HL Deb 06 July 1966 vol 275 cc1062-87

2.35 p.m.

THE EARL OF AVON rose to call attention to the situation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion that stands in my name on the Order Paper. It is no doubt possible for your Lordships to hold many divergent views about NATO'S past and present, but I should hope that there would be general agreement among us that this is a timely moment at which to discuss NATO's future. Many noble Lords have had first-hand experience of NATO, and we look forward to hearing their advice and comments during the afternoon. For my part, I am grateful for this opportunity to open the debate.

My Lords, NATO is to-day a victim of its own success. It was built as a deterrent to Soviet military power, and it has served its purpose very well. It would be impossible to name all those, in several countries, who contributed to the creation of NATO, but I should like to mention one who is no longer with us but who played a prominent and courageous part in all those difficult negotiations. That is the late Ernest Bevin, who, under the Governments of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee (whom I am so pleased to see here this afternoon), made possible the final arrangements for NATO. Moreover, this seems to me a moment to pay tribute to the statesmen of the United States, and in particular Mr. Truman and Mr. Dean Acheson, for without their country's power and leadership NATO would not have been, and the pattern, of Europe might have been transformed. NATO is not our only interest in Western Europe—we have many others—but none of them would have been worth very much without NATO.

At this time, in July, 1966, we have a slightly different task from that which faced the founders. We are confronted with a situation which differs from theirs; and the question we have to consider is: what are those differences; how deep is their significance; and what, if anything, should we try to do about them in order to adjust NATO'S responsibilities to this modern world?

The first element of change, it seems to me, is that Sovietpolitical and military pressure, at any rate in Europe, has been relaxed—though it has not been as yet to any extent dismantled. There are perhaps a number of reasons for this modification in Moscow's policy, the most evident of course being the sharpened antagonism between Moscow and Peking. As your Lordships know, some few years ago I held the opinion that this trend in Sino-Soviet relations was to be expected and would be intensified. I still think that; because, apart from the rivalry in leadership between these two great Communist Powers and all the consequences of that. Peking regards Soviet Russia as a colonial Power in Asia. It is somewhat ironical that Moscow, which in the last decade has probably used anti-colonial propaganda more powerfully than any country in the world, is finally hoist with its own petard. But those things sometimes happen even in international affairs. But I do not believe the Peking view of Russia is likely to change, whatever efforts Moscow may make to assuage Peking's view by concessions. That is one of the changes since Mr. Bevin and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, did their work.

The next respect in which the Communist Powers have undergone a sea-change is that, although the territories they control include some of the richest grain-bearing areas of the world, the Communist Powers have no surplus of foodstuffs, either for man or for beast. On the contrary, they are importers on an ever-rising scale, with the result that the Communist world literally depends on the NATO Powers, with the addition of such countries as Australia and Argentina, to feed them. Perhaps this is just as well. Mr. Khrushchev's ardent forecast about the capitalist States, "We will bury you", has not come true because, if the capitalist States did not exist they would just have to be created to keep the Communist world from starving.

So it is, my Lords, that the balance has shifted, and it is likely to shift still more, because the demand for food from countries like India and the underdeveloped countries is bound to grow and all reserves of wheat, as I understand it (and the Government will correct me if I am wrong), even those in Canada and the United States, are now drastically reduced or totally pledged and there is hardly any reserve anywhere else. So I would suggest to the Government—no doubt they know it only too well—that this problem of grain reserves looks likely to be one of the most formidable which world statesmanship has to face in the next few years; and it is one of which perhaps our own country ought to be mindful now. We should be prudent to look at our own programme of food production to see whether we can step it up, with those thoughts particularly in mind.

For the purpose of this debate we have to take note of only the political implications of the shift in the world food situation. The third element of change, I suggest, is a certain evolution in the minds of the Soviet people themselves. It is very difficult for anyone who is not a Russian to judge how deep this has gone as yet or how significant it is in influencing Soviet policies. But something has happened since NATO came into being, and these perhaps surgent forces could matter more and more with the passage of time; and they are naturally more conspicuous in the countries that neighbour Russia and have to suffer a Communist rule imposed upon them. All that seems to me to make possible openings for the Government when they feel for negotiations across the Iron Curtain. I think this is a safe assurance we could take: the more the countries bordering Russia taste their freedom, the more they will be asking for additional doses of the same mixture. That again we are likely to witness in the coming years.

It is in these conditions that General de Gaulle has made his journey to Russia. I have had for many years, as some of your Lordships will know, a sincere admiration for the General's qualities, and we are still personal friends. He has many great gifts of statesmanship, the chief of which is to have a very clear, if somewhat distant, perspective. He broods and determines what he considers must be the future trends of world politics, and then sets out to pursue them on behalf of his own country, to which his whole life has been selflessly dedicated.

The concept of Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals is part of this pattern. This is what the General thinks will happen. I doubt whether the phrase can have been particularly agreeable hearing to the General's hosts in Moscow; because, after all, they are naturally interested in their future beyond the Urals. But that would not embarrass the General at all, and it is very unlikely, I think, that his visit to Russia will have brought about any startling changes in Franco-Soviet relations. Nor do I suppose for a moment that he expected it to do so. It was no doubt an exercise to express his confidence in the future of Europe as he sees it. Perhaps it was also an attempt to persuade the Soviets not to be over-rigid in their outlook upon Western Europe in general, and West Germany in particular. If so, it could have been very useful indeed, although it was not preceded by overmuch consideration for how his NATO partners must regard his behaviour towards their organisation. Even so, it must be admitted, I think, that the last NATO meeting gave what was virtually a blessing to the General's journey to Moscow.

