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The Earl of Dudley: My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, sits down, as I have not wanted to

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add to the length of the debate by putting my name down to speak, can I ask him if he or his colleagues can give us some information about the propaganda war, if any, against Yugoslavia? Are we dropping leaflets, as we were in the last war against the Germans?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I deliberately did not discuss such matters with your Lordships. I am happy to tell the House that the last time I enquired into that matter, something like 13 million leaflets had been dropped. There is a PSYOPS campaign taking place. We have an internet site at the Ministry of Defence. We are also making special broadcasts into Serbia. Yes, a psychological campaign is taking place. I commend the Motion to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the situation in Kosovo.--(Lord Gilbert.)

4.16 p.m.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, for opening the debate and setting out the Government's current policies.

As we speak, the Foreign Ministers of the G7 countries have gathered to meet the Russian Foreign Minister in Bonn. There is little doubt that the outcome of that meeting will have great consequences for the prospects of peace--or otherwise--in Serbia and the negotiation of a political solution for Kosovo.

The meeting in Bonn comes at a critical time for the crisis in Kosovo, in a week when NATO has apparently adopted a twin-track approach in pursuit of the intensification of the air campaign on the one hand, while participating in a flurry of shuttle diplomacy by the Russian peace envoy, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, between Moscow, Belgrade and Washington, on the other. There is a glimmer of hope, albeit very faint, that the chinks referred to by the Minister are beginning to appear in President Milosevic's hitherto apparently impenetrable armour of defiance.

In this House, there is a wholehearted consensus that, together with our NATO allies, we must break through the political deadlock which doomed the Rambouillet negotiations and which threatens to prolong indefinitely NATO's bombing campaign, which is now in its sixth week.

In that context, I want to take this opportunity to join the Minister in saluting the courage and dedication of our servicemen and women. I want to assure them of the unwavering support and gratitude from these Benches for the task that they are undertaking.

Noble Lords on these Benches have continued and will continue to support the Government while they maintain clear and consistent objectives. We share the Government's view that now that we have embarked on the NATO operation in Kosovo, it is critical to the people of Kosovo, and to the future of NATO, that the operation succeeds. Yet, six weeks after the NATO air operation commenced, as the number of civilian casualties rises and, excepting the outcome of today's G8 meeting, the campaign shows no sign of a

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breakthrough, I believe that a more sombre mood of uncertainty now prevails in this House and the country as a whole.

For that reason, we seek assurances that both military and political tactics have been thought through in depth by the Government, in unity with our NATO allies, with fully fleshed-out strategies in place, kept constantly under review, for every conceivable contingency.

Despite the Minister's repeated assurances that NATO has consistent and quantifiable objectives, lingering doubts remain that NATO governments have clear, agreed, united political and military objectives. Those lingering doubts have been fuelled by the repeated intensification of the air operation, suggesting both an initial miscalculation of the military capability required to degrade Serbia's military capacity and, equally worrying, the development of "mission creep" which, if left unchecked, could lead us into a ground war by stealth.

On a number of fundamental issues since the NATO operation began, confusion and uncertainty (rather than the "brilliant planning" referred to just now by the Minister) have prevailed, obscuring the Government's objectives and calling into question the unity of NATO over the means by which those objectives may be achieved. The use of ground troops, a comprehensive humanitarian strategy for the refugee crisis, the planning for an EU and a NATO oil embargo, the issue of the removal of President Milosevic from power, even whether or not NATO is at war with Serbia, have all been the subjects of prevarications, retractions and sadly, on occasion, even U-turns, leaving the impression of the lack of an agreed strategic plan.

During the course of the campaign, the Government's aims have seemingly shifted from averting a humanitarian disaster to the suggestion made by both President Clinton and the Prime Minister that President Milosevic should be removed from power--a suggestion which the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, last week rejected in stark contrast to President Clinton's words in the Sunday Times that Serbia needed a democratic transition,

    "for the region cannot be secure with a belligerent tyrant in its midst".

The Government have rightly presented President Milosevic as a dangerous and evil war criminal, a "belligerent tyrant" in pursuit of a fascist ideology of ethnic intolerance and racial genocide, who must be brought to justice and from whose malign influence Serbians must be encouraged to break free. Paradoxically, however, he is also Serbia's elected leader, with whom NATO countries are prepared to conclude a settlement. When summing up, can the Minister confirm what she said on Monday 26th April,

    "that it is not an aim of this war to see Mr. Milosevic fall from power"?--[Official Report, 26/4/99; col. 38.] Can she confirm also that this Government will negotiate with him if he fulfils NATO's five demands? In short, can she confirm that it is NATO's objective to negotiate with President Milosevic, not to oust him as President Clinton and the Prime Minister seemed to indicate?

