HL Deb 25 November 1981 vol 425 cc764-9

3.13 p.m.

The Earl of Kimberley rose to call attention to the relationship between the European NATO countries and the United States of America; and to move for Papers.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, my noble friend went into the long list of speakers that we have, and I will endeavour to make my own speech shorter than I normally would have done. I would warn noble Lords that I think the average should be about six minutes per person.

I do not believe there is any noble Lord in this Chamber who would not agree that the whole security and peace of the world depends on amenable and trusting European/American relations. The essence of this relationship is NATO and at the moment NATO is beset by grave danger. We must ask ourselves why relations between Europe and America have deteriorated. The key question is: who benefits from this deterioration? There is just one answer—I am sure your Lordships all know it—and that is the Soviet Union.

So how have the Soviets engineered this position? They have done so by extremely clever propaganda, now directed throughout Europe, whereby they have exploited all the fears and frailties of the human race. In particular they have utilised the World Peace Council and, in many instances, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. They have been abetted, perhaps, in the past by the inept defence policy of former President Carter and recently may have been helped by hawkish announcements and apparently conflicting statements by certain members of the Reagan Administration. To counteract such fertile seedbeds for Russian propaganda, we must have closer collaboration and co-operation between America and her European allies.

The Christian Science Monitor said the other day, just after Mr. Brezhnev gave his interview to Der Spiegel, that he was a wolf in sheep's clothing; and I am not certain that I do not agree. But whatever he said in Der Spiegel I think we must take it with a pinch of salt rather than say that it was a complete lot of lies. If anybody wants to read that interview, it is in the Library here and it is well worth reading. He made no new offer for an imminent European nuclear arms control talk, and in that interview his target of course was West Germany, which he has just left today. Besides the target being West Germany, it was also the rest of us—the other Western Europeans. Let us not forget that his sole object is to try to make us reject these new American counter nuclear missiles so that he does not have to dismantle and remove his SS20s.

There is ample evidence of the KGB's hand in fostering unilateral disarmament. It is available and easy to find by anybody who cares to look for it. Last April, for example, the Dutch expelled a supposed correspondent from Tass, the news agency. He had been identified as having taken part in espionage and covert operations. His primary role was with leaders of the Ban the Bomb movement. In fact, Vassilivech Leonor (for that is his name) stated that if Moscow wanted 50,000 demonstrators on the streets in Holland they would be there at very short notice. He should know, he said, because he was one of those who transmitted the orders from Moscow. His successor seems to have done rather better, because he produced over 100,000 the other day in Amsterdam. In America a similar role is fulfilled by a Mr. Uri Kapralov, who is a counsellor at the Soviet Embassy in Washington.

Last month in Denmark the peace activists of that country were given a rude shock when Vladimir Merkoulov, a second secretary at the Soviet Embassy, was expelled for bribing Arne Pedersen and his wife Inger over a nuclear-free peace advertisement. The Pedersens were subsequently arrested for aiding and abetting an agent of the KGB. One hundred and fifty Danish artists and writers signed that advertisement, but many of them said afterwards that they would not have done so if they had realised it had been financed by the Soviets.

I am now going to talk briefly about the CND, and I would hope that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, would let me finish because if he wants to shoot me down or have a go at me his turn to speak will be coming very shortly. Let us look at the activities of Monsignor Bruce Kent, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He admitted in a newspaper article dated 27th July working with communists. Although he has denied getting money from the World Peace Council, he has acknowledged that that council is a Soviet front and he even cabled congratulations to its meeting in Bulgaria in 1950. He attacked cruise missiles in a broadcast from East Berlin on 17th December last year. One year previously he praised Mr. Brezhnev's cosmetic withdrawal of troops from Europe, which was just before Afghanistan was invaded.

Monsignor Kent insists that all political views are represented in the CND, and so they may be. But the extreme political Left are more than adequately represented. There are at least nine card-carrying communists or sympathisers who are officials. Leading communists use the CND platform to attack United States militarism while praising so-called Soviet peacemaking initiatives. CND officials with communist leanings include: Sally Davison, Duncan Rees, Ian Davison, Michael Pentz, Christopher Horrie, CND press officer and member of the editorial board of Challenge, the paper of the Young Communist League, and Dan Smith who lectures at communist meetings and writes for the Morning Star but says he is outside the party. The Communist Party of Great Britain's industrial organiser, Mick Costello, has led a campaign at trade union conferences this year to win union support for the CND. In fact, top communists believe that the success of their CND selling campaign played a big part in this year's Labour Party conference's support for unilateral disarmament. Last, but not least—

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, would the noble Earl give way?

