HL Deb 07 June 2000 vol 613 cc1209-30

8.25 p.m.

Lord Blaker

rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether the state of United Kingdom relations with Russia is satisfactory, in the light of the presidential elections there.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to open this debate on an important topic. The debate takes place at a relevant time. Any consideration of our relations with Russia must start with President Putin. My impression is that he is likely to turn out to be a useful person with whom to do business. He has the advantage, which was not available to his predecessor, of commanding a majority in the Duma. He was elected with 53 per cent of the popular vote, which puts him in a strong position.

The policy statements of his government and his own actions give a strong impression that he is a genuine democrat. However, I think that in that connection we have to make two reservations. The first is that he appears to be rather heavy-handed with the media. We have had recent examples of that. Secondly, of course, there is the whole problem of Chechnya. I am sure that noble Lords will agree with me that we support the Government in the representations that they have made to Russia in that connection, and we shall continue to give them our support. Can the Minister who is to reply to the debate report any progress by the commission which President Putin appointed to look into that question?

I wish to raise three other topics. The first concerns economic relations. Russia's economy is in a disastrous situation. The IMF estimates that its GDP is now equivalent to 2 per cent of that of the United States. There has been an immense flight of capital. Domestic demand has fallen dramatically. Capital investment has dropped every year for the past 12 years. Of course the European Union has an interest in the success of the Russian economy. The European Union accounts for 40 per cent of Russia's trade. It is in our interest to help Russia, if we are allowed to do so. We can help by encouraging the development of institutions which will help the rule of law and by encouraging observation of the rule of law. Those are two key factors in the future of Russia's economy. We can help Russia to prepare for admission to the World Trade Organisation.

The next subject I want to cover is the question of ballistic missile defence. That is even more important than the two topics I have already mentioned. Noble Lords will be familiar with the proposals that President Clinton has put forward in recent days for anti-ballistic missile screens in Alaska and in the rest of the United States. It is pretty clear that if those projects went forward, they would involve a breach of the antiballistic missile treaty, unless that treaty were amended.

I was intrigued by a reply which the Minister gave to a Starred Question on 18th May on this subject. She said that the Government had been speaking to Moscow and Washington about the ABM treaty and the need for an agreement. I am rather surprised that that remark—which I believe is important—has not, as far as I know, been taken up in the House. Will she elaborate on that when she replies? Will she say what the Government want to see in the agreement to which she referred, if it can be achieved? What do the Government see as the United Kingdom's role?

Ballistic missile defence is a matter of great interest to countries other than the United States and Russia, not least to the United Kingdom. There is a very important question as to whether, if such an antiballistic missile system were installed, it would work. I know of no proof that it would. I foresee that we might have a long and difficult process of negotiation, involving many countries, only to find after all that, with all the pain it would entail, the system did not work.

If the matter is mishandled there are some serious dangers—danger of the loss of START II; failure to embark on START III negotiations; failure to achieve any international agreement on the control of fissile material; dangerous consequences perhaps for the effectiveness of our own nuclear deterrent; and in particular a worsening of relations between Russia and the West, which could be serious and long-lasting.

Why is President Clinton in such a hurry? I am not convinced that there is the need for hurry that he seems to feel. As I understand it, he was proposing to make a decision on the matter this summer. It is clear from last weekend's discussions between the two presidents that any agreement, if it is achieved at all, will take some time to achieve. I do not see how it can be achieved by this summer.

Nevertheless, last weekend's meeting had some constructive results. The statement of principles is quite important. It reaffirmed the ABM treaty, but agreed that it could be amended. It showed an acceptance by Mr. Putin that there is a threat from rogue states; the first time, I think, that Russia has accepted that. It agreed that 68 tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium would be made unusable by the two participant countries. It also agreed that a joint centre would be set up in Moscow, manned by nationals of the two countries, to exchange information about launches of ballistic missiles, including, in due course, missiles launched from countries other than the two directly involved. That agreement has potential for interesting development.

The third question that I want to raise is that of the broader political relations between us and Russia. Critical engagement, which I understand is the phrase that the Government are inclined to use, particularly about Chechnya, is not enough when we look at our relations with Russia as a whole. We should be bolder than aspiring simply to that, because Russia is no longer a belligerent and stubborn enemy. We should achieve better results in understanding its concerns, especially the concern that is quite clear from recent Russian official documents, since President Putin has been in office—the concern not to be sidelined.

The best example of a mistake made by the West in that context occurred in Kosovo, when NATO provided no role for Russia in peace-keeping planned to take place after the ceasefire, despite the fact that the ceasefire was secured by Mr. Chernomyrdin, the former Russian Prime Minister, working with President Ahtisaari of Finland. That led, we will all remember, to the dramatic seizure by the Russian forces of Pristina airport. The Russian proposal was to overfly Eastern Europe with several thousand troops corning into Kosovo, which was thwarted only by the courageous refusal of, I think, three East European countries to allow them to overfly.

The reality is that we avoided a clash between the West and Russia by a fairly narrow margin. I have never understood, and have never seen explained, how NATO failed to provide in advance for a Russian role. The Prime Minister played a prominent part in NATO's affairs at the time. KFOR had its origins in NATO's rapid reaction corps, in which the United Kingdom has a central place. After the Pristina airport event NATO rapidly found a role for Russia, which shows that it could have been found in advance. I do not understand how that failure occurred.

I shall be interested to hear the noble Baroness's reaction to that question, because it seems to me that that incident, along with others that I do not have time to go into, has rankled in the minds of especially the Russian military ever since. That accounts to a large extent for the tougher and more militant line that Russia has taken in its external affairs. We must recognise that Russia has great potential for trouble for the West if we do not secure a more lasting and better relationship with it. It could, for example, accentuate the selling to other countries of arms, including nuclear materials, for which it has already been to some extent responsible. If it lost faith in the West, or had bad relations with the West, it could one day team up with China, if ever China became more hostile.

The best way of influencing Russia for the better in the future is to determine to establish warmer and closer relations, and especially to understand Russia's concerns better. In the past few days President Clinton has said that the European Union and the United States should integrate Russia into the world community and that, no doors can be sealed shut to Russia—not NATO's, not the European Union's". I do not go as far as that, but at least he was pointing in the right direction.