In any event, I am certain in my own mind what should be our attitude to General de Gaulle and to France at this time. We must make it unmistakably clear where we differ, as we do, about NATO and a United States presence in Europe; but, beyond that, we must do nothing to exacerbate relations. The other Western countries have need of France, but France has herself need of us; and in time all these things will be worked out. Meanwhile, there is always the empty chair, even though the French action towards NATO is likely to cost us (the Government) dear; especially, I fear, in the financial sphere. Perhaps I was not quite so far wrong in 1952 when, as some of my colleagues will remember, I urged that the NATO headquarters might be fixed in London as the centre of the Atlantic world. It might have been a little cosier if it had been there all along.

My Lords, I said just now that I did not think the General's visit would have changed Franco-Russian relations very much. The reason for this is that it does not lie in France's power—nor, for that matter, in our power either—to deliver the goods so far as the Atlantic Alliance is concerned. The Americans have that power, and the Russians are great respecters of power. Though the Russians may choose to be polite to those who do not wield that power in any measure comparable to their own, they are not going to be influenced by them. In my judgment, it is essential that the NATO Alliance should continue in being; for, among other things, it is only because that Alliance exists that it may be possible to negotiate with Russia. Break it up, and see how far Russia will think it necessary to negotiate with any one of us except the United States! These are, I am sure, realities. We may not like them, but we had better take cognisance of them.

That does not mean, of course, that the Government should not take every opportunity, as I am sure they will, to bring about better relations across the Iron Curtain. But I see no need for this operation to be undertaken collectively by the whole of NATO—at any rate, not at this stage. One need is that there should be contact and confidence among the NATO Powers, as they are left by France's action, and that any decisions taken by any one of them should be known and in harmony with the policies of the others.

I know that this sounds like a counsel of perfection, and it will mean much patience and persistence to get it carried through; but it really is indispensable, if we are to win results which are other than just superficial. After all, what was the purpose when NATO was first created? It was, through NATO strength, to make a settlement possible, however long the business might take; and we must keep that in mind. NATO is not there just as a defensive curtain, which it is: it is there to make negotiations possible. The ingredients may not be there to-day—I do not know; on the other hand, quite soon they could be. But take NATO away and the opportunities may never occur, because all successful negotiation depends on confidence.

My Lords, in this connection it seems to me that in what we are discussing this afternoon the position of Western Germany is especially important. Bonn has every reason to be sensitive about any direct talks between any one of her allies and Soviet Russia. The Federal Government have been very good members of NATO ever since they joined it twelve years ago; and I think we should acknowledge this and act accordingly in sharing our thoughts and expectations with them. It is important to maintain confidence between our two countries, if only because that is the only way of making progress in relations with Russia.

I believe that we have to admit, unpleasant though this sometimes is, that Communist propaganda verges on the truth when it points out the nervousness that still exists in countries neighbouring Germany about Germany's military power, a nervousness often based on the experience of the Nazi occupation. We should like to ride that off, but it cannot be ridden off. It is a factor in the situation, and it can be resolved only if our relations with Bonn are close and confident enough for us to talk about it and act about it together. That is one of the reasons why, in years gone by, I thought it was perhaps a gain that when German rearmament had to take place it took place in the wider sphere of NATO, where the United States and her power was present, rather than in the more (narrow circumference where it might have caused more apprehension.

I think, therefore, that it is to the advantage of Western Germany, as it is to us, that her relations with the other Western Powers should be as close and intimate as possible. One cannot ignore facts and fears that are based on history.

There is one risk, though, against which I think we ought to be on our guard. It was graphically illustrated by Mr. Gromyko during his recent sojourn in Rome. He said how agreeable it would be if we could have a European conference without the United States. I am sure that the Government will not fall for that one. We must never do that, because it would not only be fatal to our own security but also set back once again any possibility of a lasting agreement. Europe without American power is Europe at Russia's mercy. This is a disagreeable fact that we have to face, but I am afraid that it is also inescapable at the present time at any rate.

My Lords, out of this summary of our affairs I should like to suggest certain conclusions which seem to emerge. In considering the future of NATO we should, I suggest, hold tight to essentials but, so far as everything else is concerned, play it as elastically as we can. Meanwhile, are there any other thoughts which we can contribute about the long-term view of NATO?—because it would be a real failure on our part if we failed to adapt this organisation to the changing needs of the present time. In this connection, it is encouraging that, as no doubt many of your Lordships have noticed, there is a parallel examination to ours going on in the United States at the present time, despite the many preoccupations, sad preoccupations, with Vietnam.

For instance, a Committee of Congress has lately been considering a proposal which I think originated from Governor Rockefeller, that NATO should adopt Federal Union as its eventual goal; and I understand that recently General Eisenhower has given his powerful endorsement to this proposal in a letter to Representative Paul Findley who is the sponsor of the Atlantic Union Bill before Congress. To many this will no doubt seem a long-term objective; and it is. Even so, I find it remarkable that it should be canvassed at all at this time in the United States. I cannot conceive that anything but good can result from that; and, of course, while American opinion must be the most influential in a matter of this kind, it is one which I hope could profitably claim our attention too; and it might also provide a subject to be probed among NATO Parliamentarians.