Several noble Lords


The Earl of Kimberley

My Lords, I said that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, will have his say in a minute and he may shoot me down when I have finished my speech.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I want only one moment—

Several noble Lords


The Earl of Kimberley

So, my Lords, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is one of the Kremlin's most useful and potent weapons. No one doubts the integrity of the genuine pacifist. But to find the genuine article one must ask the following questions. Is the unilaterist a pacifist or a political animal? How does he differentiate morally between one weapon and another—whether it be nuclear, chemical, biological or high explosive? Was Dresden less evil than Hiroshima? What defence policy does the unilateralist want for Europe? If his country were out-manoeuvred and attacked, would he just surrender or would he start screaming for help from the Americans? The largest peace movement in the world today is NATO, but it is losing ground every day as propaganda drives a wedge further and further between Europe and the United States.

In considering the undeniable need for arms reduction, I should like to remind noble Lords of some comments made in this Chamber last week in the foreign affairs debate on 10th November. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, referred to his growing disbelief in arms negotiations today, and said that in the '60s he thought there was more hope of disarmament. But, since then, who has been the major proliferator of arms?—the Soviet Union.

The noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, who I know is to speak in a moment, said that the Soviets understood that they could not invade a NATO country, but could, with impunity, invade one outside NATO, as they did. There was a body of people, he stated, who seemed hell bent on encouraging us to disarm, while the Soviets waited for this to take place. He went on at column 140 of Hansard: There is no doubt at all that propaganda for unilateral disarmament is the actual enemy of multilateral disarmament", and I am one of many who agree with him. In the same debate, my noble friend Lord Beloff stated that getting rid of cruise and Pershing missiles was not the CND's primary objective; rather it was to undermine NATO—a policy which the Soviets have consistently adopted throughout the postwar period.

It was also pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, that the Soviets have no peace movement in Russia. The one demonstration that they had in East Germany the other day was entirely directed against the United States. And the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, warned of the present danger, when he urged European Governments to give the task of political enlightenment and information top priority, and drew attention to the way in which the Soviets fanned the flames of unilateral disarmament.

The noble Lord said that the Marshall Plan had guaranteed a new generation of Germans with material wealth and, as I have said before, it is these young people, this new generation—whether they be Germans, whether they be English, whether they be Dutch or from any of the European countries—who have lived in peace throughout the whole of their lives and are played upon by Soviet propaganda. That is what led to the demonstrations which were held in Berlin the other day within sight of the wall, and also in Bonn.

Perhaps it is interesting briefly to mention that a poll that was held by the Observer the other day stated that 53 per cent. of those questioned wanted "Yanks go home". Nevertheless, 63 per cent. wished us to retain our own independent nuclear deterrent and 73 per cent. wished us to remain in NATO. The figure that is interesting is the 53 per cent., because the majority of those people were in the age group 18 to 24.

Therefore, we must somehow explain to this generation how they are being misled. But it is very difficult. They have grown up with peace and, because they have never had any other experience, they think in a way that is different from most of us. But that does not mean that they cannot be encouraged to take a close look at what they have gained through being brought up in an era of peace. Further, the cause of peace is not helped when men of stature lend their weight to decrying our own nuclear deterrent, or imply that even if we have one we will never use it. I consider that that is almost treason, because such utterances seek to destroy the whole object of the deterrent and they, therefore, strike at the very foundation of peace.

I shall be only one more minute. Arms control is not the exclusive province of unilateralists. We all want to see limitation of arms, but only by parity in weaponry shall we preserve the state of peace that has existed in Europe for 36 years. President Reagan's offer to cancel the deployment of cruise and Pershing II missiles, in exchange for a comparable withdrawal of Soviet strike power, is a most heartening opening towards that goal. We must hope that the Soviets will abandon their policy of subversive propaganda and respond in the same spirit. A poor harvest, and the ever-increasing sums required for their defence expenditure, may start influencing the Russians to negotiate. But withdrawal of their SS20s behind the Urals is not good enough, because they can still reach everywhere except Portugal

