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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the Statement as a further step in the transformation of NATO from the Cold War alliance towards the European security organisation. I regret that NATO slid towards that enlargement by a series of steps in the course of which we have granted Russia half membership of the organisation. We have followed the United States' lead and many of our European governments, including our own, have so far failed to explain to their public or their parliament the rationale for NATO enlargement as such.
Our always excellent Library obtained for me yesterday from the Internet one publication issued this year which actually sets out the rationale for enlargement. It is a US government report to Congress on the enlargement of NATO. So far the British Government have not provided anything similar to their Parliament or public and I very much hope that they will. We do not simply want a debate in both Houses of Parliament; we want an explanation of the overall approach to enlargement, as the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, said, both of NATO and the European Union as to how those two linked processes contribute towards the construction of a stable European international order after the Cold War.
In that context we need to know the answer to a number of questions. What, if anything, is the role of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe? Does NATO begin with Russia as a half member to replace the OSCE? What is the future of the treaty on conventional forces in Europe, which will have to be amended? How far, as the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, suggested, do we see NATO in the future as a global alliance under US leadership or, alternatively, as a security organisation for this region?
I was in the NATO headquarters last Monday and was struck by the extent to which the alliance is already changing. They were talking about constructing extra wings to the building; about where they will fit in the Russian and Ukraine delegations and the others who will come. The Belgians, ever keen to make sure that they stay, are talking of offering a different site altogether within Brussels. That is fundamental change.
I am reluctant to accept, without comment, the suggestions in the declaration that it was our priority as the British Government that Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary should be the limit of the current enlargement. It is clear that that was an American priority and the British followed uncritically the American demand that there should be only three new members on this occasion because, they argued, only three would get through the Senate in terms of ratification.
I should like to express some unease with the idea that NATO operates by consensus. That is less and less clear. NATO operates by American leadership and by the Europeans accepting that they should follow. I express also a little unease in relation to the press comment about the Madrid European Summit; it related to the extent to which the British Government have appeared to be the main cheerleader for following the Americans whatever they say and criticising the French in public for the position in which they currently find themselves. That is partly their own fault, but it is in our interests that France should, following Spain, also be integrated into the alliance.
Like the noble Viscount, I should like to ask a little more about cost and burden sharing, in particular how far the cost will fall upon the new members. After all, it is not ideal in terms of their adaptation to democracy and economic growth that they should now be spending large additional sums on defence, let alone that they should be spending large additional sums on purchasing
Future enlargement is now clearly on the agenda. As the Statement suggests, we are talking about enlargement perhaps within the next two, three or four years; possibly by current members of the European Union, Austria, Sweden or Finland; certainly now that we have made half promises to Romania and Slovenia that they will be in the next round; and then, in the long run, there is the whole question of what we do about the Baltic States and the other south-eastern European states.
I hope that within the next few months the Government will provide us with their view of the future overall strategy which they will be pursuing not only under American leadership but also with their European partners towards the construction of a stable, new European international order and of how NATO enlargement as one of the aspects of that will contribute.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, speaking on behalf of their parties, for the welcome they have given to the outcome of the summit. I cannot forbear from making the point to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, that occasionally he might concede that the Americans are right. It is also conceivable that we have arrived at an independent conclusion that the Americans might be right and that therefore it is in our interests, just as much as in everyone else's interests, that we and the Americans should pursue a common policy in relation to a given issue. On this issue, to use the kind of language that he used about the way in which our decision was arrived at and the way in which it was presented in Madrid is putting it much too high. The noble Lord had his debate yesterday on this point and indeed these views were expressed vigorously from different quarters of the House. I can only say on behalf of the Government that we do not recognise them and we reject the implications behind them.
I was asked a number of detailed questions, some of which I can answer. I was asked about costs. Precise details of the costs will be worked out now that we have a decision as to which countries should or should not join. I can tell the House that preliminary NATO work gives us confidence that the costs will be manageable, but we now have to confirm that. There will of course be costs for new members but it is very much in their interests for their economies not to be distorted by excessive defence spending. Enlargement will not require that. Our forces are already well suited to the alliance's strategy of reinforcement so we do not expect enlargement to mean significant extra costs for the United Kingdom. I cannot go further than that at this stage.
The noble Lord asked about the relationship between NATO and the European Union. The two organisations are totally separate. NATO will decide, on the basis of what it considers its common interests to be, which
I do not see the difficulty that the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, was sketching out. The two organisations--the European Union and NATO--will no doubt develop. When they develop, it would be very foolish if one organisation paid no attention to what the other organisation was doing. But the idea that somehow we shall be forced, at some unspecified date in unspecified circumstances in the future, to take an as yet unspecified decision as between one and the other is one I would reject.
Perhaps I may condense that into a sentence. The Government and NATO as a whole saw enlargement into eastern Europe as a potent force for attempting to ensure stability in that part of our continent. We took the view--and NATO as a whole took the view--that at this stage three was probably about right. We said that the doors may well remain open in future, particularly as far as concerns Romania and Slovenia, and we paid tribute to the progress that they had made and also to the progress that the Baltic states had made. It seems to me that that was a reasonable, sensible and balanced approach to the problems of enlargement and the problems posed by enlargement.
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