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Lord Kennet: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Baroness will allow me to question her wording. Could she read out that commitment? I did not read it as being a commitment but a statement that there was no present intention to do so.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: I was using Mr. Primakov's own word "commitment". That is how he sees it. I may add that a month after this was agreed, the Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Ivan Rybkin, was in Kaliningrad pledging to strengthen
It is perhaps relevant to remember that Russia's arms exports were worth 3.1 billion dollars last year; that it is the main supplier for India, has greatly increased its trade with China and the Middle East and is still happy to deal with North Korea and Iran; that it has benefited mightily from the lifting of the COCON restriction; and that the conversion programme in Russia was little more than a means of extracting money from the West.
I have never been able to see an alternative to enlargement, because not to have allowed Poland and the others the right to choose what would make them feel safe after the long years of brutal Soviet occupation seemed unthinkable. However, I have to say that the Russians are already on the way to making it, through this apparently high-minded and peace-loving act, a hollow mockery. The Russian white ants will eat away at the whole edifice of NATO, which they are determined to turn into yet another political talking shop like the OSCE and the UN, while acquiring at the same time in the sacred name of transparency the greatest possible knowledge of our military strength, intentions and capacity and using their presence inside NATO to render it no more than an expensive collection of bureaucrats in uniform, busy servicing the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council.
More and more NATO member governments may gratefully agree that having even conventional forces is unnecessary, provocative or both. Many may well say, "Why not? Russia is no longer a threat". Russia will only not be a threat for so long as it sees in NATO a power to deter. Russia wants the CFE treaty, which it has not yet ratified, amended yet further. Russia has not yet ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention or destroyed its chemical weapons. It says that it will do so by the autumn, given the creation of necessary conditions, which turns out to mean extending the time for liquidating the stockpile of 40,000 tonnes and
Lord Kennet: My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Baroness once again. She has been very patient. Could she balance that statement about Russia and the Chemical Weapons Convention by reminding the House of the state of American policy as regards that convention?
Russia's agenda is to turn NATO into an emasculated political entity, while using it to exert influence on any and every decision the NATO powers may wish to make, including the future of Milosevic's Yugoslavia, the future of the Baltic states and many other such issues. Its eventual objective is the dissolution of NATO and the advancement of that toothless creature the OSCE.
Some may say that it is wrong to raise such misgivings, that it is a bold and trustful move to bring Russia inside NATO and to go so much further than half-way. But NATO is not primarily a political body. The European Union is that; the OSCE is that; the UN is that; the Council of Europe is that. Let us make our political gestures there. NATO is a defensive military organisation whose purpose is to keep the peace through deterrence. It cannot keep the peace without power to deter. We should not allow the Russians to prevent that and to manipulate us, as they so well know how to do, into making us feel vaguely guilty that we have an effective, peaceful, non-aggressive engine of peace, whose purpose has never been anything but defensive. We should not negotiate away our strength and we should think most carefully before we throw away our power.
When I speak about Russia, I am not speaking about the many thoroughly nice Russians whom we all know but about a nomenklatura whose methods have changed very little and whose objectives are clear. Of course it is right and useful to work with the Russians on peacekeeping, but that should not be allowed to turn into effective Russian penetration and emasculation of NATO as a vital defence asset. The Russians will respect us if we robustly protect our own interests. Our interests, incidentally, are the interests of the Russian people too, because we all need to keep the peace.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, this is an important debate in a thin House on a document which ought to have received a good deal more attention in the western press. Reading both this document and the Treaty of Amsterdam in the past two days, I have to admit that I was not clear which was the more obscure of the two. One has to get into the codes of the language in order to understand rather more clearly what is indicated. This is a founding charter, a declaration and not a treaty. As the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said, they do not want to have to take it through the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Therefore, it is not entirely clear what it offers.
It represents a further stage in what has been a drift of policy towards what the document describes in its fourth paragraph as "a historic transformation of NATO"--a historic transformation of NATO which is likely to continue as this charter goes into effect and which will take NATO towards something which Henry Kissinger, in a rather strong article in the Washington Post the other weekend, said will no longer be an alliance but will become in effect a collective security organisation. I think that that is rather a good thing; he thinks that it is rather a bad thing; the noble Baroness, Lady Park, obviously also thinks it is rather a bad thing. Since I am informed that the nomenklatura inside Russia has considerably broken up in the past four or five years and been replaced by a number of other private organisations, mafias and the like, I am not sure that I share the same view of a monolithic Russia that she still retains. It does not mean that I do not believe that there are many dangerous things within Russia. Some of those things are dangerous when one walks along the street in Moscow. But it is a different Russia from what we had before and we need a different response.
