HC Deb 18 November 1968 vol 773 cc857-64
1. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the discussions within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on proposals to the Warsaw Pact governments for mutual defence reductions.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

The North Atlantic Council met in Ministerial Session in Brussels on 15th and 16th November. I will, with permission, circulate the final communiqué in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and I would refer my hon. Friend to the section dealing with mutual and balanced force reductions.

Mr. Allaun

Will not the increased military commitments to N.A.T.O. jeopardise and conflict with Saturday's statement that they were continuing, despite the Czechoslovakian setback, with the plans for talks for mutually balanced troop reductions?

Mr. Stewart

The statement made by the North Atlantic Council earlier at Reykjavik about mutual force reductions still stands but, as my hon. Friend says, this is inevitably set back by what has happened in Czechoslovakia.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Will the right hon. Gentleman study the resolutions of the North Atlantic Assembly last week in Brussels and see what widespread support there is for action by the North Atlantic Council?

Mr. Stewart

Yes, Sir.

Following is the Communiqué:

Final Communiqué of the Ministerial Session of the North Atlantic Council held in Brussels on the 15th and 16th of November 1968

1. The North Atlantic Council met in Ministerial Session in Brussels on 15th and 16th November. The Meeting was attended by Foreign, Defence and Finance Ministers. The Council has moved forward from mid-Dec-cember its normal year-end meeting so that Ministers might discuss at an earlier date the serious situation following the armed intervention in Czechoslovakia and the occupation of that country by forces of the Soviet and of four of its Warsaw Pact Allies.

2. Ministers reaffirmed the inviolability of the principle, which has been invoked on numerous occasions by every country, including the U.S.S.R., that all nations are independent and that consequently any intervention by one state in the affairs of another is unlawful.

They noted that this principle has been deliberately violated by the Soviet leaders with the backing of four of their Allies. World opinion has been profoundly shocked by this armed intervention carried out against the wishes of the Government and People of Czechoslovakia. All the Members of the Alliance have denounced this use of force which jeopardises peace and international order and strikes at the principles of the United Nations Charter. Like all other peoples, the People of Czechoslovakia must be free to shape their future without outside interference. Agreements concluded under the pressure of occupying forces can provide no justification for challenging this basic concept.

3. The contention of the Soviet Leadership that there exists a right of intervention in the affairs of other states deemed to be within a so-called "Socialist Commonwealth" runs counter to the basic principles of the United Nations Charter, is dangerous to European security and has inevitably aroused grave anxieties. It gives rise to fears of a further use of force in other cases.

The use of force and the stationing in Czechoslovakia of Soviet forces not hitherto deployed there have aroused grave uncertainty about the situation and about the calculations and intentions of the U.S.S.R. This uncertainty demands great vigilance on the part of the Allies.

4. Applied to Germany the policies which the U.S.S.R. derives from its doctrine of a so-called "Socialist Commonwealth" raise new obstacles to the rapprochement and ultimate unification of the two parts of Germany. More over, they would be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Four Power Agreements relating to Germany as a whole.

In this situation, and bearing in mind the special responsibilities of the United States, the United Kingdom and France, the Ministers reaffirm the determination of the Alliance to persevere in its efforts to contribute to a peaceful solution of the German question based on the free decision of the German people and on the interests of European security. Their Governments do not recognise the "G.D.R.". and they reject all claims which would tend to perpetuate the division of Germany against the will of the German people.

Referring to their communiqué issued in Reykjavik on 25th June, 1968, the Ministers confirm the support of their Governments for the declared determination of the three powers to safeguard Berlin's security and to maintain freedom of access to the City. They recall the declaration of the North Atlantic Council of December 16, 1958 on Berlin and the responsibilities which each Member State assumed with regard to the security and welfare of Berlin. They note with satisfaction the important measures taken by the Federal Republic of Germany in conformity with the status of Berlin for the purpose of maintaining the viability of the City. They associate themselves with the position of the three powers as regards the legitimate concern of the Federal Government for the welfare and viability of Berlin and as regards the resulting ties which exist between the two on the basis of the arrangements in force.

The Ministers associate themselves with the call made upon the Soviet Union by the three powers to respect the Quadripartite Agreements concerning Berlin and the decisions taken pursuant to these Agreements by the United States, France and the United Kingdom.