In a more immediately practical sphere, there is no reason why NATO should not examine any openings that exist, or any that can be created to get discussions going between the Warsaw Powers and the NATO Powers. Of course try for that. At the same time, I think we ought to remember that the organisations are not by any means like and like. There is freedom on our side to disagree, and plentiful examples of it at the present moment. Among the Warsaw Powers, I believe that, despite what has happened in Roumania, that freedom is much more circumscribed. It does not mean that one should not try, but I am not very impressed with comparisons which appear in the popular Press that Roumania is the France behind the Iron Curtain. I do not think that is true at all.

There is another topic which might be discussed, I should have thought, with the Soviet Government after agreement with the Federal Government of Germany. It is one which I know has often been attempted before, though we tried and failed to get far with it—the levels of armaments on either side of Germany, and their geographical position. If we are moving into a really easier situation, that matter should be possible of discussion. Personally, I think it most important to try to get one specific agreed proposal of that kind which has to be supervised, and to try to get the Russians into supervision of some kind, of which they always have such a very deep suspicion. A third possibility is an old friend which we have attempted before and which may not be practicable; that is, a demilitarised zone between East and West.

My Lords, I think that there is another sphere in which NATO could be given a new look. I should like the Council of NATO to consider regularly, as a matter of accepted practice, international questions in areas outside their own immediate sphere. It seems to me utterly unreal that these representatives of Powers, most of which have world-wide interests, should meet and consider those interests only in the terms of one Continent. We cannot separate France; we cannot separate Africa, or Asia, ultimately, from everything that goes on in Europe to-day. I know that there are occasional moments—so I understand—where NATO does these things, but I should have thought that the NATO Council should have as part of its task the regular examination of wider international topics, particularly at a moment like this, when Chinese policy shadows all conjectures about events in NATO and everywhere else.

Finally, I would draw attention to a report which appeared in The Times last December about the last Paris meeting of NATO. This report quoted a speech of Mr. McNamara: The dominating problem raised by Mr. McNamara was the spectre of China He gave an assurance that American troops would not he redeployed from Europe to Vietnam, but invited the Alliance to think in terms of the next two or three decades, when China might be out to control Africa and Latin America. It may be, of course, that the Government in Peking is set upon the conquest of South-East Asia, and much else besides—even, as Mr. McNamara appears to think, of several continents. It may me: but personally I am not convinced that this is so. There are other possible explanations for the very dangerous tensions which dominate South-East Asia, though this is hardly the moment to go into them.

I will only add this. It is conceivable that the Chinese are as convinced that the United States intend their destruction as the Americans are convinced of Chinese long-term ambitions. One of these convictions we know to be wrong. The other may contain a margin of error also. If a military victory cannot provide the full answer here—and it cannot—and if this is accepted, a neutralised area might be acceptable to both. I do not believe that there is any other way out than that which I have just mentioned. But, of course, things may change in China, if not now then in a year or two's time, just as they changed in Russia. In China, the great leaders of those victorious marches are now growing old. The policies of those who will follow them pose a critical question mark. We do not know, but I think that it would be wrong to assume that the worst is absolutely certain.

In conclusion, I would suggest to the Government, as the outcome of this survey we are all going to make this afternoon, that they would be wise and prudent to stand by their engagements in NATO, as elsewhere in the world, at the same time using every opportunity imaginatively to reduce tensions and to create confidence where there is to-day so much conflict and suspicion. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.4 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great honour to me, although it is obviously a rather daunting moment, to follow immediately on my old chief, whose admirable and statesmanlike speech your Lordships have just listened to with such interest and attention. The noble Earl, as we all know, has often in the past dominated what I must refer to as another place, and we all must appreciate that he is in process of achieving a similar position of eminence in this House also. It is good to have a debate on this highly important subject at this particular moment of time, and we must indeed be grateful to the noble Earl for introducing his Motion. I hope that he will find it in him to introduce many similar Motions on foreign affairs in the years to come.

On the points which the noble Earl raised, I should like, in the first place, to associate myself most sincerely with the tribute which he paid to that great man Ernest Bevin, who had the original idea about the formation of some Atlantic association, whatever it might be, and also with what the noble Earl said about the immense contribution to this idea made by the late President Truman and Mr. Dean Acheson. Anybody who follows the history of that time can only participate in the tributes given.

With the greater part of what the noble Earl has said, I think we shall all find ourselves in substantial agreement. Certainly I do. There are two points however, I should like to take out of his speech with which I am not perhaps altogether in agreement. The first is as regards the detente which exists now, thanks to the emergence of rather more independent feelings in the Communist countries of Eastern Europe, the effect no doubt, as the noble Earl said, of the successful formation of NATO and its existence since 1949.

