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Lord Wallace of Saltaire rose to ask Her Majesty's Government how they propose that the European members of NATO should most effectively develop the "European security and defence identity" to which NATO is committed.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I tabled my Question in a spirit of inquiry and puzzlement. I should say, before the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, leaves the Chamber, that his attempts to suggest that agriculture has more acronyms than defence is very brave but entirely unsuccessful. We shall talk perhaps about the ESDI, WEU and the European pillar, but I know that we can all spatter our speeches with more acronyms than any farmer has ever dreamed of.
The European security and defence identity is something which has been contained in NATO communiqués and ministerial speeches for some time. Digging around in what the last government had been saying, I note that Douglas Hurd had been talking about the need for much closer European defence co-operation as a necessary part of the consequence of the end of the cold war, back in December 1990. He said that a stronger WEU within a stronger European defence co-operation would,
"build bridges to the Twelve",
and create truly a proper European pillar within the Atlantic alliance. In July 1994, Mr. Heathcoat-Amory, a Minister in the previous government, wrote in The World Today:
"Britain has consistently made clear its support for the development of a European Security and Defence Identity".
My question partly is: what do the new Government think their commitment to a European security and defence identity is? Do they yet have a settled policy on ESDI? I am conscious that in defence, as in many other areas, governments often sign documents committing
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Her Majesty's Government to objectives in multilateral declarations which they never expect to be fulfilled. Mrs. Thatcher was famously amazed to discover in December 1989 that her government had for very many years signed NATO declarations supporting German unification. Indeed, she herself had done so. However, I am told she said that she never really meant it. My question therefore is: when Her Majesty's Government sign documents like the NATO/Russia Charter which repeat the ESDI commitment, do they really mean that they want it, or would they be shocked and surprised if progress was actually made? What do the Government understand by a European security and defence identity?
I think what I understand by itI have been asking friends not only in this country but in others what they think they understand by itis Western European Union plus a stronger network of bilateral and multilateral patterns of defence co-operation within western Europe; a European pillar of NATO; sorting out the mess which is currently WEU, CFSP, European Union foreign policy, which we so signally failed to sort out in the Amsterdam treaty; and moves forward in terms of practical co-operation.
After all, we have made a number of practical moves forward in the past few years. It was a British government initiativea Conservative initiativethat the Western European Union should be made more effective by moving it from its two half-headquarters in Paris and London to Brussels in 1993. The NATO communiqué of January 1994 specifically declared NATO's commitment to a European security and defence identity and followed that on by proposing that the Europeans should be encouraged to develop combined joint task forces for European autonomous operations, for which the United States would provide material assistance but in which the Europeans themselves would take the lead.
British engagement in integrated forces on a European scale is high. The Dutch-British marine amphibious force is one of the oldest integrated forces and one of the most effectively integrated. Since 1990 we have taken part in the multinational division in Germanyunder British commandand we have British command of the allied rapid reaction force. We take a leading part in standing naval forces in the Channel and the North Sea. There is a new Franco-British air wing and we collaborate actively on European arms procurement and are taking a leading part in suggesting that co-operation in the European arms industry should go a great deal further. All those are practical and positive steps forward. It seems to be very much in Britain's interest that they should be taken further.
It would be in Britain's interest to raise the question of the balance of spending among west European countries. After all, Britain contributes a great deal more than some of its partners. If we are to hold up the defence efforts of smaller European countries, such as Belgium, we have to encourage them to lock their national defence efforts into a broader multilateral context. If we are to bring pressure to bear on the Italians to take greater responsibility for their own defence as part of a common defence, similarly, a
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stronger European framework is in our interests. We must train together, with common equipment whenever possible, and operate together.
My spirit of inquiry as to what Her Majesty's Government think they mean by ESDI is also accompanied by a spirit of concern at the tone of Labour in opposition, of the Labour Party manifesto and of some of the statements of Ministers and some of the briefings which officials have given in the short period since the Government took office. One has a certain impression of Atlanticists par excellence, dismissive of any further steps towards European defence integration. One of those whom I was quizzing, asked what it was that the Labour Party in opposition had been thinking about European defence, remarked that one had to understand that it could not afford to be seen in any way as more European than the Conservatives on this issue and had fallen a little too far the other way and ended up sounding less European than the Conservatives and more determined to follow the twists and turns of American policy than them. Reading the press cuttings this morning of British Government briefings just before the Madrid European Council, I was struck by the degree of that kind of tonedemonstrably loyal to the Americans; aggressively dismissive of the French perspective.
One must ask awkward questions here. The question of what the United States wants, expects and needs from its allies; and the question of what is in the United Kingdom's best long-term interests. I suggest that what the United States wants and expects is solidarity from its European allies and not individual loyalty accompanied by collective disunity. It wants to see the European allies develop the ability to operate autonomously so that the United States will not necessarily always have to be heavily engaged on the ground. It wants to see the effective utilisation of limited resources through increased military integration.
