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Volume 590: debated on Friday 19 June 1998

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1.40 p.m.

rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have considered the United States Senate's Resolution of Ratification of the accession of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO, of 30th April, which imposes the following conditions on the United States Administration (which it has accepted), namely that it should reduce the United States' financial contribution to NATO every year; ensure that American taxpayers are not required to subsidise the national expenses of the three new invitees; report annually to the Senate on the "adequacy of the defense budget of each NATO member …"; develop plans for the deployment of a NATO ballistic missile defence for the entire territory of all NATO members; and confirm that the North Atlantic Council does not require the consent of the United Nations for any action pursuant to the North Atlantic Treaty; and, if so, what is their reaction.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have put this Question down because the matter it raises is undiscussed in this country and even unknown, and because I have been told that the promised debates on NATO expansion in both Houses may not be held until after the Summer Recess.

I may have a reputation for being hard on American policies, and later I shall be, so I have a couple of compliments for Mr. Clinton first: first, for his admirable speech to the World Trade Organisation; and, secondly, for his decision not to allow the uncontrolled exploitation of the seas immediately around the United Sates.

I turn now to NATO. The American Senate constitutionally has to agree American ratification of the accession to NATO of the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary; and it has done so. But fewer than 20 senators failed to follow the advice of the chairman of their Foreign Relations Committee in imposing certain conditions which Senator Helms had laid upon the President and which the President had accepted as legally binding on him.

I have seen it said that there are 45 conditions. Of those, six—which I have quoted more or less verbatim in my Unstarred Question—are of obvious and immediate concern to this country and the other European NATO countries, present and future. They will change the nature of NATO through and through. They are these. First, fundamental changes are required in NATO's strategic concept which has to be referred back to the US Senate twice during the present process of redrafting for its approval.

Secondly, the President must confirm that the North Atlantic Council does not need the "consent" of the United Nations for,

"any actions it deems necessary to defend the security interests of its members"—

including out of area strikes—

"to prevent … an attack",

on NATO members.

Thirdly, the Helms conditions will also alter the balance of burden sharing—our old demon—to the advantage of the United States. They will do so, not relatively but absolutely. The text says that the United States contributions shall be reduced annually by 1 per cent. of what it was the year before; that is by an absolute amount. Thus, supposing the world turned bad again, and the Europeans wanted a general increase, the United States would not lawfully be able to find its normal part of that increase.

Fourthly, the Administration is to develop a plan for a NATO ballistic missile defence system. The fifth condition binds the US Executive to report to Congress annually on the deemed sufficiency or otherwise of the defence budgets and the financial contributions to NATO of all the other allies.

Sixthly, the President must ensure that US taxpayers are not required to "subsidise the national expenses" of the three new members as they join NATO. Since the three new members are far from being able to afford their full costs of joining the European Union, let alone NATO, that means their difficulties will have to be met by the existing European members of NATO, including this country. But our Prime Minister has said that our extra contribution would be minimal; and the French Government have said that they will not contribute financially to NATO expansion.

Lastly, let us remind ourselves that President Clinton has accepted all those conditions as legally binding on the Administration and that they are now United States commitments. The die is cast. Their likely effect on NATO as we know it has not yet been perceived by British public or parliamentary opinion, and I think not by other countries either. Certainly, when I raised these matters at a meeting of the North Atlantic Assembly three weeks ago, none—I repeat none—of the European delegates seemed to know about them although the United States delegates certainly did. Everyone else had to borrow my text to photocopy. I hope that everyone speaking today has been able to see the conditions in full.

The obvious effects of those conditions will be these: a substantial shift in the Euro-American balance of funding—Europe will have to find more; a return to the fears and disruption of the 1980s caused by the strategic ABM programme; and the institutionalisation of US hegemonism outside the United Nations, with the connivance and support of the rest of NATO. I particularly emphasise the ABM threat. People may have forgotten that large scale strategic ABM is provocative in that it provides a shield from behind which a nuclear power can launch a first strike confident that the shield will nullify or largely nullify the expected retaliation. Strategic ABM is part of a first strike posture. Even planning for it—the technology is not yet available—will certainly drive Russia to perpetuate the present pause in its own weapons-calming programme and divert resources to rearmament, thus provoking what is politely called internal unrest, and will make permanent the present block imposed by the elected parliament on ratification of the START II Treaty.

