resolution so that eventually the United Kingdom and Europe are no longer so dependent on US military strength and can adopt a more independent role.

7.34 p.m.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, perhaps I may say to my noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall that NATO's Partnership for Peace has already done a good deal to change the image. Communication, co-operation and transparency are now principles which sovereign states are learning to apply. The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, which has been mentioned, now brings together 44 states, including four traditional neutrals, for regular meetings.

This work for stability has offshoots; for example, the NATO-Ukraine Commission, or the Mediterranean Co-operation Group, linking Egypt, Israel, Jordan and countries in North Africa. Another example is the Partnership Co-operation Cell at Mons in Belgium.

I turn specifically to Russia. I am glad that the Foreign Secretary is currently visiting Murmansk. The imaginative and generous thing to have done would have been to offer full NATO membership to Russia immediately after the break-up of the old Soviet Union. That was not done, but the progress since June 1994 when Russia signed to join the Partnership for Peace, has been remarkable. There is now, for example, a bilateral, permanent joint council. Russian units have taken part in both IFOR and SFOR in Bosnia, and only last May joined in NATO exercises in Denmark. Mutual military missions will soon be established in Brussels and Moscow. I understand that there have been discussions on the vital subject of the conversion of defence industries to peaceful production. A start has been made on the re-training of retired and redundant military personnel, particularly officers. All of that is especially important in view of the demoralisation which exists in the Russian armed forces, made worse by the current economic blizzard.

I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government one specific and one or two general questions. Will they raise, in the permanent joint council with Russia, the matter of the vast store of arms and munitions of the former Soviet 14th Army located in the east of the Republic of Moldavia? Some of the explosives are known to be so old that they cannot safely be transported. It is also essential to ensure that none of that material falls into irresponsible hands.

Will the Government pay particular attention, within the partnership, to arms control, not only over weapons of mass destruction, but also over small arms? Those

3 Mar 1999 : Column 1733

have been proliferating worldwide and can so easily destabilise small and poor countries. I understand that this matter is topic one of the long-term programme for consultations.

Will the Government use the conference of national armaments directors to address arms exports to the third world and the issue of the licensing of arms production outside Europe and North America? Under the heading of arms control, will they question whether it is necessary or desirable for every small country to equip itself with supersonic fighters and other high-technology weaponry? Will they also use the political and military steering committee, which comes under the partnership arrangements, to strengthen democratic, civilian control over military and security matters?

7.38 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I hope my voice, which is not very strong, will last out for my allowed short time. I regret that we are having only a one-and-a-half hour debate on an issue which is, after all, providing the framework for British defence policy.

It has always seemed to me to be extraordinary that Britain's commitment to the European Union should be a matter of so much domestic controversy in terms of its limitations on our sovereignty, with committees of both Houses poring over each document in draft; but that within NATO--which represents, after all, very much a limitation on British sovereignty--common documents should be discussed in great detail in the US Congress but not presented to the British Parliament on a similar basis.

This should have been discussed. After all, we have the elements of a common defence policy through NATO. I just want to flag some elements which seem to me to be important in the new concept. First, we need a new European-American relationship. I was interested to see that, in his speech in Rome on 25th January, Mr. Solana talked about the need for a new transatlantic bargain to be part of the new NATO strategic concept. That is why, he said, our alliance must have a stronger European personality. It is not a particularly new theme. I remember when I was a student John F. Kennedy making his great speech in July 1962 in which he called for a new transatlantic partnership with a stronger European component. The United States has always been deeply ambivalent about that, with Bartholomew telegrams and all sorts of things passing to and fro every time the Europeans started to get back together, resisting the idea that there could be a European caucus within NATO. I hope that we now have a sufficiently mature relationship with the United States for it to accept that a European partner within NATO means a coherent European grouping.

That brings me to my second point; that is, the importance of the St. Malo declaration and the extent to which that feeds into the definition of a new strategic concept. My party made itself a little unpopular with the Government by criticising the Strategic Defence Review on its publication for not including a European dimension. For that reason we strongly support them in

3 Mar 1999 : Column 1734

the St. Malo initiative and hope that they will take it a great deal further. A more effective use of limited resources, training together and sharing equipment, is exactly the right way forward. I know that the St. Malo declaration also referred to greater European autonomy in operations. Perhaps the Minister will say a little about what is meant by that interesting phrase "greater autonomy" in the St. Malo declaration and how that will feed back into the NATO concept.