8.36 p.m.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest. I have various business links with Russia. Secondly, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, for putting down this Unstarred Question. We are having an extremely important debate, and I am sorry that there are not more Peers participating in it.

As an aside, I would pick up the noble Lord's second point, about the importance of the ABM Treaty and the national missile defence issue, which President Clinton and President Putin debated over the weekend. Yesterday I was at the assembly of WEU where we debated the issue. The consensus there was that it was likely to dominate relations between Russia and the United States for the next decade. It will be of huge importance.

I initiated a debate about relations with Russia on 6th April 1998. That debate concentrated on trade relations with Russia and with the former Soviet Union as a whole. I was rereading the debate this afternoon. All the broad points that one can make today were made then: the need for long-term investment, for long-term relationships and for a multifaceted approach to building institutional relationships. While those broad points are true, there has been a roller-coaster ride over the past couple of years for those who have invested in Russia. Some of the major British investments proudly mentioned in the debate two years ago have since turned sour. People are even more cautious about investing new money in Russia in the current climate.

I do not want to concentrate on trade. I want to mention some other issues to do with our relationship as a whole with Russia. I want to mention Chechnya, which has dominated our relationship in recent months. My noble friend the Minister has answered a number of questions about Chechnya and has rightly referred to the need for a critical engagement with Russia on the issue. She will know that our noble friend Lord Judd has been at the forefront of that critical engagement through his work with the Council of Europe where Russia has now been suspended from the parliamentary assembly. Members of the parliamentary assembly will be looking to see the results of that critical engagement before they consider restoring the voting rights of the members of the Duma and will see what progress the Russian Government have made in response to that critical engagement.

As to other institutional arrangements—a point touched on in a slightly different way by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker—I, too, wish to talk about NATO. I shall argue a different point from the noble Lord. I believe that NATO is proving quite constructive in rebuilding relations with Russia, particularly over recent months. We have seen the NATO/Russia permanent joint council start working again; and we have seen KFOR operating quite effectively with Russian troops as a part of it and Russian commanders in NATO. It is interesting that the tough security and defence institutions are finding it easier to work with the Russian Government than are the human rights-based institutions such as the Council of Europe and the OSCE.

This was a point emphasised to me on Monday at the WEU assembly. We were addressed by Javier Solana, the European Union high representative, and there was an opportunity for parliamentarians, including Russian parliamentarians, to ask him questions. He was asked about his personal relationship with President Putin and he gave a very convincing answer. He said that he had met him on a number of occasions and had discussed a number of issues in great depth. He certainly made the argument that President Putin was very interested in developments in European security and the missile issues to which we have referred. I doubt whether representatives from human rights institutions such as the Council of Europe would have had quite such a positive response to their discussions with President Putin. I am arguing that, somewhat paradoxically, there are greater opportunities for constructive diplomacy through these security-based institutions than there are through human rights-based institutions.

I—like everyone in the debate, I suspect—have made many Russian friends over the past 10 years or so. A point worth repeating is that personal relationships seem to be more important in Russia than in other parts of the world. They are fundamental to doing business and achieving ends. Here in London, of course, it is now very common to hear Russian spoken in the streets, on the buses—everywhere. My noble friend Lady Smith of Gilmorehill has done a huge amount of work to foster relations between the Russian Duma and the Westminster Parliament.

Criticism is part of the nature of a mature and growing relationship. A constructive criticism—which I know is the approach taken by the Government—is something we can offer Russia without undermining our growing friendship.

I have briefly talked about trade, about Chechnya, about security and defence and about the general spirit of a critical engagement among friends. I have suggestions in each of those areas.

On trade, I agree completely with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, that it is about building competence in Russian institutions. The Russians themselves have lost all confidence in their banks, in their law and in their institutions. I very much hope that the Know-How Fund and the TACIS funds and the like will be increasingly directed towards helping the Russians to rebuild their institutions so that the Russian people themselves have faith in them.

As to Chechnya, ultimately the ball is in the Russians' court to demonstrate that they understand the European Convention on Human Rights, having signed up to it when they joined the Council of Europe.

As to security and defence, there is a paradox here. There are tremendous opportunities in security and defence for building a number of relationships at different levels. As I have argued before, I believe that such institutions are in advance of other institutions in re-establishing relations with Russia.

The Unstarred Question asks whether relations with Russia are satisfactory in the light of the presidential elections. I suspect that my Russian friends would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, when he said that President Putin is a man with whom we can do business. From different political parties, they all say to me that he is honest, he is young and he is able. They are all more hopeful for their future than they were a year or so ago.

I hope that when my noble friend replies to the debate she will speak about the range of our relationship with the Russians and the Russian Government, and how she will seek to shape that relationship, with criticism and with encouragement, to build a deeper understanding in the future.

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Stern

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, for initiating the debate. It is a privilege to participate in a debate initiated by someone with such a distinguished career in the field of international relations.

I am aware that other speakers in the debate are taking, and will take, a wide geopolitical view of the relationships between the UK and Russia and the prospects after the recent elections. I should like to focus more narrowly, if I may, on questions which are nevertheless very important: a question of human rights and a question of reform in an area of human rights where the UK Government have played, and are playing, a supportive role.

First, I wish to echo the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, and to draw your Lordships' attention to the report by Human Rights Watch published on 2nd June which highlighted more human rights abuses in Chechnya. The report describes killing, arson, rape and looting in Aldi, a suburb of Grozny, on 5th February this year by Russian not police and contract soldiers, and it calls on the Russian Government to bring those responsible to justice. The abuses reported by Human Rights Watch are appalling, and I hope that the Government will continue to make it clear to the Russian authorities that some effective action must be taken to bring those responsible to justice.

I also want to draw attention to another report. This is a report in the Moscow Times of Saturday 27th May, which states: The State Duma voted unanimously Friday to approve an amnesty intended to release up to 120,000 inmates from the country's overcrowded, underfunded, tuberculosis-ridden prisons". The report says that the amnesty was approved by a vote in the Duma of 385 to nil. This is a cause for congratulation. This amnesty is greatly needed. The Russian prison situation is indeed an abuse of human rights.