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Rightly, the Minister has repeatedly stated that the Government's objectives are those five objectives which were set out at the meeting on 12th April by the NATO Foreign Ministers, and that they are "basic and unalterable demands" which will not be compromised. However, the "clear" objective referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, on 24th March, when he said,

    "NATO's position is clear... We seek to bring an end to the violence in order to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and support the completion of negotiations on an interim political settlement",--[Official Report, 24/3/99; col. 1388.] does not appear within NATO's current set of objectives. Indeed, six weeks later, no one would deny that a humanitarian catastrophe of unprecedented proportions in Europe in the past 50 years has taken place; nor should anyone doubt that the responsibility for this lies entirely on the shoulders of President Milosevic, or that atrocities and ethnic cleansing were clearly under way and clearly planned before the bombing started. However, it remains the case that NATO's initial primary objective--to avert a humanitarian catastrophe--has far from been achieved.

I shall attempt briefly to assess NATO's objectives one by one. The first of NATO's demands, quite rightly, is that there should be an immediate cease-fire. However, that raises the question, not as the Minister said, of the eventual use of ground troops, but of the circumstances in which ground troops might be deployed given that the Foreign Secretary, while ruling out an armed invasion of Kosovo, referred to the possible provision of ground troops to "secure" a cease-fire. "Securing" a peace is very different from "maintaining" a peace.

At the beginning of the campaign, the Government appeared to rule out the deployment of ground troops in any kind of war situation. It is certainly true that military situations develop and, as the noble Baroness herself put it, the situation is not now as it was when we began the military encounter. But to what extent does the Minister--indeed, the Government--consider that the apparent ruling out of ground troops at the outset of the campaign, other than in a peace-keeping role, diminish the NATO threat in President Milosevic's eyes? To what extent does the Minister believe that it has now been made clear to him that,

    "Nothing is ruled out in terms of ground troops"?--[Official Report, 26/4/99; col. 43.]

The Prime Minister appeared to give a clear indication that he was prepared to consider the introduction of ground troops into Kosovo when Serb troops have been sufficiently degraded. The Prime Minister's words, combined with his strong line in Washington at the NATO summit on 23rd to 25th April, described by many as "hawkish", led to much speculation on whether the Government had changed policy away from the use of ground troops only as a peace-keeping force in a permissive environment. Given that no mention was made of the possible use of ground troops in the statement on Kosovo issued at the summit, to what extent has the "review of all options", to which the Prime Minister referred on 21st April, been agreed by our NATO allies, in particular the United States?

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In that context, and of the greatest importance, can the Minister give an assurance that we are not in a situation where the Prime Minister thinks that we should use ground troops, in circumstances which are far from clear, but was unable to secure the support of our allies, particularly the United States, and therefore the Government are not pursuing their preferred strategy? The noble Baroness has rightly said that no option should be ruled out. Given that military experience so far has suggested that an air campaign has never won a war, can the Minister clarify the Government's position on the deployment of ground troops other than as a peace-keeping force in Kosovo?

I turn to the second objective; the removal of Serbian troops from Kosovo. On the demand that President Milosevic must withdraw his troops and paramilitaries on a verifiable basis, can the Minister confirm that that relates to all his troops and paramilitaries, unlike the Holbrooke October package which sought to have them return to pre-March 1998 levels in the province, as referred to by the Prime Minister on 23rd March when he said that, in order to avoid NATO action,

    "Milosevic must do what he promised to do last October--end the repression, withdraw his troops to barracks, get them down to the levels he agreed"?--[Official Report, Commons, 23/3/99; col. 162.]

Thirdly, there is NATO's demand that an international military force must be deployed, likewise to ensure that the refugees have the confidence to return home. However, the NATO statement merely said that President Milosevic must accept the stationing in Kosovo of an international military presence. Yet again, yesterday Serbia's Foreign Ministry insisted that it would not be prepared to admit anything other than an unarmed UN force. Can the Minister provide more information on the nature of the force that will ultimately monitor and police the situation in Kosovo? Is it still the Government's position that any future peace-keeping force must be NATO-led, or does the Minister agree with the French Defence Minister who has said that it is possible that,

    "a future peacekeeping force for Kosovo may not be under NATO's direct control"?

Indeed, does the Minster agree with the US State Department spokesman, James Rubin, that in such a force the command and control responsibilities would have to be such that NATO had the lead command and control of any American forces that participate and that,

    "it is NATO and only NATO, with American participation ... that can achieve the objective"? Do the Government therefore rule out a dual key decision-making process with the UN, for example, in such a force, or with a bolt-on Russian command structure?