Thirdly, I should like to ask about future enlargement, which is a matter of much controversy in the United States. I share entirely the views of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, that now NATO has started to enlarge, it should logically enlarge to include as many of the states of central and eastern Europe as possible. We are talking about the transformation of NATO into something which will not be fundamentally dissimilar from OSCE, with an integrated military structure providing, through Partnership for Peace, the ability to train forces together and to retrain forces that were not used to civilian operation--civilian control or peacekeeping operations--and so to build a broader European security organisation.

We know also that there was much resistance in the United States, particularly in the US Congress, to the idea of further enlargement. I hope that the Minister will say something about our continuing commitment for Romania, Slovenia and others eventually to come in. The NATO working paper of three years ago on NATO enlargement included the phrase that, in the long run, NATO and EU enlargement should come to include the same number of European countries. Again, that seems to me to be the ideal. Relations with Russia and the Ukraine need to move either to eventual full membership or to an extremely close partnership. The NATO-Russia council has not yet been an easy relationship, but clearly we need to take that as far forward as we can.

I have two further points. The first concerns NATO beyond Europe. The Secretary-General, in a number of recent speeches, said clearly that NATO should not aim to be a global policeman. We know that there are many in the United States who want NATO to become in effect something like a global policeman. There were even those within the British military establishment who were arguing that, if there were problems in the South China Sea, the SDR should ensure that the British had some possibility of being there.

This is the most difficult area for the new strategic concept. Most Europeans, including the British, are not entirely happy with American policy in the Gulf; with American attitudes towards the Arab-Israeli conflict; and some of us are not entirely happy with the different nuances between American policy towards Turkey and those of European policy towards Turkey. Those are the most difficult areas on which to compromise. The ideas of people like Zbigniew Brzezinski, who sees NATO as the means through which the United States projects power across Eurasia into the greater Middle East, are very different from the European security organisation that most of us here wish to see. I hope that the new strategic concept will clearly explore those differences.

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Finally, I turn to the question of the balance between regional and global organisations. In Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia, we have been struggling with the question of who authorises international forces. The Chinese veto of the renewal of the Macedonia extraction force because Macedonia recognises Taiwan seems to recognise the difficulty of relying on UN organisation for regional peacekeeping operations. I hope that the new strategic concept will also recognise that the OSCE, NATO and the EU all have a role to play in that.

The role of the United Kingdom is as a leading European member of NATO, explaining our shared values, but also our different priorities to our American partners. I hope therefore that the new strategic concept will spell out the form of a new European-American partnership in security in which Britain will become one of the leading European members.

7.46 p.m.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for securing this important debate. Just before Christmas the noble Lord again provided an equally valuable opportunity for the House to discuss the appropriate legal basis under which NATO should take action under our changing geopolitical landscape, which increasingly poses various security and stability challenges.

NATO's last strategic concept was introduced at the Rome summit of November 1991 and reflected the need for a new framework to enable the alliance to respond effectively to a world of increasingly diverse and multi-directional risks. The aim was to equip NATO with the capability to undertake crisis management and crisis prevention operations, including peacekeeping, while continuing its core mission of collective defence. The geopolitical sands have shifted yet again in the eight years since that concept was drawn up and the tasks for the alliance are now more, rather than less, varied. But, though the nature of the threats faced by alliance members today may be different, the stark dangers posed by those threats remain the same.

During the debate in December, I quoted the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who said that 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.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that underlying any new strategic concept for NATO will be the fact that threats to our security are no longer likely to be the result of calculated aggression against the territory of the NATO allies; instead the serious economic, social and political difficulties, including ethnic rivalries and territorial disputes and issues of sovereignty 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. That is why NATO must be prepared to act in Kosovo.

In this short contribution, I seek to explore the strategic concept and the European defence debate in particular. As the 21st century dawns, NATO's future role is being discussed, debated and agreed by its

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members. The emerging debate on European defence capabilities has a key part to play in this process and has been much commented on this evening. The Minister has given an assurance in the past that, as the embodiment of the transatlantic partnership between the European members of the alliance, the United States and Canada, NATO remains the cornerstone of our defence policy, linking as it does the security interests of North America and the security interests of Europe.

