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The stoking-up of fear of Iran has other consequences too, where other countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Egypt—the former with historical antagonism towards Iran—calculate that unilateralism pays. They calculate that sanctions against US allies that indulge in proliferation will go unpunished, as we have seen in the cases of Israel, India and Pakistan. Hence those two states may well assume that the United States, in proceeding with missile defence, is prepared to sanction the development of nuclear weapons in their case too. Several nuclear armed states in the Middle East will not further the cause of peace and security in the region.

I turn to our Government’s enthusiasm for this project. As many noble Lords have pointed out, we are told that the missile shield is meant to offer wider protection across Europe. That assumption disregards the slightly more immediate and realistic scenario: that if WMD are to be used, they will be used by non-state actors through international terrorism. The shield will not protect against that.

Apart from the evident loss of sovereignty and the danger of increased nuclear proliferation, there is a further symbolic aspect: our role as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. We are still seen—less so after the Iraq war—as a moderating and balancing power which, due to its historic connections in most parts of the world, can sometimes play a restraining hand. What appears to be our uncritical engagement with this project will diminish that role. That will have a cost beyond the tenure of this Government to the security of future generations.

I conclude with some thoughts from the Guardian leader of 24 February 2007. It states:

The leader concludes:

I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure the House that the Government for whom she speaks will reflect on this debate.

1.15 pm

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for giving us the opportunity to debate this vital issue. Listening to the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, I am reminded that these debates always take place against the backdrop of whether you are coming from a unilateralist or a multilateralist position. My attitude towards nuclear weapons has gone through the full spectrum, from a totally unilateralist position to one where I recognise that, although I do not like nuclear

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weapons—I abhor them—they are there. As the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, reminded us, they are an unfortunate reality with which we must deal. That is why I have moved towards a multilateralist position.

I listened with interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. Although I share some of his analysis, I feel that his description of Menwith Hill as somewhere that totally serves American interests, or hegemonic American interests, causing us to become Airstrip One—I hope that I am not paraphrasing too wildly—was a little over the top. I was reading the Statement on Menwith Hill. We may not all like it, but I thought that it would be useful to quote from it. It states:

I do not want to go on, because I am conscious of time. I accept that there may be other uses, which may well be worth a debate, but I thought that it was useful to cite that.

I share the view of my noble friend Lord Giddens. I, too, do not like the use of the term “neocon”, because it introduces into the debate an emotional description that does not take us forward. The attitudes of American Governments are varied and tend to change over time.

A number of contributors attacked the system on the basis of whether it would work. Of course, the whole concept of nuclear deterrence was that no one wanted these weapons to work in operation but hoped that they would work as a deterrent. Over a period, I would say that those who argued that it would be an effective deterrent were proved right. All of us in this Chamber remember that we came through a period when we had the wonderful acronym MAD, which meant mutually assured destruction. What a dreadful thought. The unilateralists said that the end of the world would occur if we continued on that course; the multilateralists said that the system would not and that it would prove to be an effective deterrent. Your analysis of history depends on your perspective, but I tend to believe that the multilateralists have been proved right over a period.

There are those who have argued that any support for this system has made Russia more belligerent and hostile. I do not think that we can have any debate on the attitude of Russia today without recognising, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, reminded us, that we are in a period when Russia as a nation state is seeking to assert itself on the world stage. It is going through its own electoral cycle, which causes President Putin to make various statements that are, I would say, somewhat over the top but that serve his political purpose. There are those who also allege that this system would mean a loss of UK sovereignty. I do not see that. Like the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, I do not believe that our sovereignty is threatened. We

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are, after all, still NATO partners, a fact that some seem to have almost forgotten.

I was interested when the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said that going down this road would blight any form of diplomacy—I think that that was the phrase that he used. I have concerns about that issue and I thought that it would be useful to look at the Select Committee report. Paragraph 270 from its 25 November report says:

It does not seem to have blighted diplomacy there. Paragraph 271 says:

The talks have not led to a resolution of the problem, but it is wrong to say that this has blighted any form of diplomacy. I do not think that that is the case. Moreover, situations change. Those who characterise or caricature the American approach as being one that is based only on the military analysis seem to me to ignore the approach that has been taken towards North Korea. We see that as progress that has been achieved through diplomacy. We should not take absolute positions or describe the US as having only one strategy. As a number of people have said, if we are talking about electoral cycles, the US position could change.

I share some of the concerns that have been expressed to the Government. I think that the critics who said that there has not been enough transparency and accountability have a point, which it is essential for the Minister to answer in her response. This is going to be a continuing and important debate. In their Statement on 25 July, the Government said:

I do not mind them keeping it under review but I would like an assurance that there will be a debate before a decision is taken. That is vital.

I must declare an interest, which I should have declared at the outset. I am a member of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body. If decisions were taken in relation to the siting of missiles et cetera, I would be worried whether that would have an impact on defence expenditure and on our ability to ensure that the Armed Forces are suitably rewarded for their contribution.