Perhaps I may declare an interest. I have been involved in prison reform in Russia since 1991 in my capacity as a board member of the international non-governmental organisation Penal Reform International. I must also declare that the International Centre for Prison Studies in King's College, London, where I am a senior research fellow, is also working on prison reform in Russia. In particular, a new project is just beginning at the international centre, supported by the Department for International Development, which will create a three-year working partnership between the pre-trial prisons in Moscow and prisons in England and Wales and Northern Ireland.

On 12th January, I spoke in your Lordships' House on the subject of the epidemic of tuberculosis in Russian prisons. Perhaps I may allude to the facts that I presented then. It is estimated by the Russian authorities that about 96,000 of the 1 million Russian prisoners have active tuberculosis, and that between 20 per cent and 40 per cent of those have a variety of tuberculosis that is resistant to the main anti-tuberculosis drugs. This resistant strain of tuberculosis is highly contagious and responds only to a long course of drugs that are very expensive.

So, the Russian prison situation is not just a human rights issue; it is also a public health issue; and an issue of relations between our two countries since TB is highly contagious. Many thousands of prisoners leave prison every year and take their untreated or half-treated infection with them. With the growth in international travel, such diseases spread very rapidly from one country to another.

On Sunday 27th May, I visited Mattroskaya Tischina pre-trial prison in Moscow. I visited the TB section where there are hundreds of prisoners with active TB. The cells were slightly less overcrowded than the normal prison cells. In the TB section each cell holds about 20 people, sleeping in bunks in two tiers. I pay tribute to the dedicated prison medical staff I have met in Russia who work very hard, with limited resources, well beyond the call of duty. The staff claimed that their medicine supply was just adequate, and that they had the facilities to test for drug resistance and to change the drugs if resistance was found.

We also visited the normal cells, which hold more people than there are beds. Those prisoners who were allocated the day sleeping shift, while others sat on the floor, slept soundly on while a party of about 10 people crowded into their packed cell to talk to the prisoners held there. That is what that prison is like after a great improvement in the situation. The governor told us that the number of prisoners he was locking up had gone down from 6,500 to 4,500 thanks to the efforts of the government to speed up the trial process.

The TB situation is very bad, so I should like to ask the Minister in her reply to tell us how the Government's plans to help with that are taking shape; whether they are yet in operation; what is the position on the promised World Bank loan for TB control and treatment; and whether that loan will help the situation in the prisons.

Another threat is now emerging: HIV infection and AIDS. The figures are frightening. The World Health Organisation reports a massive rise in the rate of HIV infection in Russia in 1999 and its spread into cities where until that year it was completely unknown. Prisons are becoming reservoirs of HIV infection. I ask the Minister whether the Government have plans to offer help with this also so that the HIV epidemic does not reach the same proportions as that in relation to tuberculosis.

The situation in the prisons seems intractable. But against that impression, we have to set the determination of the Russian authorities to bring about change.

In 1996 the Russian Federation joined the Council of Europe, and by so doing accepted that it would work to achieve European standards in its prisons. I am sure that the Council of Europe would feel that it had received great co-operation from the Russian authorities in trying to implement that enormous change.

In June 1998 the Russian Federation took another great step and transferred responsibility for the prison service from the Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Justice. It was an enormous upheaval and it is reported that it was carried out successfully.

In October 1999 Vladimir Putin, before he became president, visited Kresty prison in St Petersburg. That prison was built to hold 3,000 prisoners. At the time of his visit it was holding 10,000 prisoners. That moved him to say that action had to be taken.

In Europe there are 2 million prisoners. More than 1 million of those prisoners are in Russia. The imprisonment rate in the Russian Federation is the highest in the world, with the United States a close second. So the amnesty that passed through the Russian Parliament on 26th May was a most hopeful sign and should be warmly welcomed. There is one problem with it, however: 120,000 prisoners, including 10,000 juveniles, will be released from prison. They will be let loose, many of them destitute and with few alternatives to a return to petty crime.

Resettlement arrangements for released prisoners in Russia are patchy and in some places non-existent. I wonder therefore whether the Minister could look at the suggestion of adding to the range of issues being discussed with Russian officials the possibility of giving help with the resettlement of ex-prisoners. That is an area where UK experience is extensive and where help could be effectively given, and would, I am sure, be well received. I look forward to the Minister's response.

8.56 p.m.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I warmly congratulate my noble friend Lord Blaker on introducing this debate on this very important subject, at a time when Russia is at such an historic, critical, inevitably challenging and sometimes painful transition from 70 years of Soviet communism to a free-market based democracy.

The people of Russia have achieved a very great deal in the past decade in the establishment of democracy, economic reform and civil society. They have also had to confront many challenges to their internal and external security, most formidably from the recent Islamist terrorist-instigated wars in Chechnya and Dagestan.

Inevitably, there have been mistakes which have incurred legitimate criticism within Russia and from the international community. But a balanced appraisal is essential if Russia is to receive the support I believe it deserves and which is it is in the interests of this country to provide.

In the short time available, I will comment briefly on the political and economic aspects of Russia's achievements, with particular reference to the establishment of civil society, and on the implications of the war in Chechnya, as they have been highlighted by President Putin.

The political achievements are evident in the "New Russia" which emerged just a decade ago, which is fundamentally different from its tsarist or its communist past. An ideology-based, authoritarian society has been transformed into an open society, and the peaceful transition of presidential power by democratic elections, political pluralism, freedom of expression and a market economy, all of which are functions and touchstones of democracy, have been achieved.

As President Putin said in his inaugural speech: A change of power is a test for the constitutional system. It is a test for its strength. But this test we have overcome with dignity. We have proved that Russia is becoming a really democratic modern state… The way to a free society was not simple and easy… The construction of a democratic state was not simple or easy. The construction of a democratic state is far from complete, but a lot has been done". There are still deep problems: notoriously widespread corruption; an entrenched Mafia; economic insecurity and poverty for many people, especially the elderly and the unemployed, as the stabilities of the old system are swept away. But the Duma, strengthened by last year's parliamentary elections, and a new president committed to strong leadership, with the opportunity for stable interaction between executive and legislative branches of government, now give Russia an unprecedented opportunity for legislation to address these urgent problems.