Will the Minister assure the House that there are no contradictions between the Government's proposals at Portschach for a more integrated EU defence identity and the St. Malo declaration on the one hand, and the principle of the primacy of NATO in European defence, strongly supported by the Government in the Treaty of Amsterdam, on the other, especially given the absence of details on those proposals provided to the House. Perhaps the Minister can take this opportunity to clarify the strategy and objectives of the St. Malo declaration in the context of NATO.

Is she in a position to provide details on how the Government intend to take forward the principles on which they believe any new European defence arrangements should be based in the run-up to the WEU ministerial meeting in Bremen on 10th-11th May and the European Council meeting in Cologne on 4th June? For it is important that the St. Malo declaration is not the first step towards the road of an unrealistic, potentially damaging European common defence identity, since any new European defence policy must respect the centrality of NATO to the transatlantic link and to our common defence.

Central to this question is whether the Minister accepts that a common European Union defence policy on the one hand and a European defence policy underpinned by the primacy of NATO on the other, are or are not mutually exclusive. Is she satisfied that our French partners in the St. Malo declaration share that view?

Perhaps I may make it absolutely clear from these Benches that we fully support enhanced defence co-operation with our European Union partners. The member states of the European Union naturally have many interests in common. There is a role for a common foreign and security policy in safeguarding and advancing those interests. That is a role in which this country can plan a prominent part. In many areas such as intelligence gathering there is much mutual benefit to be gained from greater co-operation. However, does the Minister agree that closer co-operation between European sovereign nations does not need to be institutionalised through the establishment of independent decision-making structures for a European defence initiative?

I hear what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, has said about small scale humanitarian projects. However, in my view, it is critical to appreciate that to seek the creation of a new alliance within an alliance could fatally undermine the very institution that we have relied on for our peace and security for the past five decades, especially since the European Union does not have any of the operational expertise or the working

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understanding with NATO. I agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, that the European allies alone lack the air and sea capacity, the missile defence policies, the advanced communication satellites and the military computers provided by the United States. From these Benches, we firmly believe in the overriding importance of the Atlantic alliance as the bedrock of our future security. Sustaining a strong US component to European security is an essential part of that.

We seek an assurance that the Government's commitment to NATO and the preservation of its prerogatives is equally respected by our French partners in the St. Malo declaration, particularly given their difference of opinion with the United States over the mandate under which NATO should be able to act out of area. Equally, it will be useful to have an update on the contacts at both official and ministerial level with our NATO allies, in particular with the United States, through which the Government have said that the detailed work arising from the St. Malo declaration is being pursued. From these Benches, we appreciate the difficulties in defining "out of area" in today's world of weapons of mass destruction. How will that be addressed in the updated strategic concept? What discussions have the Government held with the Russian Government concerning the Government's policy on the legal basis under which NATO may take action outside its borders?

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. With the co-operation and unity of existing and new members and with NATO's partners, the answer to that question can be found and NATO will continue to be the ultimate guardian of peace and security in Europe.

7.53 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I too, thank my noble friend Lord Kennet for initiating this debate this evening and, indeed, thank all noble Lords who have taken part.

In 1949 the founding members of NATO affirmed their faith in the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter; their determination to safeguard the freedom of their peoples, based on democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law; and their resolve to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security.

As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, reminded us, without any doubt NATO has been tremendously successful in securing these goals. NATO has kept war away from the territory of its members and has created conditions in which the likelihood of aggression against any of its members has been greatly reduced.

My noble friend Lord Kennet drew our attention in particular to the new strategic concept that is being developed for adoption at the Washington summit and which will reaffirm the alliance's Article 5 commitment to collective defence of allied territory. This

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commitment, and the integrated military structure that underpins it, are the foundations on which the success of the alliance has been built, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, told us. The guarantee of security within the alliance provides the basis for NATO and individual allies to contribute to wider international stability. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and all noble Lords, that this is a principle which must not be compromised.