We have a transformation under way in the structure of European security and European order as such. I bitterly regret that the last British Government did not explain it to their people. This charter marks a further stage. In a few days' time the next NATO Council in Madrid will announce an enlargement of NATO to three, four or five countries which is also a further stage in the transformation of the whole architecture, as some people call it, of European security.
I welcome that change. I wish the last Government had explained it rather more to the British public. I hope that the new Government will understand that it needs a great deal of explanation to the British people. I also bitterly regret the unilateralism with which the United States has been leading us along the way. There have been battles within Washington between the Polish lobby and the "Russia firsters", which have pushed for enlargement to Poland at the same time as offering something to the Russians. It was the desire was to satisfy the Polish lobby on NATO enlargement, but at
Time and again we have seen leading members of the American administration making unilateral gestures to the Russians of which they have not informed their NATO members. I remember the NATO council in Bergen a year ago in which Bill Perry told the Baltic states on behalf of NATO members that they were not going to join NATO for the time being. I remember vividly the occasion in Brussels when Madeleine Albright announced with the SACEUR standing next to her that there was to be a NATO Russia brigade about which the American General SACEUR had not been informed. That is not a good way to run an alliance. I recall our friends in this House, who take a sceptical view of the European Union, insisting that NATO worked better because it worked on consensus. That is an odd kind of consensus.
We have been pulled along by American politics and by an American view of how Europe should be restructured, which I am not sure we entirely share. The last British Government were loyal to the United States and went out of their way to defend what they saw as the developments within American policy. Malcolm Rifkind famously made his last major speech before the election in Washington telling the Americans that they had to accept NATO enlargement. He did not make such a speech over here. I hope that this Government will not be so subservient to American interests and will take more clearly a further statement in paragraph 4, which interestingly comes out in the Founding Act on Mutual Relations Co-operation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation and says,
I have asked a number of people in London and elsewhere exactly what European security and defence is. The French tell me that they are in favour of it but cannot define it; British officials say that we are against it but cannot define it. It is interesting to know that, nevertheless, it appears in the founding charter.
Those are major developments in the movement from an alliance to a collective security organisation. I find it interesting that in the NATO-Russia agreement there is reference to a need to further adjust NATO's strategic concept; to further changes in the treaty on conventional forces in Europe; and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Park, mentioned, to the questions in relation to nuclear weapons.
The links between this Act and other developments also seem to me to be important. I asked the Library if it was possible to obtain a copy of the agreement between NATO and the Ukraine. I am told that that had been agreed but had not been signed and is not yet available. I hope that the Minister will tell us what comparability there is between NATO's agreement with the Ukraine and that with Russia. The Ukraine is an important country to us. It matters to us that it remains independent as a part of a new European balance.
How do we see the Baltic states developing? How far have we now accepted that the Baltic states will not join NATO? Or is part of the purpose of this agreement with Russia to open the door to the Baltic states becoming at least associated with NATO to the same extent as Russia and perhaps in time to be full members?
What about south-eastern Europe? At Madrid the Americans will tell us who is to be allowed to join NATO in the next one-and-a-half years. Indeed, the Americans have now decided that they can only get three countries through Congress without arousing too much opposition, so Romania and Slovenia will not be allowed to join. What proposals do we wish to make for those other countries of south-eastern Europe which represent the most insecure parts of Europe today, to improve their security if NATO enlargement or founding acts of this sort are not going to take care of them in the near future?
Finally, what do we see as the role of OSCE in this developing process? There are many references to OSCE within the text but it seems to me that we are moving towards NATO replacing the OSCE for many purposes, with Russia as a half-member and with the Ukraine as an associate. NATO is going to become the major collective security organisation for Europe with an integrated military organisation at its core and therefore rather stronger than the OSCE but, as Kissinger argued, fundamentally different from the alliance we knew.