Russia has of course been reacting in this way—that is, with suspicion—since it discovered that it had been betrayed over the unwritten promise by Foreign Secretary Major and Secretary of State Baker not to station NATO forces on former East German territory.

There are other wrinkles. The United States does not have a viable theatre ABM missile although Russia has. It is the Russian S-300 which the Turks do not want the Cypriots to buy. Israel has the Arrow which it has been building with US money and is developing the equally US-funded Nautilus, the first major laser weapon.

If ABM is to work in time, within two or three minutes of the enemy missile being launched, it must be launched automatically. The incoming missile must be identified automatically, so that there can be no human input, neither civil nor even military. But since the US President is constitutionally debarred from offloading his war-making responsibility, the whole thing would presumably be unconstitutional anyway. That does not stop the money flowing towards it.

NATO is already changing fast, even before the Helms conditions hit it. Under current leadership, NATO is turning more and more into a means of increasing US power in the world, in particular by military action and threat of military action, intending to do so without the authority of the United Nations.

President Chirac has said that France will not accept a go anywhere-do anything NATO, and I trust that we shall not either. If one country or one military alliance can act without the approval of the world body, then all can and the world body is destroyed, and our hopes of a peaceful and decent world with it.

On top of all that we must now consider the clamour for continuing expansion which is overwhelming in the United States, loud in eastern Europe, and distinctly audible even in western Europe. What are the arguments? The neighbours of the three new members have an equally good right to membership, have they not? How can they be denied once Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are in? And why should membership be denied to an independent democracy just because it was once actually part of the Soviet Union instead of only being militarily occupied and tyrannised by it for half a century? In what way are the Ukrainians, the Balts, the Azeris less our brothers in freedom and democracy than the Poles and the Hungarians?

That argument has always been untenable unless it is accompanied by a reasoned case for stopping at such and such a position. If you cannot say where you would stop you cannot in common reason begin, because when you get there the Kazakh case will be as good as the Polish one has been.

That is exactly where we are heading. Mrs. Albright spends a lot of time in central Asia. Mr. Cohen, the Defense Secretary, spends even more. The committees of the North Atlantic Assembly fan out and carry democratic cheer to the Caucasus, to the Caspian and to all the 'stans. What are they doing? In their train, sometimes in their pockets, come the oil and munitions industries of the West. But what is their vision of the future world? Where do they want to stop? Do they want to go right through the old Stadium of the Great Game? Do they want to go on until they meet Dr. Livingstone from the regional military collaboration now being energetically arranged by the US, and especially by Mr. Cohen, with Japan, Taiwan and South Korea?

We are heading straight for an armed league of the white prosperous nations and a few hangers-on versus all the rest of humanity, and especially Islam. Why not go the whole hog? Does anyone really think that this is a good idea? If not, where do we stop?

Moreover, Senator Helms proclaims that among the purposes of his conditions is the creation of a "firebreak" between Russia and NATO. So the principal effect of any expansion will be to turn the largest country in Europe back into a frightened and surly one, battening down the hatches, polishing the weaponry and tightening its belt as it knows so well how to do. It will be surrounded, isolated, "cordon sanitaire", and it will once again feel the whole world is against it.

Finally, to return to western Europe, I think the European governments ought quietly to consider the possible effects of the Helms conditions on the obedience of the US military officers who are subordinate to the NATO Council in the NATO chain of command.

These are black fantasies? I hope that they are, but I know that they are not. And until we are told where our Government intend to stop, I submit that people of goodwill and political experience should be more thoughtful and energetic in opposing any further expansion after the present ones. We should also revert to the questions: where is the common foreign and security policy of the European Union? Where is ESDI in the Western European Union? Above all, where is the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, to which the United States and Russia belong?

1.52 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has given us the opportunity to debate a gravely important issue. I am concerned about the impact of enlargement on NATO for rather different but perhaps complementary reasons. I have always recognised the right of the central European countries to choose to join NATO and our need to receive some of them back into a world from which they were arbitrarily cut off by the Soviet Union at the end of a war in which Poland, many Czechs and many Balts fought long and hard as our allies.

My quarrel is with the fact that the price of enlargement was deemed by the NATO powers to be to reassure Russia and to reconcile her to enlargement by inviting her inside NATO. The founding Act and the setting up of the NATO/Russia Joint Council gives Russia status, in the words of one witness testifying to the Defence Select Committee in another place,
"above and beyond that available to any other partner".
I would add that it might even be said above some other full members of NATO.