5. The new uncertainties resulting from recent Soviet actions also extend to the Mediterranean basin. This situation requires that the Allies continue by every available means their efforts to promote stability and a just and equitable peace, as well as mutual co-operation and understanding, in the area. The expansion of Soviet activity in the Mediterranean, including the increased presence of Soviet naval units, requires vigilance to safeguard Allied security.

6. The Members of the Alliance urge the Soviet Union, in the interests of world peace, to refrain from using force and interfering in the affairs of other states.

Determined to safeguard the freedom and independence of their countries, they could not remain indifferent to any development which endangers their security.

Clearly any Soviet intervention directly or indirectly affecting the situation in Europe or in the Mediterranean would create an international crisis with grave consequences.

7. So long as the Soviet Leaders adhere to a policy of force, these new uncertainties will remain. The Allies are convinced that their political solidarity remains indispensable to discourage aggression and other forms of oppression. Above all, they stand wholly determined to meet their common responsibilities and. in accordance with the North Atlantic Treaty, to defend the Members of the Alliance against any armed attack.

8. The Allies participating in NATO's integrated defence programme have, therefore, been obliged to re-assess the state of their defences. They consider that the situation arising from recent events calls for a collective response. The quality, effectiveness, and deployment of NATO's forces will be improved in terms of both manpower and equipment in order to provide a better capability for defence as far forward as possible. The quality of reserve forces will also be improved and their ability to mobilise rapidly will be increased. Renewed attention will be directed to the provision of reinforcements for the flanks and the strengthening of local forces there. The conventional capability of NATO's tactical air forces will be increased. Certain additional national units will be committed to the major NATO commanders. Specific measures have been approved within these categories of action for improving the conventional capability of NATO's forces. Ministers agreed that the co-ordinated implementation of these measures and the provision of additional budgetary resources to the extent necessary to support them would form part of the NATO force plan for 1969–73 which will be submitted in January 1969. They also acknowledged that the solidarity of the Alliance can be strengthened by co-operation between Members to alleviate burdens arising from balance of payments deficits resulting specifically from military expenditures for the collective defence.

9. A year ago Ministers affirmed in the report on the future tasks of the Alliance that, while maintaining adequate military strength and political solidarity to deter any aggressor, the Alliance should work to promote a policy of detente. The Soviet intervention in Czecho-slovakia has seriously set back hopes of settling the outstanding problems which still divide the European continent and Germany and of establishing peace and security in Europe, and threatens certain of the results already achieved in the field of detente. Indeed, in view of the action of the five members of the Warsaw Pact, the scope and level of the five Allied contacts with them have had to be reduced.

10. More specificially, prospects for mutual balanced force reductions have suffered a severe setback. Nevertheless, the Allies in close consultation are continuing their studies and preparations for a time when the atmosphere for fruitful discussions is more favourable.

11. In any event, consistent with Western values the political goal remains that of secure, peaceful and mutually beneficial relations between East and West, the Allies are determined to pursue this goal, bearing in mind that the pursuit of detente must not be allowed to split the Alliance. The search for peace requires progress consistent with Western security, in the vital fields of disarmament and arms control and continuing efforts to resolve the fundamental issues which divide East and West.

12. The North Atlantic Alliance will continue to stand as the indispensable guarantor of security and the essential foundation for the pursuit of European reconciliation. By its constitution the Alliance is of indefinite duration. Recent events have further demonstrated that its continued existence is more than ever necessary. The Foreign Minister of France recalled that, for its part, unless events in the years to come were to bring about a radical change in East-West relations, the French Government considers that the Alliance must continue as long as it appears to be necessary.

13. The next Ministerial Meeting of the Council will be held in Washington on 10th and 11th April, 1969.

14. The Defence Planning Committee which met in Ministerial Session on 14th November will hold its next Ministerial Meeting in Brussels on 16th January, 1969.

13. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals he has put forward since the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia to strengthen the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; and if he will make a statement.

21. Mr. Alison

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the Government's present policy towards the North Atlantic Treaty and its continuance after its current expiry date.

60. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what adjustments are being made by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation arising from the action taken by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics against Czechoslovakia; and if he will make a statement.