I should like to turn to the issue of Kosovo Albanian refugees whose return to their homeland in peace and security is NATO's fourth demand. One million people have been forced to leave their homes while mass deportation has caused over 600,000 people to take refuge in countries beyond their native border of Kosovo in the past six weeks. Estimated figures from yesterday

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indicated that over 400,000 people have fled to Albania; over 48,000 to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and over 211,000 to the former Republic of Macedonia.

On the subject of Macedonia, it is surely vitally important to recognise that that country is on a knife-edge of instability and in need of substantial and urgent financial support to a level considerably greater than that currently proposed.

It is the Government's policy to secure the return of all refugees to Kosovo. We should consider the lead that the Government have taken, together with our NATO allies and European Union partners, to draw up a comprehensive plan of assistance for the Kosovo refugees, with the ultimate aim of their safe return to Kosovo. We need an assurance, which we have yet to hear, that the Government have a detailed strategy by which to achieve that.

The precedent of previous wars in the former Yugoslavia is that few of the displaced return home. In Croatia, several hundred thousand ethnic Serbs were forced out in 1995, and the majority have not gone back. The Bosnian war caused a vast exodus of Moslems to the West and to Turkey; 350,000 went to Germany alone. Many have resisted repatriation. Does the Minister agree that if the thousands of Kosovo Albanians currently in the camps in Macedonia and Albania are forced to spend the winter as refugees, many will never return to their homes?

I turn to the fifth objective set out at the meeting of NATO's Foreign Ministers on 12th April: a credible assurance of willingness to work on the basis of the Rambouillet accords in the establishment of a political framework agreement for Kosovo, in conformity with international law and the charter of the United Nations. Does that objective remain the same, in the light of the statement made by the Foreign Secretary on Monday 19th April in another place? He referred to the need for the international administration of Kosovo, which was in direct contradiction to the Leader of the House who told noble Lords only one week before, on 13th April, that the Rambouillet accords must remain our touchstone for further discussion about the future Kosovo, and that the idea of any further developments--that is, beyond the arrangements for the autonomy agreed at Rambouillet--is not being considered at the moment.

From these Benches, we have repeated and consistently emphasised the critical importance of Russian involvement in finding a solution to the crisis. On occasion we have had fears that the Government have under-estimated the extent to which the Russians may prove to hold the diplomatic key to unlocking a settlement in the humanitarian tragedy in the Balkans. The Prime Minister has said that Russian efforts to find a diplomatic solution to this crisis are welcome. From these Benches, we believe that they are not just welcome, but essential.

My final point concerns the long-term stability of all the Balkan states. The issue of the economic future of the Balkan countries and the need for a post-war reconstruction plan has been raised by a number of noble Lords from all sides. The noble Baroness the

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Leader of the House has said that some wider rebuilding of the region on an economic basis, akin to the Marshall Plan, was something that the whole of the western alliance and others would need to consider in a peaceful situation. It is the contention of these Benches that it should be considered now.

The current IMF estimates for the reconstruction of the region stand at approximately 30 billion dollars. The region is being destroyed economically, as growth and prosperity are maimed by the conflict. The region will be safe, transformed from the continent's primary source of instability into an integral part of the European mainstream, with a solid foundation for a new generation of peace, only when poverty is addressed, when people are rehoused and when the economy has recovered.

If history has taught us anything, it is that, post-conflict, the vanquished must be made viable. An economically depressed, bankrupt Serbia spells untold future disruption for the region. Now is the time to ensure that in this confrontation between barbaric tyranny and necessary force, between vicious intolerance and respect for human rights, between tyranny and democracy, the values of NATO must prevail.

We support the Government in their vigorous pursuit of a diplomatic solution, while maintaining military pressure on President Milosevic.

4.36 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby : My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, for introducing the debate and for the details that he provided, not least about the actions that our forces are taking with regard to Kosovo. I should like to add our great praise for our troops, not only for their military action but also for the remarkable work they have done in helping the refugees, in building camps and in arranging for humanitarian aid to be delivered. We cannot put on record too strongly our thanks to them for that activity as well as for their normal professional duties.

I also emphasise, as strongly as I can, echoing the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, that we on these Benches believe that the Government were absolutely right to insist upon intervening against what President Milosevic was attempting to do in Kosovo.

It is important to remind noble Lords that the attempted ethnic cleansing of Kosovo began a very long time before the NATO intervention. It is worth putting again on record that President Milosevic's behaviour goes right back to events in Croatia in 1990; it was repeated in Bosnia two years later; it was repeated with the terrible massacres at Srebrenica three years later; and that many voices as long ago as 1995 and 1996 repeated over and over again the warning that this behaviour might be copied yet again in Kosovo.