It makes good sense to bring Russia into what is now the G8, to revise the CFE treaty to include her and to welcome her into the Council of Europe, to work with her in the OSCE and of course to create any number of useful bilateral relationships. But to buy her off, never more than temporarily, over enlargement by bringing the fox in with the geese cannot be justified, nor does it appear to have produced much in the way of dividends. If anything, it is already weakening an alliance which is meant to be military by politicising it day by day.

In 1994, an earlier Select Committee Report on NATO stated:
"The worst outcome for all European countries would be an extension of NATO without the means or the will to fulfil Article 5".
NATO's Command Structure Review in December 1997 set as its objective;
"to maintain military effectiveness and the ability to react to a wide range of contingencies; to preserve the trans-Atlantic link; and to develop the European security and defence identity".
We could well be on the way to turning NATO into little more than a talking shop, an expensive version of the OSCE; expensive in our case not only in terms of money but in precious skilled manpower. Perhaps I may quote a recent statement by the Speaker of the Duma visiting France:
"France also insists on NATO being a political union instead of a military political one".
The NATO Secretary-General says that NATO and Russia increasingly listen to each other's opinion and take it into account. Rather curiously, Mr. Solana believes that NATO has restored trust between NATO countries and Russia.

What, however, has Russia done, or will it do, to avert the almost inevitable clash between Greece and Turkey which must result in the Russian sale of the S300 PMU1 air defence system to Cyprus? What is Russia really doing to lean on President Milosovic on Kosovo? Certainly during a visit to Moscow this week, although he duly said the right things about freedom for humanitarian and diplomatic observers to enter the country in readiness to talk to the OSCE, he said that:
"there were no grounds for the Yugoslav army not to be on the territory of Yugoslavia and that therefore any withdrawal of units of the Yugoslav army from any part of Yugoslavia was out of the question".
He added that as terrorist activities subside the security forces will reduce their presence outside the areas of their permanent deployment. TASS reported on 15th June that Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin had talked and both believed that peace would be advanced by talks and agreed on:
"the need to implement the provisions of the final statement of the G8 foreign ministers about the imperative of abiding by the principle of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's territorial integrity".
As usual, the Russians linked all that with the START 2 treaty, which is still unratified, a familiar bargaining chip.

I hope, incidentally, in the light of President Yeltsin's reported conversation with the Italian Prime Minister on 17th June, in which he stressed the need for international pressure on the leaders of the Kosovo Albanians to make them desist from terror and violence forthwith and to adopt a responsible attitude to the negotiating process, that the NATO powers will both hold the Russians and the Yugoslays to the commitments they have made and that we are raising no false hopes among the people of Kosovo that we intend to intervene militarily when it seemed clear that we cannot.

So does having the Russians inside NATO help the non-proliferation? The answer to that is also no. A bare three weeks after the Indian nuclear tests, which owed much to the cryogenic rocket motors which Russia insisted on selling to India some four years ago, despite urgent representations from the Americans and from us, the Indian Defence Minister was in Moscow buying 40 fighter aircraft capable of delivering missiles. Russian/Iranian co-operation, too, is intensifying in the nuclear field and is flourishing, although it must be said that one Iranian arms purchasing body, Sanam, has been blacklisted. Russian sales of military hardware worldwide are being pushed hard.

Incidentally, the Russians have a novel approach to export licences. According to the Economics Minister:
"The new procedure for issuing licences for the export of weapons and military technology will enable interested officials to be prevented from creating any artificial delays in the process of issuing these licences".
I cannot help thinking that that is an idea our exporters would like to see adopted here.

I believe that enlargement has come to be regarded as a hostage to possible Russian adverse reaction and even the threat to peace. Meanwhile, we are all being assured that Russia is now a toothless tiger and that anyway the new NATO-Russian Council is working splendidly. It is not good for decisions on strategic policies such as enlargement or indeed relations with Russia to be driven by muddled thinking.

There have been at least three major studies of the actual cost of enlargement. The Select Committee in another place seems to believe that it will work out somewhere between NATO's own optimistic estimate of 1.5 billion dollars over 10 years and the estimate of the US Department of Defense of 5 million to 6 million dollars. It certainly will be more than the NATO figure of 1.5 billion dollars which the Secretary of State originally believed would be the limit when it came. We should remember that the new members must accept a financial commitment. Alas, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, pointed out, it is a very minimal one—for Poland, 2.48 per cent., for the Czech Republic, 0.9 per cent. and for Hungary, 0.65 per cent. of the common budget.

