HL Deb 31 July 1998 vol 592 cc1753-809

12.1 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert) rose to move, That this House take note of NATO's invitation to Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland to join the alliance.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. It is with some effort that one recalls the state of Europe in 1945. There was not in fact a Soviet Empire in 1945. It was built up piecemeal but very rapidly and the first countries to fall under the Soviet yoke were of course the Baltic states who were, by the end of the war, already wholly occupied by Soviet forces and lost their individual national identities very quickly.

Then there was an inexorable process westwards and south through the Balkans which looked as though it was never going to end. It did in fact end with the coup in Czechoslovakia which was the tripwire that forced the creation of NATO. However, nobody knew at that time that that was going to be the end of the westward and southward expansion of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union's hegemony. There was civil war in Greece, Turkey was always in a fragile state, and for many years in France and Italy the Communist Party was regularly getting 20 to 25 per cent. of the vote in election after election. It had left-wing allies and we feared for the sustenance of democracy in those countries.

It is very difficult now to recall the climate of those years and also to remember that in the west and in our own country in particular there were many apologists for the Soviet Union, some of whom were naïve, many of whom ought to have known a lot better.

I have no intention of rehearsing the history of the last 49 years. I am sure it is common currency in your Lordships' House that NATO has been a spectacular success. It has deterred people from starting a war that NATO was ready to fight by conventional or by nuclear means if necessary. It was natural therefore that when the dissolution of the Soviet empire came about and then that of the USSR itself there should be many suggestions for expansion. There were however, as you will be well aware (and there are no doubt some in your Lordships' House today), sceptics about that proposition.

I confess readily to your Lordships that I was one of the sceptics. The last speech I made in the other place in October 1996 was devoted to warning against the expansion of NATO, since when two events of epic importance have taken place. In July 1997 there was a Madrid Summit and in May 1997 I was given a government job. I am sure your Lordships will draw the correct conclusions from those two events.

I thought it might be helpful if I were to rehearse the objections I listed in my words to the Commons in 1996 to the expansion of the Soviet Union just to illustrate how things changed at Madrid in July of that year and subsequently. The points I was making then were, first, that enlargement should take place country by country rather than as a block. Secondly, I thought that the cost of expansion had not been considered properly and that it would bear very heavily on the existing defence budgets of member countries of NATO. Thirdly, I was particularly concerned about the effect that the eastward expansion of NATO would have both on senior Russian military and political leaders and also on the Russian electorate. Fourthly, I was concerned that enlargement would dilute the decision-making process in NATO and, finally, that NATO would be transformed from a successful defensive alliance to a generalised security arrangement.

I considered what I said in October 1996 in preparation for this debate and I have to say, given the circumstances of October 1996, that I would not wish to unsay a word I said in the other place at that time. However, as I say, things have moved on since that debate in the other place. As far as concerns the question of enlargement taking place country by county rather than as a block, this of course is precisely what happened in the discussions leading up to the July 1997 Madrid summit. Right up to the end there were uncertainties as to whether five more countries, four more countries or three more countries would be invited to join the alliance, and your Lordships know the result of those deliberations within the existing members of the alliance. There was no decision to take in countries as a block. The merits of each and every one of the new members were considered, as were the merits and the attitudes of the other countries who were also candidates to join at that time.

As far as the cost of expansion is concerned, in October 1996 I think it was perfectly true to say that it had not been considered and there were many different estimates flying around in western Europe and from different sources within the United States as to what the cost of expansion might be. We now have an agreed estimate within NATO that the cost of expansion will be of the order of £1.5 billion over a period of 10 years and that the United Kingdom's share will be about £110 million over the same period, in other words of the order of £10 million or £11 million a year for us. We will not therefore need an increase in the Defence Vote of this country in order to fund our share of enlargement. I have to say that NATO considered the possibility of other higher estimates of cost and the countries of NATO have accounted for the differences that stemmed very largely from different assumptions about the numbers of new countries that might be coming in, about the stationing of forces on their territory and the extent of the re-equipment programmes that the new member states would require and which would require not only re-equipment but also infrastructure programmes that would need to be funded by the alliance collectively. The estimates I have put before your Lordships were based on the most up-to-date planning assumptions and have been accepted by all existing members as realistic estimates.

I turn now to concerns about the reaction of senior Russians and the Russian electorate. I think it is fair to say that there are still concerns on the part of many senior Russians about the eastward expansion of NATO. They are sincere and serious concerns. It is up to us to make sure that we prove to Russia that her suspicions are groundless and that we do this by an ongoing process of consultation and co-operation. I am sure all your Lordships welcome the NATO-Russian Founding Act, in which we made clear that we would carry out our collective defence responsibilities without the permanent and large-scale stationing of NATO forces on the territories of the new member states. I am sure your Lordships also welcome the permanent joint council, established under the NATO-Russian Founding Act, which allows us to talk constructively with our Russian friends over a whole range of issues.

The concerns about the effect on the Russian electorate are, I suppose, still valid to some extent. But, so far, we have not seen what I feared, which was that some of the wilder men in Russian politics would be able to whip up nationalist fervour in Russian elections as a result of the expansion of NATO. I personally have realised, and I hope your Lordships have as well, that concerns on that point have been very much diluted with the passage of time.

I come now to the last two main points; namely, that enlargement would dilute the decision-making capability of the alliance and that NATO would be transformed from a successful alliance into a toothless, generalised security arrangement. There is nothing magical about the decision making process of 16 members. There is nothing magical about the figure 16. There is no reason why NATO cannot reach amicably and smoothly, with 19 members as it has done with 16, the decisions it needs to reach in the course of its business. It will be within your Lordships' knowledge that NATO decisions are never taken by vote. It has never been necessary to take them by vote. I am quite sure that that collegiate atmosphere will prevail under the new dispensation.

The new members will be declaring their forces to NATO and will join the integrated military structure. They will be participating in all the collective defence planning processes and they will be sending representatives to the North Atlantic Council and the NATO military committee. All three have confirmed that they will be supporting the alliance practice of consensus.

However, with this expansion of NATO, one unique element has been introduced for the first time. I confess that it has caused me a certain degree of concern. I have pointed this out in the Ministry of Defence and in such international circles as I move from time to time. With the adhesion of Hungary to the alliance, for the first time NATO has acquired a member which is both landlocked and has a territory wholly surrounded by non-NATO members. This is quite unlike the situation we had with the adhesion of Greece and Turkey. While neither of them had NATO countries with borders contiguous to their own, they were always accessible by sea or through friendly air space. I have pondered the difficulties that would arise if NATO were required to invoke Article 5 procedures on behalf of Hungary because, as things stand at the moment—I shall be quite frank with your Lordships—it is impossible to reach NATO without transiting either the territory or the air space of neutral countries. However, on a moment's consideration, it seems to me that Hungary's neighbours, certainly to the west, to the north and to the south, are benevolent neutrals and are very unlikely indeed to object to the passage of the forces of NATO powers in an Article 5 situation involving Hungary for the very simple reason that their own security would be involved.

NATO has been the cornerstone of European security. It provides a guarantee of integrated military forces and it is an essential link between Europe and the United States and Canada. There should be absolutely no doubt—I do not think for one moment that there is any doubt—about Her Majesty's Government's continuing commitment to the alliance. Of course we should do nothing that would imperil the future of the alliance. Enlarging it, therefore, requires and has had very careful thought. Since the Madrid summit last year we have made a great deal of progress which enabled me to commend to your Lordships' House the invitation to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to join the alliance. This represents a manageable and limited enlargement involving credible candidates who have reliable democratic institutions and a real ability to contribute to collective security. I do not suppose for one moment that this step represents the end of the expansion of the alliance, which has served us so well. But, for the time being, we are delighted to welcome these new countries as our allies. I commend the Motion to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of NATO's invitation to Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland to join the alliance.—(Lord Gilbert.)

12.16 p.m.

Lord Moynihan

My Lords, the last time we had the opportunity to have a full debate on NATO and the issues of enlargement was over a year ago. It was not long after the historic signing of the founding act on mutual relations, co-operation and security between NATO and the Russian Federation. In that debate there was consensus between the two Front Benches in this House that no issue should have a higher priority in Britain's foreign policy than the future of NATO. From these Benches I should like to reiterate how much we continue to support the cause of NATO enlargement. The Government's continuity of policy towards the extension of the NATO alliance to the east is therefore most welcome. Today, we will have the opportunity to debate the fruits of that policy one year on and to analyse the progress that has been made.

I agree with the Minister that the Madrid summit was a milestone on the road to NATO's fourth expansion, when the alliance's 16 existing members met to decide which of the 12 applicant countries would be invited to begin accession negotiations. That summit brought to a successful conclusion the work begun in Brussels in 1994. I should like to take this opportunity to welcome three of the former Warsaw Pact nations—Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary—who are well en route to full membership of the NATO family of nations. Their admission represents a significant step in the healing of the bitter divisions between eastern Europe and western Europe and a healing of the deep wounds which scarred our continent both physically and mentally. We are privileged to be part of the generation which has witnessed a comparatively recent shift in the political geography of Europe and which has so transformed its landscape.

The enlargement of NATO will enable these countries, who not so very long ago were our potential enemies, to become our firm allies and to share in our security and we in theirs. We welcome the recent ratification of the accession of the three applicant states by the US Senate and we are confident that the ratification process will be successfully concluded.

Half a century after NATO's foundation, its fourth extension provides a timely opportunity to assess and to consolidate. From these Benches, we have a clear vision for the future role for NATO, a future role which requires enlargement. It is not news to your Lordships that it is a real but most regrettable fact that peace in post-Cold War Europe cannot be taken for granted. The history of Europe has left behind many animosities and tensions, particularly in the east. Bosnia and now, increasingly, Kosovo stand as a stark and terrible testament to this fact. Peace keeping and crisis management functions have become increasingly prominent. NATO still has an essential role in maintaining peace and stability with the important question of how far the emphasis has shifted towards the painstaking process of building peace rather than deterring war.

The principle of collective defence lies at the heart of NATO. Article 5 of the Washington treaty makes an attack on one NATO member an attack on them all. All members of NATO enjoy that guarantee, including the three newest prospective members. Likewise, all members must accept the responsibility imposed on them by this solemn guarantee, which includes, if necessary, the use of nuclear weapons. This is why, in the process of enlargement, NATO cannot be a one-way street. New countries must be able to play a full role in all NATO operations. They must increase defence expenditure where necessary; they must bring their armed forces up to the level of NATO armed forces and they must ensure inter-operability.

Enlargement will have an effect on the internal structure of NATO, as the noble Lord made clear. Too many new members admitted in a haphazard way would prove counter-productive, placing a strain on NATO; weakening its military and political cohesion; reducing the credibility of its pledge of continued openness; increasing Russian concerns and diluting its effectiveness in guaranteeing the defence of new members.

Although the prospect of NATO membership acts as an incentive to essential democratic and constitutional reform in central and eastern Europe, there can be no doubt or hesitation in anyone's mind, that NATO is a military alliance and not a political club. On that note I would like the Minister's assurance that the Government accept that NATO's military capability has been the key to its success.

Expansion has to be manageable and credible. New entrants need to be able to contribute to the collective security that NATO membership entails. Membership is about mutual military defence and the efficiency and rapidity of response and military considerations should be at the heart of discussions about NATO expansion. Does the Minister agree with the sentiments expressed in the letter sent to the Prime Minister in May by over 20 distinguished military and diplomatic figures who referred to the, vital need to preserve NATO's ability in the new Europe where, by common consent, potential threats to the peace are diffuse and unpredictable, to make rapid decisions and take quick and effective decisions on what action, if any, to take"? Will she give an assurance that the Government will ensure that NATO retains those characteristics?

From these Benches we believe that NATO expansion must be an evolving and flexible process, which is able to enhance the security of all. There is no reason why this fourth enlargement should be the last. The door must remain open for those willing and able to further NATO's goals as and when they meet the criteria for membership; nor should any country feel left out in the cold. This is a key consideration in the continued drafting of the designs for the architecture of European security.

The Government must make sure that all the security alliances, many of which overlap NATO, are built on and developed so that the plans for the architecture of European security are realised and the old iron barrier between West and East rusts until it is eventually demolished altogether. An enlarged NATO should be one of the foundation cornerstones in a network of security alliances which criss-cross and bind Europe in peace and stability.

At this point I would like to assess the importance in particular of maintaining strong links with other future potential applicants such as Ukraine. It is vital that Ukraine does not become a twilight buffer zone between Russia and a strong, cohesive Western bloc. Mechanisms for co-operation with Ukraine as well as transitional programmes to aid Ukraine with rebuilding democratic institutions, remain critical. Indeed, the challenge of developing a long-term strategy towards countries which have not yet been invited to join NATO will become one of the alliance's foremost priorities—a clear and effective barometer of its priorities and of the success of its leadership in the next century.

The Minister covered the points regarding the Founding Act admirably. On the question of Russia and the future enlargement of NATO, in summing up I shall be grateful if the Minister can go a little further and give an update on the progress of the work of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. As the noble Lord pointed out, the Founding Act is now over a year old. Can the noble Baroness comment on the concerns expressed by the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee and indeed by our own Defence Select Committee, that the Founding Act should not become a means by which Russia could gain a veto over alliance decisions?

The widely predicted Russian backlash against the existing extension of NATO has failed to materialise. Will the Minister give an assurance that the Government will not allow fears of supposed Russian intransigence to be used as a reason to block further NATO expansion into, for example, Slovenia or Romania? In 1997 the Prime Minister said that those countries were strong candidates for any future enlargement".—(Official Report, Commons, 9/7//97: col. 937.] I hope that that is still the view of the Government. Perhaps the Minister can expand a little further on what her noble friend the Minister stated in his opening remarks.

The Minister also very helpfully mentioned the importance of the costs of NATO enlargement. The admission of the three countries will increase the territory within NATO by one-sixth and will increase the borders of NATO by one-third. I would like to press the Government a little further about the costs associated with NATO enlargement since I believe that greater clarity is needed on these costs, both to new entrants and to existing NATO members.

As I am sure the Minister will accept, there has been some dispute over the issue and widely differing estimates have been published, particularly in the United States. The Foreign Secretary told another place that, The UK may have to pay an estimated additional £110 million to NATO's common budgets; that will be spread over a decade".—[Official Report, Commons, 17/7/98; col. 687.] However, the figure of £110 million is called into question by the valuable and comprehensive third report of 1997–98 on NATO enlargement by the Defence Select Committee. As these costs relate directly to the military and strategic factors involved in defending the territory of a new member state, I would like to ask what was the input of the Ministry of Defence into this £110 million projection? Although the Foreign Secretary told another place that America supports the agreed figure of 1.5 billion dollars for NATO enlargement costs, mainstream estimates vary from 1.5 billion dollars up to about 10 billion dollars, with the Defence Select Committee concluding that the likely cost will fall in the middle of that range.

But in 1996 the US Congressional Budget Office estimated a range of costs between 61 billion dollars and 125 billion dollars for expansion over a period of 15 years, while a Pentagon report to Congress in 1997 estimated a total of between 9 billion dollars to 12 billion dollars between 1997 and 2009. Therefore, I shall be grateful if the Minister can help the House further and comment on the enormous disparity between the figure of 1.5 billion dollars, which is less than 1/10th of the Pentagon's estimate, and 1/40th of the CBO's lowest figure.

The implications of that are very important for the United Kingdom. It could be possible that the United Kingdom will pay more than the current estimate for enlargement during the next decade if there is any validity in some of the figures. Perhaps I may ask the Minister whether she has available any information on the position of France on sharing the costs of NATO enlargement, given President Chirac's comments made at the Madrid summit last July.