I hope that any noble Lords who consider supporting the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, will think very hard indeed about this repeated record of behaviour that simply cannot be accepted in Europe at the end of this millennium.

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I think that we will see the difficult but painful birth of a new legal and moral order in Europe in which we begin to recognise at last that the rights of individuals to their own lives, freedom and responsibilities, must be recognised by any country that wishes to be a full member of the European region and of the European institutions that are being created. President Milosevic's behaviour is incompatible with any such emergence of a legal and moral order.

Having said that as strongly as I can--and I believe I speak for everybody on these Benches--I must now be more critical. I believe that there was almost certainly too hubristic and optimistic an estimate of how quickly the massive and sophisticated force of NATO could break the resistance of President Milosevic. It is always a mistake to underestimate the capacity of the Serb people to endure, which they, too, have shown over and over again through the centuries. In some ways, I believe, NATO was not a wholly appropriate organ to bring about this kind of intervention, relying as it did so heavily on massive air power.

We on these Benches believe that it was a grave strategic mistake for NATO to indicate at the very beginning of its intervention that there was no possibility of the intervention of ground troops. We are not saying that there should not have been such an intervention; that is a matter that must be decided in the light of political and military events. We do say, however, that to rule out that option completely from the very beginning gave President Milosevic the opportunity to turn round and loose his troops and the still more fearsome troops of the Interior Ministry, the MUP, on the hapless civilians of Kosovo.

With hindsight, we now know that it will take much longer than many people expected or hoped to bring about a victory in Kosovo. I have no doubt--the Minister would rightly interrupt me if I had--that, at the end of the day, NATO is certain to be victorious. But the phrase is "the end of the day", for this whole war will be much more prolonged than some of us might have hoped at the beginning. That means tremendous pressure on what military people call the "rear theatre"--that is to say, the in-depth defence. In using that phrase, I am of course referring to the very heavy dependence of the whole NATO structure on two fragile pillars. One of those is Macedonia, to which the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, referred, and the other is Albania.

I shall not repeat what the Minister said--indeed, it would try the patience of the House--but already there are 210,000 refugees in Macedonia and 410,000, or a figure very close to that, in Albania. I shall only say that, even now, the balance of those coming in far exceeds the balance of those going out. On 4th May, nearly 8,000 additional refugees either attempted to enter or did enter Macedonia, while a few hundred left the country. The balance is still one that is putting greater and greater strain on a country that can hardly sustain it and whose Prime Minister, Mr. Georgievski, has time and again warned us in the West that his country cannot sustain it.

I share the respect of the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, for the Government of Macedonia, and even more for the Government of Albania which, as the poorest

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country in Europe, has now absorbed nearly 400,000 refugees, more than half of them being housed in ordinary and often very impoverished homes. It is an amazing story. It is a story of courage and determination which ought to be widely recognised and applauded.

However, there is a limit. In the case of Macedonia, it is estimated that what was expected to be a growth rate of 5 per cent in 1999 will now be a reduction of 4 per cent. It is expected in Macedonia that the sum of money made available by the World Bank will go only a quarter of the way towards meeting the new deficit on its budget. I repeat: this is a poor country.

I am concerned--I shall put this strongly; supporter of the Government's action though I am--that it is simply not enough to believe that the Department for International Development can redivert some of its not very large budget to humanitarian needs in the Balkans. That will simply be insufficient. This is an international crisis which needs a national government response. I have the greatest respect for the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, but I have to say that I do not believe she was the right person to answer the Question tabled by my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire about the effects of what is happening on the fragile economies of these Balkan countries. Even the Prime Minister's £40 million would only sustain 40,000 refugees to the extent of £1,000 each for a few months. That is 6 per cent of the current estimated number of refugees. It is not enough.

However, perhaps more encouragingly, I should like to say that the long-term plan that has been proposed--again, we should give credit here to the German Government who originally put it forward as president of the European Union--is both far-reaching and visionary. Indeed, our own Prime Minister has described it as a "Marshall Plan". It holds out the hope of actually pulling the Balkans out of their position on the margins of Europe into the full mainstream of ultimate European Union membership.

In my view, and in that of my colleagues on these Benches, the hope of bringing the Balkans back into that mainstream--that is, the mainstream of democracy, of plural economies and of a decent and independent system of courts--is the lantern that shines in the current darkness of south-eastern Europe; in other words, the one hope of actually bringing from this terrible crisis a greater and better outcome.