I would add that many of usand not only those on these Bencheshave a degree of unease at the current degree of American domination of NATO, the American trend towards unilateralism and the American preoccupation with their own domestic pressures and concerns at the expense of their allies' pressures and concerns. I worry that the American concept of NATO as it expands differs increasingly from that of its west European allies; that the United States, to judge from what President Clinton and Madeleine Albright have recently been saying, sees NATO increasing as a global alliance in which the United States and its supportive European allies will project power globally, whereas most of its west European allies see it much more as a regional security organisation for increasing the security of Europe as a whole.
Here is a major building block for the strategic defence review. We cannot indeed have a strategic defence review unless the Government tell us what they mean, if anything, by a European security and defence identity. I suggest that they need to define what they mean, to pursue an active policy in partnership with their neighbours and then to explain it to the public.
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Across western Europe we are at the moment in a degree of confusion about how far anyone is serious about further European defence co-operation. It is easy for the British to blame the French, the Germans, the Belgians or the Italians. We share responsibility for that confusion because we have on the whole wanted not to be more integrated; we have wanted to be the most loyal to the Americans and the closest to the Americans. What we need now are new proposals and initiatives. We do not want a British government who will bump along waiting for others to take the lead. If, after all, as our new Prime Minister has said on a number of occasions, Britain is to take the lead in Europe, this is an area in which we should also be helping to define what we believe is best for Europe; or is our commitment to European security and defence identity merely a matter of empty rhetoric, as so often in NATO declarations?
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, is to be congratulated on having achieved this short debate at the precise time of the Madrid Summit. It is a bit late to influence the events but still it is a good time to have it.
In saying that, I am glad that he looked at the relationship of the European defence identity to NATO because I want to start unashamedly by talking about what is happening in Europe in the NATO context and then move on to the more narrow point of what is normally thought of as the European defence identity.
It seems to me that there are five significant arguments deployed in support of the expansion of NATO. First, expansion will fill the security vacuum left in central and eastern Europe since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. This will forestall the danger of alternative arrangements developing which might conceivably, at some point in the future, prove antagonistic to the West. At the same time it will meet the anxieties of countries which fear the possible return to power of some future expansionist Russian regime.
Secondly, expansion should reduce the possibility of future conflict in this area by defusing, preventing and containing the escalation of tensions. Conditions of membership such as commitment to democracy and human rights, the absence of border disputes and democratic accountability of the military will increase stability. The prospect of future membership of NATO is already encouraging the settlement of existing border disputes and the resolution of legitimate minority concerns. The co-operation of neighbours in joint exercises, together with military transparency, reduce the risk of inter-state conflict. Indeed, many believe that Greece and Turkey would have come to blows without NATO.
Thirdly, unless NATO expands it will lose its raison d'être. That could lead to diminished US commitment, which in turn could cause a destabilising "renationalisation" of defence and security policy by the remaining NATO members, with a consequent increase
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in national defence expenditures. It is also important to consider whether a world in the 21st century moving towards separate US and European defence structures would be more or less secure.
Fourthly, membership of NATO can facilitate the reconstruction, development and political stabilisation of the new member countries, and the growth of democracy can be both rewarded and encouraged. Expansion of NATO can be a useful, less costly way of extending west European co-operation eastwards without risking over-extending the European Union too soon.
Fifthly, NATO should not be deterred by a domestic Russian agenda. Russia may well have been posturing as part of a negotiating stance. NATO should be driven by a realistic calculation of its own interests and values. The Russians, it has been argued, will ultimately back down and accept a fait accompli. Indeed, firm resolve and clear signals may be exactly what Russia needs as the context for sound development of her own political system. Cynics might also add that in any case, even if the Russians do not come to terms with these developments, their threat capability is limited.
These are powerful arguments. Nevertheless, statesmanship, prudence and common sense demand that we take great care to avoid unnecessarily antagonising Russia, provoking dangerous nationalism and jeopardising the prospects for peaceful co-operation between Russia and the West.
NATO's purpose was always that of a security alliance to confront the former Soviet Union; in other words, in reality an alliance opposed to the Soviet Union. The demise of the Soviet Union and the re-emergence of Russia have not removed that perception. It is not just in the Russian political elite, but far more widely, that NATO expansion is therefore perceived as a threat and is instinctively opposed. Indeed, there has already been a disturbing rise in anti-democratic, anti-western elements and in nationalist sentiments within Russia. It is not impossible that a situation could be provoked which resulted in a Russian government and president with which the West would find it very difficult to do business.
Related to this is the danger that NATO expansion could remilitarise the Russian-western relationship. It would surely be a sad outcome if we went back to the two blocs of cold war Europe, with the development of an alternative, Russia-centred security alliance to the east. Efforts to improve controls of nuclear weapons and the conventional forces in Europe agreement could be undermined were Russia to become paranoid and unco-operative. For all these reasons and more, it is imperative that, whatever happens to NATO, efforts to build real, substantial and demonstrably meaningful relations between NATO and Russia are vigorously and relentlessly pursued at all times.
If the rationale for NATO expansion is to such a large extent about greater stability and political confidence, the run-up to the Madrid Summit has been a strange way to pursue it. The argument until the 11th hour plus between the US and the UK, on the one hand, and France, supported by Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece,
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Turkey, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Canada, on the other, as to whether new membership should be limited to three countriesthe Czech Republic, Hungary and Polandor widened to include Romania and Slovenia has hardly promoted the cause of calm and reassuring evolution. Indeed, it has been described as having the attributes of a lottery. We must do better than this.
