HC Deb 04 July 1995 vol 263 cc129-30
5. Mr. Patrick Thompson

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he next expects to visit NATO headquarters to discuss the development of partnership for peace. [30559]

Mr. Rifkind

I expect that partnership for peace will be discussed when I visit NATO headquarters in November for the next meeting of the Defence Planning Committee.

Mr. Thompson

My constituents who work at RAF Coltishall will certainly appreciate the tribute paid to their work this afternoon. Bearing in mind the fact that NATO has ensured peace and stability in Europe since the second world war, is not partnership for peace the most effective route towards enlargement of NATO by the eastern European countries? Will my right hon. and learned Friend report on the progress that has been made with the documents setting out the criteria for joining NATO in the future?

Mr. Rifkind

Partnership for peace provides not only the best basis for progress for those countries interested in joining but a framework for bilateral co-operation for countries such as Russia, Ukraine and others which are unlikely to be candidates for membership of the alliance. It enables us to develop security relationships with all those countries and that, I believe, is in the interests of our own national defence.

Dr. Reid

The Secretary of State may know that we have long held the view that partnership for peace is one of the essential elements of the new European defence structures, along with an enlargement of NATO and with NATO-Russian bilateral arrangements. Will he therefore join us in welcoming the more co-operative approach that Russia has adopted towards partnership for peace and particularly its intention, as we understand it, to join in the joint co-ordination cells?

Mr. Rifkind

Yes, we welcome the decision of the Russian Government to sign the two framework documents relating to their co-operation with NATO. I believe that it is crucial that, as the process of European security is taken forward, we develop a strategic relationship with Russia, because its co-operation would be a vital asset in ensuring peace throughout Europe, for the well-being of this country and western Europe as a whole.