In this process, Russia needs support and understanding. The Duma and presidential elections reflect a new development in the political culture of Russia. The Duma is attaining more power and respect. Even though the presidency is very strong, it is working with the Duma; and there is growing respect throughout Russia for the legitimacy of the institutions of civil society. This is a very important development in the growth of democracy, and an encouraging indication of the emergence of a healthy political and economic system. I believe that it is cause for hope that Russia has crossed the point of no return in its transition from a cynical political communist system, trusted by no-one, to a western-style democracy with growing public trust in the legal system and the rule of law. Indeed the importance of the rule of law was appropriately highlighted by my noble friend Lord Blaker and by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby.

At the individual level, there are comparable signs of hope. For example, in Christian Solidarity World-wide, we are privileged to be working with the Russian Federation Ministry of Education and with Moscow city government. At their invitation, we are helping to change the policy of care for orphaned and abandoned children away from the Soviet system of incarceration in brutalising institutions to promoting foster family care. We have been profoundly impressed by the commitment, professionalism and sheer goodness of vast numbers of Russian people in implementing this fundamental reform, essential for the development of civil society.

I was particularly interested in the experiences just described by the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, of positive developments in what had been an horrendous prison system, and also in the problem of tuberculosis. Merlin—Medical Emergency Relief International—with which I am working, is undertaking a major tuberculosis programme in Siberia, based in Tomsk. There are formidable problems, but there has been great progress. Merlin received international acclaim, and that was very much due to our Russian colleagues.

But too often the media have focused on the problems, presenting negative, and I believe one-sided; images of Russia, and nowhere more so than with the tragic war in Chechnya. I do not minimise the suffering of the Chechen people. Merlin, which I have already mentioned, has been deeply involved in humanitarian relief work there. But I am concerned that the situation has been inadequately presented by the media, which have tended to demonise Russia and have failed to apportion any significant blame to Chechnya. Whatever the history of Russian-Chechen relations, the situation in Chechnya in the 1990s deteriorated to widespread terrorism and anarchy, with gross violations of human rights, murders, abductions, public executions, torture and terrorist activities. Russia could not stand by.

Russia then faced a direct confrontation by an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 terrorists, including veteran Islamist jihad warriors, who had moved into Chechnya with an agenda to take over not just Chechnya, but also Dagestan and other countries in the Caucasus such as Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh and, ultimately, the Caspian oil basin.

The evidence for this analysis is available, but time does not permit me to present it this evening. However, Congressman McCullom, speaking in the US House of Representatives, summarised this evidence effectively. He said that, there looms an escalation in and beyond Chechnya. Spearheaded by Islamist forces, including terrorists from several Middle Eastern countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the new cycle of fighting is expected to spread into the entire region for geo-strategic reasons. The surge of Islamist terrorism is likely to serve as a catalyst for the eruption of the tension and acrimony building throughout the entire Caucasus. Having just returned from a trip to Russia, including Chechnya, German BND Chief August Hanning reported to the Bundestag that the situation in the Caucasus had 'escalated dangerously'.… the fighting in Chechnya will not only escalate, but also spread to the fringes of the Russian Federation and to the rest of the Caucasus. Hanning is most alarmed by these prospects because the Islamist forces in Chechnya are supported and guided by the Afghan Taliban and by the globally operating terrorist bin Laden as well as by groups of Islamist mercenaries. Through these channels, Hanning found out, the Chechen forces have been provided with large quantities of modern weapons including 'Stinger-type' anti-aircraft missiles. Hanning warned the Bundestag of the dire strategic and economic ramifications for the West if the Chechnya war spread to Georgia, Dagestan, Ingushetia, and the rest of the Caucasus". Congressman McCullom concludes very briefly: The United States must support the Russian endeavour to control the Islamist upsurge in the Caucasus before terrorism gets out of control. I think that the world should be more appreciative of what Russia has done to contain that terrorism. Whatever critical dialogue it may be engaged in, that is a front line that Russia has held for the rest of the world. I should therefore like to ask the Minister for an assurance that the Government of this country are not in any way supporting those who are fighting against Russia in Chechnya, and I look forward with great interest to the answer to that question.

Perhaps I may conclude by urging the Government to do everything in their power to support President Putin and his colleagues as they strive to enable Russia to develop as a free, open society and to make its own distinctive contribution to the international family of democratic nations.

9.7 p.m.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, I wish the Putin presidency well. Certainly, Russia is a proud nation with inestimable burdens and seemingly unsure about its position in the world. There is, however, no doubt about the importance of welcoming Russia as a working partner.

In some ways the president is a contradictory figure—proud of his Soviet values and its institutions but he has shown himself, as with Chechnya, to be ruthless, with no latitude; some would say authoritarian. He clearly has a firm view of national interests and talks of the need to preserve democratic principles, but will then stress the need to maintain stability.

Some are deeply sceptical about where a Putin presidency will take Russia, citing all manner of indicators and suggesting policies falling short of western ideals.

These are early days, but I believe we should have no illusions about with whom we shall be dealing. For all those reasons, it is absolutely right that our Prime Minister should have engaged in the manner that he did, so allowing for British interests to impact at the earliest opportunity.

Russia faces many challenges. The degree of continuing state influence and crime and corruption, together with the pace of embracing democratic principles, would inevitably further economic decline. Although I believe that there will be trappings of democracy, they will not develop into civil society. By extension to that, vital to Russian interests will be the need to attract foreign investment and economic assistance. The Minister should, I believe, impress on the president the worldwide competition for both and the need to create a conducive environment, including a commitment to the rule of law. Indicators suggest that President Putin is sensitive to IMF programmes and creditor concerns. That is helpful, particularly because his chief economic adviser is a staunch liberal.