In the political community of NATO, consultation and consensus are essential. Force majeure is no basis for the alliance's future strength. As it is, the negative effects on would-be candidate members who do not make it are indeed worrying; they hardly promise stability. And the reckless promotion of altogether unnecessary arms sales, backed by arms-related aid, in the absence of a convincing need for these, but on the dubious thesis that to be eligible for membership of the NATO club requires a qualifying level of military machismo as distinct from essential professional military competencenot always conspicuously a characteristic of the new potential membersis an unedifying phenomenon. Think of what could have been achieved with those resources in sounder economic and social terms as a real contribution to stability.
It will be essential to strive to minimise any adverse consequences of exclusion. More central and eastern European states will be excluded from enlargement than included. Investment in the OSCE must therefore be seen as a high priority for Europe and North America as a parallel means of promoting security. Real resources will be necessary for this. The North Atlantic Co-operation Council still matters and should be taken seriously; and Partnership for Peace must be more than cosmetic. It can play a real part in promoting democratic accountability of armed forces. But again, NATO member states will need to ensure that its activities are properly funded and accorded the priority they deserve.
As for the future of NATO itself, Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, with its real and tested commitment to the collective security of its signatories, must not become fudged or eroded. This is the core of the alliance. Without its continuing credibility everything else would become hollow. Nevertheless, NATO has also demonstrated that it does have a wider role in conflict prevention and conflict management. Its credibility has been an important element in the Bosnian peace process. But, as recognised in the 1991 Strategic Concept, it is essential that NATO deployment outside its own boundaries is invariably with the political mandate of the UN, or of OSCE within the UN framework, and remains accountable to them. Otherwise we shall be using NATO to undermine rather than to enhance the viability of global collective security as centred in the UN Security Council. To my view it is disturbing that accountability to the Security Council has been far from clear in Bosnia.
However vital, the military aspects of NATO can only be one strand in the alliance's security posture. Economic and social policies are even more fundamental to long-term security.
The recent EU intergovernmental conference has reflected a deep ambivalence about the degree to, and manner in which, European countries are committed
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to the goal of a European security and defence identity. The revised treaty on European Union does envisage the EU requesting the Western European Union to undertake the so-called Petersburg Taskspeacekeeping, preventive diplomacy and crisis management operations. This is a practical starting point for the development of an identity within the framework of NATO so long as WEU really has access to adequate resources to fulfil these functions. The Joint Task Force arrangement would allow for WEU to call upon NATO for the provision of necessary assets. But its effectiveness obviously depends upon the availability of requested units in a real situation. This will need to be watched.
I, for one, trust that any identity expressed through the reactivation of WEU will build upon the record of relative willingness of European states, as compared with the US, to contribute to long-term peacekeeping beyond the immediate periphery of their countries and thereby to assist significantly in maintaining and developing global security. For example, the EU has stated its commitment to help in the development of conflict prevention capabilities in Africa. There is inevitably a military dimension to this. A vital role for WEU could be the provision of programmes to assist in enabling African militaries to be able effectively to undertake preventive deployments and peacekeeping missions in their own continent.
Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, if one were to conceive in the abstract 15 nations wishing to get together in an ever-closer union, one would assume that the first thing that they would try to do would be to organise their defence policies and defence arrangements in common. It is all very well to think of harmonising the size of tomatoes or applesa heroic if somewhat surrealistic adventurebut to harmonise the size of tanks, fighters or guns seems a much more logical beginning. But if I say that, I am forgetting that just such an enterprise was launched in the pre-history of modern Europe, in the early 1950s, with the European Defence Community of which, if it had gone through in 1955 (as it might have), we would now be celebrating the 42nd anniversary. It is worth remembering when addressing ourselves to this important debate, which has been so appropriately introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, that that European Defence Community was not abandoned in 1955 because it was a bad idea; it was defeated by a bad alliance between the French Gaullists and the Communists in the French Assembly.
I have a second preliminary point. We are all, I suspect, used to being harangued by our American friends who complain, "Here you are, you rich and prosperous Europeans, why can't you now get together and organise your own defence?" That point of view was put even more frequently in the old days before 1989 than it has been put since. Of course, there is
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always a question markthe noble Lord, Lord Wallace, tangentially raised this in his speechabout the extent to which the United States would really like the Europeans to get together and to organise their own defence but, in practice, all responsible North American statesmen from John Foster Dulles at the time of the EDC to George Ball and President Kennedy when the concept of the European pillar was first launched, have expressed themselves in favour of just such a European defence collaboration and identity. Therefore, I do not think that we need worry quite as much as might be thought with regard to that question and it is, therefore, entirely appropriate that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, suggests that we should address ourselves to the question again today.
Although I suspect that we are all in agreement in this House that the commitment of North America (the United States, as well as Canada) to Europe is the most important element in our defencethe keystone of our defence arrangementsnevertheless, things change and we are all aware after a visit to the United States that North Americans are preoccupied with many other parts of the world, as well as with Europe, such as the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacificzones of power which sometimes do not receive much of a mention in our own newspapers in the late 20th century however much they might have done in the 18th and 19th centuries or the earlier part of the 20th century.
