§ 29. Mr. Frank Allaun
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has held with NATO and EEC partners concerning the future of the United States military presence in Europe.
§ Mr. Amery
The content of ministerial discussions is of course confidential. But I would refer the hon. Gentlemen to the communiqué published after the NATO Ministerial Meeting in Brussels last December.
In this the United States reaffirmed that, given a similar approach by other countries of the Alliance, the United States would maintain and improve their forces in Europe. They would not reduce them unless there was reciprocal action by the other side.
§ Mr. Marten
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the attitude which the Common Market countries take towards America in the forthcoming GATT negotiations and, indeed, in relation to America's problems generally, could have a very serious effect upon the American defence presence in Europe?
§ Mr. Amery
I would draw my hon. Friend's attention to the statement by Mr. Secretary Rogers at a Press conference on 15th February when he was asked 1495 about a possible connection between trade and monetary matters on the one hand and the maintenance of American troops in Europe on the other. He replied. "There is no linkage between the two".
§ Mr. Allaun
Does not the American Congress proposal for a withdrawal of troops from Europe present a great opportunity for pressing for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Europe, including Soviet troops from Eastern Europe and BAOR from Germany? Is this not infinitely preferable to the Government policy of opposing the American proposal and having instead a joint nuclear force, or to an increasing burden on existing European countries, or to having a build-up instead of a reduction of world forces, thereby increasing the arms race?
§ Mr. Amery
I do not know of any contradiction between American and European policy in this matter. Soviet defence expenditure has increased by 5 per cent. in each of the last five years, whereas Western expenditure has remained static. Our moderate increase this year is mainly in respect of wages and salaries, and not of equipment.
I read, of course, with care—as I always do—the hon. Member's contribution to The Times this morning, but he will appreciate that the kind of reduction he proposed would make us more dependent on a nuclear response and not less.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Will the Minister remind our European allies of the importance of maintaining Europe's naval strength, particularly in a fairly fluid political situation from which force level reductions on the mainland of Europe may ensue?