I take a special interest in CIS affairs and believe that we shall see a more coherent and assertive regional policy. Neighbouring Baltic states report a sea change in Russian policies since Putin's arrival on the national scene. In addition, Afghanistan and all that it stands for will have to be addressed. I should very much like to know whether the Prime Minister had the opportunity of discussing any form of assistance with the president in matters relating.

I am also of the view that special attention should be paid to Russian sensitivities. While presidents Clinton and Putin are to be congratulated on their recent Moscow initiatives, the proposed American missile defence system taps into Russian fears or western double-dealing. Russia could react adversely, but then again we have to address any legitimate concerns that we have while working to create an atmosphere of businesslike accommodation.

It is unclear to me who is in the sphere of influence in Moscow. To what extent are the old guard excluded and are we now dealing with a new band of post-communists? All in all, given the upcoming American elections, interesting times lie ahead.

9.11 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, it is a convention of the House to thank those who introduce debates of this kind. However, my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Blaker—

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for allowing me to intervene. It is my understanding that the first person to speak after the speaker who initiates a debate can thank that speaker. That convention then extends to all contributors. I do, of course, thank the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, but I wish to stress that I meant no ill-intent by not doing so earlier.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I certainly did not intend to imply any element of criticism of the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley. I wished simply to say that my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, go far beyond the conventional response. I believe that both the terms in which he introduced this debate and the extraordinary quality of the contributions show how valuable it has been. I repeat that in no way did I in tend to imply a reprimand of any other Peer in the House.

Perhaps I may begin by saying that I have had the benefit of returning from Russia very recently. I serve on the board of the Moscow School of Political Studies, which each year hosts a number of seminars for Russian parliamentarians at both the national and provincial levels. I have just completed a week of attendance at a seminar held in Golitsynu, near Moscow, where many of the issues surrounding the election of President Putin and their consequences were discussed in great depth.

Two points clearly emerged from our debates at the seminar and they shadow much of what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, in his contribution. First, there was the absolute determination of President Putin not to allow the break-up of Russia. Clearly he and some of those around him believe that the Chechen war was an indication of the possibility of disintegration of the Russian Federation. One might say that perhaps almost the very first principle to which President Putin is totally and absolutely committed is that there shall be no further break-up of Russia.

I think that the second commitment to which he is absolutely dedicated is that the rule of law must apply throughout the whole of the Russian Federation. Noble Lords will have noticed the appointment of seven regional super-governors, who have the power to tell the elected governors of the 89 regions of Russia what to do. It is a very striking example of the willingness of Vladimir Putin to go a very long way and to take considerable risks to re-establish the rule of law.

Having said that, however, it is important to make a qualification. Given the Russian constitution, the rule of law implies obedience to presidential decrees, which may not have been debated or approved by the Duma. To revert to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, it would therefore be perhaps a little over-optimistic to suggest that Russia is already a complete democracy. It is a country on the way to democracy. It has not yet quite achieved that.

With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and others have said about the second war of Chechnya, I would like to report back on a few other things I found in Russia—which may or may not be correct, but which go some way to bear out what the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, said.

I would give no ground to anybody who suggested that the reaction of the Russian Federation to what happened in the second war of Chechnya was in any sense proportionate to the terrible things that occurred there. The concept of proportionality, that the use of force should not exceed the challenge made to a sovereign state, was certainly breached in the case of Chechnya. The methods selected by the Russian government at the time, which involved the total destruction of a large number of cities and small towns, was, at least in western eyes today, an unacceptable reaction. It would be as if we had laid flat Belfast when we first encountered the IRA.

The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, is also right to say that the challenge in Chechnya has not been properly or fairly covered by the British media. Let me give just two examples. I did not fully appreciate, and I have less knowledge than many people in the Chamber tonight, what had happened in Chechnya and I have not visited Chechnya myself. There were two things that struck me very forcefully. One was the almost casual breach of the peace agreement reached in Khasavyurt in 1996 by the then Russian government and the leaders of Chechnya: an agreement which went a very long way to concede autonomy to the Chechen Republic on domestic matters, and which was virtually thrown aside by the Chechen leaders without any serious attempt to make it work. At least, that is certainly my impression.

The second thing which is worth saying, especially in the light of the extraordinary and fascinating, if very disturbing, account given by the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, is that in February 1999 Chechnya reintroduced the Sharia law, which carries with it public executions and mutilations as punishment for relatively minor crimes; that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, said, literally hundreds of people have been executed or mutilated under the Sharia law since February 1999 and, furthermore, that the introduction of Sharia law into Chechnya immediately put the Russian Federation in breach of its own commitment to the Council of Europe, which had led to the suspension of capital punishment in a country which had used capital punishment extensively. This led directly to a sense, on the part of the Russian Government, that its sovereignty was being challenged and indeed that its right to rule in the Russian Federation, including in Chechnya, was being challenged.

I do agree—let alone the attack on Dagestan, let alone the apartment bombings—that there were very strong reasons why Russian public opinion powerfully supported the government on the second war in Chechnya in a way that it had not done in the first war in Chechnya between 1993 and 1995.

I repeat, that does not excuse some of the extreme military methods used; but I believe that we need to look at a somewhat more balanced analysis of Chechnya than our own media have so far allowed us to undertake.

Let me say just a word about the economy, where there has been some improvement. There has been a rate of growth in the past year of 6.8 per cent and an expectation in the coming year of a rate of growth of about 5 per cent plus. There is also a bit of good news in that the oil and gas price increases enabled the Putin government to pay off substantial arrears of unpaid salaries of teachers, policemen and many others, and indeed unpaid pensioners. Although the plight of Russia remains extremely serious, therefore, with very large parts of the population still in poverty, there has been some alleviation of what was a grim situation.

Here, I part company slightly from the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, having had the privilege of hearing Mr Illianov, the president's new economic adviser, only four days ago. Although I fully accept that he is unquestionably, in a very old-fashioned sense, a liberal, some of the propositions he has put forward under the Gref programme for virtually wiping out what remains of the social provision in Russia, frankly, disturb me greatly. This is a country in which there are already extreme inequalities. Therefore, for example, to expect most people to pay fees for education and for even the minimum health provision is, to say the least, a little disturbing. As the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, indicated, in a globalised world one cannot shut people's ill health in on themselves. The rest of us have to encounter the consequences, quite apart from our moral commitment to doing something about it.