I suggest that if we are to exploit this détente, which I sincerely hope we shall do, it can be only on the basis of some agreed policy. It is no good individual members of the Alliance exploiting it on their own, because, if they do, the chances are that the other side, notably the Soviet Union, will simply use these efforts for their own purposes and not for ours. Therefore, though there is no reason why individual Governments should not make their own contact with the Russians, it is very much to be hoped that they will not try to force their own particular policy on their colleagues without having threshed it out in the NATO machine. I understand that it is the reform of the NATO machine with the object of arriving at such a consensus which is now the objective of our present policy at NATO headquarters—at least I hope this is so, and that this is the policy of the Government of the day.

The noble Earl also mentioned the famous conception of "Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals" in kindlier terms than I should find it in my heart to do. I have indeed often attacked this conception in public in the past. I simply cannot understand it. It makes absolutely no sense to me. If taken literally, it presumably means the inclusion of Russia up to the Urals and the exclusion of Great Britain, which seems to me entirely inconceivable. Besides, if this extraordinary entity were ever formed, how would it be run? And where would its centre be? How can one imagine that it would have any effect on world events as such? In short, it does not seem to me to be a viable conception in any way, and I hope that over the years it will be quietly abandoned.

Perhaps I ought to preface my own short individual contribution to this debate by saying that I have just returned from the meeting in Rejkjavik, of the Council of the Atlantic Treaty Association of which I am President until next October, and I should like to pay tribute to the spirit of the small, but highly intelligent and admirably organised, Icelandic nation. They have their neutralists probably—we all have—but the majority and, in the first place, the Government are firmly convinced of the necessity of preserving the Atlantic Alliance in its present so-called "integrated"form—that is to say, as a closely linked military association under the leadership of the United States of America. Iceland has no armed forces, but she freely agrees to the maintenance of the great American base at Keflavik.

The Council of the Atlantic Treaty Association passed the following resolution which, after examining the situation of the Atlantic Alliance, …strongly deplores the spirit and the form of the unilateral measures taken by the French Government since March 7, affirms anew its fidelity to the Atlantic Alliance and to the integrated organisation created by virtue of Article 9 of the Treaty, desires that the Alliance evolve according to the spirit defined by the Atlantic Treaty Association Assemblies of Ottawa and Rome (last year and the year before) that is to say, an even closer co-operation not only military but economical and political, including the establishment of a Parliamentary Assembly, and hopes that in the near future France may not only remain a member of the Alliance but resume her place in NATO. I should indeed hope that that would represent not only the opinion of the Atlantic Treaty Association, but also the great bulk of public opinion in this country.

Monsieur Maurice Faure made a splendid speech, as did our Secretary-General, Monsieur Pierre Mahais, who is gallantly maintaining the Association FranÇaise de la Communauté Atlantique in France, in spite of the recent resignation of all its Gaullist members. (Incidentally, a pamphlet published under his auspices by Monsieur Guy de Carmoy, entitled L'Alliance Atlantique Disloquée should be read by everybody in the slightest degree interested in the present crisis.)

We must, however, recognise that this Alliance of ours is in fact now in danger. The neutralist-nationalist cause now espoused by General de Gaulle, largely no doubt with the perfectly comprehensible object of maintaining himself in power after March, 1967, makes a strong appeal to many people in Western Europe, more especially when it is combined with pretty violent anti-American propaganda. The idea that the Russians are a peaceably inclined and essentially European people with whom it would be perfectly possible to arrange for the reunification of a disarmed and neutral Germany if only the Americans would take their troops and their nuclear weapons back to America and stop trying to dominate the world under cover of a vast nuclear superiority, is one that is lapped up by the woolly-minded, even in this country. Then the notion that the nation-state is the only so-called "reality" is one which I think can very easily be swallowed by the younger generation everywhere if it is apparent that, whatever lip service may be paid, no other ideology is accepted in practice by their Governments. In other words, there is a certain risk that what I might call the magic of the General may prevail unless it is countered by another, and we must hope, a more benevolent, magic.

I may now be saying something with which some of your Lordships may not agree, and perhaps not even the noble Earl who has just spoken. I do not myself believe that this counter-magic lies in declaring that what we believe in (what, so to speak, our ideology is) as the immediate object of our present policy is a kind of "Atlantic Community", in the sense (because this must be the sense in which most people understand it) of a Federation of States on both sides of the Atlantic. Still less, of course, that what we believe in is some kind of Federation of the World. All this, I have no doubt, may come about one day, though personally I think it is a long way off.

After all, the notion of an Atlantic Federation is frankly not very popular in France, even among those Frenchmen who are most in favour of the continuation of our Alliance—and, after all, we do desire, above all else, to get France back into the fold. But essentially, it seems to me, such a Federation could not possibly be formed unless all the European States concerned actually became part of the United States, in which case, I am afraid, the solution, however desirable, would be most unlikely to appeal to the American Congress, whatever resolutions may be put before it at the present time.

It has always seemed to me to follow, therefore, that the one way in which the conception of the all-sufficient nation-state, and hence, frankly, of 19th century nationalism, can be adapted to our modern world is to start off in areas where there really is some prospect of so adapting it, and more particularly in Western Europe. This means, of course, in the first place, some agreement on fundamentals between Britain and France. This is not the time to develop the general case for the prospects of our joining the E.E.C. which were debated not long ago and I have no wish to do so. I will merely call attention once again to what I think is the extreme significance of the European idea from the point of view of what we are discussing to-day—namely, the reform of NATO.

