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Volume 580: debated on Monday 12 May 2014

5. What discussions he has had with his counterparts in Baltic countries on recent Russian aggression against Ukraine. (903947)

8. What discussions he has had with his counterparts in Baltic countries on recent Russian aggression against Ukraine. (903950)

The UK is committed, with other NATO allies, to delivering reassurance to the Baltic countries. I visited Estonia and Lithuania on 2 May and met my defence ministerial counterparts to discuss developments in Ukraine. I travelled out to Estonia with elements of 1st Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, who are participating in Exercise Spring Storm in Estonia. I then visited the UK Typhoon deployment to the NATO Baltic air policing mission in Lithuania. In addition, my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for international security strategy will visit Poland and Latvia this week for further such discussions.

Our Baltic partners in NATO will be reassured by those visits and the demonstrable support we are giving them. Can the Secretary of State say anything about the illegitimate referendum held yesterday ahead of the further referendum in the eastern part of Ukraine next Sunday, given the Russian authorities’ comments this morning that they expect to see it implemented? The concern is that if we do not act firmly they will take irreversible action.

The so-called referendum that took place over the weekend was illegal. It did not meet any standards of objectivity, transparency or fairness and it was not properly conducted as a public referendum or election. Indeed, its organisers did not even pretend to meet any of those standards. In short, it was a sham and a farce. We do not recognise any outcome that might follow from it. The important decision-making point will come at the elections on 25 May, and we will watch very carefully to see which countries support progress towards those elections and which countries seek to impede it.

The latest news in the east of Ukraine marks a continuation of the salami-slicing tactics of Russia. In the course of my right hon. Friend’s discussions, has a red line been identified or can we expect to see Poland with a Russian border at some point? In light of these recent threats, are there any plans to review the national security strategy, given that the doveish Lib Dem view of the world has evaporated since the document’s publication in October 2010?

We are sending clear signals through the reassurance mechanisms that we are delivering to our Baltic partners in particular, that NATO members take very seriously their mutual obligations to defend each other. An attack on any NATO state would be considered an attack on all NATO states and nobody, including in the Kremlin, should ever forget that important fact. As for the national security strategy, the proper point for that to be reviewed will be in 2015, along with the 2015 SDSR. I am certain that the changing context will inform that review.

24. Given the real concerns of our allies in the Baltic states and eastern Europe about Russia’s actions in Ukraine, can the Secretary of State give any further clarity on what engagement with Russia is expected at the Wales NATO summit later this year, and whether any such engagement is appropriate, as things stand? (903966)

The agenda for the NATO summit is a matter for NATO members, not for the host country, to determine. From the discussions I have had with my NATO ministerial colleagues, I do not think there is any appetite for a NATO-Russia meeting during the course of the summit in Wales.

What specific discussions have been had with Poland, which would play a significant part if there were an article 5 country attack, including about capacity and border security?

I have regular discussions with my Polish counterpart and, as I mentioned a few moments ago, my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for international security strategy will travel to Poland on Wednesday for further such discussions.

20. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with US Secretary of Defence Hagel to assess the threat posed by Russia to eastern and southern Ukraine? Might those discussions encompass the deployment of a NATO maritime force, as I have advocated for some time, with the specific purpose of deterring the Russians from taking Odessa? (903962)

As the House would expect, we have regular discussions at ministerial and official level with American counterparts. As the House will know, the US is taking some bilateral actions alongside the actions being taken by NATO. The UK is focused at the moment on contributing to the NATO reassurance agenda, and it is not proposed that that will include the sending of warships into the Black sea.

During the various visits made by the Secretary of State, were there any discussions on the potential use of RPAS— Remotely Piloted Air Systems—to watch the borders, so that nations can be sure no risk is coming towards them?

No, but, as the hon. Lady will know, the E-3 Sentry AWACS––airborne warning and control system—aircraft is deployed at the moment, patrolling in Polish airspace to protect NATO’s eastern border.