I turn finally to the important points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, followed by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, and others, with regard to Russia's foreign policy. I strongly agree with their remarks about national missile defence. When I was in Russia, I was told in so many words that the Russians would be extremely reluctant to amend the anti-ballistic missile treaty—and heaven knows, one understands that, especially in the light of Russia's willingness to ratify START II and possibly START III if it is encouraged so to do. But the other thing which, frankly, made my blood run a little cold was being told in the high levels of the National Security Council that Russia would have to consider "MIR Ving" its existing warheads if the United States were to go ahead without any compromise being reached. I am sure that Members of this House who are aware of how weakly guarded some of the warheads are, and how dangerous is the problem of deterioration over the years, share my concern about any possibility of moving towards multiple re-entry vehicles attached to those warheads.

I conclude with three brief questions to the Minister. First, is she satisfied that Russia is being given enough help to meet fully the requirements it has entered into under the Council of Europe? Secondly, will she give an assurance that NATO will not be expanded into the Baltic states without full discussion with the new Russian Government? This is undoubtedly a matter of profound concern in that country. Thirdly, does she agree that there should be an attempt as early as possible to reach a more generous trading relationship between the European Union and Russia, including exchanges of assistance and help in the kinds of fields discussed by the noble Baroness, Lady Stern. In other words, will Her Majesty's Government do their very best in the Council of Ministers to try to create closer relations between the European Union and Russia, at a time when it is obvious that the Russian Federation is extremely keen to establish closer relations with the European Union, with which it feels itself to be historically and ultimately likely to be connected?

9.23 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, the timing of this debate could hardly be more appropriate and the quality has been very high. My noble friend Lord Blaker has done us all a great service in promoting it at this time. My noble friend began with a sobering, indeed staggering, statistic which we should do well to bear in mind; namely, that the gross domestic product of the Russian Federation amounts to less than 2 per cent of the GDP of the United States of America. The one is in the range of about 180 billion dollars, the other in the range of some 9 trillion dollars.

Of course, all these statistics are elastic. We have no real idea of what is going on in the Russian economy. Large parts of it are black and large parts are Mafia-controlled. I do not think anyone imagines that members of the Mafia are particularly assiduous in handing in official statistics denoting what they are up to. However, one can reach the sobering conclusion that Russia's economy is extremely poor; it is a very weak country in terms of exploiting its vast national resources, and many parts of that enormous continent are in dire straits, with people on the edge of starvation if not actually starving.

All this has been made worse, not better, by the fact that when the new dawn came and communism was overthrown, Russia was then deluged with exceptionally stupid economic advice from many sources in the West that failed to connect with the realities of the Russian people and their needs. The result has been that Russia is poorer today by far than it need have been. Certainly, the damage to the reputation of economists—that was already pretty low—has been vast, although few of them admit it. That is the first fact that I wanted to share with your Lordships this evening as we come to the end of this debate.

The second fact is a rather obvious one: we are dealing not just with a country but with a vast, disparate collection of races and nations stretching from the centre of Europe through to the Sea of Okhotsk and to the northern islands of Japan. This is something so much greater and larger than any other so-called "nation state" on earth, so we need to be careful about assuming that one can apply the rules of nation states and democratic procedures and make judgments on that basis as if Russia were like anywhere else. It is not. It is extremely difficult to control, as successive rulers of Russia have found, and the present rulers are no different.

We have heard very wide and very well informed comments from people like my noble friend Lady Cox who is familiar with what is going on in Chechnya. We know that the problem of control that the new President Vladimir Putin and his team face is more intense than ever. They are facing a very serious difficulty. It is true that the Chechen Republic used to be called a gangster republic, so they have plenty of justification for being concerned. Whether the Russians have justification for some of the methods they have used is, I think, much more doubtful. There can be no doubt that what is going on in Chechnya, and what has been going on in both wars there, is a process of erosion, rebellion, disintegration and lawlessness which has spread to Dagestan and which could develop in the other five Caucasian republics and elsewhere, which, unless checked, would mean the unravelling of the entire Russian Federation. Those who want to see the Russia of today held together—it is a strange creation: a mixture of the old European Russia and the imperial Russia of the Tsars—have to fight for their lives and for their vast extended nation to see that these rebellions are curbed.

That is the awful, grim scene that faces the rulers in Moscow. Although one does not forgive some of the hideous methods used, one does understand the position that they face, what used to be called in the days of Vietnam a "domino" effect. Perhaps it is better to call it a "ripple" effect because the domino effect turned out to be a false theory. The ripple effect is that if Chechnya goes, so other vast interests of the Russian Federation go, including the oil interests that have been rightly mentioned. The whole Russian orbit of influence in central Asia and near Asia will begin to crumble, as will the confidence and the hopes of the nation itself. That is the scene about which we must be realistic.

There have been enormous achievements and Russia is full of absolutely brilliant and dazzling people. But it is never very clear—even today, dare I say, with a new president—who is the boss of this vast and disparate area that stretches from Europe to Asia. Russia is always looking for a strong man to get a grip on things. Along comes Mr Putin, and high hopes are pinned on him. I think that he understands as well as anyone else that merely preaching democracy from Moscow or mixing with all the glitterati and the think-tanks in the various Moscow brasseries is not going to rule Russia.

For that reason Mr Putin has sent military envoys (as he calls them) with sweeping powers to get a grip on the regions and to take on some governors who otherwise would entertain warlord tendencies and think of ways to disregard Moscow's rule. Mr Putin must be very tough if he is to do this. He has used tough language and threatened the use of missiles against Afghanistan. He has issued a number of decrees in a fairly brisk manner. We shall see more of that, but it will go hand in hand with continuing tensions and difficulties not only in Chechnya but in other republics and semi-autonomous areas of the former Soviet Union. I believe that this will be a long process in which Moscow will face a constant challenge as to whether it handles these difficulties by politics and religion or, as in the case of Chechnya, by the most direct military means, which I believe to be a huge mistake.