We have had the opportunity this Session to consider the position of Spain in some detail, not least in relation to NATO. It would be most appropriate, given the rumours of a Foreign Office deal about which we have read in the papers in the past week if, in her reply, the noble Baroness could give a clear statement about the position of NATO and Spain, as she understands it, particularly as a result of the recent negotiations between the Foreign Office and the Spanish Government.

In conclusion, from these Benches we believe that NATO enlargement will achieve two aims. First, it will provide security guarantees for the individual states involved. Secondly, it will enhance the prospect of peace and stability for Europe as a whole. As we approach the 50th anniversary of its foundation, I hope that, as NATO enters a new era and a new century, we are able to celebrate with the admission of three new states, once potential enemies but now firm allies. The Founding Act was a milestone on the road to enlargement. The accession of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland will be the end of the latest stage in this journey. It will be an historic landmark indeed, and I wish the Government success in ensuring that it is reached.

12.30 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, I join others in welcoming the new members of NATO. The Minister started by referring to the Second World War. When I visit the North Bierley Cemetery in Bradford, where my father-in-law and many of his family are buried, I am conscious that the next section of the cemetery is filled with Poles who fought for the British in the Second World War. I am also conscious when I go to Prague that the deputy Minister in the Czech Foreign Ministry, a stripling of 72, was a lieutenant in the Czech Brigade of the British Army in 1944–45. I am happy to be negotiating with someone who knows us so well in that regard. We are welcoming countries which wish to rejoin the West. We look forward to those who will follow them.

I am one of those who at first was sceptical about NATO enlargement. It seemed to me that NATO was, as the Minister suggested, a successful Cold War alliance and that we needed to think very carefully before extending and diluting something which had been successful in order to extend across eastern Europe principles which would potentially create new security frontiers and exclude Russia. To extend the alliance is, unavoidably, to transform the alliance.

However, that argument is long since over. We have, in effect, been committed to enlargement since 1994. The process is now well underway. We must also accept that all the post-socialist states wanted to join NATO, as they have wanted to join the European Union. I am referring not only to the first three, but to the long queue behind them of between 12 and 15 states, stretching as far as the Ukraine and the Caucasus. I have a vivid memory of a conference in Kiev in mid-December 1991—the government had been independent formally for a couple of weeks—at which the Foreign Minister told us that there were two major objectives of Ukrainian foreign policy for the coming two years. The first was to join NATO and the second was to join the European Union. That is the pressure against which we have all been operating. Applicant states see that as part of the process of joining western institutions.

Therefore, we need to discuss, first, the implications for the alliance of this round of enlargement; secondly, how much further we think the alliance ought to expand; thirdly, how the enlargement of NATO links in with the enlargement of other western institutions, above all the European Union—that is to say, to what shape of a future European order we think we are moving in the next 10 to 15 years; and fourthly, what are the implications of this process of enlargement for British defence and foreign policy.

I do not intend to refer to the question of cost. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, dealt with that and I know that my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby will also do so. I tend to agree with the House of Commons Select Committee on Defence that there are costs involved in enlargement, but there are also savings in terms of overall security. Therefore, one should not overestimate the net cost elements.

Those are all central questions for British foreign and defence policy. Last night I read the Secretary of State's introduction to the Strategic Defence Review, in which he stated: NATO will continue as the cornerstone of our defence planning, and we intend to build on our role as a leading European member of the Alliance". One would have thought, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government would wish to focus public debate on the changes in this cornerstone implied by the process of enlargement which is clearly going to continue. In the United States, the administration gave a very clear lead. There was a long process of Senate hearings, followed by a full debate, I note that in Germany the Bundestag had a very full debate, followed by a very decisive vote. I note also that after the Madrid summit the Prime Minister promised the House of Commons a full debate before British ratification. A Friday debate in the House of Commons in mid-July and the last day of the Session in this House is not exactly what I would call a "full debate". I repeat that here we are, without a government statement, and being granted reluctantly only the last day before the Recess for a debate.

I regret that the British Government have been on the whole passive about NATO enlargement, following their predecessor. I understood that our last government were unhappy about enlargement but did not wish to challenge American preferences. I also understand that there was no apparent effort by the last government, nor has there been by this Government, to concert a European approach to enlargement as such.

Like others in my party, I have many worries about the extent to which American policy is driven by different domestic lobbies—first by the Poles and later by the Balts; and by the confusions and contradictions both in the Senate and in the American press about burden-sharing and about how the balance of the US/European relationship in an extending NATO should develop. I know that Senator Helms and others are alleging that the Europeans are using NATO enlargement as an excuse to put off enlargement of the European Union. That suggests clearly that whether we like it or not, NATO and EU enlargement are closely linked.

What are the implications for the alliance of this round of enlargement? The assumption in Washington and for many people in the NATO Secretariat in Brussels is that NATO can enlarge without changing its character functions. I understood the Minister to say that we need to maintain NATO as an alliance and not allow it to move towards being a European security organisation. However, NATO is already changing and it is likely to change a great deal further. The most visible physical evidence at the moment is that NATO's buildings are simply too small for it now. We are talking about moving the NATO Secretariat because the number of permanent missions, new members and partners is causing the place to bulge at the seams.

We have a new strategic concept under negotiation. I wish that that was a matter for more consultation between the Government and this House. It is not yet clear how the negotiation of that new strategic concept links in to enlargement.

I suggest that there are two alternative images of NATO below the surface. There is what one might call the geo-political, largely American, perspective, set out by people such as Professor Brzezinski and others, that NATO must be maintained, as the vehicle for projecting US power across Eurasia", in combination with the Europeans as junior partners—that is to say, the Europeans will remain junior partners in an American-led enterprise. People like Professor Brzezinski and others have also said in various articles that it is useful that the Europeans remain not too closely united because that ensures that, in a successful alliance, what the Americans say continues to lead us.

American assumptions about western security interests in what they now call the "greater Middle East", by which they include central Asia, the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, are no longer always the same as those of Europeans. An alliance without an enemy is unavoidably a different alliance from an alliance which existed to maintain western solidarity against a clear and present danger.

The alternative, the underlying European perspective, is that NATO evolves into a Europe-wide security organisation, focusing primarily although not exclusively on the European region. It would be, if you like, an effective OSCE with an integrated military structure. That seems to me a not ignoble aim. Indeed, it seems quite a useful aim. We integrate the countries between Germany and Russia. We expand security over them. We retrain their forces. That is perhaps a central part of the new NATO function.

The differences between the two in part depend on how effective the European identity within the alliance becomes as the number of European members grows. It also depends a great deal on how relations with Russia under the NATO-Russia Founding Act and with the Ukraine develop. It is not in Britain's interests to allow NATO enlargement or the alliance as a whole to be driven by the changing imperatives of American domestic politics. We should be developing and setting out publicly our own approach both to a domestic audience and to our allies in Europe and across the Atlantic.

The Minister referred to consensus. It is never necessary to take a vote in NATO. It is an open secret that the majority of NATO members were in favour of enlargement to include five members on this occasion, of whom two were Romania and Slovenia, which would have solved the problem of Hungary as a land-locked state not having access. But the Americans said firmly and conclusively that they did not think they could get more than three through the Senate. Therefore on this occasion "consensus" meant a minority ruling the roost. NATO will not develop into a toothless security organisation as the Minister suggested so long as it has an effective European pillar.

How much further should the alliance expand? The US Senate passed effectively a resolution suggesting that there should be a pause before further expansion. That seems to me to be a mistake. We must maintain the momentum at least to include Romania and Slovenia next time round. There are much larger questions over the Baltic states. To discuss the question of when and if the Baltic states come into NATO is necessarily to discuss Baltic and European security as a whole and how Sweden and Finland see their relations with NATO.

On Monday I spoke to a visiting Swedish expert on security. He told me that Sweden's current assessment was that there was no serious Russian threat to the Baltic states; that the maximum numbers of troops that the Russians could currently assemble in a crisis in the Baltic states was one weak division and that the Swedes themselves could manage it. That is perhaps a rather optimistic assumption based on an assessment of the Russian armed forces as being astonishingly weak. But the question of how to handle the Baltic question is one that we must discuss much more openly.

We on these Benches believe that in time NATO should expand to take in all of the countries between Germany and Russia and Austria and Greece, extending security over that area and, perhaps in the long term, including Russia itself. We must see how the NATO-Russia partnership develops, but we need active engagement in defence diplomacy and training in which the Ministry of Defence is already very well engaged. That also requires us to think how NATO enlargement links in with EU enlargement; that is, what kind of European order we believe we are moving towards. The NATO enlargement study of 1995 included the statement that ideally in the long term European membership of NATO and the EU should become identical. That is a very long-term objective, but we are all talking about how to incorporate the small weak countries in eastern, north eastern and south eastern Europe and prevent the spread of disorder in what is historically a disordered region.

Europe in 2010—a subject that I understand the Government now have under discussion—will see a European Union of 400 million people in perhaps 25 to 27 member states, with the world's second reserve currency; a GDP substantially larger than that of the United States; a long eastern frontier with Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine and the Black Sea; the United States, it is hoped, still committed in security terms, but most likely with fewer troops on the ground in central Europe than today; and with a much stronger emphasis on the Mediterranean and eastern Mediterranean. Therefore, it will be a European Union which must have a stronger foreign and defence policy component—a stronger European pillar. There is nothing new about the European pillar. After all, the idea was first floated by President Kennedy in his Declaration of Independence speech of 4th July 1962. I am just old enough to remember it.

Lastly, what are the implications of this process for British defence and foreign policy, which I hope the noble Baroness the Minister will tell us more about in replying to the debate? The previous government were deeply inhibited about talking publicly about closer European defence co-operation. Many of us are surprised and so far disappointed by the inertia of policy in the first 15 months of this Government. We have not seen a readjustment of policy towards a European security defence identity or their predecessor's insistence that WEU must be kept separate from the EU and therefore an acceptance that change in the structure of NATO and the EU requires us also to change attitude. There is much duplication in Brussels. WEU also has its partners. Many meetings take place. Therefore we believe that rationalisation between an expanded NATO, WEU and EU, which is now developing a common foreign and security policy, is highly desirable.

I hope that the Minister will clarify the approach of Her Majesty's Government and how the position on NATO enlargement fits in with an overall British European policy.

12.46 p.m.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to take part in this important debate, although perhaps I would have welcomed it more had it occurred earlier in the Session.

We have heard that the first step in this process of enlargement was at the Madrid Summit in July 1997 when the decision was taken to invite Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to join the Alliance. The important point about that decision was that the process leading up to it had already begun to expose some fault lines and potentially serious weaknesses in the Alliance. In my view they have not gone away.

There are and always have been strongly held arguments on both sides about the wisdom of enlargement. There have been differences within the West—the United States and Europe—and between the United States and Europe. Within the West weighty figures in the US like Senator Nunn, George Kennan and Henry Kissinger and in the UK the noble Lord, Lord Healey, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and, outside Parliament, Sir John Killick, a distinguished former ambassador to the Soviet Union, have expressed strong reservations about the wisdom of enlargement. These are not voices to be ignored. Nor should the voice of the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, be ignored. He expressed some of these preoccupations and reservations when he was in another place. Many of these reservations referred to and were concerned with the perceptions of Russia. The noble Lord, Lord Healey, went as far as to say in this House that politically the inclusion of Czechs, Poles and Hungarians would create a new Iron Curtain. That was a very sinister remark. But there were also differences between this country and Europe and between the United States and Europe. I recall that at the Madrid Conference the United States' preference for an enlargement of only three countries at that stage was to a very large extent supported by the United Kingdom Government, but other European countries like France, Spain, Germany and Portugal wanted to see further enlargement. In that context the two countries mainly quoted were Romania and Slovenia. As it turned out, those countries were not included.

There were also strong arguments in favour of enlargement, although they were not always heard as loudly as the voices against. Many of the arguments for that enlargement have already been rehearsed in your Lordships' House today. Reference was made to the importance of choice by the liberated nations. Why should we deny them the right to join NATO if that is what they want to do having been liberated from the Soviet empire?

It was important that there should be no Russian veto on decisions about the future of the Western Alliance—the future of NATO. It was also argued—I think with some force—that enlargement would strengthen NATO. That argument was put forward again today by, among others, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. We have heard also the other argument that it would complement the process of the European Union enlargement.

All those arguments were rehearsed in the period leading up to and the period after Madrid. Speaking for myself—speaking from these Benches I can speak for no one else but myself—I believe that the arguments always were, on balance, in favour of enlarging the alliance in the way in which we have started to enlarge it. In any case, those invitations have now been issued. I suspect and believe that at the summit meeting in Washington, which will probably be in April of next year—NATO's 50th anniversary—the admission of those three countries will be one of the main items on the agenda.

As I say, I welcome that development for a number of reasons, to some of which I have already alluded, and others of which were rehearsed by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. I shall not go over them again. However, in welcoming the development of enlargement, I have a number of questions for Her Majesty's Government. I ask the Minister whether she can address them in her closing speech at some other time.

My first question is a simple one which may be easy to answer. Is there to be the immediate admission of those three countries or will it depend upon ratification by all the parliaments of all existing 16 member nations? What progress is being made on that ratification, if admission depends upon it? I should like to press the Government also, as others have done, a little on the question of cost. The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, gave what he said was an agreed estimate of the cost, but there have been many such estimates. I recall one vividly. It was a Pentagon study which said that it would cost $35 billion over 13 years.

I should like to examine a little how the current estimate accords with that, and how all the other estimates, which have covered a wide range indeed, have been resolved. What is perhaps more important than the actual cost is how it is going to be met. We have had nothing clear about that up to now. The US Defense Secretary once said—I think that it was last year; it was certainly recently—that although the cost of integration resulting from enlargement would be met by all members of the alliance, including the new ones, the cost of modernisation of the armies and resources of the new nations would have to be met by them alone. Is that still envisaged? Is that still the policy of Her Majesty's Government?

It has already been asked, but I should like to repeat the question: what is the Government's attitude to further enlargement; to further new entrants? We have heard mentioned—the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked this question in some detail—Romania, Slovenia, Estonia, Bulgaria and the Ukraine. What is the Government's attitude to further enlargement?

I should like to identify one of those countries as being at least as well qualified for joining the alliance as the three that have at present been invited; that is, Romania. Romania seems to me to fulfil all the requirements for membership. It is second in size only to Poland among the new entrants; it has a substantial army which would contribute considerably to NATO's military strength; its army is under civilian control. There is also a negative point to be made, which is that the internal situation in Romania might deteriorate considerably if an invitation to it to join is delayed much further.

I have many other questions, but the most important might be one which has already been put by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire: what is the role of this enlarged NATO? That was not addressed at the Madrid Summit. There were great arguments about enlargement, but no one seemed to address their minds as to what it was going to be for. That is a question that needs to be addressed urgently. Is it to continue to be a defence organisation—a pure military alliance? Here, as the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, said, we must bear in mind above all else in the Atlantic Treaty the issue of Article 5.

Article 5 of course, as noble Lords will be aware, is the one which calls upon all to recognise that an attack upon one member of NATO is an attack upon them all, and will bring a commensurate response. Is then the enlarged NATO to be a purely military defensive alliance, with all that implies or is it to become, as we have heard suggested, some kind of political directorate, some form of UN agency, or some kind of broad, collective security organisation? It has even been suggested that it might turn itself into a peacekeeping organisation. If there is anyone still in favour of that idea I should merely like to point out that to become a peacekeeping organisation it would have first to be a very effective military organisation. If you are going to keep the peace, you have to know how to make war before you can do it properly.