In a little work which has just been published called "L'Otan et l'Europe", a well-known French General, General Beaufre, with faultless French logic, outlines the way in which a European Defence Community might be gradually built up within the general framework of the Western Alliance. General Beaufre has given much thought to his plan, which in no way cuts across other excellent means of achieving greater "Atlantic" unity, such as the scheme for variously composed committees for forward planning of what is called "crisis management" associated with the name of my Liberal colleague, Mr. Alastair Buchan. General Beaufre makes it abundantly clear, to my way of thinking, anyway, that for so long as the European members of the Alliance are entirely distinct national entities, they can, in the nature of things, have only a very limited influence on American policy and decisions, and, not to put a too fine a point on it, still less asserting that this is in any way the fault or responsibility of the Americans, that they will (unless, of course, they go neutralist) perforce remain satellites of the United States. I think that is a conclusion which is inescapable.

Where I do not personally share General Beaufre's conclusions is when he seems to suggest that his "strategic" solution for the problems of the Alliance—that is to say, a European Defence Community within the Alliance as a whole—could be achieved before Britain joins the E.E.C. (conceivably, I should imagine, by building up Western European Union), whereas I would maintain that Britain's joining the E.E.C. as a full member, and as one resolved to assume the frankly supra-national obligations of the Treaty of Rome, is an essential first step towards any real progress in European and, consequently, in an eventual Atlantic partnership.

I must say I trust that, with these possibilities before their eyes, the Prime Minister and the able Monsieur Pompidou will not limit themselves to plans for some association of Britain with the famous "Europe of States". But, of course, it is not the name of any policy which is important; it is the object which it is hoped to achieve. Some French may, I suppose, feel that they are now in a strong position, at any rate economically, while we are in a weak one. But these factors can change very rapidly, while nations remain nations. The formation of some "Anglo-Saxon" German bloc would not depend on the temporary economic weakness or strength of this country, but on purely political considerations, I believe, connected with the European balance of power.

Now that the French President has returned from the Soviet Union without, so far as we can see, having got the Russians to agree to his own conception of a suitable German settlement, what is there really which stands in the way of the formulation of a joint Western European policy on these great issues? Given a minimum of good will, there would seem to be nothing to prevent the Governments concerned from now considering them, for instance in the Council of the Western European Union. Nor, I am sure, whatever they may call their present policy, are the French Government now totally oblivious of the clear political advantages of Britain's joining the E.E.C. and of the grave dangers for France if there is indeed some struggle, as it were, for the soul of Germany between the so-called Anglo-Saxons and the French in some rather improbable association with the Russians.

Naturally, if this country firmly embraces the European solution there is less prospect, as I see it, of this terrible situation arising than if we do not. For if the Germans have the impression that the British Government are really converted to the idea of entering a European community in which the decisions will in fact be taken in common—that is the point—and hence that the German voice will be equal to that of France and Britain, then the Germans will be much less tempted, I assure your Lordships, to fall for what might be called "neutralist nationalism", or however you like to describe the counter-philosophy, than would otherwise be the case. So it is for this, as I believe, overriding reason that we here on these Benches urge the Government, during the present Anglo-French discussions, to stand up for the European idea, and to seek to convert our French friends to the necessity of moving from this, the only valid base, towards a really fruitful reform of the Atlantic Alliance.

I should like to end on a note which, as an ex-Ambassador to France, I am afraid I have often struck before. There is no good future either for us or for the French unless we can harmonise our respective policies and come together in what General de Gaulle refers to, and rightly, as a great enterprise—une grande entreprise. This enterprise can, in the nature of things, I believe be only a European one. But it must be undertaken in association with, and not against, the interests of the "daughter of Europe", as the General always terms our Western ally. Nor can it be undertaken otherwise than by accepting all the implications inherent in the formation of a real European Community. To dream of some entity which will one day, apparently, include Russia and exclude America, is something so foreign to the instinctive desires of the great majority of people West of the Elbe that it can, if persisted in, only prevent that close co-operation of France and Britain which I, and so many of us here, so passionately desire. So if Mr. Wilson could draw out M. Pompidou, as I think he probably could on this overriding issue, the present visit might, perhaps, be less negative than is at present suggested in the Press. This is clearly a grave moment in the affairs of the Western Alliance, and I have no doubt at all that the collective wisdom of your Lordships will help to resolve our present difficulties.

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, is qualified, if any man could be, to speak to us on NATO, in whose construction he played so distinguished a part, and of which he is to-day such an ardent and active champion. I am sure that he will agree with me that this occasion is lent special honour by the initiation of a debate by the noble Earl, Lord Avon. The House has showed once again this afternoon, by the warmth of their welcome, the special tenacious esteem and admiration in which the noble Earl is held, and will always be held, in this country. Some of us who entered politics in the 'thirties still vividly remember the striking impact made by the present Lord Avon when he first emerged on the national and international scene. He seemed to embody the passionate determination of the post-war generation, and particularly those who had borne the brunt of the struggle from 1914–18, that this must never happen again; that war must at all costs be outlawed.

Since then, the noble Earl has rendered memorable service to this nation and to the Free World. He has endured his full share of affliction, but he comes forward to-day with his spirit unquenched and unquenchable, and still the same passionate love of peace. The fire of that spirit has burnt very brightly in your Lordships' House this afternoon, and we have all been instructed and inspired.