I must say fairly and squarely that what I would like to see in the long run is something like a European defence identity within the marque of the NATO treaty, of course, but one which would progressively be capable of developing so that in the long run it could cope with most of our security concerns; not concerns which might involve us in a major war against a major powercertainly notbut with a great many minor ones, such as Yugoslavia seemed to be at the beginning. Our incapacity to act in Yugoslaviain this case I am using the pronoun "our" to indicate Europeseemed to be a reproach to Europe as such. It is worth reminding ourselves that the United States would have much preferred us to have been able to act in those ways in Yugoslavia.
My own impression is that the new Government reacted a little too hastily in turning down any suggestion of a European defence development along the lines suggested by the French in particular, but also supported by some of the other European partners. After all, it is an interesting idea. We want the French to play a major part in European defence in the future. The best way to achieve that and to ensure that that great country will play a major part is to show interest in its ideas, such as thinking that there is a case for WEU to operate as a dependency of the European Union by the year 2010. We may not agree with that, but we should at least express curiosity, interest and the realisation that it is a new idea which deserves to be taken seriously.
There may be noble Lords who will still think such ideas heretical, naive, unsophisticated and dangerous, despite the fact that, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, reminded us, there has been a good deal of commitment to the concept in principle by Ministers over the past 10 years or soanyway since the NATO communiqué
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at the Paris summit in 1990 declared itself for the first time in favour of a European dimension to NATO. If it is thought that these ideas are naive, we should bear in mind that they could very well be a way in which NATO could be rejuvenated.
Noble Lords will remember that at one Conservative Party conference the former Secretary of State for Defence, Mr. Portillo, made fun of the idea that the British people should be asked to fight for Brusselshis actual words escape meand it is true that Brussels is perhaps not an inspiring city for which to fight. However, I remind noble Lords that Britain did fight for Belgium inter alia in 1914. Perhaps I should emphasise "inter alia" since what the British fought for in 1914, 1939 and were willing to fight for since 1945 in the cold war, although it did not come to it, was the idea of European civilisation, however defined.
Those of us who are anxious to secure greater popular support for the idea of the European Union should bear in mind that loyalty and patriotism are usually geared to a successful defence dimension. Some may say that to speak of patriotism in the European context is ridiculous. Nevertheless, we are all capable of different levels of patriotism. We are loyal to our locality, family, city (in some cases), country and civilisation. The concept of European patriotism is something that we should seek to engender in the context of a developing WEU within the marque of a revised North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, it is always an honour and pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton. In 1961 a book was written. The noble Lord wrote that book. That book was entitled The Spanish Civil War. I read it in 1970. I suggest that its title could have been The Beginning of the Second World War. I shall not rehearse what happened in the Spanish Civil War, but I know that two totalitarian states fought it out on Spanish soil. I do not know when the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, wrote that book. He could predict that within a matter of 30 years Spain would be a democratic state and have a constitutional monarchy, that it would have joined the European Union and NATO and that a conference would be held this week to discuss the expansion of NATO. I believe that that gives us some optimism. It took 30 years.
I thank my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire for introducing this debate. It is the second or third debate that he has introduced since I have had the honour to be a Member of your Lordships' House. I am interested that this debate has come from these Benches. I am delighted and I salute him for his public spirit.
I am concerned about the outcome of the Madrid Conference. We may be concerned here. Most of us live about 2,000 miles from Moscow. I live 300 miles from Moscow for most of the year. I live in the northern Baltic state of the free and independent Republic of Estonia. I declare an interest. Last week I became secretary of the British-Estonian Inter-Parliamentary Group. Many of these groups have been formed
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following the general election when a number of Members lost their seats or retired from politics. Perhaps these inter-parliamentary groups can assist the process. Maybe we can get the other nations of Eastern and Central Europe to form similar groups so that we can have a dialogue at parliamentary level, because these are emerging parliamentary democracies after 50 years of repression.
I am concerned about the states of Eastern Europe. We are told that three will definitely be admitted: the Republics of Hungary and Poland and the Czech Republic. Two may come in later, but what of the others? What are their options? I suggest that there are four. They can wait to join NATO. They can wait perhaps five to 10 years, but for them time is running out. They do not feel secure; they feel threatened every day of their lives. Their next option is to remain in the partnership of peace. As to their third option, they have United Nations contingents. Many of them joined the United Nations because they saw what happened in Kuwait. A Western and Arab alliance assisted Kuwait, but Kuwait had oil. Do we believe that that great alliance would have been formed if there had been carrots and not oil in Kuwait? I doubt it. The fourth option is to remain neutral. Switzerland has that option. However, those in Eastern Europe have long memories. Certainly, the Baltic states declared neutrality. Both Stalin and Hitler took no account of that at all. Another option may be to try to form a Baltic league. Between 1920 and 1930 they tried to do so. The problem was that then Poland argued with Lithuania about Vilnius and Sweden and Finland would not come together because of Swedish neutrality. I do not believe that that is a serious option.