I wish I could stop at that point, but I have one more set of observations to make briefly. They echo some of the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. We have seen the communique from the G8 this afternoon. It leaves a great many questions unanswered. Perhaps I may simply mention one or two of them. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said, the communique refers to the deployment in Kosovo of effective international civil and security presences. References to either NATO leadership or NATO corps have disappeared from that language. That may not be significant, but let us consider the situation if you were a member of a Kosovar family, driven out of your home by Serb police or military. How could you be expected to go back, unless you had the absolute certainty that

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you could trust the forces that will oversee your return and provide an absolute guarantee of safety? No one will risk their children twice--that is to say, no decent man or woman. Therefore, if I may say so, this is frighteningly ambiguous language.

The other piece of frighteningly ambiguous language is the reference to the,

    "principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia". Most of us accept that Yugoslavia has the right to its sovereignty, but I thought that we had talked for a long time about an international protectorate in the case of Kosovo, which, to say the least, is a pretty qualified form of sovereignty; and, indeed, ought to be so.

I have to say that I, at least, found profoundly distressing the fact that the brave resolution of Senator McCain in the US Congress was rejected by a substantial majority. That resolution called upon the President to have all necessary powers to bring the war in Kosovo to a satisfactory end. Even more depressing was the fact that the White House lobbied strongly against a vote in favour of that resolution.

I conclude with a small story. Nine years ago, in the summer of 1990 at Aspen in Colorado, I heard the news of the invasion of Kuwait by President Hussein. Shortly after that news came through, I saw, at a lunch in Aspen, the then British Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher (now the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher,) walk across the room and say in a voice loud enough for people like myself who were merely guests to hear, "Don't wobble, George". He did not wobble; he then entered into the successful Gulf War. We do not have to say that today to our own Prime Minister, but perhaps we should say, "Don't wobble, Bill". For, if he wobbles, what I believe has been a brave and, in many ways, principled intervention in the affairs of Kosovo will turn into a shabby compromise. I, for one, very much hope that that will not happen.

4.48 p.m.

Lord Bramall: My Lords, noble Lords will note that I am speaking from a sound foundation, with a firm military base sitting on either side of me. I fully accept the argument that it would have been wrong for Europe to ignore what had happened on its own doorstep, and what was likely to happen, in Kosovo, with its sinister echoes of over half a century ago. Certainly, now that NATO's aerial war over that unhappy country and the plight of its people, is in full cry, there can be no going back. The penalty for failure would be considerable all round, so the conflict must be won or negotiated through to a successful conclusion.

Only time will tell, as was made abundantly clear by the Minister, whether bombing alone will achieve all NATO's strong demands. Historical experience might suggest that it will not; but after a slow start the Serbs are becoming increasingly isolated and they have had, as we have heard, massive damage done to their whole infrastructure, their oil supplies, their air fields and now their electricity supply--I must say that bomb is a completely new one on me--and therefore indirectly to their war machine, now declared to be the aim of the

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six weeks' bombardment. The pressure on the civilian population from the relentless and unnerving accuracy of high technology weapons must be immense, while the Apache helicopters with their formidable low-level performance have still to make themselves felt.

Who knows therefore whether at some moment, perhaps unexpectedly, suddenly, Milosevic, or someone in his place, under pressure from the people or from the army, might not sue for peace unconditionally. We can only fervently hope that this will be so because it would clearly be the quickest, perhaps the only quick, way to re-establish sanity and humanity on all sides.

One thing, however, is absolutely certain and that is that ground forces, including a significant contribution from ourselves--since our Government have taken much of the lead in all this--will, if our aims are to be met, be required in the area in considerable strength and for a considerable time. They may, in some shape or form, have to be engaged more actively and dangerously than they have been so far, either around the edges of the conflict or even in parts of Kosovo itself. If this happens, I know that our forces, who yet again at a drop of a hat and far from home, are ready to lay their lives on the line, will acquit themselves well, as we have seen so often before. They will, I know, be able to count on the continuing support of your Lordships' House and indeed of the whole country, who should never forget their professionalism and dedication to duty.

I make two pleas to the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, whose sense of realism I have always much admired. The first concerns whether it is anticipated--I use that word advisedly--that the forces which are likely to be required to bring everything to a successful conclusion or to consolidate the peace exceed either in terms of strengths or length of deployment those which have been budgeted for under the recent Strategic Defence Review. I remind noble Lords that this amounts to, in addition to the forces engaged on everyday commitments such as Northern Ireland, one brigade on peace-keeping duties (as we have now in Bosnia) and one brigade in a war fighting mode for six months (as presumably we have already deployed to Macedonia), or one complete division for war fighting, also presumably for six months. Also one must not forget the latent threat in the Middle East and the fact that formations have to be relieved from time to time. If that is exceeded--as I suspect it will be--I hope that the Government will have the courage to scrap, or at least put firmly on the back burner, those parts of the Strategic Defence Review which are no longer valid, just as the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, did away with the defence review, current at the time, when the Falklands War started.