In my view, for what that is worth, the collective defence, the military mission, remains absolutely vital. NATO is a military organisation. I believe that it should remain so. I believe that all decisions made about NATO should be made largely upon a military basis and within military parameters.

Although it is a problem, I do not believe enlargement is the major problem for NATO. As the strategic defence review said—the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, confirmed it today—NATO continues as the cornerstone of our defence planning. Well, if that is true, NATO will need a great deal of attention. It will need attention to its command structure, which will necessarily change with enlargement; its rapid reaction forces are not all that could be desired; its arrangements for crisis management are somewhat dubious; there is a grave interoperability gap between countries, especially between the US and the European countries; there is a large American lead in electronic battlefield techniques, and that gap is only slowly being closed by the European countries. All those issues will need to be addressed if NATO is to remain the cornerstone of our military and defence planning, as I hope that it will be.

Above all—my fears about this have been strengthened by some of what I have heard today—it is essential that whatever happens in enlargement and the reorganisation of NATO, it should strengthen and not weaken our transatlantic link. In the plans and ideas that some people have on NATO there is a great danger that the gap which already exists to some extent between us and North America will widen.

Perhaps I may sum up my major question to the Minister. Are the Government sure, and can they assure the House, that the new, enlarged NATO will not only be bigger but will be better equipped to face the challenges of the post-Cold War world?

1 p.m.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, at last we come round to the fuller discussion of NATO enlargement—too late to be any use in the context of admitting the Poles, Hungarians and Czechs. Proper discussion throughout European NATO might well have led to a pause for thought about this first expansion. But better late than never, and we must even now do what we can to look further ahead. Indeed, we are beginning to do so in this very debate—that is, if we can find the long-unused focal length.

The question is not only who joins NATO but also, and probably more important, what NATO is to be from now on, what our own role in it is to be from now on, and how that fits with the European Union. Only yesterday in a Written Answer, my noble friend Lord Gilbert was using the familiar mantra that the Strategic Defence Review reaffirmed that NATO is the foundation of the security of Europe and of the United Kingdom, and will continue as the cornerstone of our defence planning. The transatlantic link remains fundamental to the alliance. Fine. But one or two questions are left.

The two enlargements, the European Union and NATO, coincide in time and place, and it has always been impractical to work on them separately, as has been attempted from time to time. When we are in the Monetary Union, the European Union will be one of the world's most powerful and political economic groupings, as has already been pointed out in this debate. We cannot usefully operate from it unless we attend to all its interests and relationships. That means first and foremost considering the future structure and logic of the Union's foreign and security policy. I agree with other noble Lords who have already emphasised that. We can no longer leave our own contribution flapping in the wind, bowing sometimes across the Atlantic to the Administration or to the currently more powerful Congress, and sometimes edgily advancing a claim to "a leadership role" in our own continent, or a "bridging" role between this continent and another.

Nor can we continue to turn a resolute blind eye to the ever more obvious signs of triumphalist and fantasticating hegemonism in Washington. I have on occasion—so far without much success, I fear—tried to draw Ministers' attention to what has been happening to US foreign and defence policy: what some of the ambitions today are in the military field. They are explicitly global and cover land, sea, air and space. The slogan into which the fantasy is gathered at present is Full Spectrum Dominance 2020, and it is indeed hugely fantastical. However, it is also a dangerous fantasy that we may not ignore, because it is being very seriously funded.

What in fact do we, the current European members of NATO, want for NATO? And what does the United States want for NATO? Unfortunately, that is not the same thing. What each wants is fast becoming incompatible with the other. Senator Helms, who today controls American foreign policy, is explicitly and contemptuously opposed to the European Union having any role outside the social and economic, while within NATO the United States exercises total "leadership"; and that's that.

The fact is that this new climate does not seem to have got through to our Government. I say "seem" because it is always possible that in private they worry about it just as people outside do. My hope is that after their recent experience in the International Criminal Court negotiations, the Government may at last start recognising the issues at stake a little more openly.

Of course it has a historical origin, this Labour Party inability to open one's mouth. During the 1980s and 1990s defence was a subject the party judged it unsafe to talk about because of CND during the 1960s and 1970s. Thus the manifesto on which we won the election last year promised no more than a foreign policy led Strategic Defence Review. Beyond that we would simply do what the Conservatives had done, believe what the Conservatives had believed, and support our defence industries as the Conservatives had supported them, but without the corruption. Above all, we would be loyal to our great ally the United States. Like that we could not go wrong. We also said we would support the United Nations more effectively than the Tories had done, and we hoped to conduct an ethical foreign policy.

But our loyalty has remained regardless of whatever with the passage of time, the United States might militarily have become, and what its intentions might be for NATO. None of this was examined in the Strategic Defence Review. An unexamined NATO was the bedrock of the foreign policy which was to lead the Strategic Defence Review, and thus the bedrock of the Strategic Defence Review itself.

For winning the election that approach was all right. But the outside world is changing at its usual inconvenient speed, events keep interrupting intentions, the next election is still some way off, and I for one am convinced that now would be the right time to resume an audible conversation on international security policy, including discussion of our relations with the United States, and theirs with the rest of NATO and the rest of the world, above all with the United Nations.

Perhaps this could be made easier by the new awareness in the US of its own vulnerabilities: to what it calls "asymmetrical" warfare; to the possibility of an "electronic Pearl Harbour"—an unforeseeable attack on the whole of its computer-dependent infrastructure. I am glad that we have now been talking to them about this, although only since last month—too late for the defence review, although I have been warning MoD about this for two or three years.

The answer to my Unstarred Question last month about the conditions the US Senate has attached to its approval of NATO enlargement was that the conditions are simply an internal matter for the USA. But I truly fear that that is a mistake. Those conditions, which are legally binding on the US Administration, change the structure and arrangements within the NATO leadership in a long term way. There is no time to go into it now, but it is obvious to anyone who reads the rather difficult and scattered texts attentively.

There are plenty of people at the top of the US system who think the US itself should not be subject to the international rule of law. This "exceptionalism" is clearly not what the American people want, but sadly they are giving up voting. President Clinton has never quite accepted it either, nor has he looked the part. But when he could, he appointed a Republican to be his Secretary of Defense thus to avoid the difficulties he had encountered over gays in the armed forces, over his own history of opposition to the Vietnam war, and so on. In terms of a quieter life for him personally, it has been successful. But it gives the rest of the world difficult moments.

When Mr. Clinton wanted to lead the world in getting rid of anti-personnel landmines, Mr. Cohen said no. The president would like the US to pay its dues to the United Nations; the Republican Congress says no. Mr. Clinton and Mrs. Albright told Mr. Netanyahu he should keep Israel's word over Oslo, and "land for peace", but 84 senators wrote to Mr. Clinton saying, no pressure on Israel.

We must note, too, what Mr Clinton has wanted in Korea: Congress will not release money for heavy oil for North Korea—part of the KEDO deal—and whenever things there look promisingly peaceable, Mr. Cohen mounts a nuclear-capable exercise, we go back to square one, and enmity takes over again. This happens under what is in theory a United Nations command.

As for the US rejection of the International Criminal Court, I have recently sent Ministers' undenied and long-suspected reports of the mass of covert US military activities that the Pentagon has been privately funding and carrying on all over the world, many unlawful, many in despite of Congress, with parties most of us would not touch with a bargepole. Some of those parties are studying at some of our own universities, I regret to say. These are indeed the US personnel—training torturers and so on—who would be at risk from an independent International Criminal Court.

Ministers will have noted that Senator Helms is insisting that the Administration should not only not join the court but that it should actively oppose it in all ways possible—presumably by strong-arming those poorer governments whose presence at Rome we so rightly helped finance. Just how the Administration will react remains to be seen—probably obediently because Congress holds all the purse strings.

We also need to notice that Congress is increasingly acting as its funders, the lobbies, require: the defence industry lobby; the medical and pharmaceutical lobbies; the American-Israel lobby; even the Polish lobby. The defence industry lobby has spent tens of millions of dollars promoting NATO enlargement, some of it in the US and some in eastern Europe. Frankly, I have been astonished to see Ministers deny that this kind of lobbying has been going on. The Foreign Secretary is right to want better briefing for himself and his team.

These very days, the Romanian Finance Minister is standing out against taking out a 2 billion dollar international loan to finance a quite unaffordable 1.5 billion dollar "contract" some US helicopter firm talked some previous minister into as being likely to ease Romania's entry to NATO. And Polish officials have been advised to buy Israeli equipment because the US Senate would like that.

The Prime Minister, reporting back in June last year on his discussions with President Clinton in Denver, said, We emphasised the importance of not wasting money on unproductive, especially military, expenditure". How right he was!

In the Commons debate two weeks ago, there was virtually no mention of the new NATO's strategic concept that is being negotiated now and will control NATO for the next bit of time. Nor has there been mention in our debate today. I would like to think that it would include a short and clear statement of why NATO now exists—remembering that it was set up the day before the Warsaw Pact, not the day after. The threat it was set up to consider—that of Stalinist Russia as shown at Berlin and in Prague—no longer exists. The usual vague generalisations about terrorism, drug running and money laundering would hardly justify the deployment of a single military unit, as opposed to a police unit, let alone of what is by far the most powerful and far-flung peacetime military alliance in human history. Units ready for international police action under the UN are another matter. But the relevant document there is not the North Atlantic Treaty; it is the Charter of the United Nations.

Meanwhile, NATO partnership-for-peace exercises and exercises-in-the-spirit-of-partnership-for-peace seem to be happening all over the place, often at US expense, and have nothing to do with anything peaceful; rather to do with the establishment of US military and economic influence—as in Central Asia and the new Caspian oil province. Last year, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told us that 23 genuine partnership-for-peace exercises were planned and 20 of the US-funded kind. And when they are not at US expense: well, let us listen to the head of the Polish National Security Bureau who said, just a few weeks ago, that, the outlays which we bore in being a participant in partnership-for-peace were many times greater than those that were announced", and that is why Poland made no offer to participate in any Kosovo business.

In conclusion, I turn to the all-important question of the later expansion of NATO. Where do we stop? It is clear enough that the US does not intend to stop after the next three: the North Atlantic Assembly, under US leadership, holds seminar after seminar in the Ukraine, and one in Macedonia, and arranges visits to Baku. The Chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, addressing its last full meeting, urged that there be joint intelligence operations, including both existing and new members of NATO, into countries right around the world to the Pacific Rim, and that the intelligence obtained, including commercial intelligence, should be shared among all NATO members, both old and new. No doubt the governments of countries from Iran to Japan and back are glad of the advance warning.

There is no doubt that the US wants the Baltic states to join NATO. The latest of an annual series of military exercises in the Baltic area has recently been carried out, known as Baltic Challenge, in which, according to the "anti-NATO group" in the Russian Duma, 700 troops took part in 1996; 3,000 in 1997; and 5,000 in 1998. No Russians, of course. Forty per cent. of the personnel were American, and the rest, apart from a symbolic Norwegian contribution, were from the Baltic States.

I was relieved to see that this country did not take part, and even more relieved to hear the Lithuanians say that it was going to be the last such exercise under that name. But why was the exercise conducted under NATO auspices at all?

So where, in the Government's view, should NATO enlargement stop? They may remember the little ditty Mrs. Albright sang to Mr. Primakov, in her Ethel Merman voice, in Malaysia on 30th July last year:

  • "Don't cry for me Yevgeni
  • The truth is NATO enlargement
  • Is not directed
  • At mother Russia
  • Its only meant to
  • Keep Boris up nights
  • So hello Warsaw
  • Next stop Mongolia".
All right, so it was after dinner. But does it raise a serious question? I think so. Where do we stop? Before Bulgaria? After Bulgaria but before Azerbaijan? After Azerbaijan but before Kazakhstan? After that but before Pakistan? After that but before Malaysia? After that but before Indonesia? Where?

It is impossible for us in our moderate and realistic old country to answer any of these idiotic questions. But the fact remains that they have to be answered because no-one has a right to propose any further enlargement unless and until he is ready to say where enlargement should stop. To claim such a right is to claim that NATO should first trespass on the function of the United Nations, as indeed it is already beginning to do, and should then, still under US leadership, completely usurp it.

The Legg-Ibbs Report on the Sierra Leone business was about a quite insignificant affair in global terms, I agree. But the findings and lessons could apply to the whole Foreign Office culture, which assumes outsiders to be wrong, uninformed and "unhelpful". I think that Ministers do have to be more exacting towards their officials and that there have to be more officials. You cannot keep on reducing the size of your Diplomatic Service and expect it to remain informed and alert. At present, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office seems only to know what it used to know; only to be looking at the world as it used to be, not as it is; and still less at what it is becoming. To do better, it will have to be allowed to restore the staff cuts of recent years.

1.16 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, to my astonishment, I find that I seem to live in a different world from the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and not for the first time. I had thought that NATO was set up as a result of the seizure of Poland, the Berlin airlift and the seizure of Czechoslovakia. I do not believe that it was related to the Warsaw Pact; the Warsaw Pact was another issue. Furthermore, I had always supposed that the Americans were our friends and allies. I still suppose that. But I am glad to say that I can agree with the noble Lord on one point. I absolutely agree that the Legg Report shows that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office needs more staff—many more staff.

I have my historical contribution to make, too. I worked with Poles and Czechs during the war and I am more than delighted to be welcoming them into NATO. I must welcome the Hungarians, too, but in my book at that time they were not our friends. Life has changed since then.

I recognise, too, that defence diplomacy—the change from a culture of threat to one of risk—is itself an important contribution to the reduction of tension in Europe and to future stability. In an earlier debate, which I believe was due to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, we discussed the financial costs of enlargement. I will not revert to that, except to say, especially in the light of the Minister's speech, that I was particularly pleased to have the Secretary of State put it into perspective in his testimony to the Defence Committee earlier this year. He said that the cost to the UK of the entry of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic would be £110 million spread over 10 years or, put another way, a quarter of a Eurofighter each year.

However, I was slightly less reassured to learn that the costs on the NATO members, including enlargement, would be borne by two spending departments which are already under constant budgetary pressure, the military and infrastructure budgets being an MoD responsibility and the civil budget that of the FCO.

However, money is only one cost, however important. What concerns me far more are two other costs: the first is skilled manpower; the second is the hidden political cost of the Founding Act which was, in a sense, the initial price we had to pay for enlargement.

I take first the issue of manpower. I did not know whether to be impressed or alarmed (on balance, I think the latter) by the immense list of tasks the MoD—10 closely-typed pages in the Defence Committee Report—has undertaken as part of the outreach programme and our bilateral defence programmes. Those seem to range from helping the Poles, Czechs and Hungarians with standardisation and codification, cartography and defence management right up to opening a dialogue on military medical issues with the Russians. I find that rather ironic since our own defence medical services have almost vanished and may never return to their former strength, despite a wise move by the Government to put in more money at long last.

I do not know where, in all that immense programme of technical aid and assistance, the millennium bug and the problems of digitalisation fit in. I am sure that the MoD is fully prepared within the British Armed Forces for that and for all the other infrastructure problems relating to our highly computerised machine of war, including interoperability with the Americans. But is NATO? Will the blind be leading the blind when NATO must work with, for example, the Poles on those issues? How many of our Portuguese, Greek or Turkish allies have worked on that in their own armed forces let alone as part of the NATO infrastructure? I have a nasty feeling that we shall be called on, just as we are the framework nation in ARRC, contributing 60 per cent. of the manpower, to do the lion's share of the work. Can we afford the skilled men and women for that?