This debate is taking place largely within Washington. I regret that. European allies have largely been spectators to this American-Russian dialogue. The Americans are now actively moving towards obtaining ratification through Congress. Two weeks ago in Washington I met a state department official who is working full time on relations with Congress to try to ensure that the Senate will ratify. I am glad to know that they treat their legislature in such an active and positive
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, there is consensus between the two Front Benches in this House and in another place that no issue has a higher priority in Britain's foreign policy than the future of NATO. It is not news to your Lordships that it is a real but most regrettable fact that peace in post-Cold War Europe cannot be taken for granted. The history of Europe has left behind many animosities and tensions, particularly in the East. Bosnia stands as a stark and devastating testament to that fact.
It is not an overstatement to say that NATO is the most successful defence alliance the world has ever seen. Its unique military capabilities and its politically stabilising framework have given its members unprecedented peace since its foundation in 1949. As we approach the 50th anniversary of its foundation, it is appropriate that we should be able to begin the lead-up to those celebrations with another milestone in the form of the Founding Act.
The signing of the Founding Act last month in Paris was an historic occasion. In this Act the heads of government of the 16 NATO member countries and of Russia have paved the way for a new relationship between NATO and Russia. This is a partnership built on consensus and co-operation, on consultation and co-ordination rather than on an adversarial approach and enmity.
This pact of permanent partnership and strategic co-operation has concluded the process that began in Lancaster House seven years ago when NATO first stretched out the hand of friendship to its former Warsaw Pact adversary in the dying days of the Cold War. It creates the real possibility, unthinkable a decade ago, that the security pact may one day span the nations of the northern hemisphere from Vladivostok to Vancouver without a break.
The Founding Act, whereby NATO and Russia no longer consider themselves adversaries, is the fruit of seven years of hard bargaining, of mutual concession and compromise. It is a milestone on the road to underpinning security and stability in the whole of Europe. The Act acknowledges the future enlargement of NATO, thereby greatly minimising press speculation that such expansion will--I quote--"Bait the Russian bear". In return, it assuages the preconception in Russia that NATO is a threat to the Russian people. Neither NATO nor Russia has a right of veto over the actions of the other, nor does it restrict independent decision-making and action.
The noble Lord, in raising this debate, which is greatly welcomed, has concentrated rightly on the status of the Founding Act in international law. It is politically binding but, as the noble Lord rightly pointed out, it is not a legally binding treaty and needs no ratification as such, as the Russians had originally requested. However, the important status of the Founding Act should not be underestimated. The 17 co-signatories have all agreed to be bound by its terms. It is therefore to all intents and purposes a binding document.
The summit in Madrid next month is the next milestone on the road to NATO's fourth expansion, when the alliance's 16 existing members will meet to decide which of the 12 applicant countries will be invited to begin accession negotiations. I thought that the contribution by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, was extremely pertinent in this context.
Again, there is consensus on the Front Benches of your Lordships' House and in another place as to the benefits of NATO enlargement to Britain, to Europe and to the world. Enlarging our institutions is the key to future European and global success. NATO is the best assurance for prosperity, security and confidence in the nations of central Europe, just as it was for the nations of western Europe from its foundation 50 years ago. It is right that NATO's guarantees of a real and credible common defence should be extended to the new democracies of central and eastern Europe who have thrown off the yoke of communism. Already great efforts are being made in the aspirant countries to establish democracy, the rule of law and individual liberty, as well as to resolve border disputes and organise defence planning in a democratic way.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish the Government success in the discussions at the Madrid summit next month, and I am sure they will take a measured and considered approach to the important decisions facing the UK and our NATO allies. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, put his finger on the issue. It is no secret that there will be dissent and disagreement between the American-led model of limited enlargement and the French-led model--which he rightly supported and for which I have a great deal of sympathy--of a wider "southern enlargement" which would include Romania and Slovenia and would focus expansion on the Mediterranean as well as eastern Europe. Diplomacy and determination will be required to broker a decision acceptable to all and agreed by all, with no lingering resentment of a diktat on any side.
I hope that this decision will take into account the fact that NATO cannot be a one-way street. New countries must be able to play a full role in all NATO operations. They will have to increase defence expenditure where necessary; they must bring their armed forces up to the level of NATO armed forces and ensure interoperability.