If we mean business, we really must start matching resources to rhetoric not only in terms of the refugees--which of course is vital--but also in terms of the military. There is always a price to pay for intervention on this scale. I have in mind, for example, the Army's manpower ceiling--for a long time this has been set too low and it is still set too low--and the number and strengths of units or sub-units both in the regular Army and in the Territorial Army (the only real reserve we have).

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I hope that the Minister will forgive me for raising my next point. After well over two months I still await a promised reply from the noble Lord about the future of the Gurkhas, who would prove most effective, not least as an important deterrent threat in the southern Balkans, as they were in the Falklands and are now in Bosnia. That threat might well force the Yugoslav Army more into the open and therefore make it more vulnerable to NATO air attack.

Finally, there is the annual budget itself, which is already under severe strain and, as far as I know, is still being eroded at 3 per cent compound interest per annum. The budget will, of course, need to be increased, not contracted, if the other restraints are to be removed and our ground and tactical air forces are to be provided with proper strengths, logistic backing and sustainability, and support from our reserve forces. I hope the Minister will not take the view that we can cross that bridge when we come to it because, as he knows so well, these things take a considerable time to adjust and Ministers and their NATO colleagues should know well in advance what can and cannot be provided before decisions are taken on how the campaign should develop.

Besides, it is only right that commanders and staff back in the United Kingdom should expend all their energies on realistic provisioning for our forces in the front line in the Balkans and elsewhere, and should not chase probably now unobtainable, and certainly unacceptable, bottom-line financial targets. Indeed, one of the many sad things about all this is the number of times in my experience that defence reviews and their aftermath have, under intense financial pressure, been based slavishly, even during times of conflict, on strategic parameters which have proved, in a short time, to be utterly incorrect and indeed inconsistent with our rather grandiose foreign policy aspirations, as many at the time warned that they would be.

My final plea is that if our forces are ever to be committed to ground operations which may involve some degree of opposition and resistance, even of the greatly written down variety, great care should be taken over the command arrangements. Of course, not being privy to either the intelligence on the opposition nor the details of topography, I can offer no worthwhile views on whether such an intervention, and under what circumstances, would or would not constitute a sound military operation with calculated risks which are worth taking, as in the Falklands and the Gulf. Control from Mons involving 19 different nations may or may not be the way to deal with a politically sensitive air bombardment, but it is certainly not the way to direct land operations involving surprise, the concentration of force and indeed all the established principles of war, even if--as I welcome--there is a heavy international content.

Only a commander-in-chief on the ground, operating within a firm political aim, but with full authority over the land and tactical air forces with whom he would be in close physical touch--all of which occurred in the Gulf War--will suffice. It would be highly desirable for a senior British officer to be commander-in-chief. After all, we command the Rapid Reaction Corps. But if he must be American, there should be a senior British

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officer at his right hand, as occurred in the Gulf War. If the Minister thinks that I am teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, I can say only that in these highly politically sensitive days, when rhetoric, press releases and high profile public relations occasions sometimes seem to be considered a substitute for hard pounding, military realism may easily be forgotten.

We now have to win what we have started. If we get the command and control machinery right, everything else may well click into place. But if there is a hydra-headed arrangement which that great professional, the late noble and gallant Lord, Field Marshal Montgomery, would undoubtedly have described as a "dog's breakfast", it will be a sure recipe for the kind of disaster from which the British Army has certainly not been immune--particularly in the early stages of the war--and from which, happily, we have been spared during the past 50 years. I am sure that the Chiefs of Staff will be making exactly the same point but, in this highly political war, it is especially worth stressing in your Lordships' House.

5 p.m.

Lord Merlyn-Rees: My Lords, I support the policy of the Government as they work with their allies to end the bestial Serbian policy of ethnic cleansing. That must be our main aim at all times. I wish to comment and ask questions about our future policy as it unfolds.

In the time I have been a Member of your Lordships' House I have often asked myself what we are here for. We are certainly not here to be another House of Commons. The speech by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, reinforces my view that we are here to draw on experience. I wish to draw on my own far more limited experience to offer a few comments.