We have all too often agonised about overstretch and its consequences for the Armed Forces. The Legg Report has confirmed the existence of an equally dangerous shortage of staff and pressure of work at the FCO. Who decides the priorities between the ever-increasing demands of defence diplomacy, valuable as it is, and all the other tasks—military and political—which our overworked soldiers and diplomats are expected to perform? I hope that when we come to the formal ratification of enlargement next year the cost in skilled manpower which very few of the other 16 NATO members can provide will be clearly recognised by our Government and they will understand that investment in people, of which we hear so much, will include giving the MoD and the FCO more money to cover the necessary manpower and resources for the new tasks.

As the Secretary of State said, the direct military threat has been replaced by, a variety of security risks which are multi-faceted and multi-directional and that makes for a much more complicated life for NATO planners". The outreach exercise may greatly lessen the chances of going to war in Europe but there remain larger threats and long-term threats of arms proliferation, biological and chemical warfare which are no respecters of boundaries. Perhaps one of the greatest threats to the efficiency of NATO in any crisis is precisely its size. It works by consensus. But consensus between 19 countries must surely be that much harder to achieve, especially when some of them have been wholly unused to such a procedure.

My last point concerns the relationship between enlargement, the Founding Act and the establishment of the Permanent Joint Council which brings Russia into a special relationship with NATO. The Russians have been very successful in persuading us that they regard enlargement as an unacceptable threat which could have disastrous domestic consequences within Russia because, it is said, it would feel encircled. The Russians have used that threat very successfully to secure a number of advantages, not least that of being invited within the walls. Incidentally, I was interested to read the Secretary of State's evidence that at a meeting of the Permanent Joint Council, the Russians, raised some things which we thought they should not be raising". They received a robust reply, but will that always be so? They have certainly used enlargement and the threat to oppose it to try to secure more and more concessions on the CFE treaty.

What have we gained? The Russians have it in their power to exert real and effective influence on President Milosevic over Kosovo. They have said all the right things to him publicly but nothing has happened except that Mr. Primakov has said, equally publicly, that Russia will never tolerate any military intervention. Therefore, one wonders what are the plans of which the NATO Secretary-General spoke today on the radio. The Russians will stall and help Milosevic to stall, as Valeri Churkin did with the contact group on Bosnia, greatly helped by having knowledge of all our reservations and doubts, until the Kosovo problem has been resolved in the usual Serb fashion.

I suggest that when Russia acts helpfully it is only to support her bilateral relationships with the US. An example is her virtuous decision to send home the Iranian Sanam students, already trained in the nuclear missile field, and to rebuke some firms for selling the wrong technology to Iran after the horse has bolted.

It is necessary to recognise that having Russia virtually inside NATO may have advantages, but it should not be allowed either to affect enlargement or the CFE treaty or any of her other international obligations. An example is the destruction of the 40 tonnes of chemical weapons in Russia. We are now told that the Russians cannot meet their commitment to destroy those weapons for 10 years because of lack of funds. We do not hear what they have done with the biological weapons which they continued to make and sell illegally. However, they can afford to make, and of course sell—where is non-proliferation in all this?—the X35 anti-ship missile to the Indians, Algerians and Vietnamese; Arzamas-16 continues to work on new nuclear weapons; the new S37 Berkut aircraft is having its test flights and, as the designer said: Foreign designers did not expect that in the difficult times Russia is going through it could build a completely new aircraft". It can, because Russia has not changed in giving defence a high priority. We need to assess her position clearly so that her constantly reiterated opposition to enlargement is seen not as a genuine anxiety which we should do well to heed but as a most effective ploy to manipulate us.

Let us consider the defence position. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, rightly said that her armed forces in terms of the army are not in a particularly strong position. However, that is not true of the navy or the strategic forces. Her defence strategy depends now not on land forces but on her navy and on her strategic rocketry. Ten nuclear submarines have been commissioned. She already has two and she has 26 strategic submarine cruisers and even with a planned reduction in the nuclear arsenal, the navy is planned to have 800 to 900 warheads out of 2,000. A new generation of ground-target destroyers is also planned. The strategic thrust of Russian defence is now naval and that, of course, also opens new doors, especially in Asia, beginning with the first joint Japanese-Russian naval exercise. Her extensive programme of arms sales opens doors too.

Although the Russians will lose no opportunity to make dark predictions about the impact of enlargement on stability in Russia and, indeed, in Europe, it is worth remembering that Russia has in fact perfectly good working relationships with Poland and with the others. As the Polish Minister of National Defence told the Defence Committee, Russia is Poland's second trading partner and their relations are quite good. He even thought—of course he would, but there is merit in it—that relations would get even better once enlargement is a fact. Mr. Primakov said earlier this month that relations with Poland were not bad and he would not look at them exclusively in relation to Poland's efforts to join NATO. Mr. Primakov is quite an authoritative source on Russian views.

So let us remember that Russia is pragmatic; that she thinks strategically; and that she has a simple aim—to transform NATO into yet another political animal in the European zoo. As the defence minister said this month, NATO's transformation into a politico-military organisation is a requirement of the times. He wants to see a transformed NATO, which could take its place under OSCE auspices. That gives us a flavour of how the Russians want to see NATO. The Russians want to emasculate NATO's will and power to deter. That is a perfectly respectable objective on their part; I merely ask that we should recognise it.

The credibility of a NATO deterrent is a powerful element of peacekeeping and we should never allow Russia to use the Founding Act to make us feel guilty. We should apply La Fontaine's dictum to NATO:

"Cet animal est trés mechant. Quand on l' attaque il se défend".

1.30 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, the noble Baroness has done the House a service by reminding us that NATO was formed in response to Russian involvement in Czechoslovakia, in Poland and in the Berlin airlift. It was also established because a very real threat was perceived. Indeed, we tend to forget that, in the early 1950s, there was a very real suspicion that serious conflict was imminent.

So, at that time, NATO looked forward and, indeed, it needs to do so today. That is why I welcome the invitation to the three new member states. However, that invitation also comes at a time when we should be looking very carefully at what the future is for NATO and the alliance. A number of noble Lords have made extremely weighty contributions in referring to those aspects. For example, are we to be dependent entirely upon the American umbrella on a permanent basis? Is Europe to have the capacity to contribute properly to the peacekeeping role which may become increasingly important? The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, suggested that the alliance did not have an enemy. But will, one day, its enemy be want, tyranny and aggression? Will its main purpose one day be seen as the executive arm of international authority in ensuring stability and decency on our planet?

In the immediate context, four particular problems need to be considered. First, how seriously are we viewing the disappointment felt by those former Warsaw Pact states which have been rejected for NATO membership? Secondly, do we seriously imagine that those disappointed states will be satisfied by the Partnership for Peace involvement with the Western European Union? Thirdly, there are the serious questions which the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, touched upon—namely, the question of inter-operability and the contribution which the new member states will make. The noble Lord offered some very wide-ranging financial estimates of the cost of that involvement.

I do not know where one would start making such estimates when one considers that the new member state, Poland, will need to replace virtually every single combat aircraft within the next five years. The Poles cannot possibly pay for that themselves, and that is just one example. However, they can make a contribution. Those who have had any contact with, or who have read the views of, those members of the British forces who have been involved in training and exercises with our Polish allies, our Hungarian allies or, indeed, our Czech allies, are well aware of the enthusiasm and dedication of their services. But they may also be well aware that it is not only the Polish air force which needs vast material provision.

The fourth question, already touched upon, is nonetheless extremely serious. I refer to the effect on Russia. I know that not long ago President Clinton dangled the prospect of NATO membership in that respect. But if, while that prospect is dangling, Russia is excluded completely from markets which it regarded as almost domestic for many years, will there not be other dangers?

I had the privilege—if that is the right word—of following Mr. Zhiranovski in debates in Europe on three or four occasions. I certainly described him on one occasion as a clown. But there are more subtle and more seriously dangerous people within the ranks of nationalism in Russia. Do we seriously expect Russia to co-operate with us in every particular if we offer it no economic advancement or safeguard whatever? That is a question which urgently needs to be addressed. After all, the Russians produce very good aircraft. But the company which makes MiGs did not export a single one last year. However, Sukhoi, which produces the S27, an extremely formidable aircraft, fared a little better. If all the aircraft, all the armour and all the ordnance in eastern Europe is to be supplied from the West and Russia denied that market, how can we expect Russia to act in a responsible way in international defence trading?

I served for many years on the Western European Union. I believe that it has a capacity to make a most important contribution to European affairs. Indeed, I do not believe that an intelligent security route can be followed by Europe as a whole within the next decade or so unless the WEU is involved. However, one does need to see—and I am sure that we shall see it from the present administration—a much more intelligent and responsible view from the Council of Ministers. I believe that the British Government, although they had far less to hide than their partners, allowed myth, legend and fiction to dominate too much of Europe's defence posture over the past 20 years. Indeed, we saw the tragedy of that in Bosnia and we may yet see it in Kosovo. Europe really must consider its role in the alliance.

I believe that the Council of Ministers in the WEU must act more responsibly. It is all right for its members to gather together every few years to issue a high-sounding declaration like that from Lisbon or more recently from Ostend. Such declarations are rich in rhetoric but very short in terms of providing capacity or of being able to fulfil commitment. Yet the alternative—the EU—does not seem particularly attractive. The neutral component in the EU has been ignored to an excessive extent. The fact that the EU may well have enough on its political plate to occupy it for at least another decade should also not be assumed.

It has been entirely unwise and unreasonable for Europe to rely on the American umbrella while pretending to be powerful itself. I illustrate that by making reference to one other experience. In 1993 I was appointed rapporteur to examine the capabilities and state of readiness of western European air forces. The principal conclusion reached by the assembly unanimously was that there should be a follow-up report. Although I had announced my intention to retire from the House of Commons, I was asked to initiate that report. However, the Council of Ministers flatly refused to provide any information at all on the grounds of confidentiality. I could understand some of the members wanting to keep the condition of their air forces confidential, but it was rather sad that France and the United Kingdom Government appeared to go along that route of furtive secrecy. All the information one needs is available from national parliamentary records or in the documents of the IISS anyway.

We should not deliberately cover up weaknesses. Indeed, in doing so, we do not do ourselves or anyone else a service. I trust that we will see a more responsible attitude to the Western European Union from our own country, and especially from the other member states over the next few years. Our concern must be to see the establishment of an intelligent pillar in Europe. We have to decide whether that pillar will be a narrow one which can sustain only a small roof or whether it should be a more robust one which provides a much more comprehensive base. But in building pillars one may well find oneself looking entirely upwards when we need to look at the ground. With his long experience in defence, my noble friend the Minister will be well aware of the fact that we cannot construct an adequate security arrangement in Europe unless we have the industrial, the economic and the military capabilities to sustain it.

1.39 p.m.

Baroness Ludford

My Lords, I, too, am grateful that we are having this debate at all, but it is only to take note of the NATO invitation to the three countries to join. It is not a debate on ratification, unlike in the US Senate and other countries. I do not wish to launch a constitutional debate about the situation which makes treaty ratification a prerogative of the Crown, but it is strange that we make a "working democracy" one of the criteria for NATO entry but we are flimsy in our own democratic procedures concerning such a major policy area. I understand that under the Ponsonby Rules the Government are not even obliged to allow parliamentary debate at all.

My point is more a practical one although it relates to legitimacy. By not having a ratification requirement we lose out on any opportunity to make this historic step the subject of an intense national debate covered by the media. Even though, as might be expected, the broad consensus here in Parliament and in official circles in favour of enlargement were to make it a somewhat one-sided debate, we could at least engage some interest in the momentous developments affecting the security of our Continent represented by the twin enlargements of the European Union and NATO.

It seems to be the rule that the more momentous an event, the more difficult it is to get it sufficiently aired in a way that involves not only Parliament but also the public, as well as the experts. We must do more generally to make defence and security matters more accessible to the non-specialist because these matters are surrounded with some degree of mystique. I enter the discussions from a European political perspective and an interest in how we are to create the conditions for a democratic and stable society to prosper in Europe. I know little or nothing about armies, weapons, or military strategies, but I, and others like me, need to learn more so that we can engage in debate on defence and security without being blinded by science or dismissed as amateurs. Perhaps parallels exist with law and medicine, where the exclusive preserve of expert professionals is being opened up to the consumers of the service. We are all consumers of defence and security services, yet there is not even a tight enough relationship between the debates on developments in NATO and the European Union, each of which have their respective "clubs", although there is some overlap.

It is perhaps both easy and unfair to claim the benefit of hindsight in order to criticise the hesitant, slow and stop-start nature of both NATO and European Union approaches in the 1990s to the gigantic task of successfully extending eastwards the peace and prosperity western Europe has enjoyed for 50 years. But that task has been made harder by the confusion that surrounds the respective roles and interrelationships between NATO, the European Union, WEU and OSCE. Sorting out that confusion is bedevilled by the coyness and inhibitions that surround discussion of international organisations, especially where sovereignty is said to be at stake, and especially where foreign policy and defence and money are all involved.

But if future enlargements are to be approached in a rational manner, and if the public are to be encouraged to support the move to end the division of our Continent by bringing central and eastern Europe into our hitherto exclusively western arrangements, we must be able to define at least a broad overall scheme and an end goal, saying what we believe the role and mission of the European Union and NATO will be. We need to rationalise the structures dealing with security. If we think of Kosovo—I hope we shall debate that in the autumn—it is difficult to understand, let alone to explain what is going on, who is responsible and why. I find it ironic that we talk about a European security and defence identity, but identifying that identity is supremely difficult.

As has been said already today, there needs to be a wide debate on NATO's new strategic concept to help clarify the purpose of future enlargement and how the different organisations mesh with one another. If we are not careful, we shall get turf wars rather than interlocking co-operation between the European Union and NATO. Already NATO is more explicitly in the democracy building business than would have been thought credible in 1990. While highly desirable in one sense, it leaves one puzzling where that leaves the European Union. If the Minister is right to be concerned that NATO should not become a generalised security organisation—I think he mentioned a toothless generalised security organisation—which might prejudice its collective defence purpose, we have to discuss honestly and openly what is the European Union's security role and how we should develop the common foreign and security policy.

Similarly the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, distinguished the task of building peace from that of deterring war. He said that NATO should be a military alliance and not a political club. If that is true—I happen to think it is both, to the extent that it shares the role of being a political club with the European Union—we have to be clear about the European Union's role as a political club which also has a security dimension and a peace building mandate.

Perhaps overlap or even muddle does not matter too much if we are generally drifting in the direction of stability and peace. Perhaps it is as important to keep riding the bicycle as to know where it is going. But if we do not know and cannot precisely explain to the public what is going on and where it is headed, we risk finding later that we do not have the support we need for the actions and the cost involved. That will arise to some extent in regard to EU enlargement during European elections next year, in which I express a personal interest. It will be necessary, for instance, to explain why loss of structural funds may have to be tolerated in the interests of security through EU enlargement. There is bound to be some kind of spillover to debate on NATO enlargement. We have to be able to demonstrate a framework and direction for both.

I have left to last—but I hope not least—my own expression of conviction that this NATO enlargement is absolutely right. In his evidence to the Defence Committee in the other place—the report of which I welcome—Dr. Janus Onyszkiewicz, Polish defence minister, stated, We have always considered NATO as, first of all, a community of countries which in a spirit of solidarity wants not only to assist each other in the case of ultimate need … but also to build their own common future". I very much agree with that. He added, as far as Europe is concerned there is no specific British defence policy in Europe, no specific French policy and no specific German defence policy … Poland will not be a net consumer of security but will contribute to the common security". I second that. But if common security and common defence are the joint objectives, overlapping, of both the European Union and NATO, we have to sort out how they overlap and what the demarcation is, if we are to get public support for total operation.