I would agree with the noble Earl that the time is appropriate for a discussion of NATO. I agree also with what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn (who was so forthright and interesting), said on that subject. During the debate on the Address, some noble Lords, including my noble friends Lord Shackleton and Lord Walston, dwelt on the situation in NATO after the moves announced by the French Government in March. However, much has happened in NATO since then, and I will endeavour to bring the story up to date, although I shall leave some of the more detailed aspects of it to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, later on.

First, I hope I shall be permitted an attempt to provide a certain perspective. If there is one inescapable lesson of two world wars it is surely this. There must be prior commitments and adequate preparation between allies if aggression is to be deterred. It is no longer possible to debate the commitment of this country to go to the defence of another in the manner of July and August, 1914, and to leave to the last moment this grave moral choice as to whether we join our friends or not. It is only by maintaining an effective deterrent in being that we can be sure that aggression will not occur. This deterrent can, in the first place, only take the form of mutual treaty commitments. This is what we have all done in agreeing, in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, to regard an attack on any of our allies as an attack upon ourselves, and to give assistance to the ally attacked. But these commitments cannot be fulfilled to-day unless there is advance preparation of a highly sophisticated and detailed nature. If these preparations are to be effective, we must maintain what is called nowadays an integrated system of defence.

In modern times a treaty alone does not make an alliance. The North Atlantic Treaty is indispensable as the beginning of wisdom, but it has needed, and still needs, NATO, which of course flows from it, to give it effective reality. I sometimes think that we are or at any rate I am—I think it applies to most of us—too apt to take the great achievements of the Atlantic Alliance for granted. What an extraordinary thing it is, this league of fifteen States which have worked together in face of many difficulties in so many practical ways! Surely, there is no precedent for it in history. And when we are oppressed, as we often are, by unsolved problems, we should console ourselves every now and then by taking a certain astonished pride in what has already been accomplished under more than one Government here, and many Governments overseas.

We should remind ourselves of the situation when NATO was formed. The Soviet Union was rapidly extending its power in central Europe, Stalin was directing threats at Norway, the countries of Western Europe were weakened by the sufferings of the war; Germany was, of course, disarmed and the perils seemed very close at home. In that hour Mr. Bevin (to whom the noble Earl, Lord Avon, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, paid such fine and welcome tributes), backed by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee (who was here this afternoon), and the members of his Cabinet, and also, I hasten to say, by the leaders of the Opposition including, very prominently, the noble Earl, Lord Avon, himself—Mr. Bevin, with this powerful backing, knew that that the defence of the North Alantic area must be seen as a whole. A commitment by the United States was essential to preserve peace in Europe.

It so happened, if I may for one moment only strike a personal note, that in 1947–48 I was working under Mr. Bevin as an assistant Minister in the Foreign Office. I served as one of his acolytes at the Council of Foreign Ministers, which broke down in December, 1947, but those who worked with him at that time, and notably the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Strang, will remember the extreme reluctance with which Mr. Bevin accepted the breakdown of that conference. He went on until the twelfth hour and even, in a sense, beyond. Mr. Bevin clung then, as always, to a vision of one world as opposed to the division between East and West. But the time came when Mr. Bevin was compelled to recognise that the defence of the West against the Communist threat must, for the time being, take precedence over all other issues. I remember as if it were yesterday a meeting in Mr. Bevin's room at the Foreign Office in January, 1948. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, was certainly present and I rather think the noble Lord, Lord Strang, was back from Germany and America and other places where he was then serving the country. Mr. Bevin unfolded his ideas soon after the breakdown of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Atlantic Community with, as the noble Earl will recall, immense emphasis on the word "Atlantic" as a rallying cry for Europe and North America alike.

A little later came the Treaty, in which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, played such a leading part, and then NATO, which followed it. The object of that Treaty was to ensure, as we all know, that in any future threat to the Atlantic area both sides of the Atlantic would stand together from the start. There would be no question again of American intervention waiting until a moment which next time might well be too late. By the same token America must be able to know that she can rely on her European allies.

There has not been any element of our being subordinated to some kind of American domination. It is the expression of a common interest in the security of the area in which we all live. Here I should like to follow the noble Earl, Lord Avon, in paying unstinted tribute to the great part which the United States has played in contributing to the defence of freedom, not only by its commitment to NATO but by its expenditure of blood and treasure in so many parts of the world. When one takes into account their past history, the steady, consistent, unswerving support which the people of the United States have given to the people of this country and other parts of Europe since the war, during these last 21 years, must be reckoned as a truly noble phenomenon. No one can deny that so far the North Atlantic Treaty has achieved its primary aim. Since its signature in 1949 no further European country has become Communist, nor has there been any armed conflict between East and West in Europe. Various factors have contributed, and some of them have been touched on by the noble Earl and the noble Lord, but NATO must rank high among them.

We cannot yet afford to drop our guards. We must stand firm in all essentials, seeing what scope there is for elasticity. We take various views in this House and elsewhere, and from time to time it is difficult to be sure what is happening, or is going to happen. We may detect signs—and I think the noble Earl detected rather more signs than the noble Lord—of some countries in Eastern Europe wanting closer relations with the West. We may firmly believe, as I do, that the ideological barrier dividing East from West in Europe must, in the long run, perish. Yet the conditions which gave rise to NATO still persist, and while that is so no responsible Government could dispense with the protection which NATO alone can provide, and I am sure no responsible Opposition would wish them to do so.