When I was a young RAF officer I spent three years of my life working with the Army. Our aim was to work with and sustain the Army on the clear understanding that the battle could be won only by the Army. Air power was vitally important. If we took prisoners, the German PoWs always said "It was air power that defeated us". But they were wrong. Air power was a major factor but the battle was won by the Army. That lesson must be remembered in Yugoslavia. We provided close support in Sicily and Salerno. When I see the news dealing with the war in Yugoslavia, I often wonder what the media, with their television cameras and reporters asking soldiers what they think and so on, would have made of Salerno--a shambles in its early days if ever there was one. At Anzio, the south of France, back up into Austria, marginally into Slovenia and into Croatia, air support was vital to enable the Army to win the battle.

As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said, Yugoslavia was a place apart. A separate air force was built up to deal with the Balkans. The Balkan air force on the east coast of Italy dealt with Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was different from Italy. As the noble and gallant Lord said, to try to run the battle from Belgium is a mistake in terms of command structure.

Eventually we ended up on the Yugoslav border. Our Yugoslav allies were completely unco-operative. What they did to each other was unbelievable. They had done

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it before. What Croat did to Slovene, what Slovene did to Serb, what they did to children was not new. It will not stop. It will not be stopped by the words of western politicians. It is something that is built into the south Slav mentality. I spent 18 months in that area and I have never forgotten. I had of course read European history. A few days spent in that part of the world enabled me to understand European history far more clearly. The First World War was started when an Austrian Archduke was killed by a Serb. That is the key point: he was killed by a Serb. These problems will not go away and we must be ready for a long haul.

In August 1946 I was the operations officer of a fighter wing which was occupying a Hungarian airfield when our allies shot down two American aircraft. We were re-armed in August 1946 with clear instructions not to seek a battle but, if it happened again, to shoot them down. They were completely unco-operative, which in my view is endemic in the Yugoslav mentality. Lack of co-operation will be there if allied forces have to go into Kosovo, or wider, even if they go in not to fight a battle but to try to keep the peace. It will not be easy. It is early days to talk about that but the rationality is important.

As to NATO, there is much talk at the moment about handing over to the WEU. I am not against the Anglo-French European defence capability, which is an aspect of that, but the Americans control all three services: the intelligence, the signals communication and the transport facilities. NATO is dominated by America and we should face up to that fact. We supply 7 per cent of the bodies offered by NATO; the Americans supply 86 per cent. When one talks of what should happen, one has to convince the Americans of what should happen. I do not object to that because the size of the force is determined by the resources available.

I wish to say a word about targeting. Targeting such as we read about in the newspapers and see on the television is not new. For two years before D-Day in 1944, the RAF from new airfields in the south of England targeted railways, engines and bridges in northern France, just as such facilities had been targeted by both sides in North Africa during the North African campaign and up into Italy. Targeting is a vital part of tactical air force work in aid of the Army. It is not new but it is important.

Who determines the targets? How is it done? Does the targeting come from Brussels? Do the pilots of the fighter bombers, I suppose one should call them in the new terminology, stationed in northern Italy have to get permission from a distance away or are the targets chosen by the pilots, by the squadron commanders or by the wing commanders?

Mistakes will always happen. My war was not particularly distinguished but, like many of my friends, I have been shot at by the Royal Navy and the American navy. I did not blame them. In 1944 a friend from one of the squadrons was strafing a row of motorised and horse-drawn vehicles in the Rhone Valley. He suddenly then realised that he was strafing an ambulance. He did not do it deliberately, but a mistake had taken place and he and others reported it. In the Telegraph or The Times

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today I noticed the obituary of a distinguished RAF officer who had bombed British forces in Iraq in 1941. I read in the papers about mistakes being somehow a dereliction of duty, but mistakes happen and cannot be avoided. However, targeting is important and I wonder how it is decided.

One difference from 1944-45--long before NATO--has been the work of NATO in providing aid, food and shelter to the refugees, a point highlighted by the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. NATO's role has changed; additional work has been given to it. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, is right: such work must be done on a far greater scale. But NATO should not do it. NATO may be an engine by which it can be done but it is time now to introduce a Marshall Plan or something like that.

I am glad that the Foreign Secretary said two days ago that the aim is to get the refugees back to their own country. That must be right. Placing refugees in not derelict but empty Army camps is good in the short run but no good in the long run. The aim must be for the refugees to return to their own country and nothing else.

As regards the wider scene, western Europe has been deficient politically. One of the big mistakes of the past 10 years has been the recognition of the independence of Croatia and Slovenia. The Serbs are not fools. Once that had happened, they wanted their own independence and they knew what they had to do. What are the aims of western political policies with regard to the south Balkans and the south Slav territories? What are the aims for the KLA? We are supplying arms to the KLA; will it return them afterwards? Will we have the same story as Northern Ireland? Will there be decommissioning and arms handed back? Will our policy be exercised through the KLA? If so, the Serbs will not give in easily.