What can we do? We have the finest army in the world when it comes to training soldiers below battalion level. I have had the privilege of witnessing this. The Royal Marines carried out the training of the United Nations Baltic Battalion. That process took about 18 months. I have not seen one reward in the Honours List in relation to the Baltic Battalion. I have not heard one statement from any of the present Ministers or from the former Ministers either in this House or in another place. Why? Do we have something to hide? Are we ashamed of what we have done? The people of Eastern Europe are very grateful. They would like us to carry on with that kind of activity. We have some of the best training establishments in the world. Need I mention Sandhurst or the various training establishments that have been very seriously cut over the past few years? Perhaps we could make a contribution in that way. I am delighted that this summer two Territorial Army sergeants will spend a few weeks training the territorial reserve armies of the Baltic Battalion. I wish them success, but two Territorial Army sergeants? Can we not do a little more? Perhaps the Minister can tell us the future plans.
I am delighted that there is to be a defence review led by the Foreign Office. I trust that the Foreign Office will talk to its ambassadors on the ground who have defence attachés who can brief Ministers about what is needed, what is practical and what is possible. I look forward to that defence review. But if one cuts the core
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army any further one will be unable to carry out the military training commitment in Eastern Europe which is so valuable, welcome and does not cost much. It produces very good results because, having carried out that training, one can ensure that they train themselves.
Last week we were informed by those on the ministerial Benches that the right honourable Member for Livingston in another place was due to meet Foreign Secretary Primakov this month. I welcome this. Perhaps the Minister will remind his right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in another place of what happened when Mr. Bevin met Mr. Molotov in Paris in 1947. The famous Ernest asked one question, "What are you about, Mr. Molotov?" I look forward to learning that that is the same question as the right honourable Member for Livingston asks Mr. Primakov. I hope he will get an answer. If he is not satisfied with his answer, I hope that he will ask many more supplementary questions until he gets the right answer. We shall not have peace in Eastern Europe, or in Europe as a whole, until we have squared, diplomatically, the Russian Federation. We must show the Russian Federation that we shall give all the support that we can to the free and independent nations of Eastern and Central Europe.
Lord Kennet: My Lords, the argument seems to be going very much in the direction that I hoped that it would and I believe the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, hoped that it would. I have little too add, and less that I could put better than did the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, and other speakers.
One of my main concerns is one that I present often in the House. I am worried about becoming typecast or boring your Lordships with it. It is about the difficulty of living with the new United Statesit is not the same United States with which we were brought upin a great alliance, compared with the comparative ease of living with our European allies, however disparate they may be. As an example of that I wish to tell your Lordships somethingit is not at all important, but it is striking.
Today is of course the day in Madrid when the decision is being taken about whether and whom. The answer is fairly clear, but there is an eminent and usually extremely objective and forceful American journalist called Jim Hoagland who often writes in the International Herald Tribune. He is an adversary of NATO enlargement. He is one of that large, and perhaps growing, band of American commentators and politicians who think that the whole idea may have been misconceived. He said this morning that the enlargement was taking place to assuage the guilt of the existing members of NATO, in particular the Western European members of NATO, at having betrayed Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland before the Second World War.
Let us pause for a moment. Yes, we did betray Czechoslovakia. There was Chamberlain's Munich visit. We were terrified. I remember it; I was 15. The nation was in a state of terror. It was a pity that we were. I do not know whether it was a right or a wrong judgment,
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but we betrayed Czechoslovakia. Hungary was a fascist country in alliance with Hitler. That was the government that it had. We had to face that. Poland of course was the cause of the beginning of the Second World War when this country and France declared war on Germany for the defence of Poland. Here we have an eminent American commentator who does not even know that, and he is among the best. It is difficult to live with our friends sometimes.
I want also to draw attention to the general question of US bilateral arrangements in Europe, which are outside NATO and about which we consequently cannot find anything upon which to comment, because we do not know. I should like to mention two. The first is an exercise called Sea Breeze which is being mounted by the American armed forces on a bilateral basis with the Ukraine. It will consist of naval exercises off the Crimea, followed by a landing in the Crimea from the sea. All of it is mimicking. It is a simulacrum of an invasion of the Ukrainethe Crimea in particularby a neighbouring country adverse to the diversion of the Ukraine to the West.
At one stage it was announced that the Russians were perfectly happy about that, but that was evidently not true. They are not taking part in it, I understand. The exercise is a strange phenomenon, verging on provocation of Russia. It is hard to make out what other purpose it can haveto do a facsimile of what they would do if Russia were to be so disobliging as to invade the Ukraine.
Another is the bilateral arming of the Moslem government in Bosnia. We tend to forget that when NATO countries, acting under the UN and the OSCE, agreed that the USA should arm the Bosnian Moslems, it was on the basis that co-operation should already have broken out between them and the Croatian Christians. It never did break out. They are still at loggerheads. The bilateral arming carried on. It is not being done by the American armed forces. It is being done by a military commercial enterprise.