It is against this background that I would ask the House to view the events in NATO since March of this year. The measures which the French then announced can be summarised as follows. First, France would remain a party to the North Atlantic Treaty up to and after 1969. That is as far as the Treaty is concerned. Secondly, French forces would be withdrawn from NATO command, and French officers from integrated headquarters and foreign forces not under French command should be withdrawn from France by April 1, 1967. Thirdly, there should be a new agreement to cover French forces in Germany after July 1, 1966.

These plans were announced by the French without prior consultation with France's allies. That is a matter of history. We are sorry that this method was chosen, particularly in the light of Article 12 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which provides for consultation on the request of any member for the purpose of reviewing the Treaty. France did not invoke this provision, as she, or indeed any party to the Treaty, could have done, at any time after 1959. We were confronted in this country and other countries by the prospect of sweeping changes and we were apparently expected to conform to a rigid and arbitrarily determined timetable.

Like the earlier speakers I do not see any utility to-day in dwelling on what actions the French Government might have taken which would have been more convenient to the rest of us. In practice, we and all our other allies have decided that we must accept these decisions as a fait accompli and proceed from there to refashion the Alliance in the new circumstances. Indeed, as the House is aware, France's allies moved swiftly from the start. The declaration of March 18 issued by the heads of the Fourteen Governments reaffirmed our belief in the necessity for an integrated and interdependent military force. It also emphasised the determination of members of the Alliance to consult together. in the safeguard of their freedom and security and in the furtherance of international peace, progress and prosperity". The principles enumerated in the declaration of March 18 have motivated our policy in NATO throughout the period of intensive discussion and consultation, first among the Fourteen allies and now with France as well, to which the French actions led and which is still continuing.

But one other important principle has operated throughout—namely, our wish for France to remain in the Alliance on mutually agreeable terms, which I know is the desire of the noble Earl. It is not, and it never has been, any part of Britain's policy to push France out of NATO, or even to widen the breach—a breach certainly not of our making—which has been created within the organisation. The language used by the noble Earl struck me as being extremely effective: We must make plain our differences, but do nothing to exacerbate our relations". It has been said in some quarters that Britain, impelled by some kind of anti-French animus, has endeavoured to influence her other NATO allies to take a hard line with the French. To anyone who knows the true facts, this charge is quite absurd. If evidence were needed to refute it, it is to be found in this most important and welcome visit, which begins to-day, of the French Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to this country. I join with other speakers in wishing all success to the talks. We continue, within the framework of complete loyalty to the Alliance, to attach importance to keeping Anglo-French relations at the highest possible level. Nothing has been done at any point in a vindictive or provocative spirit. Indeed, the basic theme of the Brussels meeting was that not only must the Alliance be preserved but the maximum co-operation between France and her Allies should be maintained.

France has said that she "will remain the ally of her allies", and this too is Britain's fervent wish, but if that is to be more than an expression of sympathetic emotion it must be translated into practical decisions of military value. Article 3 of the North Atlantic Treaty calls for continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid to develop the individual and collective capacity of the Allies to resist armed attack. As I ventured to stress earlier, effective defence in modern terms is possible only when all the forces available to the allied commander are organised in accordance with common doctrines and deployed in accordance with common plans. This is, of course, a matter of not only great military but great political importance affecting the full range of France's relations with her allies and thus the whole posture of the North Atlantic Alliance. We must know where our partners stand if a crisis comes upon us, and this cannot be left to arrangements hastily made at the last moment. Indeed, the thought behind that is the whole burden of NATO.

There are a number of concrete problems that I must touch on, though it may be my more expert friends will go into them more fully later on. First of all the French require that the NATO military headquarters should move from France. Well, a new site must be found for the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe, called SHAPE. Ministers have extended a unanimous invitation to the Benelux countries to provide a new site, and the Belgian Government have since agreed to do so. I am glad to inform the House of that. There is also some simplification of the Command structure, which I will leave to later speakers.

Then there is the position of the North Atlantic Council. After the departure of the military headquarters from France this would, on the face of things, be physically separated from all the military organs of NATO. The Fourteen agreed that close co-operation between the poli- tical and military institutions of NATO is essential and their geographical co-location is one of the important factors to consider in reaching a decision. An examination is now being made of possible alternative sites for the Council. The Ministers have agreed that a site should be sought in the first instance near the new location of SHAPE. If this proves impracticable, and if our allies were to show an interest in finding a site in the United Kingdom, we should be very ready to consider the possibilities. But I should not like to give the impression that we were, so to speak, pushing our claim. Our sole object is to secure an efficient and agreed solution. It is hoped that a special Council Meeting of the Fourteen Ministers will take a decision in October.