1.47 p.m.

Lord Carver

My Lords, those who, like myself, have opposed the enlargement of NATO, and oppose even more strongly further enlargement, consist of two groups whose aims are in fact diametrically opposite. The first group includes those who were behind the severe, and I would say almost insulting, conditions which the US Senate attached to its agreement. They included the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, who confessed to having held those views when he was in another place. They wish to preserve the Alliance's military organisation—that is, NATO—as far as possible in its present state to deter, and if necessary defeat, the threat which led to the formation of the Alliance in 1949; that is, a communist, Russian-led takeover of western Europe. They see enlargement as weakening it, particularly in its power of decision and in the clarity about where its frontier lies.

The other group, to which I belong, takes the opposite view; namely, that such an attitude is not only out of date but positively dangerous; that it encourages the perpetuation of a Europe divided into two potentially hostile camps; and that it encourages actual and potential new members to maintain or develop armed forces designed for high intensity warfare on the same pattern as those of the United States, when the real need is totally different.

The real need is for a radical new approach to both the organisation and the armed forces needed by every nation, from the western and southern shores of the Continent to the Ural mountains, so that, as far as possible, independent nations do not fear physical attack by their neighbours, as we, fortunately, do not. Let me quote, if I may, from the Strategic Defence Review. Paragraphs 3 and 4 of Chapter 1 state: the collapse of Communism and the emergence of democratic states through Eastern Europe and in Russia means that there is today no direct military threat to the United Kingdom or Western Europe. Nor do we foresee the re-emergence of such a threat. But we cannot take this for granted. It is therefore a vital British interest that these trends should strengthen and not go into reverse … Our defence policy and activity must contribute to consolidating these welcome changes and thus enhancing our security". That is followed by the sentences: The admission of three new democracies to NATO is a major step on this path", and, But we are determined that this should not lead to new divisions in Europe. My contention is that those two sentences, however well-intentioned, are in reality contradictory. Further on, in paragraph 10, which refers to other risks, the review states: The challenge now is to move from stability based on fear to stability based on the active management of these risks, seeking to prevent conflicts rather than suppress them". I heartily endorse that in relation to the general security of Europe; but I believe that the path on which NATO is now set, implying not only the possibility, but the desirability, of further enlargement, is the wrong path. Paragraph 38 of the same chapter states: The planned admission in 1999 of the three new members from the former Warsaw Pact is a welcome first step in a carefully managed process of enlargement which will strengthen both the Alliance itself and European security as a whole". I believe that to be dangerously misguided—what The Times in its leader of 17th February last year described as "dangerously misjudged" and that very experienced American diplomat, George Kennan, in The New York Times of the 5th of that month called, The most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-war era". Apologists for the policy pooh-pooh the actual or potential Russian reaction to it, citing recent Russian actions and statements in this field. The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, joined that chorus, but obviously with certain reservations. Mr. Yeltsin's Government have taken a realistic view of the balance that they need to strike between the understandable objections they have to NATO enlargement and their current economic need to keep on good terms with the US. But the threat of further enlargement, even, as some suggest, extending to the Baltic States, cannot help but lend support to those elements in Russia which exaggerate the threat to their country from the West and which obstruct further steps to defuse differences. That includes opposition to the ratification of START II. They could seriously undermine progress in helping to move Russia, and other former members of the Soviet Union, forward into a truly co-operative relationship with Europe in every field, which should be the first priority of any policy for the security of Europe.

So what do we need to do? It would be unrealistic now to suggest blocking ratification of the admission of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary; and, that having been done, I do not see how the claims of Austria could be denied. But there the process must stop, until NATO itself has been radically reorganised; and by NATO I mean what it really stands for—the military organisation. I have tried in vain for years to persuade people to differentiate, as the French have been careful to do since 1966—when France left NATO but remained in the North Atlantic Alliance—between the North Atlantic Alliance, which was founded by the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, and its military command organisation, dominated by the Americans, which was subsequently established in reaction to such events as the Soviet blockade of Berlin. I am afraid that we are prisoners of the acronym in failing to differentiate between the two.

Let me make it clear that I strongly support the policy which successive governments, since that of Churchill in 1940, have pursued: of encouraging the Americans to support our interests, not only in Europe but world-wide. The one notable exception was that of Anthony Eden, who, in 1956, not only tried to "punch above his weight", but chose the wrong opponent. It is rightly a fundamental pillar of our foreign and defence policy. I am also a firm advocate of continued support of the North Atlantic Alliance; but the Alliance should now be conceived not as a means to defend Western Europe against an overwhelming military threat from the east, but as one of facilitating political and military co-operation between North America and Europe in the promotion and defence of their mutual interests worldwide.

Within that concept, NATO's large and expensive integrated military headquarters are not needed. They have always been little more that a fig-leaf of internationalism to conceal the reality; namely, that overall command was in the hands of the Americans, who would not commit their forces without it. That reality should be accepted, as it was in Korea and the Gulf, and is now in Bosnia. We and our partners in the Alliance should accept openly that, in any major operations in which United States forces participate, our forces should operate under their overall command. Within the Alliance we should make a reality of the European Defence Identity, to which the Strategic Defence Review, in a sentence tucked away in paragraph 12 of the supporting essay on policy framework, pays the usual unconvincing lip service. There should be a more or less integrated European military structure, which must include at least ourselves, France and Germany. Other members of the Alliance, old or new, could join it to the extent that they wished, their forces, when not engaged in operations, remaining under national command, as United States forces in Europe have in reality always been. Expansion of the Alliance on its present pattern will lead, as it has already in the case of Spain, to a demand for more of these monstrous bureaucratic headquarters to provide employment for surplus senior officers and their staffs.

I see no reason why such an Alliance could not suit all concerned. It would have to involve reconsideration of the automatic commitment in Article 5. It should not pose a threat to countries which are not members. It should satisfy the United States in ensuring retention of command of their own forces, including that of the 6th fleet in the Mediterranean, about which it has differences with France. It should satisfy France and Germany. It should also suit new applicants, for all members would be on the same basis, and open the doors for more. I can see no objection to it from our point of view, or that of other members of the Alliance. When contributions of armed forces are needed for an international force of any kind, it would be a matter for decision at the time whether we made ours on a national, a European or an Alliance basis.

There is one step which I believe could be valuable as a confidence building measure and need not wait upon any re-organisation: that is declaration of the area between Germany's eastern and Russian's western borders as a nuclear weapon free zone, monitored as such by the OSCE, which should in any case be given more encouragement and support. I suggest that it should gradually take over from NATO the Partnership for Peace programme.

The challenge to the Government now is to be as radical in this field as they claim to wish to be in others. They must not just follow slavishly behind the Americans but take a positive lead in the Alliance in the direction to which I have pointed.

1.59 p.m.

Viscount Hanworth

My Lords, as we have heard, the North Atlantic Alliance was established by the Washington Treaty in April 1949 during the first years of the Cold War. The events which led to its formation included the Soviet blockade of Berlin in 1948 and the imposition of communist regimes in the countries of central and eastern Europe which had been liberated from the Nazis by the Russians.

There were 12 founding members and over time the number increased to 16. Now, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the treaty, which will be marked by another Washington summit, the membership is set to expand further by the accession of three former Soviet satellites—Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. A treaty which originated in quite a different era from our own seems set to provide the basis for a new architecture of European security which will prevail well into the next century. This is an extraordinary circumstance by any reckoning. It engenders grave doubts and anxieties among many of us on this side of the House.

Article 10 of the Washington Treaty allows for the accession of new members to NATO by the unanimous agreement of the existing members which means, in effect, that the treaty must be ratified in each parliament or assembly of these nations.

Such steps have already been taken by the majority of the members. In particular, your Lordships' attention has been drawn to the process of ratification in the US Senate by my noble friend Lord Kennet whose concern over the tenor of those proceedings occasioned a debate on a Friday afternoon. The date was 19th June.

If I understand correctly, my noble friend has been concerned by the way in which the US Administration's policy for European security which, in some measure, was designed to secure a domestic electoral advantage, has been hijacked by right-wing Republican senators.

More recently, on 16th July the matter was considered in another place in an adjournment debate, also on a Friday, which was interrupted by a government statement. Now, on the last day of the Session, your Lordships are giving the matter some fleeting attention. In effect, we are now in the process of ratifying the accession of the new NATO members as we are enjoined to do by the protocols of the North Atlantic Treaty.

Our arrangements for dealing with treaties seem to me manifestly unsatisfactory. I suspect that, with hindsight, the enlargement of NATO will be seen as one of the most momentous events of international affairs in this decade. I fear that our future critics will highlight this episode as a crucial one when a false turning was taken and when great opportunities were missed.

It is an archaic feature of our parliamentary democracy that, under Royal Prerogative, the Government can sign treaties and make war and peace without the advice or the consent of Parliament; and so the event is being marked only by the briefest of debates which will be registered hardly, if at all, in the consciousness of the public at large.

I hark back to the process of ratification which occurred recently in the US Senate because, to my mind, this highlights some of the dangers of the course upon which we have embarked. The process of ratification has produced a curious document described as the Text of Resolution of Ratification which is to be found in the congressional record of 4th May. It is a kind of palimpsest made from short pieces of text which have been stuck down one layer upon another. It speaks in disparate voices which are sometimes in clear contradiction.

Among the passages of the document which attract my attention are several which assert that NATO is primarily an instrument of American foreign policy. Thus the Senate has declared: Strong United States leadership of NATO promotes and protects United States vital national security interests". The Senate also asserts that NATO must not be diverted from its purpose or its policies by the objections of extraneous parties. Thus, NATO will not subject its decisions to review, challenge or veto by any forum affiliated with NATO, or by any non-member state participating in any such forum". Nor is NATO to get bogged down in international diplomacy. I quote again: The Council does not require the consent of the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe or any other international organisation in order to take action pursuant to the treaty, including the deployment, operation or stationing of forces". In particular, NATO is not to pay undue attention to the interests of its former Cold War opponent. Thus we read: The political commitments made by NATO to the Russian federation are not legally binding and do not in any way preclude any future decisions to preserve the security of NATO members". We learn also that the US wishes to exercise a veto over the development of European security policy. The Senate therefore declares: No action or agreement shall constitute a security commitment pursuant to the NATO treaty other than a consensus decision by the full membership of NATO, subject to the advice and consent of the US senate". This is presumptuous indeed. Even more presumptuous is a statement which imposes upon the European partners in NATO a policy for the deployment of American troops and American nuclear weapons. Thus: Nuclear weapons will continue to make an essential contribution to deterring aggression and a credible nuclear deterrent posture requires the stationing of United States forces in Europe". I accept that such statements are in line with what one would expect of a legislature pursuing its national interests. However, this is a case in which the major partner of an international alliance is abrogating to itself all manner of decisions which ought to be the products of negotiations among all of the parties.

NATO no longer has the clear objectives of the Cold War period. NATO cannot remain the principal organ of European collective security if it continues to adopt a monolithic approach dominated by the perceptions of one nation which is largely ignorant of and insensitive to the aspirations of the other partners.

The consensus upon which NATO was founded is breaking down because there is no longer a unique opinion on how the Russians should be dealt with. Russia is fearful of the expansion of NATO and remains strongly opposed to it. Some people have suggested that Russia is becoming reconciled to NATO expansion. This is untrue. What may look like acquiescence is, in reality, a retreat in the face of faits accomplis.

We seem to be embarking on a programme of expansion of NATO by successive stages in the face of Russian opposition. This serves no clear purpose; and the effect may well be to exclude Russia permanently from the architecture of European security and to alienate its politicians and its people from the rest of Europe. This seems an extraordinarily misguided approach when so many of the problems which have beset the continent in recent years have arisen in the territories of the former Soviet Union. It is also a poor recompense for Russia's co-operation in solving these problems jointly with the West.

What other courses could we follow instead of the one on which we are embarking? I propose that it is easy to imagine other, more hopeful prospects. I am inclined to agree with others that NATO is a splendid organisation which should be preserved in some form. It has been in receipt of substantial resources and has been guided, via its secretariat, by persons of outstanding ability.

They have already shown us how constructive relationships can be established between Russia and NATO. Their instrument most recently has been the Russian/NATO founding pact. What is prejudicing the enterprise are the outdated treaties and conventions under which the European security system is labouring. Is it unrealistic to hope that the 50th anniversary of the founding of NATO will see the dissolution of the Washington Treaty and its replacement by something more relevant to the 21st century? Perhaps your Lordships will allow me a brief moment of fantasy and join me in envisaging a pan-European security system made from a federation of regional security treaties. There would be a northern treaty covering the Baltic and the Scandinavian states on the one hand and the Russian federation and the Ukraine on the other. There would be a western European security treaty, an eastern European and Balkan treaty and a middle European treaty. The middle European treaty would include the nations which are now in the act of acceding to NATO, together with Austria and Slovakia and maybe Romania and Slovenia as well. The overarching organisation would be the OSCE: the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The regional treaty organisations of this articulated system would stand guard on the recalcitrant elements, and the miscreants could be excluded for a period from their regional organisations. There would be a role for NATO as well, but perhaps its name should be changed to signify its competence throughout the treaty regions. Adjacent countries with irreconcilable differences such as Greece and Turkey could be members of the Euro-Atlantic treaty organisation even if they could not become partners within the relevant regional treaty organisation.

This is a fantasy which envisages the lion lying down with the lamb and which has the fox locked up with the geese. I gear that nothing like it will materialise, but it is a fantasy by which we might be guided.

2.9 p.m.

Lord Belhaven and Stenton

My Lords, I intend this afternoon to confine my remarks to Poland, which is the largest of the three countries about to be admitted to NATO. In fact, Poland is bigger than both the other countries combined. I do not intend to speak on technical military matters, as I am not competent to do so. I would say only that in the financial sphere, Poland agreed to the conditions laid down by the US Congress and, in my view, is capable of meeting them.

To underline that I can tell your Lordships that around three years ago I met the deputy manager of the Bank of Poland in Warsaw and asked him for his comments on Poland's application to join the European Union. He replied that he was more interested in Poland joining NATO as national security was at present the overriding issue. At this stage I would point out that NATO and the EU are not the same organisation. As the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, said, Sweden, Ireland, Austria and Finland are in the EU but not in NATO and, as I understand it, Turkey is in NATO but not in the EU. It is therefore a mistake to confuse the two.

I ask your Lordships to look at the situation from a Polish point of view. We do not need to go back to the 18th century and the partitions as the events of which I shall speak happened in the lifetime of most of your Lordships. Seventeen days after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, she was also invaded by the Soviet Union. The brutality of both occupations is well known, but possibly less well known is that the Soviet occupation was as cruel, if not more so, than the German.

My wife is Polish and her grandfather, who was a rural landowner in the Lwow region, was murdered within three days of the arrival of the Soviet army. My mother-in-law eventually fled to the German occupied zone, where she felt safer. Later, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and Poland became officially an ally of that country.

That brings me to the Warsaw uprising of August 1944, of which tomorrow is the 54th anniversary. At that time the Soviet high command broadcast an appeal to the Polish Home Army to rise and attack the German occupiers. That appeal was immediately answered by a general uprising. The Red Army, which was now on the other side of the Vistula from Warsaw in the suburb of Praga, not merely took no action to help the Home Army, but the Soviet authorities forbade the Polish division with the Red Army to cross the Vistula and give help. Furthermore, they refused permission for British and American aircraft, which were bringing aid to the uprising, to land and refuel at Soviet controlled airports. The result was that an estimated 200,000 civilians were killed while their so-called Soviet allies watched and waited. The city of Warsaw was comprehensively destroyed and those inhabitants who survived fled the city. That was probably the greatest betrayal in the history of warfare.