The South Balkans could flare up at any time. There are Albanians in Kosovo and west Macedonia, as well as in Albania itself. There is the wider Macedonian question. There is the Greek-Turkish rivalry. Kosovo is only part of a wider problem. It is time that the western European countries put their mind to a wider problem than Kosovo. In the short term I support the Government; the long run requires a great deal of questioning. I hope that the Government are taking part in that questioning. I hope that the Western European Union, the western allies, are thinking hard about the long term. Was a mistake made in 1918 when Yugoslavia was created? That was a long time ago, but would it have been better to have done things differently? What is the long-term political aim arising out of the Kosovo question? In the short run, I support the Government; in the long run, we shall have to see.

5.10 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, like other noble Lords, I recognise that one ought not to speak about peace at such a generalised level that one misses the opportunity and the challenge that are presented by the continued ethnic cleansing, just as with the invasion of the Rhineland by Hitler--a challenge which I clearly recognise must be met with force. I recognise, and am

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deeply grateful for, the professionalism of the Armed Forces involved in the action. Rather than recapitulating on matters in which other noble Lords are far more expert, perhaps I may speak as the Bishop responsible for relations with the Orthodox churches.

The noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, spoke about his personal experience of the spirit in Yugoslavia. There is another side to the story. There is a democratic opposition in Yugoslavia, and there are people who are very clear about the nature of the challenge facing those societies. It is good to note that just before this action took place, religious leaders of the three main faith communities in Kosovo--the Moslems--the 60,000 or so Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Church, were trying to promote grass-roots dialogue. Centres such as the Decani monastery have been havens and centres of relief for victims of the fighting, irrespective of ethnicity or religion.

It will be difficult to move towards any kind of settlement. It is obvious that, however justified, violence radicalises the situation. It brings the extremists on both sides to the fore. Bishop Atremije of Prizren, in a letter to Madeleine Albright before the bombing began, predicted that the action would provide a pretext for the Milosevic regime to move against the democratic opposition and to,

    "delay the democratisation of Serbia, a pre-condition for a stable peace in the Balkan region". But the effort to find democratic partners in building the peace is inescapable and the role of the faith communities in doing so--Moslem, Roman Catholic and Orthodox in particular--will be recognised, as it could be vital.

The same is true, to echo a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, of the Russian role as mediator in this crisis. I was immensely heartened by the Prime Minister's statement that the Russian diplomatic effort is receiving the serious attention here that it is receiving in Germany.

The expansion of NATO to embrace former Warsaw Pact countries, effected with so little turbulence, was a huge achievement. But it was an achievement built on the doctrine that NATO was a purely defensive alliance. We may not see matters this way, but Russia has centuries of experience of invasion, not least from the West, and has a sense of vulnerability and a corresponding determination to ensure its own security which it would be unwise to underestimate. There is unanimity right across the Russian political spectrum that the NATO attack on Serbia introduces a dangerous unpredictability into relations within Europe. Many Russians are asking, "Are we next?".

I am certain that nothing could be further from the minds of NATO strategists. But as we look to build a stable peace in Europe, it is vital that Russian anxieties should be respected and its aid in peace-making should be actively enlisted. Again, the potential role of the hugely numerous and significant Russian Orthodox Church in this peace-building effort should not be underestimated.

As we look to the future and seek ways to assist the refugees who have been so barbarously driven from their homes, certain questions and challenges arise.

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Even though the situation has been radicalised by the violence, I can understand why Her Majesty's Government are still persuaded of the undesirability in such a volatile part of the world--we have heard about the tensions in Macedonia and Albania--of altering the international borders of Kosovo. Now is the moment for spelling out more clearly what our hopes for the future of Kosovo really are. Is the cantonisation of the kind recommended by the Peace Mission of the Orthodox Church in Kosovo an option?

At the same time our own Prime Minister has insisted on the need to act in defence of the growing consensus on the inviolability of human rights and to act in a way that is transnational. That represents a new development in the practice of diplomacy. The nature of conflict has changed, and it is clear that the practice of diplomacy must also develop.

In this context there is a clear need to look urgently at reform of the United Nations. If it is true that the Security Council is paralysed by its present structure, then surely there must be pressure for change, led by the governments of the democratic world. Cynicism about the UN is a luxury that we cannot afford. A global trading system and global communications call out for global institutions, which can be powerful advocates and protectors of the human rights and obligations of all world citizens.

I am convinced that future historians will look back on our time with one major question: "What did they do to build the conditions for world peace with justice and stability?". They will look to see whether we have learnt any lessons from the present crisis, which is a vital test of our determination to manage conflict in the new world order.

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