There are a number of other problems arising at once. It is not just a question of moving the pieces on the chess board. The French action provides us with a serious threat—the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, went so far as to say, though perhaps I do not my self take quite such a grave view, that the whole Alliance is in danger. But it certainly provides a serious threat, and yet at the same time a hopeful if challenging opportunity to make NATO and its organisation more efficient than it has been. We are convinced that there is considerable scope for economies in the Command structure, not with any reduction but indeed an expansion of usefulness. The military commanders concerned have been asked to submit recommendations for reducing the size of their headquarters, and generally we would hope that a considerable increase in efficiency will emerge.

Ministers in Brussels further agreed that the Standing Group should be abolished and replaced by alternative appropriate arrangements including an integrated military staff. This will mean that the NATO countries as a whole will have an opportunity to play a larger part in the execution of NATO military policy. We think this combined with the principle of co-location to which I have already referred will make possible closer co-ordination between the political and military work of NATO.

These were decisions which, given the action of France, fell to be taken primarily by the Fourteen. They were in fact accepted by the French and thus endorsed by the whole North Atlantic Council. There are a number of other decisions, some of which I cannot avoid referring to. These include the changes which must be made in the whole infrastructure programme to take account of the moves of military installations from France. Then there were the decisions on the payment for the considerable expense to which NATO will be put as a result of French initiative, and the whole question of the future French contribution to common defence, including the role of the French forces in Germany. I realise that a body of 15 such as the Permanent Council is not always a very suitable organ for discussing some of these complicated issues, and it may prove to be the path of wisdom for smaller groups to be set up to reach solutions of specific problems, always under the aegis of the Council itself. They may well prove to be feasible in the near future.

There are also some bilateral questions I have not touched on. The United States and Canadian Governments have to make arrangements for the move of their own military installations from France. The status and stationing rights of French forces in Germany are matters for discussion between the French and the German Governments. Your Lordships will have seen that the German Government have recently agreed that the French forces should remain in Germany for the time being pending new agreements. But it is accepted by the Fourteen that all bilateral discussions will be conducted within the framework of their agreed negotiating position and will be the subject of consultation among the Fourteen as a whole before any definitive decisions are reached.

The Atlantic Alliance is both a political and a military union. I have touched on some of the military aspects, leaving others to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. But as the discussions proceed with France, and as the reorganisation of NATO is carried out along the lines I have indicated, we must never fall into the error—an error certainly avoided by previous speakers—of considering the reorganisation of NATO as an end in itself. I think the noble Earl said it was not just a defensive shield; it must provide a means of making negotiations possible; and certainly that is how we see it. We must aim higher than making perfect or trying to make perfect the machinery for the defence of the West. We must aim to remove the very conditions of tension that have compelled the existence of NATO. To do less is to confuse the means with the end. NATO, after all, is not only a military alliance. It is also—and this is unprecedented in the story of alliances—a forum for political consultation and cooperation in which we constantly discuss and seek to harmonise our foreign policies and to give effect to the general ideals of the West.

I have not covered in my speech a number of grave matters raised by the noble Earl, Lord Avon, and I think my noble friend Lord Chalfont will have something to say on European questions of first importance which he brought forward. I am so pleased he spoke as he did about the German people. I well recall that when I was Chairman of the Anglo-German Association, a tender and at that time not very popular plant, the noble Earl, then Foreign Secretary, went out of his way to give us encouragement in a very marked and valuable form during our early struggles.

The whole question of East/West relations is one on which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has specialised, as the House is aware. But although I have not spoken on this question and some noble Lords may depart before my noble friend Lord Chalfont is able to advise us, I would emphasise that the détente, of which we have heard something earlier, and which we hope exists, and deterrence form part of a single whole; just as all these dreadful armaments, this colossal burden of armaments which we feel is justified, is justified only if it leads on to disarmament in the end.

These are my last few words. We do not regard NATO in isolation, as something which is separate and apart from other aspects of our foreign policy. NATO is an integral element in our interlocking world-wide system of alliances and commitments into which we have entered in order to play our full part in the preservation of peace and security in the world. Moreover, NATO is an organisation of collective self-defence within the terms of Article 52 of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. We have not, alas!, reached the stage at which an effective form of world government, for which the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and other noble Lords present, have worked so hard in recent times, enables us to place our responsibilites on the shoulders of an international peace-keeping organisation. It goes without saying that the peace-keeping functions of the United Nations have the full and active support of the Government, as I hope that they would have the full and active support of any alternative Government here.

We hope, moreover, that as time goes on the United Nations will come to shoulder an ever larger share of peacekeeping responsibility. Certainly we in this Government are dedicated to that purpose, absolutely and irrevocably. In the meantime, we must face the realities of the harsh world in which we live. We must look to our alliances to perform a major part of this task, and of these NATO is of particular importance to all who live in this Island. It is, in fact, the corner-stone of our policy for our own self-preservation and of the policy of the West for the defence of freedom everywhere. NATO represents a path which we must firmly and consistently tread through these difficult years, if we are to find our way eventually to a higher state of the world and an ultimate condition of peace.

Once again, I am sure that the whole House would wish me to express our gratitude to the noble Earl, Lord Avon, for raising this matter, and for the speech with which he opened the debate.


My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, I wonder if he can tell me whether the question has ever been considered of joining together the Warsaw and NATO alliances? In that case there would be nothing to defend and no one to attack.


My Lords, if the noble and gallant Lord puts forward a practical form of that suggestion it will always be considered. But it will be considered because it comes from him, not because it seems likely to bring results in the future.