But NATO has always been far more than just a collective defence organisation. I argue with my noble friend Lord Kennet. The raison d'etre of NATO is not to identify enemies, but rather, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, suggested, to promote peace and stability throughout the whole of the Euro-Atlantic region. That is the reason for its involvement in operations outside its territory. NATO's non-Article 5 operations and activities with partners are sometimes called "new missions". Yet they are not new at all. NATO has been conducting a crisis management mission in Bosnia for the past five years. They embody the principles set out 50 years ago in NATO's Washington Treaty. So the so-called "new missions" are among the means by which NATO fulfils its purpose in the post-Cold War security environment, just as planning to defend against a strategic attack preoccupied NATO in the past. They show that NATO is continuing to adapt to the security situation in Europe and to shape it.

I assure the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that part of this ongoing adaptation of NATO's work is to develop the European pillar within the alliance, building on agreement reached at the Berlin Summit in 1996. Subsequent efforts to build a specific European security and defence identity within NATO, which will enable all European allies to make a more coherent and effective contribution to the missions and activities of the alliance, have been given new impetus by the Prime Minister's call for Europe to take greater responsibility for its own defence and security, as emphasised by my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. The Franco-British declaration at St. Malo of 4th December sets out our objective of ensuring that the European Union will be able to back its common foreign and security policy by credible military forces in order to respond, where appropriate, to international crises. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that the cornerstone of European security remains the main source of European defence capabilities and NATO, which will have a central role to play as we continue to develop our ideas on this with allies and partners. I hope that that is a sufficiently unequivocal response to the point that the noble Lord raised.

I turn to the points raised by my noble friend Lord Kennet who rightly drew our attention to the question of the locality of NATO action. Of course, it is right and proper to discuss these issues. But I believe that the conclusions that the noble Lord drew were essentially wrong. I shall try to explain why. All NATO operations, like any British operation, must be in accordance with international law. The legal basis of any operation will depend on the precise circumstances

3 Mar 1999 : Column 1739

of the case. The legal basis for an Article 5 collective defence operation would be the right to self-defence recognised in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, gave examples of that. For many non-Article 5 operations, a United Nations Security Council resolution would be needed to authorise the use of force. But force may also be used to defend a non-NATO state at its invitation or, in exceptional circumstances, to avert an immediate and overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe. In such cases a United Nations Security Council resolution may not be necessary. NATO's role in non-Article 5 missions can be seen in practice on the ground in the former Yugoslavia, where NATO forces in Bosnia, and now in their involvement in the Kosovo crisis, have been vital in improving the prospects for peace. NATO-led forces have seen their role in the Balkans develop towards ever-increasing co-operation with other international organisations and greater involvement with partner countries. As my noble friend Lord Rea reminded us, the NATO Stabilisation Force in Bosnia is working to enforce the military provisions of the Dayton Peace Agreement. SFOR now comprises troops from 20 partner countries as well as all NATO member states. The UK acts as one of the three "lead nations", with around 4,800 troops currently in Bosnia and a further 350 based in headquarters and in Italy.

Similarly, as my noble friend Lord Rea also said, the difficulties of the current situation in Kosovo demonstrate the enormous complexity of managing crises in the former Yugoslavia. But experience shows that NATO's military resolve, the credible threat of force, and the commitment of allies and partners, can contribute to the possibility of successful political outcomes. In Kosovo, NATO is assisting the OSCE in verifying Belgrade's compliance with relevant Security Council resolutions and its agreements with NATO and the OSCE. A NATO force has been established in Skopje to extract OSCE monitors if necessary.

So called "out-of-area" operations, or non-Article 5 operations, in Bosnia, and potentially Kosovo, are a key part of NATO's developing role. The Government believe that it is neither morally acceptable nor politically prudent for us to stand back from this sort of conflict prevention in the Balkans. An escalation of violence there would have grave security implications for us, for our European partners; and, indeed, beyond that. It would also carry a high risk of deepening humanitarian suffering in the region. NATO has the capacity to influence political developments beyond its borders. The important point is to use that power as a real force for good. I should like to take this opportunity to thank the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, for his support on that point.

My noble friend Lord Ponsonby raised some points about the new strategic concept, as indeed did many other noble Lords. The new strategic concept will be agreed at the forthcoming Washington Summit and will take account of the sort of role that NATO is playing in the former Yugoslavia. As the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, said, it will be a clear statement of NATO's purpose and will serve a number of vital functions. It will be a statement of NATO's policy. The noble Lord,

3 Mar 1999 : Column 1740

Lord Moynihan, asked for information in that respect. The statement itself will be a tool of information. It will explain to the various publics within NATO what NATO is doing to safeguard their security and it will present NATO to non-NATO audiences. It will also provide high level guidance to NATO military planners and outline what NATO needs to do to ensure that its military forces can perform the demanding tasks that it will need to undertake in a strategic and changing environment.