I put down a Question about that the other day to my noble friends. I forget if they were in the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Defence, for which I apologise. It must have been the Foreign Office. I received the answer that all inquiries about that should be addressed to the US. That was nothing to do with NATO, as indeed we all knew. It is nothing to do with NATO at all, but it is something else that is going on in Europe. It is another expression of US military activity in Europe over which we have no droit de regard, in the convenient French phrase.
The same of course applies to the military bases in Hungary which are bilateral. They are nothing to do with NATO or the PFP. Although I believe that it may now have ended, there have been the bilateral military arrangements between the US and Albania, the relationship between whom, from subsequent events, is impenetrable, like most things in Albania.
Before the cold war came to an end, the OSCE was there. The Helsinki Agreement was there. The OSCE was formed into an organisation. It remains the most rational and most defensible of all European
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organisations, with a potential for having a military capacity which exists in Europe. However, it has not got off the ground because the habit of NATO of regarding Russia as an enemy has been too strong to permit it to get off the ground. So realism dictates that we should think about other ways of internationalising the fact that we are a military power and that everyone else on the Continent is a military power.
NATO is really in Europe now a semi-military regional classification arrangement. Those are the operations that it undertakes. As such, it can be and is being extremely useful. But the European countries have the feeling that they would like to be able to operate without the US when it is really a matter of purely local European interest. The US, as several speakers have pointed out, fully understands that and backs it. Indeed, it appears ready to make available to us the heavy air transport which is all that we in Europe lack to be able to do it. We have far more men in Bosnia than they ever had or ever will have, but we do not have the aeroplanes to get them there. Such cases may arise elsewhere.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, was right in saying that here we need to hang together in the military sense more than we do. For what reason? We are here; we were born and shall die Europeans. Americans were born and shall die Americans. Long may they be our friends, and, if necessary, our defenders, although I hope that it will never come to that again. But they are not us and they cannot take the lead on this continent. It is unwise to try and it is unwise of us to withhold any doubts we may have about action in the field that we are discussing today. I join other noble Lords in urging that we should begin to veer distinctly towards our immediate neighbours.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for tabling this Question. It has given me much pleasure to listen to the contributions of other noble Lords. As we know, the Madrid Summit decided to invite the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to join NATO. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred to the difficulty of reaching that decision. It would seem that the Prime Minister and Mr. Clinton achieved one of their objectives at the summit.
We also expect the summit to explore the concept of a European security and defence identity. The debate is therefore timely. However, it is also appropriate that we, but more significantly the Government, should examine the issue of European defence capabilities in the context of the strategic defence review. I hope that what has been said tonight will be taken into account in that review. If we are seeking to reshape or revalidate the UK's defence capability for the long term surely our responsibilities as a leading European member of NATO are at the heart of that consideration.
The Question asks what the European allies should now be doing to develop the ESDI. To understand where we are heading, it is first necessary to appreciate where we have come from. As noble Lords will recall, it was the Rome Summit of 1991 which effectively redefined
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NATO's role and the strategic concepts which underpin that role following the end of the Cold War. There are three parts to this: a shift from heavy troop concentrations in Germany to more flexible, more mobile forces which could be deployed at short notice; a recognition that NATO could and should be used to support other international organisations such as the UN or OSCE; and a peace dividend in the form of a decision to make large reductions in the size of the Alliance's armed forces.
In charting this new direction, the Allies also recognise that European nations might in future take more responsibility for their own security without necessarily relying on assistance from the USA or Canada. How this was to be done and quite what roles the European Allies might be expected to perform was left for further discussion. However, at the UK's suggestion, the Western European Union was identified as a possible vehicle on which to base such European co-operation. This was important because the WEU, which for many years had existed in name only rather than in substance, is nevertheless the only institution capable of laying the foundations for European defence identity that is compatible with NATO. One key aim of our own was to reinforce the European defence capability within NATO, not to create something outside it. "Separable but not separate" was the catchphrase.
The Petersburg Declaration of 1992 defined the missions that the WEU should be prepared to undertake: humanitarian and rescue tasks; peacekeeping; and crisis management. However, territorial defence remained explicitly a NATO prerogative. After Petersburg, progress was somewhat gradual, but 1996 saw two important developments. The first was the UK presidency of the WEU. That presidency gave added impetus to making the WEU capable in practice of undertaking military operations in its own right. A great deal of useful work to that end was accomplished during the year. The second development was the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Berlin. That meeting agreed that the WEU was indeed the right vehicle for providing the political control and strategic direction for Europe-only missions and that the ESDI should be developed within NATO using NATO assets.
So, my Lords, where are we now? There is a WEU Situation Centre in Brussels which can gather information and monitor operations. There is a politico-military group advising the WEU Permanent Council on policy and planning direction. There is a credible programme of exercises mapped out. And the WEU already has under its belt some experience of real operations; for instance, minesweeping in the Gulf and sanctions enforcement around the former Yugoslavia. But much more is still needed. In particular, the CJTFCombined Joint Task Force conceptagreed more than three years ago, needs to become more of a reality. Combined trainingthat is, training with other countriesneeds to be developed on a broader base. And the integration of France and Spain into the NATO structure must be finalised.