When the war ended Poland was handed over to the Soviets—who had betrayed them. I will not say that British and American politicians and statesmen did that deliberately, but they were unable or unwilling to fulfil the promise they had made of a free, democratic and independent Poland following the war. All that was in spite of the magnificent contribution to the allied cause of the Polish armed forces, who went on fighting even though they knew that their efforts were doomed and that 52 per cent. of the pre-war national territory was to be lost to the Soviets. Many of the Polish servicemen who fought with us had their homes in the Soviet area and knew before the war was over that they would never return. Nonetheless, they did not betray us as the Soviets betrayed them.

I am saying this because I think we should remember how much Poland has to forgive. I believe also that many intelligent and humane Russians agree with this. I have met some of them, and the fact of Poland wishing to take her due place in the West does not disturb them. Poland is a sovereign state with an absolute right to decide what allies she wishes to have, and certainly she does not threaten Russia. If anything it could be the other way round. I believe that in the light of past betrayal of a loyal and courageous ally we owe it to Poland to accept her application and I am glad that, at least in this, I appear to agree with Her Majesty's Government.

Finally, I would like, if your Lordships would bear with me, to quote from one of the last broadcast messages to come from the Polish uprising in Warsaw, which I have taken from Churchill's memoirs: This is the stark truth. We were treated worse than Hitler's satellites, worse than Italy, Roumania, Finland. May God, Who is just, pass judgment on the terrible injustice suffered by the Polish nation. Your heroes are the soldiers whose only weapons against tanks, planes and guns were their revolvers and bottles filled with petrol. Your heroes are the women who tended the wounded and carried messages under tire, who cooked in bombed and ruined cellars to feed children and adults, and who soothed and comforted the dying. Your heroes are the children who went on quietly playing among the smouldering ruins. These are the people of Warsaw. Immortal is the nation that can muster such universal heroism. For those who have died have conquered, and those who live on will fight on, will conquer and again bear witness that Poland lives when the Poles live". This is one of the nations that we are inviting to join NATO.

2.15 p.m.

The Earl of Carlisle

My Lords, it is a privilege to stand up here and follow the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton. I am sure the Polish Government, the Polish people and the Polish who now live here, and who are citizens of the United Kingdom, will be very grateful indeed for all the support he has given them over the years.

The word is indeed accession. There is another word which I believe has not been mentioned, and it is reconciliation—reconciliation between the west, the central and the eastern parts of Europe. I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in this debate and to take note of NATO's invitation to Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland to join the alliance.

I congratulate the noble Lord the Minister on setting out Her Majesty's Government's position with his customary ability and skill, and I look forward to the reply of the noble Baroness. I warmly welcome the addition of the three nations into the alliance and look forward to their accession in Washington next year where I hope first and foremost the role, organisation and tasks of the NATO allies will be reviewed, analysed and, if and where necessary, changed so that this organisation can be transformed to meet the desires of all the members and all the members who will accede to the union, to the NATO alliance, in time. I hope that it will be found to be a worthy vehicle for those nations.

I was denied the opportunity to visit the three capital cities of Budapest, Prague and Warsaw between the time of 1970 when I joined Her Majesty's land forces and 1990 because the KGB was operating in those cities. The KGB is still operating in those cities and elsewhere in central Europe, but it is doing so under another name and it is using different methods. It is known as the mafia.

I wish this debate had taken place in April 1949 when NATO was founded, since NATO, primarily a European defence and security organisation stretching from Vancouver to Hamburg, should have included all the nations of central Europe. Since that could not be, I wish that this debate could have taken place in 1990 when the Berlin wall was demolished. Instead it has taken us over eight years to take this important step and we have been told that this might be the last expansion of NATO eastwards. I sincerely hope that this is not the case. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland were the most reluctant and unwilling members of the Warsaw Pact. Their populations today amount to about 57 million. Since the Warsaw Pact without Russia amounted to 100 million souls, then I say 57 million up, but 43 million still to come in. Like other noble Lords I have read with great interest and benefit the third report of the Defence Committee in another place. It is a masterly document. I have also read the debate in another place on 17th July on NATO expansion. The honourable Member for Walsall South, the chairman of the Defence Committee, Mr. Bruce George, is to be congratulated on both occasions.

Perhaps I may deal with three points in the committee's report. The first, a constant theme running through the report, is the message, "We must be careful, whatever we do or do not do, not to irritate or antagonise the Russian Federation". I am reminded of the story about the Foreign Office and Eton College. In the late 1930s, the time known to us with shame as "the years of appeasement", the Nazi ambassador to the Court of St. James, Herr Ribbentrop, decided for reasons best known to himself to send his son to be educated at Eton. Mr. Ambassador Ribbentrop visited Eton. On the morning of his visit the headmaster was interested to receive a communication from a very senior mandarin in the Foreign Office. The letter went something like this: "If you admit Master Ribbentrop to your school, please ensure that the other scholars in your charge do not tease him, because if they do it might get to the ears of the Chancellor of Germany, Herr Hitler". The boy was not admitted to the school. Hitler did not march into the Rhineland as a result of that; he already had. My point is that we cannot please everyone all of the time. We should be careful not to irritate people but we must look carefully at why we are irritating them. If it is unfounded, let us ignore it and continue with our course of action.

I learnt from reading the committee's report that many diplomats and witnesses from central Europe, with far greater experience of Russia than most of us have, believe that the Russian people and most of their leaders are not worried about the central European nations joining a successful defensive alliance. I emphasise the word "defensive". The Russian people have not had an election or a referendum on the subject. I suspect that, if they did, the "don't knows" and the "don't cares" would have the majority.

We have an example of how the Russians looked at the expansion of NATO eastwards; not Greece and Turkey in 1952; not the Federal Republic of Germany in 1955; and not even Spain in 1982; but more recently Germany, on 12th December 1990, when the four allied powers of the Second World War agreed with each other and Germany that the former GDR territory should be a part of NATO. The Republic of Germany paid the entire bill. Russia did not seem to make any protest against that when it might have been expected to take a very dim view, knowing that 20 million people from 2,000 of its cities had been killed in war. The only opposition to the move came not from Russia but from the tenant of Chequers at the time, the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher. I understand that she even held a seminar to discuss the matter. The noble Baroness expressed foreboding, but the Russians and the Germans disregarded her. Is anyone suggesting now that it was a mistake to include the eastern Länder of Germany in NATO? I think not. As I said, Germany paid the cost.

That brings me on to my second point—cost. Figures have been shot across the floor of the NATO conference chamber and across the Floor of the House—£110 million a year for 10 years, it that is the accurate cost; a total cost of £1.5 billion. I believe that the war to liberate the Falkland Islands cost £2 billion, and the majority considered that that was a price worth paying. To bring 57 million people into our alliance is cheap at that price. We must seize this opportunity to give them and us additional security.

I recall last February, when His Excellency the President of Estonia was a guest of Her Majesty's Government, that that statesman made a speech to the RUSI. In it he stated among other things that it is not fear that makes the Baltic states, Estonia in particular, feel threatened—Estonia does not feel threatened by Russia—but rather that they wish to be incorporated into all aspects of European integration of which the EU and NATO are the strongest manifestations.

When he spoke to the RUSI there was a question period. He was asked by the councillor from the Russian Embassy in London this question: Do you mind paying the bill for this? The president answered this rather insolent question. The president and 10 per cent. of his nation had been locked up in Siberia and many of them never returned. He said that the price of security and liberty was always worth paying.

I hope that when the Minister winds up she will acknowledge that point and the amount that the central and European nations have spent on their own defence when they have many other matters to address. I hope that the Minister will not only acknowledge that, but give some encouragement to those who wish to join the NATO alliance.

We must be prudent and cautious, but we must not verge on the craven and supine. I conclude with this point. On 13th April 1995, I listened to two of the greatest intellects among the heads of states of the world; namely, President Havel of the Czech Republic and President Leonard Meri of Estonia, discussing the future together. Both said, "If we are first into the European Union or the NATO organisation, we will help the others to get in. We will also help our colleagues in central Europe". We have all too little influence in central and eastern Europe, politically, diplomatically, militarily, economically and culturally. If the United Kingdom does not help those nations to join us they will go to the other nations of NATO and the European Union for their help and we will lose the little influence that we have.

2.27 p.m.

Lord Rea

My Lords, I wish to look at our topic from a rather different perspective and in doing so to try to look in as realistic a way as possible into a crystal ball from two different angles; namely, what will happen if we do—as seems inevitable—admit Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary into NATO and, conversely, what will be likely to happen if we do not.

What really matters is whether or not there will be a peaceful future for central Europe and hence less likelihood of another major war involving all of us. But of almost equal importance is that sustainable economic growth and social progress are given the maximum chance of developing in all the countries of central and eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, as I believe they are still called. There is a connection between these two desirable outcomes which does not need to be spelt out. If accession goes ahead we will be in danger of returning to the outdated mode of achieving security in which countries face each other with tanks and guns—and in this case nuclear weapons—rather than through genuine negotiations to reduce weapons and increase mutually beneficial trade and cultural exchange.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Robin Cook, said at a Strategic Defence Review seminar last year, I have often found it strange that the issue of arms control is discussed much less since the collapse of the Cold War, which potentially offers much greater opportunity for arms control, than there ever was during the height of the Cold War". To acquire and manufacture weapons of war detracts from the resources, which are limited in the three countries about which we are speaking and which would otherwise be available for investment in education, health and many other desirable areas. And, as many noble Lords have said, we also will have quite a large and rather uncertain bill to pay.

As was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Judd when we debated the Unstarred Question of my noble friend Lord Kennet on 19th June, one serious outcome of the enlargement is that the new members will need to upgrade their weapons to the highest standard to be equivalent to those of other nations in NATO (at considerable expense, both theirs and ours). Partly to off-set that cost they will have to sell their equipment (which has been superseded) at bargain prices to less well off countries in the developing world. Can my noble friend the Minister say whether the Government have thought about that and whether they have even considered banning such activity and requiring new members of NATO to destroy their old weapons rather than flood the world market with them?

In addition to those problems, as many noble Lords have said, the enlargement of NATO is bitterly resented by most Russians. Perhaps I may point out to the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, who said that most Russians do not seem to mind about NATO enlargement, that in February this year the Russian Duma passed a motion calling NATO enlargement the biggest threat to Russia since the end of the Second World War.

Several noble Lords have reminded us that NATO was created specifically to contain and oppose the Soviet Union and to deter possible aggression by that state. On the Soviet side, it was held that NATO was a threat and a justification for further escalation of the arms race. I suggest that both sides were subject to a degree of paranoia. Things have changed radically since those days and although Russia still has a huge nuclear stock and a large army, at present it is not a credible threat to any European country. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, is not the only authority who says that. We need only to look at the abysmal, terrible and destructive failure of the Russians' war in Chechnya in which they attacked a country with a population of only 1 million. Incidentally, I witnessed that conflict in action in December 1995, so I am perfectly capable of realising that the Russians can behave in a brutish and uncivilised way. We need to encourage them not to do so.

I am also aware of the real fear, felt by the three countries which are being invited to join NATO, of their large neighbours who have repressed them on and off for centuries. The noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, gave graphic descriptions of the horrible happenings during the Warsaw uprising.

It is worth mentioning, as I did on 19th June, that Germany has been as much, if not more, guilty of oppressing those three countries than has Russia. However, Germany is now a member of NATO and is therefore constrained and contained in any aggressive tendencies that might re-emerge there. I suppose that there is an advantage in inviting one's former enemy into one's home; one can keep a good eye on him. In that way, former enemies are more likely to become civilised members of the community than would be the case if one erected fences against them to keep them out.

In this light, what is the logic of excluding Russia from any possibility of joining, or of being associated with, NATO in the future—that is, if NATO continued to be called that. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Hanworth and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, have outlined in detail possible successor structures that could be built to improve the security of the countries of Europe. However, I shall not go into that discussion now, save to say that instead of having the North Atlantic Alliance one could perhaps have a Euro-American Alliance. To exclude Russia altogether from NATO is illogical when one previous aggressor is a core member.

The wording of the United States Senate resolution, which formed part of the Question tabled by my noble friend Lord Kennet on 19th June, is quite clear. According to Senator Jesse Helms—that pillar of democracy—the United States instrument of ratification, builds impenetrable 'fire walls' in the NATO-Russia relationship, ensuring that Russia will neither have a voice nor a veto in NATO decision-making, and that the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council [should] be a forum for explaining—not negotiating—NATO policy decisions". I suggest that that kind of language is patronising and insulting. Far from helping to increase security it is likely to cause resentment and perpetuate rather than ease tensions.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Park, has said, strength may be the only language that the Russians understand. However, there are many voices of reason inside Russia that are struggling to make themselves heard. However, we also know that there are many other voices to the far right and left who will capitalise on the widespread poverty and disillusion of the current phase of transition by using Russia's international humiliation, of which NATO enlargement is a part, to gain support for rearmament and revanchism.

To get a picture of what is taking place in Russia today, on Wednesday night I saw one of the best television documentaries. Entitled "Born in the USSR", it followed the lives of a number of children. They were filmed in 1990 and again in 1998 when they were seven and 14 years of age. It showed graphically the terrible situation in Russia in which those children are growing up.

I suggest that the long delay in Russian ratification of START II may be an indication of that feeling of international humiliation which this action has exacerbated. The ratification of START 2 is one of Russia's few remaining bargaining chips. I suggest that similar factors may well be operating with the long delays in the negotiations on conventional force reductions in Europe. The expansion of NATO and the intransigent language of the US Senate are encouraging this process.

I hope that the Government can find a formula which will bring Russia back into the European family of nations—"Our Common European Home", as it has been described by President Gorbachev—rather than push her dangerously into the position of a pariah state or potential enemy as the Senate resolution in particular which ratified this enlargement appeared to do.

The opinion that Russia is a difficult country to deal with goes back much further than the Communist years of 1917 to 1991. I very much hope that, in contrast to Senator Jesse Helms, the Government will encourage the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council to develop into a truly co-operative organisation and that the Partnership for Peace initiative will not merely pay lip service to its title but, as mutual confidence builds, will increasingly allow military exchange programmes, for example. I know that we already have a few, and there are even joint manoeuvres in preparation for future possible peacekeeping operations.

I fear that those desirable programmes of military co-operation, leading eventually, as they might, to the removal of the current blocks in achieving disarmament will not be made any easier by NATO enlargement. There are still too many bitter feelings between the countries of east Europe and Russia, which might make it difficult to mount joint military training or other co-operative activities.

To conclude, I will put on a more optimistic hat. The proposed enlargement, by making the Poles, Czechs and Hungarians feel more secure, will enable them to interact with their former oppressor with increasing trust and eventual forgiveness so that both sides can agree to arms reductions and improve economic and cultural relations. Although Czechs and Poles want more links with the West they have strong historical and cultural links with Russia.

I fear that membership of NATO by only one of the two sides in this ancient antagonism will make them grow further apart and sow the seeds of a future conflict that might involve us all. That must not be allowed to happen. I hope that my noble friend will spell out the steps that Her Majesty's Government propose to take to ensure that it does not.