I hope it will be clear that NATO expansion will be an evolving and fluid process which will enhance the security of all. There is no reason why this fourth enlargement should be the last. The door must remain open for those willing and able to further NATO's goals. Nor should any country feel left out in the cold. On this note, the designs for the architecture of European security have been drafted.
I hope the Government will make sure that the security alliances which have been referred to and which overlap NATO--OCSE, WEU and the Council of Baltic Sea States--are built on and developed so that the plans for the architecture of European security become reality and the old iron dividing line between west and east is blurred and eventually erased. An enlarged NATO should be one of the foundation cornerstones in a network of security alliances that criss-cross and bind Europe in peace and stability. I believe that this is an opportunity for the Government to demonstrate leadership, and I very much hope that they will rise to the occasion.
The Founding Act opens the door for discussion between NATO and Russia, but there will still be significant diplomatic hurdles ahead. The Founding Act provides the basis for the continued expansion of the alliance by declaring that there can be no new dividing lines or spheres of influence limiting the sovereignty of any states and by stressing the inherent right to choose the means to ensure their own security. This keeps the NATO door open for the accession of the Baltic States and even the Ukraine. Russia has already issued a warning that the failure of NATO to rule out the Baltics and the former Soviet republics could undermine and damage NATO's relations with Russia.
Perhaps I may pick up on one point that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, raised. There is an additional and important dimension to our debate today which should focus on Russia's relationship with the republics of the former Soviet Union. This weekend, in my capacity as Managing Director of the Independent Power Corporation, I met Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin in Kazakhstan. In addition to the bold and radical economic reforms being implemented in the interests of all the people in the country by the Prime Minister and the President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, it is also a country which exemplifies the attempt to establish practical working relations with both Russia and NATO in defence policy.
The key relevance to this debate is the series of important tensions which remain to be resolved within the former Soviet Union countries. For example, Kazakhstan used to serve as the main nuclear testing
Now, with joint military manoeuvres, NATO addresses more than a traditional Russian stand-off. NATO is rightly but potentially precariously being woven into a patchwork quilt, a complicated web of foreign policy and defence initiatives to which it must respond sensitively and positively.
In the case of Kazakhstan NATO has responded well. The fact that NATO needs to do more to help Kazakhstan is incontrovertible, particularly in providing assistance to the Kazak army, epitomised, for example, by the challenge posed by the Kaliban movement in Afghanistan at a time when Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, with the assistance of the outstanding British ambassador, Barbara Hay, Kyrgistan and Turkmenistan face the rising tide of Islam. What this represents is an example of one of a series of internal tensions between Russia and the Baltics, where Russia is still perceived as a threat, Russia and the Ukraine, over the Black Sea division, and Russia and Chechnya, where the word "oil" predominates and the Caspian Sea policy, Azerbaijan and issues regarding the pipeline are important.
We needed in the past a strong NATO because Russia was strong. We need an even stronger alliance now because the fledgling Russian democracy is weak. We have no reason to mistrust President Yeltsin and his team. Moreover, we have every reason to believe their good political intentions. But at the same time we can legitimately ask: how much control does the president and his team exercise over their military; and how much control, after we saw the example of Admiral Khmelnev selling submarines and weapons for personal gain, do the Russian generals themselves have over an ageing and increasingly volatile nuclear arsenal? Whatever the legal status of the Founding Act, we ought to establish proper and foolproof systems of verification and control. The Russian people, above all, need our help in that matter.
In conclusion, I should like an assurance from the Minster that the strategic defence review will preserve our sense of responsibility to our allies in NATO, which includes our outstanding contribution to NATO's high command Rapid Reaction Corps, which is led by a British officer. I should like, in the context of the defence of NATO and this debate, to ask four questions. There are military cost implications for the future of the NATO alliance. I should like to know how these will be taken into account and what the involvement of the Treasury will be in this foreign policy led defence review. If NATO is indeed to remain the bedrock of our security, and fundamental questions on the future shape of the alliance and the contribution of its members will remain unanswered in the immediate future, what timescale do the Government envisage before they are able to reach definitive conclusions about the UK defence needs, and how will those defence needs be evaluated to take into account NATO enlargement and the matters before the House today?