I think that I have covered the key issues that I wanted to raise. Once again, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. I reiterate the three key points that concern me: the question of transparency and accountability; the ability to debate whether we should participate further on the siting of interception missiles; and the question of financial resources.

1.24 pm

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I am grateful that so many Peers have come to take part in this extremely important debate. The debate has had two specific purposes. The first—and I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Young, said what he did in

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the last few minutes—relates to what I can only describe in quite strong language as virtually a contemptuous treatment of Parliament. Over several years now, we have consistently had responses from Ministers to the effect that we are not entitled to comment on anything to do with this bilateral system—and it is a bilateral system, not, as the noble Lord, Lord Young, suggested, a NATO system. I will give two recent examples. On 14 June 2007, Mr Hoon said:

It was not an issue for anybody else. In a debate in this House on 22 November, when my noble friend Lord Wallace raised a question on this matter, the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor—I know that we all regret that she is indisposed at the present time and not able to take part in this debate—replied:

Yet we find ourselves faced with a proposal for a substantial increase in the facilities at Menwith Hill. We even face the possibility of the United Kingdom becoming the next area for a ballistic missile interceptor system. However, Parliament has been entitled to talk about this hardly at all over the past few years. As my noble friend Lady Falkner said, it is extraordinary that it should have been left to one opposition party to bring this matter to the attention of the House. That is the first point and I think that we should make it very seriously. If Parliament is to be treated as a significant part of the decision-making processes of a democracy, the Government have to be more open, more frank and more informative about this crucial aspect of our defence policy.

The second, wider issue was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Giddens and Lord Hannay, and by many others: how do we deal with the extremely disturbing situation that we face in the world at present? Let me refer back, as did the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, in an interesting historical speech, to the fact that the period in which there was the greatest advance in not only controlling the dissemination of arms but in creating far less opportunity for terrorists was immediately after the end of the Cold War.

Last month, I attended a conference in the United States at which Mr Gorbachev pointed out repeatedly the extraordinary advances that were made at that time: a reduction of some 6,000 nuclear missiles, destroyed between the United States and Russia; a huge advance in securing nuclear materials; and a huge advance in establishing a whole set of safeguards for the whole world with regard to the Cold War legacy of a huge number of nuclear materials and weapons strewn across a vast range of the world. It was in that period immediately after the Cold War that Ukraine, Kazakhstan and other countries completely gave up any ambitions that they might have had for developing a nuclear weapon. At the conference, Mr Gorbachev repeatedly said that there had to be a return to multilateral controls because, without them, it is impossible to see how we can control the dissemination and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It is simply an illusion

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to suppose that some form of missile defence in eastern Europe or, for that matter, in the United Kingdom can deal with an issue so great as this. It is a tragedy that we have seen a gradual erosion—as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said in his eloquent speech, and as the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, pointed out—of the whole system of arms control and disarmament that has protected the world for the past 40 years from the possibility of a major nuclear exchange.

Let me say one more thing about that period. Gradually a large part of the world became committed to looking at some of the dangers of terrorism. It is vital to point out to those who believe, as the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, did, that the proposal called MAD—mutually assured destruction—still holds good that many of the most serious situations involve not state actors but non-state actors. We have to address that problem.

The noble Lord, Lord Powell of Bayswater, made somewhat light of Russia’s reaction to the attempt to place missile defences in central and eastern Europe. I do not believe that we should treat it so lightly. Russia may be exaggerating; she may be going over the top. But anyone in this House or elsewhere who has studied the history of Russia will know that a consistent theme runs through it: the fear of encirclement, which was mentioned only in the past two weeks by such players as the Russian Foreign Secretary and the Russian Prime Minister. Russia’s reactions may be emotional and not wholly rational, but that does not mean that they are not real and do not need to be taken into account.

We already know what Russia’s response has been. Just in the past few days, she has withdrawn from the crucial conventional forces in Europe treaty, which has limited the number of troops and conventional weapons based in Europe to the great advantage of peace in the world. We know that Russia is now talking about the possibility of a nuclear response to the use of missiles or the return of missiles as an anti-missile defence in central and eastern Europe. It is true that General Baluyevsky, head of the central command of the Russia armed forces, may be going over the top in what he says. But when he says that Russian missiles are automatically trained to respond immediately to any missile attack and that there is the possibility therefore of a grave mistake that would lead to nuclear-tipped weapons landing in Europe, we would be very foolish not to take that threat at least fairly seriously.

As others have said in this debate, on top of that the Russians are now talking about moving towards a more sophisticated system of missiles that would be capable of withstanding anti-missile defences. I do not know whether that is true, but it is a significant question that needs to be addressed and about which Parliament should hear the concerns that many people have.