Looking at Russia in those slightly gloomy terms, the question is: what are our interests and those of the United States and other European powers? Why does President Clinton spend time with this entity which in terms of its economic clout and importance is smaller than Belgium? The answer is obvious: Russia still has an enormous nuclear arsenal and weaponry. Beyond that, at the moment President Clinton needs something from the Russians. As my noble friend Lord Blaker aptly pointed out, the question is whether the Russians will agree to the modification of the ABM Treaty of 1972, as the Americans hope, in order to allow President Clinton to authorise the beginning of the NMD programme which must start fairly soon. That programme may not work, but it will be expensive. The view of the Americans, which I understand, is that we are moving away from the old world of mutual deterrence to a new and, if it works, potentially better world of the total neutralisation of nuclear missiles, in particular those in the hands of rogue states which believe they can hold the world to ransom.

What have we and President Clinton discovered in dealing with Mr Putin? As the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, said, it is early days and it is difficult to see what will happen. Like many of his advisers, Mr Putin is extremely clever and agile in the world of diplomacy and politics. He has convinced a large part of the European establishment that Russia has a genuine case against the modification of the treaty; that somehow it will badly affect the Russian position and that if there are to be changes, big concessions will be required. He and his colleagues have talked of the possibility, which was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, of Russia having to develop its weapons. Some of Mr Putin's advisers have even talked about a new arms race. It has been hinted that there may be some sympathy from the Chinese who also dislike the whole idea of the modification of the ABM Treaty. In the past few days Mr Putin has visited Rome and said that the answer is a common missile system for the whole of Europe. That has echoes of Mr Gorbachev and the reference to the common European home. No one has said who is to pay for it, but the cost will be vast.

Mr Putin appears to have secured some big concessions from President Clinton. During his visit to this country, he also appears to have persuaded the Prime Minister and the Government that Russia has a case which should be taken into account in our talks with the Americans and that future Russian sensitivities are very important and should be considered. That is a pretty remarkable achievement by Mr Putin who has very little behind him. Russia's economy, which is minuscule, is nearly wrecked. I do not go as far as to say that it is all bluff, but the truth is that Russia lacks the money even to modify and maintain its present rocket systems. We do not even know the state of half of the missiles in its silos, and it certainly does not have the money to develop new arms systems. To that extent, Mr Putin cannot possibly carry out that aspect of his threat or negotiating stance.

We should like to know from the Minister—perhaps not tonight but later on—where the British Government stand on the NMD issue. We told Mr Putin that there are worries, but the Prime Minister also told the Americans that we shall allow Fylingdales to be upgraded. I am not sure whether one can play both ends against the middle. I believe that we should either support or not support the Americans in this matter.

My view is that the Russians have nothing to worry about in modifying the treaty. We must be positive and friendly with Russia, help it to get through the agonising difficulties that lie ahead, and open all trade routes. However, we should not fall for the old-fashioned bluster and narrow nationalism which one hears in parts of the Moscow establishment and which has no place in today's international order.

Therefore, I pay tribute to the dexterity of the Russians, their brilliant diplomacy and their ability with very few resources to achieve a great deal. However, in my view we must not be deflected by that from sensible security developments and from building as stable a post-Cold War system as possible which could lead finally to a world free of the real threat of nuclear war which characterised the Cold War years.

9.35 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

My Lords, I, too, add my voice of thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, for instituting this very timely debate. Perhaps I may say respectfully that the speeches from all noble Lords have been of extremely high quality. I believe that it does honour to the House when such a broad-ranging issue is debated so well.

The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, raised three critical issues: first, economic relations; secondly, nuclear missile defence and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; and, thirdly, the concern with regard to sidelining Russia. Those issues were echoed by virtually all noble Lords who followed. They raised the need for balance and the need to respond appropriately to Russia in all her complexity.

Of course, we have a new government in Moscow. As a number of noble Lords have already said, that new government are beginning to reveal their intentions and policies. There has been significant activity in the UK/Russia relationship, with progress towards a strong and frank partnership. However, the bloody conflict in Chechnya continues to undermine Russia's progress towards democracy and respect for human rights.

Some noble Lords may have seen the speech that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, made at Chatham House last February on foreign policy and national interest. In that speech he argued that in the modern world globalisation required more bridges and fewer barriers; that the global interest was becoming the national interest; and that the global community needed universal values. Therefore, Britain had adopted a conscious policy of critical engagement with other countries: the pursuit of political dialogue wherever it can produce benefits.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary went on to argue that the biggest challenge for that policy of critical engagement was developing the right strategies to accommodate post-Soviet Russia as a willing partner in the global economy and in global security. The election of the new president, with the prospect of change in the Russian political climate, offers a significant opportunity to push forward that policy and our relations. Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have made a personal commitment to making that happen. This year has seen a remarkable level of bilateral contact between the UK and Russia, from the Prime Minister's two meetings with President Putin in the space of four months to the frequent contacts at Foreign Minister and senior official level. Neither side can be in much doubt about the views of the other on the key issues of the day.

As a result, there is a realism on both sides over the scale of the challenges ahead if Russia's transformation to a market economy is to be achieved and supported by the Russian population. I believe that a number of noble Lords—the noble Lords, Lord Blaker, Lord Ponsonby and Lord Howell—rightly raised the issue of how that economy can be supported and what needs to be done.

Russia faces a crushing budgetary burden—notably a welfare system which provides benefits for two-thirds of the population. It also has a huge military establishment, including 5,000 strategic nuclear warheads, of which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, made mention. That establishment is funded by an economy smaller than that of Switzerland, a point rightly highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker.

President Putin assured the Prime Minister that he is determined to create the conditions needed to unlock confidence and investment to kick start long-term sustainable growth. We welcome that. He also said that he wants to maintain political stability and improving living standards. Those statements are encouraging, but we shall look for early action and implementation of reform in key areas. Early agreement to Part II of the tax code and to money laundering legislation would be useful steps. The advice and technical assistance that we have provided to Russia is designed to help to address those huge problems.

