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Moscow Missile Defence System

Volume 82: debated on Tuesday 2 July 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence what information he has on the upgrading of the Moscow missile defence system and if he will make a statement.

A programme to improve the Moscow antiballistic missile system has been under way since 1980. It is expected that when completed the new system will comprise an improved force of 100 launchers and associated radars for location, tracking and engagement of targets. This will provide a two-layer defence system for Moscow with long and short-range interceptor missiles to engage targets both outside and within the atmosphere.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that notwithstanding the fact that the Soviet Union is upgrading the system with 100 accountable launchers and a new radar station at Pushkino, it still appears to be within the ABM treaty? Given Mr. Paul Nitze's remarks that it will have a ground-based launched laser this decade, the upgrading points to the urgent need for the USA to maintain research into SDI and a modernisation programme.

My hon. Friend, who has studied the matter, is well-informed. It is obvious that the Soviet Union has been indulging for some years in the research of technologies associated with strategic defence. Therefore, it is wise for the Americans to be so involved. I also confirm that the updating of the ABM system around Moscow is within the ABM treaty. Of course, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in her recent meeting with the President confirmed, both Governments believe that any future development within this critical area should be within the ABM treaty.

Does the Secretary of State agree that if the Moscow star wars policy enjoys the same success as the Reagan star wars policy has achieved, that will render Trident unviable?

Our view is that within the lifetime foreseen for the Trident missile the defences of the Soviet Union will not be adequate to remove its deterrent capability.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that not only are the Soviets improving point defences around Moscow, but are increasing the offensive capability, notably with the deployment of the new ICBM SS25 and the construction of new SS20 bases? Would it not therefore be prudent and right for the alliance to concert its efforts to provide a measure of defence against this awesome defensive capability?

My hon. Friend, who understands the matter clearly, is right. However, the situation is even worse, because the Soviet Union is increasing its offensive capability on a nuclear, chemical and conventional scale.

Does the Secretary of State agree with the recent speech of the Foreign Secretary when he expressed substantial reservations and criticisms of the star wars project, or does he agree with President Reagan that nuclear weapons should be made obsolete? Does he not agree that President Reagan's speech has turned upside down the whole theory on deterrence in Europe?

The Labour party is always calling for wider debate. When it gets it, it seems to be equally dissatisfied. The President has raised fundamental issues about the development of weapons systems and their capabilities and the relationship of defensive and offensive systems. I would have thought that debate was healthy. The President has also made it clear that he believes that the development of any SDI programme would have to be within the framework of the ABM treaty. That is also our view.