In the short run, more disturbingly to me, Russia is showing signs of ceasing to co-operate with the western world, and with the United States in particular, in the very area where its co-operation with the United States has been most successful: the securing of nuclear

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materials, control over the supply of fissile materials and all the things with which we should be profoundly concerned, given the massive increase in civil nuclear power that now lies before us. Scores of countries will now have access to uranium and other forms of nuclear fuel. We will have to depend on their trustworthiness in deciding that they do not become nuclear powers. The anti-missile defences in no way address this issue, yet the issue is one of the most important to confront us today.

There are those who believe that one of the reasons why the United States pursued the proposal bilaterally with Poland and the Czech Republic was Donald Rumsfeld’s attempt to divide old and new Europe. Certainly, there was no attempt to discuss the proposal with the rest of the NATO countries of Europe, although there should have been. We now know that Poland and the Czech Republic are beginning to reconsider their position. In Poland, on this very day, the Polish Foreign Minister is meeting his opposite number in the Czech Republic to see what their combined reaction should be to the American proposal. Today, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister is in Warsaw to discuss the implications of the proposal for Polish-Russian relations.

A few days ago in the Czech Republic, 1,000 people demonstrated against Czech involvement in missile defence. In Poland, there has been a marked swing of opinion, with Mr Sikorski, the Foreign Secretary, specifically saying that, although the missile defence is in the interests of the United States, it is not clear whether it is in the interests of Poland. Changes of government in Poland and the Czech Republic have put this whole project at risk, yet so far the United Kingdom has not been consulted or, as far as I know, informed about the way in which these relationships are going.

The most important issue in this debate was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, in an impressive speech, and in the eloquent speeches made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and others. I believe that the United Kingdom Government, our Foreign Office and our Ministry of Defence are increasingly out of touch with a significant movement in American opinion. The noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Giddens, referred to the proposal—the so-called Wall Street Journal letter of last year—signed by Mr Kissinger, Mr Shultz, Mr Perry and Senator Nunn, calling on a redirection of nuclear weapons disarmament policy gradually towards the destruction of all such weapons.

Congress has already decided that it will not go ahead with appropriations for the ballistic missile defence system unless there is full agreement from Poland and the Czech Republic. I have already mentioned the doubts raised on that issue. Congress has decided specifically that it wants to make sure that the missile systems work. My noble friend Lord Addington spoke powerfully on whether or not they do. It is perhaps worth quoting an extremely impressive and, I believe, important editorial in the New York Times on 30 December. It states:

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That theme has run through a great deal of the American debate. Does this system work? Has it been presented as working when it has essentially been manipulated to produce a successful result? My noble friend Lord Addington referred to recent tests in which it was known where the missile was coming from and what its route would be; even then, many of the tests failed.

Perhaps most important are the Russian offers of co-operation made last summer. Russia did not initially respond by marching out of one multilateral agreement after the other. Incidentally, more frightening still, Russia is now threatening to march out of the intermediate nuclear force treaty and even START, which has reduced the arsenals of nuclear missiles held throughout the world by large proportions and which dies out in 2009. Have Her Majesty’s Government embarked on any serious study of the extension of that crucial treaty in order to allow for a new verification system, given that the present one will die in 2009 and it is all that we have?

On the American reaction, there has been little debate—almost none, as many have said—in our Parliament. In the United States, during the presidential primaries, the Republican and Democrat candidates have put forward their suggestions and ideas. As my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire pointed out, in the case of the Republicans the discussion has largely been about whether this is directed at Russia or someone else. It is important that two of the leading contenders think that it is directed at Russia, which goes some way towards explaining why Russia is so profoundly worried about the whole development. The Democrat candidates have been discussing to a much greater extent how we can deal with the whole issue of proliferation. They have been attracted to the ideas put forward in that Wall Street Journal letter and, subsequently, in the Congress and by the body to which I belong, the Nuclear Threat Initiative. American opinion is moving towards a new approach to this huge issue.

I am deeply worried by the extent to which Her Majesty’s Government appear to be still talking the language of an Administration who are shortly to leave office, as the language of an exchange of deterrents is increasingly made foolish by the existence of non-state actors and terrorist groups. I would plead that the Government reconsider their attitude towards anti-missile defence in the light of recent developments. I am not saying not that it should not exist; I am arguing that the Government should take much more seriously the possibility of co-operation between Russia, the United States and others in mounting an effective international system of defence.

I will conclude with a quotation from the significant New York Times editorial, which has had deep influence on the primary elections in the United States, about the offer that Putin made last summer of sharing a Russian early warning radar system in Azerbaijan. The Americans dismissed the offer at the time, but the editorial said:

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It is crucial to make sure that Iran does not move to get a nuclear bomb. It is crucial that Iran should be reassured that she will not herself be the victim of a nuclear attack; that is a crucial part of the outcome. I believe that we should look at the New York Times approach carefully and see whether we could not now get an international agreement and abandon what has been much too unilateralist, much too exclusive and much too destructive an approach.

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