We should also need to consider the best way of involving eastern European countries in these combined effortsnot only those who have been invited to join
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NATO in 1999 but also those who have not been, as identified by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. There is already good dialogue with these countries through the Partnership for Peace initiative and from the immense amount of practical experience gained alongside them in Bosnia. Admission to the WEU may in due course be one way forward.
However, security is a concept that is broader than defence alone. Security does not just come from the barrel of a gun. That is why we must recognisealthough I am bound to say that not all noble Lords have done so tonightthat alongside the WEU the European Union has a considerable role to play in reuniting the continent of Europe and in building mutual trust. The enlargement of the EU over the next few years is therefore an important part of this process.
Some people have concluded from this that the logical next step should be to subordinate the WEU to the EU. We on this side of the House regard that idea as fundamentally mistaken. The EU has an essential contribution to make to regional security in the non-military field. But saddling it with military responsibilities would not only marginalise some of our NATO allies across the Atlantic, it would alienate Russia to the idea of EU enlargement. Furthermore, it would put the neutral members of the EU into a position of influence in matters of defence which it would be unfair to everybody to have them exercise. Can the Minister confirm that that is also the Government's view?
At the heart of this must be the recognition that decision making in defencedecisions which risk the lives of the men and women of the Armed Forcescan be taken only by national governments accountable to national parliaments. The difference between security and defence is an important one. That is why we must insist on defence remaining an inter-governmental matter, as indeed it is under the modified Brussels Treaty. Will the Minister confirm that nothing in the text of the Amsterdam Treaty alters that essential aspect of the EU's common foreign and security policy?
As we take forward the idea of a European Security and Defence Identity, there is a danger that discussions become bogged down in institutional questions rather than engaging in a practical assessment of what Europeans are actually capable of doing together. That task-based approach to defence planning should act as a key prompt to what improvements are necessary to the WEU's capabilities. Equally though, that approach should not lull us into thinking that there is some pre-defined test to determine what missions should and should not be carried out by the WEU as opposed to NATO as a whole. There can be no such test divorced from a case-by-case assessment of the circumstances of each mission. Who does what can be decided only by consultation between allies.
Practical defence co-operation between European countries will proceed over the years ahead in a variety of waysthrough the WEU, PfP, and bilateral or multilateral initiatives such as the Baltic Peace Battalion and the UK/Netherlands Amphibious Force. It is crucial that nothing should be done to amend institutional
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structures, which might call into question the role of NATO as the primary forum for consultation among all allies on questions of security and defence.
Perhaps the most significant insurance policy against any damaging divisions between North America and Europe is the successful development of the CJTF concept. The prospect of CJTF's being able to draw upon US assets is not only important operationally; it is significant politically. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, touched on the point of heavy air transport. With commitment and energy, I am confident that over the next five years we can show that the reshaped and revitalised post-Cold War NATO has come of age.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): My Lords, by the common consent of your Lordships, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for providing us with this opportunity to discuss the development of the European Security and Defence Identity. He started by giving us the origins of the ESDI which went back, as he pointed out, to 1990. He confessed that he had a little difficulty with some of the acronyms. I must confess that when I first saw ESDI, I thought it referred to a European strategic defence initiative. I got a little twitchy, and I still do every time I see it. I have to remind myself on my department's papers exactly what it refers to.
The main question which the noble Lord raised was whether the Government mean that they want an ESDI. I am confidently able to give the answer from this Dispatch Box that that is exactly what it means: they want a European Security and Defence Identity. I hope that in the course of my remarks, I shall be able to convince him of that. I share, as do most of us, some of his concerns about how the balance of the burden of those matters is distributed within Western Europe but those matters are long standing, and I doubt whether we shall take them much further forward this evening.
The noble Lord saidand this was a theme which ran through some of my noble friend's commentsthat he had the impression that this Government were Atlanticists par excellence and that we were dismissive of further European co-operation. I have no difficulty whatever in pleading guilty to being an Atlanticist. In fact, anybody who has had the sort of responsibilities that I have had from time to time at the Ministry of Defence could not fail to be impressed by the value to this country in terms of intelligence and nuclear matters which arise from our very close relationship with the Americans, a relationship which could not be substituted in any way by our relationships with our European allies.
But I do not believe that having an appreciation of the value of those matters is in any way inconsistent with wanting to see a greater development of European co-operation in security and defence matters in the widest possible sense. I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, that one of our objectives should be to pursue co-operation with our neighbours and then explain it to the British public, if I am quoting him correctly. Moreover, I feel that I owe the noble Lord a
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small apology in that last week I was not able to be present at that period of the first semi-public session of discussion of the Strategic Defence Review until after he made his contribution. I simply could not get there until he had already sat down.
My noble friend Lord Judd, in an extremely wide-ranging contribution, very fairly listed several of the benefits which would accrue from widening the membership of NATO, including that it had already helped to reduce international tensions; that it will contribute to political stabilisation in new member countries; and of course he insisted that it should be driven by its own values and interests. I agree with him entirely. I have always said that it must be a paramount consideration in any present or future expansion of NATO that we should avoid antagonising Russia. I hope that my noble friend takes comfort, as I do, from the NATO-Russia Founding Act and the similar developments between NATO and the Ukraine, and, of course, the host of confidence-building measures which have sprung from those two arrangements and which we hope will develop much further. I agree also with my noble friend that it is essential to maintain the credibility of Article 5 if NATO is to have any credibility itself in the future.