We echo the concern expressed by all noble Lords about the economy. Of course there are questions. Has reform started, and where is it going? We know that the jury is out on that, but the initial signs are good—the appointment of economic reformers to key ministries; co-operation with the International Monetary Fund on new programmes; and the appointment of liberal economic advisers to work on the economic reform programme. We shall have to wait for those programmes to be agreed with the International Monetary Fund and implemented, but the signs are there. The economy has started to pick up. There has been 3 per cent growth of GDP in 1999.

The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, raised an interesting issue as regards what was done to engage Russia before Pristina. Perhaps I may say, in response, that we need to draw attention to the role played by General Sir Michael Jackson in resolving that situation. As a result, Russia was engaged and we learnt valuable, cogent lessons which improved and enhanced our ability to work. Whatever the genesis, the result, thankfully, was positive.

I turn to the issue of NMD, which has been highlighted by a number of noble Lords. We need to recognise four issues in relation to the American position. First, they have not made a final decision as to whether or not they wish to employ NMD. There are four criteria which they will apply: first, the recognition of the threat (we now have the agreement of the Russians that there is, indeed, a threat); secondly, the technical ability to set up the system and whether it will work; thirdly, cost; and fourthly, international opinion.

As regards all those issues, other than the acknowledged threat, the jury is still out for the Americans too. Contrary to the indication given by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, they have not asked for us to upgrade Fylingdales. That request has not yet been made. We are trying to engage both sides so that each understands the anxieties and concerns of the other. We hope to enhance their opportunity to understand one another and, therefore, to come to a reasonable agreement as a way forward. We note that the ABM Treaty has been amended before, satisfactorily. We stress to both sides that it could be amended again if they so choose. We recognise that we are not parties to that treaty and therefore do not have a direct voice. However, we have an opportunity to speak, it is to be hoped with a degree of cogency and support, for a valuable solution.

There is thus a window of opportunity to engage Russia under her new presidency. The UK is determined to seize this opportunity and encourage better links with a more open and constructive Russia. The problems, though, are huge. Several noble Lords have alluded to the areas where Russia continues to pursue policies which run counter to our aims and principles.

If we are to influence Russia, we see no alternative but to discuss our disagreements openly and seek to encourage a more positive course. The prize—a Russia integrated and engaged with the rest of the international community on the basis of shared beliefs and values—would be of considerable benefit to the peace, security and stability of Europe and the wider world. I welcome all the comments made by noble Lords in appreciating that reality. It would enable us to tackle the problems that are high on the global agenda more effectively, from drugs to the environment to crime. That is very much our vision. It will not be easy, but there is much at stake and much to try for.

If I may, I shall deal briefly with some of the more specific questions raised by noble Lords, and start first with the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, who, in her very erudite exposition, raised the recent Human Rights Watch report on Chechnya. It makes disturbing reading and we share many of its concerns. We have repeatedly urged Russia to ensure full and transparent investigations of human rights abuses and we agree with Human Rights Watch that it is vital that Russia should resolve the details delaying the return of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe's assistance group to Chechnya, and the arrival of the three Council of Europe secondees to the office of the Presidential Representative on Human Rights in Chechnya.

The noble Baroness, Lady Stern, together with the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, also raised the serious problems of tuberculosis, HIV and AIDS. The UK is active on those issues. We are sponsoring two pilot projects in Tomsk, one of which was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, to tackle TB, plus a project to reduce transmission of HIV among injecting drug users. The noble Baroness, Lady Stern, asked about the proposed World Bank loan to assist with TB-related problems in Russia. I can tell your Lordships that a 150 million dollar loan has been agreed over 10 years. That loan should be approved by the autumn of this year and disbursement will begin early in 2001.

We are also active in penal reform. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office funded a penal reform project for Russia and eastern Europe worth £250,000. It helps prisoners to share best practice, including self-sufficiency schemes, and DFID is planning a project of alternatives to imprisonment which will work in two or three pilot regions in Russia. Like the noble Baroness, we welcome the amnesty for 120,000 prisoners announced on 26th May, but are concerned that that will not fully address the problems of overcrowding and medical problems, though it does include those of TB.

Perhaps I may come to the wider arena. Britain will work hard to ensure that Russia is a key partner in the G8 and to develop relationships with NATO and the EU. But in turn we need to be able to point to evidence of Russian preparedness to work with the international community constructively on areas of shared concern—Chechnya, proliferation and the Balkans—if we are to develop the sort of partnership that we want. But we absolutely agree with the noble Lords, Lord Blaker, Lord Ponsonby, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and others that our response to the challenges with which Russia will be faced must be a balanced one. We are determined to maintain that balance. I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, that we will never side with terrorism or with terrorists.

Some criticised the UK engagement with Russia and President Putin as being over-hasty, given the war in Chechnya. I believe that was mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley. We have real disagreement with Russian policy, and its conduct in Chechnya, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, is unacceptable and produced grave humanitarian suffering. Nor, without a political settlement, will it produce Russia's stated objective of defeating terrorists. But we believe that engagement rather than isolation enables us to bring the message home to Russia. Six months ago, for instance, Russia was vehemently opposed to any international involvement in Chechnya. Since then, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the EU and others have sent senior representatives to the region. I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, that the commission is working on the ground. We have not yet received a report but things appear to be going well so far as we are aware.

There are many issues with which we need to engage Russia. In conclusion, perhaps I may deal with the three raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. First, she raised the matter of assistance and help that we give to Russia with the Council of Europe. We are giving full assistance. The UK assistance has been focused very much on human rights. The EU TACIS programme has been refocused since December on those issues. In relation to the NATO expansion to the Baltic States, Russia has no veto on the NATO enlargement. We made it clear that all states have the chance to apply for membership, but NATO and Russia have a full relationship in which all subjects are being discussed.

As regards our EU trading relationship, that is governed by the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement, which provides opportunities for discussion on all aspects of trade, including tariffs and quotas. There is much to do with our relationship. But I welcome the positive comments made by all noble Lords and the balanced way in which they represented the challenges and the successes that we need to look for in our relationship with Russia.

House adjourned at ten minutes before ten o'clock.