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Russian Military Activity (NATO Discussions)

Volume 652: debated on Monday 14 January 2019

8. What recent discussions he has had with his NATO counterparts on the implications of recent Russian military activity for NATO’s strategic priorities. (908529)

I have regular discussions with my NATO counterparts on Russia. Most recently, the alliance strongly supported the finding of the United States that Russia is in material breach of its obligations under the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty. NATO has also agreed further steps to bolster its ability to deter and defend against the growing threats we face.

The UK’s participation in NATO’s enhanced forward presence is the most visible demonstration of our commitment to the security of our eastern allies. Does my right hon. Friend agree that their security is a vital part of ensuring our own security?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right in his analysis. By investing in defence along the eastern border against the threat of Russia, we are as much investing in our security here in the United Kingdom as we are investing in the security of nations such as Poland, Estonia and Romania. We need to continue to do this, and other nations need to step up to the mark as well.

Recent Russian military activities fall well below the provisions of article 5 of the north Atlantic treaty. Does the Secretary of State share my sadness that the public do not understand articles 1, 2 and 3 of that treaty, which promote peace, security, justice, stability and mutual aid, all of which are vital to our defence capability?

We have to be confident about what NATO can deliver, and we must increasingly make the arguments for what NATO delivers for everyone and explain its full remit. As we look to the future, we are seeing nations such as Russia and, increasingly, China operating in a grey zone, just below the level of conflict. That does not mean that those actions are any less dangerous. In Ukraine, the grey zone has merged with conventional power.

The implications of Russian policy in the near east may be more dramatic now that the US has withdrawn from Syria. Will my right hon. Friend tell us whether there is a cross-departmental plan on the implications of the new regional dynamic for us and our other partners?

We continue to work right across Government to look at how the changing political situation affects many countries, not only in Europe but, as my hon. Friend said, in the middle east. I assure him that we will continue to look at that issue closely.

Russian incursions into Scottish waters are increasingly blatant, yet still no major naval surface ships are based in Scotland. Has the Secretary of State had any discussions with his NATO counterparts about the UK’s responsibility to patrol its north Atlantic maritime territory properly?

What we have seen is increased investment in the North Atlantic, whether that is the deployment of P8s to Lossiemouth or the continued investment in our submarine forces at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, and we will continue to make that investment. We are very much leading the way in dealing with the challenges that increased Russian activity in the North Atlantic presents not just to us but to the whole of NATO.