I turn now briefly to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, about the harmonisation of defence equipment. Having been responsible twice for defence procurement, his remarks struck a chord with me. I assure him of that. However, I should point out to him that it is not necessarily a question of having identical pieces of kit which will enhance the fighting power of the alliance. It is interoperability which is at the heart of improving our military posture. While if all the same pieces of kit are procured that would reduce the costs of equipment, it would also reduce the number of problems that would be set for a putative enemy.
As I understand it, the noble Lord would like to see an ESDI within NATO, and that is precisely the objective of Her Majesty's Government. He said that he would like to keep the French involved, and that is the objective of us all.
The noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, referred to some of the difficult choices which will confront us in relation to the unsuccessful candidates who wish to join NATO at this time. I assure him that the expansion of NATO is not contemplated to be at an end by any means.
The noble Earl asked me also a question about the Territorial Army sergeants. I am afraid that, even with an encyclopaedic knowledge of defence matters, I cannot answer this evening but I shall find out for him the answer to that question.
He referred also to Ernest Bevin meeting Mr. Molotov and wondered whether or not our present Foreign Secretary, Mr. Robin Cook, would take the same robust attitude to his distinguished opposite number. I can say that I happen to know that Mr. Ernest Bevin is one of Robin Cook's greatest heros. In fact, he is trying very hard to ensure that a blue plaque is put on a house where I understand Ernest Bevin lived for a large part of his life.
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The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that it was very difficult to live with the new United States. I am tempted to tell him that new Labour will find it easier than some to live with the new United States. However, I fully understand the significance of his remarks about how, from time to time, we find ourselves a little left behind at some of the unilateral activitiesthose perfectly legitimate activities of the Untied States taken on a bilateral basis with other countries in Europe. However, the noble Lord emphasised very fairly not just that European countries wanted to be able to operate without the United States but also that the United States wanted that to happen. As I understand it, that is a major theme of the development of a European security and defence identity that we are developing with our European allies.
I should tell the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, that of course we want to get the French and the Spaniards into the unified command structure. I certainly take his point that security runs much further than just defence matters alone. I very much agreed with the whole tenor of the noble Earl's speech, and I can certainly confirm that it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that the assimilation of the Western European Union into the European Union is mistaken. Indeed, we share his view on that and that will inform our policies in the years ahead.
The noble Earl also asked me a question about the Amsterdam Treaty. I must confess that I do not have such details with me this evening, but I shall certainly write to him on the matter.
As I am sure your Lordships know, the summit has today, as anticipated, invited the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to accession talks with NATO. The goal is to sign the Protocol of Accession at the time of the ministerial meetings in December of this year and to see the ratification process completed in time for the expanded membership to become effective by the 50th anniversary of the Washington Treaty in April 1999. I should point out that enlargement is just one element of the much wider NATO agenda for Madrid. What we want to do is build a real partnership across the whole of Europe. I believe that that covers some of the points made by my noble friends about the OSCE and Partnership for Peace. At the same time, we have to maintain the bedrock of the alliance which is a strong transatlantic link.
One of the things that I should like to make clear tonight is the fact that all NATO Ministers agree on the need for Europeans to have the capability to act together in circumstances when our North American allies do not wish to become involved. As I said, the Canadian and American governments not only support that concept; indeed, they have attached very great importance to it. The British Government's view is that the development of the European identity, firmly rooted within NATO, is the only way to provide Europe with a credible, capable security and defence identity without undermining either the alliance or the transatlantic link. In that respect, we have had some very notable successes, including the development within NATO of European command arrangements which can prepare, support, command and conduct WEU-led military operations. Arrangements are in
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hand for identifying those NATO assets and capabilities which could be used in WEU-led operations. Both NATO and the WEU are developing the detailed mechanisms required for their release, monitoring, return or recall. NATO has begun the process of military planning for WEU missions involving NATO assets and capabilities and both organisations are working towards joint exercises which would test that concept.
A key element of the new European defence identity is the new WEU-related aspect of Deputy SACEUR's role. Provisional terms of reference for Deputy SACEUR would give him WEU-related responsibilities in peace and in time of crises. Placing those responsibilities at the heart of NATO's command structure would ensure that WEU-related issues are discussed and recognised at the highest levels within NATO.
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From all that I hope that your Lordships will recognise that substantial practical work is well in hand. I should add that the WEU has also become actively involved in NATO's defence planning process. It has contributed to the guidance which regulates the whole process and which the Defence Secretary endorsed last month. NATO planning will now, in addition to taking account of the full range of alliance missions, include WEU-led operations. Thus the embodiment of ESDI-WEU-led operations using NATO assets and capabilities is now a consideration within NATO from the very roots of its defence planning processes.
I have now come to the end of my permitted speaking time. I hope, therefore, that I have said enough this evening to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, that we in government do understand what ESDI should mean for this country and that we do mean what we say.
House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before nine o'clock.
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