2.41 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, we have had a notable debate in which some extremely helpful and inspiring speeches have been made, to which I shall return. This is one of those debates that makes one feel proud to be a Member of this House. A number of noble Lords have brought to the discussion an astonishing level of personal experience and knowledge which makes these debates an extraordinarily rich tableau which I believe and hope is helpful to Ministers when they discuss and consider policies.

It would be ungenerous not to recognise that each of the three countries that have been accepted as members for the expansion of NATO—the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and my noble friend all welcomed their membership of NATO—can, in a sense, make out the argument that they are a special case, but, like the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven, I feel that in many ways Poland is the most special case of them all, because of its distinguished history of fighting against tyranny and dictatorship under the Nazis and under the communist regime of the Soviet Socialist Republics.

I am only too happy to lend my voice to the welcome given to those three countries. I shall add just one other thought: for some of us on this 50th anniversary of Munich, it is appropriate that the Czech republic should now be a member of NATO. That may put right a long-standing, historical shame.

I turn now to the point raised in a notable speech by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, with regard to what is seen to be NATO's purpose. As he, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, said, the original purpose of NATO was a simple and straightforward one: it was to unite the Western allies against the obvious and present threat posed by the Soviet Union. The alliance was built upon that straightforward objective—the objective of defending all the nations and democracies of Western Europe, the US and Canada against the potential threat of an offence or attack by the Soviet Union.

The simplicity and, in some ways, beauty of that classical purpose of alliance has long since gone, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, pointed out. If one were to look today at what might be thought to be NATO's objectives, they would be, first, the security of the Western Alliance, in particular of the continent of Europe; and, secondly, the significance of the link between Europe and the US.

Perhaps I may say a few words about each of those. As regards the stability of the continent of Europe, on the one side we have countries which are members of NATO, including the three new members, and on the other countries which range from those that might potentially be members of NATO to those on the periphery. The paradox is that it is specifically those on the periphery, those least likely to qualify in the near future for membership of NATO, that present the real threat to the security of Europe. I refer to the countries of the Caucuses, central Europe and elsewhere, where those countries are today not far removed from the possibility of chaos.

In securing the security of our continent, NATO has necessarily to address the disorder, and the chaotic and sometime anarchic structures that exist on its periphery. As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, pointed out, that sometimes cannot be achieved by a military alliance. That is why, in reaching its objectives today, NATO has moved from a purely military alliance to one which includes negotiation, conflict resolution, conflict settlement, peace keeping, and a whole set of mutual exercises, all of which attempt to build trust. In many ways the building of trust is the positive side of what an alliance against threat originally constituted.

The noble Lords, Lord Hardy of Wath, Lord Rea, and others were concerned about the position of Russia with regard to both the classic function of NATO and the function that is represented by its new role in respect of peace keeping, mutual exercises, Partnership for Peace, and so on. The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, and I, have the privilege of addressing a number of seminars every year run by the Moscow School of Political Science. Those seminars are mounted for members of the duma, members of the regional dumas, and regional councils. Anyone taking part in those discussions would find it difficult to argue that there is no longer any sense of fear or concern about the extension eastward of NATO by Russia. Indeed, I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rea. The dependence of Russia at present on the goodwill of the western countries to provide the necessary economic backing to enable Russia to deal with a serious crisis—it still remains unresolved despite the large sums made available by the International Monetary Fund—is likely to mean that Russia continues to be somewhat resentful, sore and concerned about her own economic and political diminution in the world. I agree with those noble Lords who have suggested that we need to walk very carefully in respect of Russia.

I hope that we shall involve Russia as much as possible in functional relations into which we can draw her: perhaps in Bosnia where she has played a significant part as a peace keeper; and in Kosovo where she is not yet in that relationship but where there is constant contact with her by the contact group in that crisis. I should like to see Russia further involved by the OSCE and others, for example in the lifting of already laid mines in a large part of central Europe, Bosnia and elsewhere. It is of great importance that the Russian sensibilities are carefully considered.

I turn to the link between the United States and Europe. I refer to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. Perhaps I may underline his concern about the remarks in the Senate debate, in particular those of the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Helms, about the right of NATO to act in any crisis that confronts it without regard to any outside body, and in particular without regard to the United Nations. No congress can bind any other congress, any more than one parliament can bind its successors. Therefore, the conditions which so troubled the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, which have been attached to American ratification of NATO expansion, are no more lasting than the Senate in which they are decided and made. Even Senator Helms is presumably not immortal—though one sometimes wonders about it.

However, it would be more helpful if the British Government would speak out occasionally about the importance of the United Nations and the OSCE. Perhaps I may be so temeritous as to make a suggestion. They should mount a major campaign to get across to the United States' Congress and beyond to it its citizens the significant contribution made by Europe in respect of aid, investment and all forms of peacekeeping to the joint interests of the alliance.

A great deal of American debate turns on the assumption that all western help takes the form of contributions to defence. It is vital that we put together the civil strategic purposes of the West alongside its defence purposes and treat them as being of common interest to us both.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Baroness to ask a factual question, as she probably knows more about it than anyone else. The conditions imposed by the Senate were upon ratification of an international treaty. To what extent would that ratification be called into question if a subsequent Congress were to reverse or lift those conditions?

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I should like to be a lawyer in order to reply to the question. My impression is that it would not affect ratification and that the conditions agreed by the Congress are binding directly on the President but not on other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, including the new members. Therefore, there is a limited impact of those conditions and it would be dangerous to believe that they might be exaggerated into qualifying NATO expansion.

Before turning from that subject, perhaps I may make one more comment. Often, European diplomats and politicians fail to recognise how crucial is the role of Congress and also fail to recognise that we therefore need to engage in a discussion and dialogue with Congress separate from the discussion and dialogue with the US administration. Far too many European governments believe that if they make their point to the administration they have, as it were, won the argument. They have only started to win the argument. There are at least two further stages to go. One is the Senate, more important in foreign affairs, and the other is the House of Representatives.

I wish to ask the Minister a direct question which flows directly from the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. Would we continue to regard operations outside the NATO theatre as being normally subject to the UN procedures and not outside those procedures?

I wish to raise two further issues and I apologise for keeping the House. The first relates to the costs, which matter was averted to by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. I have a deep concern essentially about the movement from the original Pentagon estimates referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and the subsequent estimates by the Office of Budget and Management of the United States Congress and then later by the Rand Corporation and others. It set at the lowest level the cost of 35 billion dollars, to which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred, down to the 1.5 billion over 10 years, which is the current figure and the one which the United Kingdom Government estimate their own share as being; namely, £110 million over that same period. I do not question that figure of 1.5 billion dollars but I believe I am right in saying that that relates directly to the NATO budget, a budget which is required to integrate the respective members into the overall NATO provisions.

The problem is that we have redefined what we mean by the "necessary costs of NATO expansion". We are now excluding from those costs, as the noble Lords, Lord Hardy of Wath and Lord Rea, pointed out, virtually everything that is required to bring up to date the military forces of the three new members.

In so far as there is a cost in switching over from Soviet-designed arms, Soviet training and Soviet weapons, that cost is to be borne by the new member states. Therefore, we are no longer counting that cost. It has ceased to be our concern. But every one of those three countries is in the process of joining the European Union. In that process, they are being given some help—40 billion ecus over a period of six years from the structural funds—and we all know, and the European Communities Select Committee has pointed out time and again, that the budget is as tight as it can be; that those countries are right up against the ceiling of what they will need to meet the requirements of the acquis communautaire of the European Union.

In this debate, and in the whole debate about NATO, we are simply disregarding the issue of how those huge costs are to be met and what priority those countries should give. In that context, I simply want to say that I am deeply concerned about what appears to be an extraordinary lack of consultation, even of an informal nature, between the European Commission, in the shape of the Commissioner for DGIA concerned with external relations, and the NATO authorities.

Like many noble Lords, I welcome the membership of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. But I remain profoundly concerned that in a debate on NATO, we have, and the United States has, skated over some of the most critical issues without the kind of careful discussion which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and others have suggested we should have had. I believe that that is not the fault of Her Majesty's Government, but it is unfortunate that we have not explored those issues as fully as they deserve.

2.59 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings

My Lords, I shall not make the customary remarks about the excellence of today's debate; indeed, it must be self-evident. Such debates show your Lordships' House at its finest, and that applies especially to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. Personally, I agreed with all that he said. Similarly, I shall not trouble noble Lords over too many details of the background of the debate to which so many have alluded so eloquently.

The Washington Treaty establishing the North Atlantic Alliance became permanent as NATO in 1952. Its primary purpose is to preserve peace and its member states' security through political solidarity, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Moynihan. NATO's collective security guarantee is outlined in the well-known Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which reads: The parties agree, that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all". I have quoted just that small part, as I know your Lordships are well acquainted with Article 5.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire, and with the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the countries in eastern and central Europe—or, as they were known, "the forgotten Europe"—eventually found their long awaited freedom. As these countries broke away from the communist yoke, the political map of Europe underwent dramatic changes. Without any obvious role, with the sudden apparent collapse of any immediate military threat, at least from land forces from the East, there followed many agonised discussions on the future role of NATO, as explained so clearly by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. These debates even brought forth suggestions that NATO be disbanded—or, at the very least, that its primary role be deemed as unnecessary. Luckily, those propositions found no support.

Both the European Union and NATO have endured long discussions on the desirability and the mechanics of enlargement. Both sets of processes have been difficult and complex tasks. The reason for the differences in NATO and EU approaches are clear: NATO produced major new programme statements in 1991 and 1994 and sees itself, as a defence organisation, still working well within the confines of those prescriptions. It is not driven to political introspection by any sense of lagging public confidence, or by the threat of irrelevance. Why? It is because the Russians are still building defensive equipment. Many of your Lordships will have seen their fast military jets at international airshows around the world. Their submarine forces still receive huge investment. They have chemical and biological capabilities, together with massive espionage capabilities.

I totally agree with my noble friend Lady Park on the subject: their aggressive intentions may have evaporated for the time being. In June 1997, Yeltsin signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act in Paris and announced a less aggressive nuclear targeting policy. However, President Yeltsin will not be there for ever. Indeed, I cannot totally agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, on Russia.

Jane Sharp, the eminent senior research fellow at the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College London, in one of her in depth articles, wrote: The initiative for enlargement came from the former Warsaw Pact states, who felt caught in a security vacuum when violence erupted in the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union. Initially NATO offered the Partnership for Peace programme in late 1993. But it was Germany's interest in stability on its Eastern border that drove the Alliance to consider accepting new members. Germany felt the responsibility to right the wrongs of Yalta, and to bring back into Western Europe those pre-war democracies on whom Moscow imposed communist governments in the 1940s. Germany felt the responsibility to right the wrongs of Yalta, and to bring back into Western Europe those pre-war democracies on whom Moscow imposed communist governments in the 1940s. The other allies acquiesced, realising that if NATO did not supply security in Central Europe, sooner or later either Germany or Russia would, with unpredictable consequences". Volker Ruhe said: If we don't export stability, we shall import instability". Long gone are the days of Lord Ismay's famous dictum that NATO's raison d'être was: To keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down". There are no longer pressing calls for a peace dividend. The pressure for enlargement shows that the product remains in demand and the November 1995 Dayton Agreement has brought NATO new political unity and self-assurance as well as assigning the alliance the critical military role on the ground, as pointed out so clearly in Alyson Bailes' excellent piece in the IISS Survival quarterly.

At the Madrid Summit in 1997, decisions were taken to invite the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to start negotiations with the alliance. We heard Poland's case in the moving speech of my noble friend Lord Belhaven and Stenton. The problem regarding enlarging NATO has to be addressed from a very different viewpoint since 1989. Article 10 reaffirms that NATO remains open to new members, but it does not give any candidates for entry a prescriptive right to have their application automatically accepted.

The decision to admit the three was a unanimous decision taken by all 16 heads of state and government. As your Lordships will know, no votes are ever taken in a NATO Council meeting, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert. However, the vote on enlargement in the Senate garnered far more than the two-thirds needed to approve the resolution. It was an historic vote; it cut across party and ideological lines. Some 35 Democrats joined 45 Republicans in support, and only 10 Democrats and nine Republicans opposed the resolution. That was more votes than Germany got in 1954.

Enlarging NATO in this way will redraw the boundaries of Europe, pushing the military alliance 400 miles eastward towards Russia. Perhaps most important for the United States, an expanded NATO would for the first time commit US and UK military forces to the defence of Prague, Warsaw and Budapest as if they were London, Rome or Washington. The old chestnut that has plagued the European Union too for so many years of "widening or deepening" is still on the agenda. Personally I have always maintained the "or" should not be there as they are both necessary. Another old debate that challenges the European Union was aired again recently by Conrad Black's provocative lecture, "Britain's final choice; Europe or America?"

Reconciling this kind of "deepening" with "widening"—the admission of new full members—should superficially be easier for NATO than for the European Union. However, to return to Lord Ismay, it is here that NATO's true widening versus deepening dilemma lies today. Both will take a relatively long time to solve. What is their main aim now? What are the main problems? There are a series of problems. Many of them have been mentioned today. Some people say that large meetings can become unwieldy and risk too much talk and inertia. Others feel that enlargement is a price worth paying for greater political legitimacy and a new rationale in the post-Cold War era.

With the demise of the USSR, NATO has found itself responsible for Balkan peacekeeping chores too. What happens if events in Kosovo spill out of its boundaries? It is curious that we have not heard mentioned once today the old dictum of "out of area" which was mentioned from time to time whenever we used to talk about NATO. How long will other countries such as Bulgaria which have to wait for the second or even the third expansion—have to wait? The second and third wave countries are clamouring to come in. It is curious that the three post-neutral states, Finland, Switzerland and Austria, have shown little enthusiasm to join. They would probably be most welcome. There is, however, an on-going debate in Austria about membership.

"Just where do we want to draw the line on NATO membership? With Indonesia?", as Henry Kissinger asked at a conference on NATO's geopolitical destiny? That sentiment was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. Some officials worry about the immense burdens posed by the bureaucratic and infrastructure needs of so many countries and their divergent priorities. Even the scheduling of meetings poses a serious problem. NATO's Secretary-General, Javier Solana Madariaga, estimates that the number of meetings at NATO HQ has tripled in the past two years. He said: Every wife in the harem wants to have her night of pleasure, and the alliance faces the problem of being overwhelmed by pressing demands from so many countries". I was most interested to hear the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, who knows so much about enlargement.

The alliance has committed itself to enlargement as an open process designed to stabilise the whole continent. I find it difficult to follow the fantasies of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, on enlargement. Instability in central Europe has triggered two world wars in this century. The rationale of NATO enlargement is largely about the continuous prevention of a third.

All opponents of enlargement, some of whom are well-meaning liberal arms control experts, should ponder the damage that they do. By continuing to encourage Russian nationalists and xenophobes to believe that NATO has not changed since the end of the Cold War, they are acting like Lenin's "useful idiots"—westerners who supported the Bolshevik cause.

A better way to enhance the NATO-Russia partnership and advance the cause of arms control would be to demonstrate to Russian sceptics just how much western governments and people, like the great benefactor George Soros, are investing in Russian reform, and by noting that during the 1990s NATO members have cut budgets, withdrawn manpower, drastically reduced nuclear and conventional forces in Europe, and overhauled the alliance's doctrine.

What will NATO enlargement cost the taxpayer? The answer depends on which countries join NATO and when they accede, and on what strategy and force posture is chosen to implement new Article 5 commitments. There are important questions regarding cost, mentioned so ably by the noble Lords, Lord Gilbert, Lord Moynihan and Lord Chalfont, by my noble friend Lady Park and by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and many others. We look forward to hearing the Government's response. I have not touched on the matter for lack of time, though I am fully aware of its importance.