Britain plays a unique and leading role in the world. It is the only country to be a member of NATO, the European Union, the WEU, the Commonwealth, what is now the G8 most powerful industrial nations and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. I hope the whole House agrees that the United Kingdom carries out its responsibilities throughout the world with honour and respect: providing troops, planes and ships for the Gulf War, the delivery of aid and the supervising of the ceasefire in Bosnia, help to war-torn Rwanda, support for the United Nations around the world, as well as fighting international crime and terrorism. We are very proud of the role we played in staunchly defending freedom in the 1980s in the face of the Soviet threat, which helped to bring about the collapse of Communism and the emergence of democracy in central and Eastern Europe. We have now come full circle. Fifty years after the rejection of the Marshall Plan by Stalin, which led to the isolation of the Soviet Union and the division of Europe, the Founding Act marks the making of a more constructive, secure future for all of Europe. I urge the Government to take no action to hinder Britain's continued lead in shaping this future.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Kennet for initiating this debate today as I welcome the interest shown by other noble Lords in the NATO/Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Co-operation and Security, and in NATO generally. The alliance is of vital importance to our defence and the security and stability of Europe, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, pointed out.
The signature of the Founding Act on 27th May, by NATO heads of state and government, the NATO Secretary-General, and President Yeltsin is an historic breakthrough in relations between Russia and the West. One of the main provisions of the Founding Act is the establishment of a Permanent Joint Council which will consult regularly on a wide range of security issues and will provide a mechanism for building greater trust and co-operation between Russia and NATO.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked about the status in international law of the Founding Act. As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said, it is not a treaty. If it had been a legally binding document the constitutions of many NATO member states would have required them to go through a process of ratification, and that would have delayed matters considerably. During the course of the negotiations between NATO and Russia the two sides agreed that it should take the form of a solemn commitment, made at the highest level. In this respect, the Founding Act is similar to the Helsinki Final Act. The fact that the Founding Act is not legally binding does not, of course, mean that it was entered into lightly. It was signed at the level of heads of state and government. I assure noble Lords that the British Government will scrupulously honour the political commitments it contains and expect that all other NATO member states and Russia will do likewise.
The signature of the Founding Act underlines that the Cold War is now firmly consigned to history. Its second paragraph reminds us that the two sides are no longer adversaries. NATO's own transformation in the 1990s underlines this fact. As the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, pointed out, it is no longer an organisation designed to deter or defend against a massive attack from the East. Its priorities are now much more diverse. It has expanded its political functions and taken on new missions of peacekeeping and crisis management. In Bosnia, NATO has been working side by side with Russia to restore peace.
We welcome signs that Russian public opinion is increasingly taking a more realistic view of NATO and overcoming misconceptions of the alliance created under the former Soviet Union. That is not to say that there are not still anxieties in Russia about NATO, but these are based on a profound misunderstanding of the character and intentions of the alliance, which are strictly defensive.
The best way to achieve a thoroughgoing and lasting change in perception is to develop the relationship between NATO and Russia and find a way of involving Russia in discussion of European security issues that corresponds to her legitimate security interests. The signature of the Founding Act responds to these needs by offering a real partnership with NATO, with a framework for increasing levels of practical co-operation, and by giving Russia a chance to make her voice clearly heard on matters of security concern to her. Co-operation in the new Permanent Joint Council will be based on the principles of transparency and reciprocity.
The Founding Act contains no provisions that restrict the rights or responsibilities of new members of NATO. The candidates for NATO membership have recognised this, and have welcomed the Founding Act. It contains a section on military issues which underlines clearly that NATO, whether now or after taking in new members, will pose no military threat to Russia. It contains, for example, references to earlier unilateral statements by NATO that the alliance has no intention, plan or reason to station nuclear weapons on the territory of new members and that it will carry out its collective defence and other missions by ensuring the ability of forces to work with each other rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces. It also sets out an approach agreed by Russia and NATO to the adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe to the new circumstances of Europe. The Founding Act also contains provisions for more co-operation between military establishments.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked about this element of transparency. The text of the Founding Act is available for debate, as indeed we are debating today. As for the conduct of NATO/Russia discussions, there will be no deals at the expense of third parties. The proceedings of NATO/Russia bodies will be as open as possible.