NATO, backed by such bodies as the IMF, which is concerned for the economic consequences, should do all it can to ensure that the aspirant members do not spend more on defence equipment than they can afford. Of the NATO 1.5 billion dollar estimate, 1.3 billion dollars would fall to the NATO Security Investment Programme which funds NATO infrastructure projects; some 200 million dollars would fall to the military budget to cover running costs associated with infrastructure. According to the MoD, costs to the civil budget, which can be attributed solely and directly to enlargement, will be very small.

At present, we contribute net £130 million annually to the NATO common budget, £50 million to the NATO Security Investment Programme, £60 million to the military budget and £20 million to the civil budget. Our contribution to enlargement over 10 years is estimated at £110 million. As the committee notes, that, compared with, for example, the cost of a Eurofighter, offers extremely good value for money in terms of peace and stability. However, that does not prevent me from feeling an acute anxiety lest it should be at the expense of some more vital element of our own non-NATO defence costs. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us that in the SDR full account has been taken of the fact that if ever there were a foreign policy led element of our defence costs, that is it. Incidentally, I must apologise from switching about from dollars to pounds instead of using the NATO accounting unit—known as the NAU. I thought that the NAU might be rather too much for your Lordships to swallow on a Friday afternoon.

It seems to me that we cannot now withdraw from the first round of enlargement without disastrous consequences for our relations with central Europe, the United States and even the Russians because of the message of appeasement it would send them. However, we can and should put all our energy into ensuring that the strength of NATO is not diluted; that it remains an effective military security entity with the power and the will to deter—its original purpose.

Russia has not gone away and if in some future chauvinistic mode it believed it could, for example, move back into the Baltic states with impunity, it would do so unless that power to deter remains credible. We should not forget that in using it we are also best serving the interests of the Russian people. Deterrence is the most powerful and least destructive way to keep the peace of Europe. Let us not forget that this enlargement will also help to balance growing German power. A future Germany could be far less civilised and far more expanionist, as Chancellor Kohl himself has been the first to recognise.

Meanwhile, I urge the Government to do everything possible to maintain NATO's professional effectiveness and to leave politicking to the OSCE and the EU. We must hope that the Senate, having roared and asserted itself, may be persuaded to live with the enlargement proposed so far and to rescind its financial decisions.

I have one last question. Were any decisions taken at the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers on 1lth and 12th June which are relevant to our debate? No doubt they considered the US Senate's latest statements. I heartily agree with the view of the chairman of the Defence Committee in another place that it is regrettable—his word was "disgraceful"—that we are largely excluded as a legislature from the ratification process when such momentous decisions as enlargement have been made and that the legislature has such a limited role. I support entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said in that regard.

Our troops and our professionalism are indispensable to making NATO work as a clearly recognised power to deter and thus to prevent any escalation of a local crisis into war in Europe. We need to know why those decisions are being made and on what grounds.

2.3 p.m.

My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for introducing this debate on a Friday afternoon. As he has pointed out, the American Senate has ratified the protocols for the beginning of the accession process for three nations of central Europe—Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic—so that they can reach their historic destiny of eventually joining NATO. I should point out that the Senate voted decisively in favour by 80 votes to 19 with one abstention. That was done on 30th April 1998.

Having listened to both the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and the noble Baroness, Lady Park, I am somewhere in the middle. I do not share the deep concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, in relation to the United States and, although I am wary of the former Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, I do not believe that at the moment it has the means, will or capability to advance into central Europe. I hope that I am proved right in that. However, I do not deny that in 10 or 15 years, depending on what happens in that great landmass, that riddle wrapped in an enigma, we cannot know what might happen.

We are debating this on a Friday afternoon. If we had the power to control the Prime Minister in his negotiations as president of the Union, I wonder whether the American Senate would be debating what we had said in this House. I doubt it. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, had a copy of the document which I also have when he went, three weeks ago, to discuss those matters with the other parliamentarians of NATO. I am concerned that they did not have that document.