As with the fall of the Berlin Wall, 10 years ago none of your Lordships could have imagined that this debate would take place today. My final questions to the Minister are these. What kind of NATO do we want? What is its role? That question was put very clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. Do we want a NATO capable of fighting a war; or do we want a Helsinki peacekeeping NATO? Will it become a loose security association? We all know the difficulties, but this has gone quite far down the road and, as the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, mentioned, we have to be careful in regard to costs.

I conclude by quoting paragraph 52 of the report of the Defence Committee in another place. It states: In deciding whether to endorse ratification on the accession protocols of the proposed new members, Parliament must weigh the potential political advantages of enlargement against any potential short-term costs in terms of military effectiveness". For our part we are clear that the benefits of increased stability, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Moynihan, in central and eastern Europe outweigh any military costs. I was delighted with many of the remarks of the Minister who opened the debate. There is obviously cross-party agreement on the subject. I look forward now to replies to the many questions that have been put from the Minister who is to respond.

3.14 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

My Lords, I am very grateful for the opportunity to close this important debate this afternoon. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in it. As the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, said, I shall do my best to answer the questions that have been raised, but I fear that if I answer all of them we shall be here till much later.

One or two noble Lords expressed misgivings about having this debate on the last day before the Recess. I am very pleased that in such a busy Session we are able, before the Summer Recess, to honour the commitment made by the Prime Minister and the former Leader of this House in July last year after the NATO summit in Madrid that both Houses would have the opportunity to debate enlargement before the Government accepted the protocols. The protocols were signed by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and all foreign ministers of our NATO allies in Brussels last December.

The Foreign Secretary's mission Statement made on 12th May 1997 laid particular emphasis on the Government's commitment to the security of the United Kingdom. He said that this would be achieved through, an enlarged NATO and strengthened security partnerships in Europe". It naturally includes maintaining and developing the transatlantic partnership, which is fundamental to Europe's security.

As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said, it is Her Majesty's Government's view that NATO is the cornerstone of European security. Her Majesty's Government believe that it has served us well since 1949. It has established a community of nations with a commitment to common values and common defence. It cements the political and military capability of each member country. It has made war in Western Europe unthinkable.

But of course life has changed. Since the end of the cold war, NATO's role has been transformed. Former opponents are now partners in co-operation. Many noble Lords have expressed great concern about Russia and I remind the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, that in particular the NATO-Russia Founding Act, signed last year, recognised Russia's key role in European security. I say to my noble friend Lord Rea that in the new Permanent Joint Council, NATO and Russia are sitting down together to contribute jointly to the security of Europe. From political consultations on crises such as Kosovo through to practical co-operation between armed forces, those discussions are taking place. With Ukraine, too, allies have signed a charter and we are working together with common aims to promote security for the whole of Europe.

I am happy to note that Britain, together with Russia, Ukraine, the United States and other countries, will jointly participate in Operation Sea Breeze in the Black Sea this year.

The noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, spoke about the Partnership for Peace. NATO's Partnership for Peace programme with countries extends right the way across Europe and has developed into a permanent feature of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture, offering partner countries opportunities to train and exercise alongside NATO allies and, in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, enabling political consultations and discussions on a wide range of security issues.

But I remind my noble friend Lord Hanworth that when he expressed misgivings about how NATO was operating, the important thing to remember is that NATO in this context operates on a basis of consensus. I am happy to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that NATO's new role includes its vital mission in Bosnia, where, with forces from both NATO and non-NATO nations, including the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, it implements the military aspects of the Dayton agreement and supports the wider international efforts to bring about the civilian reconstruction of Bosnia. NATO is also working through Partnership for Peace to contribute to the security and stability of nations in the region, including Albania and Macedonia.

Several noble Lords mentioned both Bosnia and Kosovo and I should like to say a little more about them. The value of the multi-national NATO-led force in Bosnia has long been recognised by the international community. It was recognised in the peace implementation council in Bonn last year which said that the presence of the NATO-led force in Bosnia had been the greatest single contributor to peace and security since the signing of Dayton.

As we look to Kosovo, the situation on the ground has been deteriorating and NATO is becoming more closely involved. We have already agreed an immediate package of concrete measures to reinforce stability in the region, including enhanced co-operation. We are planning a full range of other options. The NATO air exercises in June have already demonstrated NATO's capability to project power into the region. The important point is that this is NATO talking to Russia through the contact group. I believe that we have learnt some of the sad lessons from Bosnia.

I am sorry to disagree, at least in part, with something said by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. The invitation to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to join NATO is a natural development of the alliance. It is not the first enlargement. Twelve countries signed the Washington Treaty in 1949; in 1952, Greece and Turkey acceded to the treaty. The Federal Republic of Germany joined the alliance in 1955 and, in 1982, Spain also became a member of NATO.

Many countries in Europe are eager to gain the political and security benefits of NATO membership, while contributing fully to the aims, ideals and activities of the alliance. It is right that those who will contribute should not be denied this. By enlarging NATO we enable new democracies in central Europe to join NATO's collective defence, instead of evolving national defence policies or forming rival alliances which might be seen as potentially threatening by neighbours.

Heads of state and government of NATO decided unanimously at their summit in Madrid in July 1997 that at this point it was right to invite those three countries to join. The current enlargement of the alliance is limited and manageable. That is the clear point I would make to the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings. It involves credible candidates with reliable democratic credentials and a real ability to contribute to collective security. Furthermore, the alliance can only enlarge at a measured pace which does not impact adversely on its effectiveness. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, pointed out, that is enormously effective.

But why those three? There is no mechanical checklist of criteria for membership of NATO. Of course, members must support the aims and principles of the alliance. In practice, this means democratic government, including minority rights; it means a market economy and settlement of internal and external disputes. They must also be able and willing to contribute to the NATO alliance and work harmoniously within the alliance's political and military structures; and their membership must enhance European security. As my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath pointed out, other countries were disappointed at not receiving an invitation at Madrid. But as the governments of NATO allies have made clear, and as we continue to do so, NATO's door is not closed.

I can assure the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan, Lord Chalfont, and my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath, that we look forward to the day when it will be possible to invite further European democracies to join the alliance.

But even though no other invitations for membership have been issued, NATO is making available its experience and its resources to assist non-members. We and our allies encourage all European countries to participate fully in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, which enables them to discuss with NATO members a full range of political issues. And the Partnership for Peace gives partners the opportunity to engage in military discussions and exercises. These initiatives will serve them in good stead whether they ultimately join NATO or whether they simply wish to work together with allies and their armed forces.

In particular the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, drew our attention to Romania. The Government are fully aware of the commitment by the Romanian Government to NATO and the popular support in Romania for NATO membership. We are encouraging the Romanian Government to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the enhanced Partnership for Peace which we hope will further and deepen that country's ties with NATO.

Noble Lords have expressed doubts about the costs to both current and new members of NATO of enlargement. I am going to take a little time to try and explain this further. Following a NATO study last year the defence ministers of the alliance accepted that the cost to NATO's common funded budgets over the next 10 years of the three new members would be US$ 1.5 billion. Britain's share will be some £110 million. We believe, as many other noble Lords have said, that this cost is a small price which the Government believe is worth paying to enhance European security. Earlier figures were based on radically different political and military assumptions from those now accepted and, in some cases, included costs not directly attributable to enlargement.

One or two noble Lords have expressed worries about the actual cost to the countries joining. The invited countries will be asked to contribute to NATO's common funded budgets, but they will be asked to do so in proportion to their ability to pay, and that is a very important point. On this basis, the Czech Republic has agreed to pay 0.9 per cent., Hungary 0.65 per cent. and Poland 2.48 per cent., a total of some £1 billion annually. We believe that these are small amounts in relation to their national defence budgets. May I remind your Lordships that an MoD paper was placed in the Library of both Houses in March explaining the cost estimates agreed at last December's NATO ministerial meetings, and that paper also explains the current costing's relationship with the earlier higher estimates. It does bear very careful reading.

The three new members must of course be ready to make a full contribution across the spectrum of alliance business as soon as possible after their accession is complete. To prepare them for this they now attend a wide range of NATO meetings, though they have no decision-making rights. We believe that that is the best possible training ground for the three countries concerned. Their practical preparations include working within the NATO force planning system, in which they have accepted target force goals which will guide the adaptation of their armed forces to NATO requirements. This is not going to be an easy transition for them, but we are confident that the three countries are preparing themselves for membership seriously and professionally.

I turn to some of the specific points which your Lordships have raised without trespassing too much further into time. I feel it is important to try to pick up some of the specifics that have been mentioned. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, was very concerned indeed about the accession of the three countries affecting the military capability. A capacity and clear willingness to accept the full range of military commitments involved in membership has been one of the criteria set out (if I can use that phrase), notably the willingness and ability to participate in integrated military structures in defence of all NATO allies. NATO's aim is to make this integration as smooth as possible, so I assure the noble Lord and all other noble Lords that there shall be no falling away from the highest standards for military effectiveness which NATO has rightly set itself.

To that end, we are now having the detailed discussions which I have already described to your Lordships. However, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked me specifically about the Government's reaction to the signed letter which was sent to the Prime Minister earlier this year. I should like to quote the Prime Minister's response to that letter. He said: I agree with you that NATO's ability to make effective assessments and, when necessary, rapid decisions"— a point about which the noble Lord was particularly concerned— needs to be protected. Consensus in the alliance or elsewhere is never easy to achieve. There is no evidence, however, that enlargement to include the three countries will make the achievement of consensus more difficult. They will have a strong interest in ensuring that NATO continues to function effectively. Their integration into the alliance will enhance its ability to assess the security situation in Europe and to contribute to crisis management and resolution". The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, had a rather different concern. He asked where enlargement will stop. In the Government's view the important thing to remember is that it is not numbers that matter here but the cohesion of the alliance. We are confident that the alliance of 19 members will be able to work every bit as effectively as the alliance of 16, perhaps even more so as the three new members will be enthusiastically committed to the common cause.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, perhaps I may pick the noble Baroness up on that point. When she said that she was coming to my question of where enlargement will stop, I hoped for a moment that she would be able to throw some light on that question. But I cannot say that she did.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I am certainly not going to follow the noble Lord's very interesting thought pattern as he went through the whole of eastern Europe and then into Asia and asked where a line would be drawn. It was an interesting hypothetical case, but I do not suppose for a single moment that the noble Lord thought that I would say that it would stop at a particular geographical point. What matters over these decisions is not the numbers but the cohesion of the alliance. That is the criterion under which Her Majesty's Government will consider any future applications.

The noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, and other noble Lords were concerned about Russia's position in all of this. The new strategic concept will take account of NATO's new and co-operative relationship with Russia. The strategic concept contains some outdated language, a point which my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath mentioned. I agree with that. It implies an adversarial relationship with Russia. We will request its deletion. The risk to allied security should no longer single out Russia. It should no longer single out any country posing a particular threat. Our priority is to deepen and broaden co-operation within the existing frameworks that I have outlined to your Lordships.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, my noble friend Lord Hanworth and others asked about plans that might be in train to develop the OSCE. The role of the OSCE has developed considerably in recent years and it is likely to continue to do so. Its importance lies in conflict prevention. But the OSCE has no experience in the field we are talking about—NATO's main functions. It has little experience and it has not had the necessary command and control structures. The best approach for the OSCE is to concentrate on the civilian aspects of conflict prevention, with military peacekeeping, under the UN or the OSCE mandate where appropriate, being carried out by others such as NATO where the coalitions are willing for that kind of co-operation to take place.

The noble Lord went over some of the ground we covered when we were discussing the Amsterdam Treaty in some detail. I do not propose to go into that in any great detail now other than to say to the noble Lord that Maastricht introduced the concept of the EU common defence policy and of a common defence strategy right across Europe, but at Amsterdam the majority of partners wanted to go further by committing us to a European common defence and to integration of the WEU with the EU.

As I have already said to the noble Lord on previous occasions, it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that those changes would undermine NATO. We still continue to believe that NATO is the bedrock of Europe's security. I know that the noble Lord has other views about the integration of European security, but I must advise him that those views are not necessarily shared by Her Majesty's Government in quite the fully developed way that the noble Lord would like.

The noble Lord also mentioned the question of the new NATO headquarters. NATO has commissioned studies into its future HQ requirements and the cost implications of various options. Analysis of that material is still under way and no decisions have been taken on it as yet.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, wanted me to concentrate a little on the position vis-à-vis Gibraltar and Spain. In the context of Spanish integration into NATO—we support it, of course—we and Spain have been developing arrangements to avoid problems between us over Gibraltar. Satisfactory arrangements are being put into place on the basis of normal alliance practice and without prejudice—I stress that—to the sovereign position as regards Gibraltar.

A great many other questions have been asked, but perhaps I may turn to the points about ratification and accession progress which were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. NATO has completed the formal accession negotiations with Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The protocols of accession were signed by NATO and the invited countries' foreign ministers on 17th December. The protocols must now be ratified by allies according to their own constitutional procedures. As I am sure the noble Lord is aware, those procedures will vary according to the countries concerned. However, we have no doubt that the issue will be fully discussed by all the relevant countries.

I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennet—I hope that he is pleased with at least this part of my speech—and the noble Baroness, Lady Park, for their kind support for having more officials in the Foreign Office. Hard-pressed Foreign Office Ministers will be extremely grateful for those remarks about support that we should be very happy to see in the Foreign Office—the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others permitting.

Noble Lords also asked about a vision of NATO. Perhaps I may say something about that. Like other noble Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was anxious about whether we still need NATO. Without in any way detracting from what the noble Lord said, perhaps I may say that British security is inseparable from European security. By replacing a system of national defence policies with collective defence, NATO has transformed security in Europe and has made another war between the Western European nations unthinkable. However, among NATO's key and irreplaceable attributes are that it embodies the US security commitment to Europe. That is the point. This is not just about the countries within Europe, but about the commitment of the United States to European security. That is the bedrock of the NATO alliance.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Baroness and I hope that the House will forgive me. However, what she said implied that I had expressed doubt about the desirability of continuing in NATO. Not so—I was expressing doubt about the desirability of an unlimited expansion of NATO.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I did not mean to imply that the noble Lord was suggesting that everybody should pack up their NATO pencil boxes and go home. However, I thought that in the noble Lord's speech I detected some doubt about American commitment to real security in Europe because of the way in which the United States sometimes deals with such issues in Congress. In that context I strongly support the comment of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that part of our job is to talk not only to the US Administration but to the Senate, the Congress and, if possible, to get over these points to the American people. This dialogue must be had at many different levels throughout NATO. I believe that the noble Baroness gave some very wise advice.

The UK's vision for NATO is that not only should it remain the foundation for our security, but it should embody and maintain the transatlantic security relationship to prevent the renationalisation (if I may put it that way) of defence in Europe. NATO helps to maintain and strengthen key relationships, among which is the relationship with the Russians. It must remain an effective and flexible military instrument to deal with future threats and challenges to our security. Through engagement with other countries in the region it should spread stability and the values of democracy and act as the allies' primary forum for consultation on all issues of concern in relation to security.

Following this debate the Government will deposit notifications of acceptance of the enlargement protocols with the United States Government in Washington in accordance with our obligations under the Washington Treaty. We expect a formal joining ceremony to take place when heads of state and government meet in Washington on 24th and 25th April 1999 which is also the celebration of 50 years of NATO's history. In anticipation of that event I hope that the whole House will join me in welcoming the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to the NATO alliance.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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