Noble Lords have also asked why NATO should be enlarged. NATO membership brings considerable benefits to members, not only militarily in collective defence guarantees but also political benefits. It would not be right to deny those benefits to countries that wished to join and share the values and principles on which NATO was founded and whose accession to NATO would add to our common security. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has pointed out, the process of enlargement has already brought substantial benefits to European security as candidates for membership have sought to prepare themselves by pursuing important reforms, such as the introduction of proper democratic control over their militaries and a peaceful approach to the resolution of long-standing issues. A more secure and stable central and eastern Europe where two world wars have started this century should be in the interests not only of the West but also of Russia.
Several noble Lords raised the question of the costs of enlargement. Pending NATO's decisions on who should be invited to join, it is not possible to make precise estimates of the cost of enlargement, including the cost to the United Kingdom, but NATO's preliminary work on cost suggests that it will be manageable. Costs will be shared equitably between existing and new members. A US Government report to Congress in February 1997 estimated that the direct cost of enlargement to existing and new members over a 13-year period would be no more than 9 to 12 billion US dollars. This is far less than some of the earlier estimates that failed to take into account the change in the military threat since the end of the cold war and the modernisation measures that allies would need to take irrespective of enlargement.
Noble Lords will be aware that 12 countries have asked to join: Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Albania and Macedonia. The UK has not yet decided who should join. As noble Lords have observed, the US has already declared for three: Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. The US voice in NATO is obviously influential, but the final decision will be taken collectively by the allies at the Madrid Summit on the 8th or 9th July.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, asked about those countries that had not been invited to join. NATO is determined that the admission of new members must not mean less security for those not invited at this stage or the creation of a new dividing line in Europe. At the Madrid Summit NATO will repeat its pledge that the door remains open to the possibility of further enlargement, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, indicated.
The noble Baroness, Lady Park, asked about arms control. Perhaps I may reiterate that no Russian missiles have been targeted at the UK and no UK missiles have been targeted at Russia since 30th May 1994. The US also has a de-targeting agreement with Russia. The UK does not target Russia or any other country with nuclear missiles. By the end of 1998 the UK will have only one system, that is, Trident. Therefore, it would not be possible to detach the warheads, of which so many have spoken, and maintain a credible deterrent. The noble Baroness also raised a number of questions about possible co-operation in the theatre of missile defence. I can confirm that the TMD is one of the areas for possible co-operation between NATO and Russia.
The noble Baroness also asked about Russian attitudes to NATO. The Founding Act gives neither side a veto over the actions of the other. Both sides maintain their right to act independently. The new NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council will not be superior or, for that matter, subordinate to the alliance's supreme body, the North Atlantic Council. It is a separate structure. To the extent that Russia uses the new forum constructively, NATO will wish to take greater account of her voice and the opportunities for joint initiatives and decisions by the Permanent Joint Council will naturally increase. An increasingly democratic and outward-looking Russia will deserve greater influence and full recognition of her legitimate security interests.
The noble Baroness also referred to the Baltic states. We recognise the aspirations of those states to join both NATO and the EU. Decisions on NATO membership will be announced at Madrid. But we are particularly aware of the security concerns of the Baltic states. We are willing to participate in international initiatives to enhance their security. We shall continue our programme of bilateral defence assistance to the Baltic states including their joint peace-keeping battalion BalTBat.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, raised the question of NATO and the Ukraine. The relationship between NATO and the Ukraine is very important. The Ukraine's sovereignty and security are important to the security of Europe. The Ukraine has a special role to play in building the new European security architecture. Her de-nuclearisation is a commendable contribution to security in Europe. We welcome the initialling of the NATO/Ukraine Charter on the 29th May at Sintra. We expect it to be signed at a meeting between NATO heads of state and government and President Kuchma in Madrid on the 8th or 9th July. This forms a sound foundation for further future developments of the distinctive relationship between NATO and the Ukraine which recognises the latter's particular role in European security.
NATO wants the Permanent Joint Council to work as does President Yeltsin. Her Majesty's Government believe that this is a unique opportunity to promote constructive dialogue in the area of European security. Russia's voice will be heard more clearly. Inevitably, NATO will take notice of Russian views and sensibilities. It is right that in future NATO should take into account the concerns of a democratic Russia and
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may press her on the question of joint peace-keeping operations within the former CIS. This seems to me to be a very important point that hangs within the founding charter in which the interests of this country are engaged.
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