70. Mr. Longden

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultation he has now had within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation with a view to making more effective its defensive objectives; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. M. Stewart

The North Atlantic Council has just met to consider the situation resulting from the armed Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia. Its conclusions are set out in the official communiqué which is being circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT. AS regards our own contribution, I have nothing to add to the reply my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration gave on 14lh November to my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon).—[Vol. 773, c. 146–7.]

Mr. Ridsdale

Are the meagre defence increases that the Government have announced enough to help us fulfil our new commitments to N.A.T.O.? What are the implications of our new commitments to N.A.T.O.?

Mr. Stewart

Our commitments to N.A.T.O. remain what they have always been. The hon. Gentleman calls the commitments meagre, but this is not the view of our Allies.

Mr. Alison

Does the right hon. Gentleman feel that events in Czechoslovakia have given a new lease of life to N.A.T.O., and does he feel, at the same time, that the Labour Party's doctrine of disengagement lacks something in credibility now that we have seen how rapidly the Soviets can fill a vacuum in Western Europe?

Mr. Stewart

As to giving N.A.T.O. a new lease of life, the hon. Gentleman will see in the communiqué of the allies that it is clear that they regard the Alliance as more necessary than ever. As to the second part of the supplementary question, it is of great importance for both East and West to get force reductions and disengagements if they can, but this has to be a balanced and mutual process.

Mr. Shinwell

When warning Russia about its past activities and possible future intentions, did my right hon. Friend weigh up N.A.T.O. 's capabilities or was it just merely talk? Also, does he not realise that it is impossible for the European countries, N.A.T.O. and the rest, to face up to Russia without full military support from the United States?

Mr. Stewart

Yes, Sir. The firm holding together of the European and North American members of the Alliance is a first principle of its success. This was very well understood by all the Ministers at the recent meeting.

Mr. Longden

Would not the best thing for N.A.T.O. be if the European members of it could unite more than they are doing, and have Her Majesty's Government made any concrete proposals for collaborating with the Six in such matters as defence and arms procurement and other matters which are outside the Treaty of Rome?

Mr. Stewart

Yes, Sir. This is being pursued—by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence at the N.A.T.O. meeting recently, and in connection with the Harmel proposals.

Mr. Spriggs

Would my right hon. Friend care to use his authority at the United Nations to condemn all forms of armed intervention wherever it may be and whoever is responsible?

Mr. Stewart

Yes, Sir. This has always been our position.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The phrase "new commitments" has been used in one or two questions. While it is proper to give warning to the Soviet Union, is it not a fact that the only absolute commitment of the N.A.T.O. Alliance is to those who are members of and partners in the Alliance?

Mr. Stewart

Yes, Sir. If I may at the same time refer to a part of the question by my right hon. Friend with which I did not deal at the time, it is true that the clear, unmistakable commitment of the members of N.A.T.O. is to defend each other. In the light of what has happened in Czechoslovakia, they are obliged to consider whether, and to what extent, further action of that kind might affect the security of N.A.T.O. members themselves. When we did this—I say this in reply to my right hon. Friend—we did it together with the military advisers of N.A.T.O. and aware of what is involved.

Mr. Orme

Will my right hon. Friend not recognise that those of us who are opposed to military intervention, whether by the Soviet Union in Czechoslovakia or the United States in Vietnam, feel that some other form of organisation and security ought to be developed? Was there any discussion of a European security pact which would guarantee nations large and small throughout the whole of the continent of Europe?

Mr. Stewart

For some time I have tried to work towards a European security system, but I believe that a necessary prerequisite of that is a general easing of tensions between the countries of East and West Europe. That was what we were working for, and working for with some success. Unfortunately, that work is now set back by what has happened in Czechoslovakia. Therefore, at present we have to lay rather more emphasis on the defence and deterrent side of N.A.T.O. than on the conciliatory function, but I hope that in time it will be possible to resume the other.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

In view of the very great importance of what my right hon. Friend said in his last answer but one, will he arrange for the House to have an early debate on the N.A.T.O. declaration of last week?

Mr. Stewart

That is not for me.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Will the right hon. Gentleman look at the growing feeling in Western Europe that there should be a Western European Union task force in the Eastern Mediterranean under N.A.T.O.?

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Gentleman will see that the Mediterranean is referred to in the communiqué.