HC Deb 25 May 1989 vol 153 c632W
Mr. Benn

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what unilateral disarmament initiatives in nuclear, conventional, or chemical weapons, and in troop deployments have been made by the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Treaty Organisation since May 1979; and what response the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has made to these initiatives.

Mr. Waldegrave

The Soviet Union and its Warsaw pact allies have, since 7 December 1988, announced unilateral conventional force reductions which, if implemented, would reduce their conventional superiority over NATO in tanks and artillery from 3:1 to 2.4:1 and in aircraft from 2.1:1 to 1.8:1. Details are set out on page 226 of the first report of 1989 of the Foreign Affairs Committee on Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. These reductions do not call for any unilateral NATO response: a sizeable conventional imbalance would remain after their implementation. But NATO has made proposals at the conventional arms control talks in Vienna for more far-reaching reductions leading to an outcome of parity between the two sides in key items of equipment.

The Soviet Union has stated that its conventional reductions in Europe will involve the withdrawal of 24 out of its 1,608 short-range nuclear-capable missile launchers. On 11 May it also announced the withdrawal from the countries of Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union (but not the elimination) of 500 Soviet theatre nuclear warheads. NATO has 88 short-range nuclear missile launchers. It has reduced its stockpile of nuclear warheads in Europe from 7,000 in 1979 to 4,600 now. The Soviet Union announced a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing on 29 July 1985. This ended on 26 February 1987, when a Soviet nuclear device was exploded.

The Soviet Union has claimed that it ceased chemical weapons production in 1987 but we doubt this. The Soviet Union has stated that it intends to begin destruction of its existing chemical weapon stocks in 1989, but has yet to give details of the quantities and time scale.