The development of European defence capabilities and the response to the risks posed by the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and their means of delivery, are examples of the way that NATO is reviewing its strategic outlook to ensure that it remains effective. Our own Strategic Defence Review last year, to which many noble Lords referred this evening, identified new priorities for UK military planners. Likewise, NATO needs to update its posture to continue to perform effectively. The new Strategic Concept will identify the priorities for NATO action to ensure that NATO troops become more mobile and can be more flexibly deployed.

As my noble friend Lord Kennet reminded us, NATO is entering a new phase in its history this month. We shall be welcoming Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into the Alliance on 12th March. I take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to those new members. Their membership will strengthen both the Alliance and European security as a whole. Their accession is a practical reminder of NATO's commitment to enlargement. I assure the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that NATO's "Open Door" policy will be unequivocally reaffirmed at the forthcoming summit.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, my noble friend Lord Rea and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, raised concerns about NATO's relationship with Russia. We have spoken often in this House about the importance of the NATO/Russia Founding Act of May 1997. However, I should point out to noble Lords that this is not just an Act which has been signed and left on one side. Ambassadors meet monthly and Ministers meet at least twice a year. Indeed, either side can call extra meetings as required. In fact, there have been many extra meetings over the Kosovo crisis in recent months. So it is not just a piece of paper; it is a real working partnership that we have tried to set up. I do not think that I need remind your Lordships of the important role that Russia has played in the Contact Group on Kosovo.

In answer to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, our priority is to deepen and broaden the co-operation that we have within the framework of Partnership for Peace and to include the military sphere in that concept. We want to continue to build opportunities for partners to deepen their links within NATO and ensure that the North Atlantic Council remains the real authority, while also extending our hand--that is, the hand of friendship--to others elsewhere, in the way that I hope I have been able to indicate.

3 Mar 1999 : Column 1741

The noble Lord asked some very specific questions about the former Soviet 14th Army in Eastern Moldavia. The UK and our European partners have been active in attempting to resolve the situation. The European Union and the OSCE have consistently called for, and offered to assist in, the removal of Russian armaments and military equipment from that region. NATO has not been involved but Moldavia could, if it wished, raise the issue in the Euro Atlantic Partnership Council. I hope that that answers the noble Lord's specific point.

The noble Lord also asked about ways in which we might tackle small arms proliferation. The problem with the latter will be discussed at a meeting between NATO and its partners next week. We think that the Euro Atlantic Partnership Council could exchange more information on small arms policy, looking at things like stock-piling and the destruction of surplus arms. I hope that the noble Lord is encouraged by that response. There is a forthcoming meeting and those concerned will be considering the specific point that he made.

I agree with a great deal of what my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath said about the importance of our relationships not only with NATO but also with the WEU. We want to enhance the ability of the EU to act through the CFSP. We want further to develop the European dimension of NATO in a way that I hope I have been able to indicate. We want to link those two more effectively together to ensure that there is no unnecessary duplication of effort. We believe that this will be good for the transatlantic relationship within NATO and, indeed, good for our relationships within Europe.

I should tell my noble friend Lord Ponsonby that we are committed to making the arrangements associating non-NATO, non-EU countries within the future European defence operation function as well as we possibly can. We give strong backing to the work of the WEU and the NATO parliamentary assemblies. Indeed, to answer the particular points raised by my noble friends, that strikes me as being a very good model for parliamentary oversight.

NATO has succeeded in promoting peace and stability in Europe for 50 years. I do not believe that there has been any dissent among noble Lords on that crucial point. Her Majesty's Government are absolutely committed to ensuring that NATO maintains these standards of success. This will entail an unflagging commitment to collective defence, the stability of the wider international environment and, of course, the rule of law. NATO's new strategic concept will reaffirm these commitments. In doing so, it will set out the way forward for NATO so that Europe and North America enjoy the best possible chance of ensuring that peace and stability remain the norm for our own people, for our neighbours and, indeed, for many other countries in the world where we are able to exert our influence.

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