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NATO Summit

Volume 577: debated on Monday 17 March 2014

10. What discussions he has had with his counterparts in NATO member states in preparation for the NATO summit in September 2014. (903054)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has had a range of discussions with his counterparts in recent months in relation to the NATO summit in Wales this September. Most recently he discussed the summit and its possible content with fellow Defence Ministers at the NATO defence ministerial in Brussels on 26 and 27 February. The Wales summit falls at a crucial time for partners as they contemplate a post-2014 future and the importance of the transatlantic alliance. It is also a great opportunity to showcase the best of British to our allies and partners.

As an active member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, may I ask what plans there are for parliamentarians from the 28 member nations—to engage with the NATO summit later this year?

We look forward to members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly playing an active role, and we are exploring what that might mean. May I say how pleased I am that the hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) is president of the Assembly? The Prime Minister has appointed my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood) as his parliamentary adviser on the summit. I know that my hon. Friend is working hard, and I look forward to working with him on the preparations.

The hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood) has already approached me about an event that he wishes to stage, so he is going about his duties with great conscientiousness, and I hope to be able to assist him in his endeavours.

With the threat of cyber-attack and espionage rising substantially, will the UK play an active part at the summit in pushing for NATO-wide cyber-capability?

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise that point. He will know that the UK’s preparations are reckoned to be far advanced, but he will also understand that cyber-defence is a sovereign capability. However, it is important that supranational institutions such as NATO ensure that their own systems are protected from cyber-attack.

May we have an assurance that if there is any discussion of Ukraine at the NATO summit, careful attention will be paid to the defence anxieties of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia about what appears to be the emergence of a Putin doctrine, not least because of the close proximity of Kaliningrad to all three countries?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right to raise the concerns of the Baltic states, which are nervous at the moment. Of course, they are covered by article 5, so they have a particular relationship with NATO that is not enjoyed by Ukraine.

Does the best of British that we are hoping to show to the delegates include the best of Newport, which is a wonderful habitat for the conference? Will the conference arrangements be such that the delegates will have plenty of time to see and enjoy the robust personality of Newport and its beautiful hinterland?

The hon. Gentleman is a doughty advocate for the area that he represents, and he is absolutely right that the summit is an opportunity to show off Newport and Wales in general. It will clearly be great to showcase our military, but the summit is also a great opportunity for Wales.

There is, rightly, broad consensus on both sides of the House that military action in Crimea is not an option, but will the Minister confirm what contribution the UK has made to NATO in response to the Ukraine crisis, and what role our forces have played in NATO training exercises in Europe? Will the matter be discussed up to and including at the autumn summit?

The hon. Gentleman knows of the strategic concept in relation to NATO and what it implies. He will also be aware of our contribution of the E-3D airborne warning and control system aircraft that is currently deployed to make sure that we have situation awareness in Poland and Romania. We are, of course, open to requests from NATO, in relation to what we might do on collective security, but he knows very well the implications of article 5. The importance here is to de-escalate, not escalate.

I thank the Minister for that considered reply. It is the Opposition’s view that we must be prepared to ask serious questions about the UK’s role in NATO and about the security of our allies, including those in the Baltic states and eastern Europe. Does the Minister agree that the forthcoming summit should discuss how NATO can best protect our own security, as well as that of our allies? Is it not clear that one of the most important discussions up to and at the autumn summit must be about the future long-term strategic direction for NATO following the present crisis?

The agenda is primarily a matter for the Secretary-General of NATO, not for the host nation, although it is probably true to say that the host nation traditionally has a role in trying to suggest and shape the agenda for summits on its soil. The hon. Gentleman might expect us to be considering what NATO means post-2014. He would probably expect the transatlantic alliance to be debated at some length, and what will happen with regard to Afghanistan and NATO’s involvement in that country. I suspect that all those things will be important and top of the agenda in Cardiff, but it is important to note that this is primarily a matter for the Secretary-General.