The recent tensions between the United States and her European allies must not be allowed to undermine the promise that President Reagan's initiative holds out, in spite of Mr. Brezhnev's immediate lack of concern about it. In Geneva on 30th November, and for as long as it takes afterwards to achieve a much reduced military balance, we allies must work together in mutual trust and harmony. The Americans are not only ours but Europe's allies, and none of us must ever forget it. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.27 p.m.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, for raising this question and he is to be congratulated on the fact that he has been able to do it at a time when it is peculiarly relevant to the destinies of Europe and of mankind. We have always maintained from these Benches, at any rate, that NATO should be an instrument not only of defence but of detente and of understanding, and at the present time it is particularly called upon to do so. We are on the eve—in fact, they have already begun—of very great discussions about the possibilities of agreed disarmament all round in Europe and in the world. It is going to be of great importance that the different members of NATO keep in close touch with each other, understand what others are doing and pursue common council.

Let us notice one of the things that has happened so far. When Mr. Michael Foot visited the Soviet Union a little while ago, Mr. Brezhnev made an offer that, if the deployment of the cruise missiles and other similar weapons was not proceeded with, he for his part would consider some reduction in the number of SS20s. I think a number of people felt that what Mr. Brezhnev offered on that occasion was not really adequate. Now, on the other hand, President Reagan has suggested that the deployment of the missiles on our side of Europe could be avoided, if similar weapons disappeared from the other side of Europe as well. He has proposed what is called the "zero option". May I say that I was glad to see that the leader of my own party welcomed that suggestion, and I was sorry to see that Monsignor Bruce Kent was quick to imply that President Reagan had an unworthy motive for making it.

Surely, what we are up against here are the opening moves in a bargaining situation, and it is quite natural for one side to say—one hopes without too much rudeness—"That is not a fair offer" and to put in one of its own. As the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, said, we must take these offers with a pinch of salt, but still recognising that they are something that can be built on. And it will be a long process, affecting not only cruise missiles and their counterparts in eastern Europe, but many other kinds of weapons. That is why, because it is such a long and complicated process, the nations of NATO must be in close contact with each other. One really wonders why they should need to be. The advantage to all the members of NATO of the existence of the alliance is so obvious and so enormous that one wonders why, every now and again, some of them are pernickety about it. For heavens' sake! I wish we had had an alliance like this in 1938 or, some would say, even earlier—in 1912. Now we have actually in alliance a country that is, like ourselves, a democracy and that is also the most powerful country on earth. Surely this is something that one cannot dispute the advantage of unless one is generally ill-intentioned.

I hope that I shall not try to approach this subject with too much rigid hostility towards the Soviet Union and her allies, but I do not think that we can avoid this fact: we for our part—and our allies—do believe in democracy. We do not always practise it perfectly, or 100 per cent., and there are plenty of faults in our political and social system that anyone could point out. But we do genuinely try to be democratic, and all of us in the alliance can come out of it at any moment we want. That is simply not true on the other side of Europe. They do not believe in that kind of freedom. In Poland, Solidarity has been told very plainly that it had better stop talking about whether Poland remains a member of their alliance or not. These are important differences that they have to remember. They are not reasons why we should remain in a state of permanent hatred towards eastern Europe, but they are reasons why we should keep our defences up. And that is what NATO is about.

What on earth is it that causes there to be any difficulties between the NATO nations? To put it crudely, quite a lot of Americans think that we in Europe are an effete lot, probably made effete by too much welfare state, and that they can never be quite sure how far we will go in standing up for ourselves. Some people in Europe tend to take the view that they over there in America are a brash lot, always telling us how strong they are and how many weapons they have got, and we look upon them therefore as rather dangerous partners. These are perhaps quite natural reactions, but they are also very silly reactions. We in Europe have in fact played a good and useful part in the strength of the alliance, more than many American commentators sometimes realise. The United States has shown on many occasions in the history of events since the war that for all its strength it can act, and often has acted, with wisdom, patience and generosity.

What is needed, then, on both sides of the Atlantic is simply a better understanding among ordinary people in each country of what the other side of the Atlantic is like. This is partly a job for embassies and partly a job for various cultural organisations. However, I believe that it has not been studied sufficiently comprehensively.

I have made one point, the main point I wanted to make. It would be highly imprudent, as the clock is now showing six minutes, for me to embark upon another.