I have not only looked carefully at the ratification by the Senate but I noted the 42 points and in particular the six with which the noble Lord disagrees. In conjunction with that, I have looked at the explanatory document written by Senator William Roth, the President of the North Atlantic Assembly. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, has read that document and that she has noted the several points which the Senator has made.

As I understand and read the document, he says that the conditions imposed by the Senate do not affect the policy of NATO, so that those conditions are an internal matter for the American legislature and nation. That is an important point. When the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, winds up, I hope she will confirm that that is the case. I shall not go into the detail of those six points which the President of the North Atlantic Assembly mentions but they are certainly relevant to our debate.

As always, I declare an interest; indeed, it is the same one. I live on the eastern point of central Europe. It is no longer a part of the Soviet Union and it is certainly not yet—at least for some time in the foreseeable future, I am saddened to say—a part of another security organisation, call it NATO or a transformed European security and defensive organisation. I refer to the northern Baltic state, Estonia.

I am secretary of the British Estonian All-Party Parliamentary Group and I have no financial interest to declare at all. I am concerned about NATO's position in relation to the Baltic states. Perhaps I may explain this by way of an anecdote. About four years ago I went to Estonia as part of the British Council's assistance to the three Baltic states to produce a United Nations Baltic battalion—a United Nations peace-keeping battalion.

I have studied the Baltic states since I was at university. I learnt of a gentleman called Sir John Laidoner. I call him that because until he died in 1953 (a week after Stalin) in a concentration camp 100 miles west of Vladimir, he held the distinguished title of Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, which had been given to him in 1919. At this very moment HMS "Sutherland" is going off to Tallinn to take part in Estonia's eightieth anniversary celebrations. Sir John Laidoner (General Laidoner) had a manor outside Tallinn, called Vinsi Manor. It is the equivalent of Stratfield Saye and Apsley House rolled into one.

I approached the British Ambassador and asked: "Why don't the British, with the eightieth anniversary of Estonian independence coming up, make a contribution and hope that the Estonian museum curators might see fit to provide a room for displaying the British contribution to the liberation of the Baltic states?". His Excellency the Ambassador, whom I deeply respect, replied, "George, don't you think it might irritate the Russians and don't you think that we ought to ask the Americans first?". One has to point out that the Americans were not involved in the Estonian war of independence, though the Russians were. They wished to reconquer the Baltic states from 1918 to 1920.

Parallel with that small story I was told by a different British ambassador as regards the expansion of NATO, "It mustn't go too fast; perhaps it mustn't happen at all. It is obvious, is it not, that these armies being reformed after 50 years of Soviet occupation must get up to the state where they can be accepted into a reformed and transformed NATO? But it is not our business". He said that the Finns and the Swedes had had a free lunch or a free ride over the past 50 years and that it was their turn to help.

In 1995, I was, I believe, the first officer of the regular army reserve to go on an exercise—indeed, the first major exercise—with three battalions of the Estonian Army which operated in the eastern area. No one who saw that group of battalions could have failed to be impressed by how much those people had done for and by themselves. However, to borrow a few words from the Duke of Wellington, "They may indeed strike fear into the enemy, but my gosh they strike fear into me".

The Western powers of Europe received a free lunch. Over those 50 years we did not have to fight and shed blood for the freedom of the 10 nations of Europe which were formerly under the Warsaw Pact. I believe that quite a large percentage of our dividend should go into recreating their armies in our model. That would provide the deterrence which the noble Baroness, Lady Park, mentioned. It would mitigate the increasing—I do not call it isolationism—lack of commitment of the United States to Europe's defence. I look on this ratification as a way of the American Senate saying, "We are Atlas. We are a giant. We have held up the globe for the past 50 years. We arrived on the shores of Normandy 54 years ago. Now perhaps, you may do a little more of it yourselves".

What will Britain do over the next five years for the 10 nations of eastern Europe? I have read of the ASSIST programme; it replaces UKTMAS. It is for promoting human rights. That is excellent but deterrence is not just about human rights, it is about servicemen, weapons, tanks, guns, aircraft and ships. I look forward to finding out from the Minister what more we are doing to assist those nations—not just Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic but also the Baltic States; Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—to take their rightful position within a European security and defence organisation.

2.15 p.m.

My Lords, I am sure we all want to thank my noble friend Lord Kennet for introducing this debate this afternoon. We also thank my noble friend the Minister for having made herself available so late on a Friday afternoon with all the pressures on her programme. As I have said before in this House, I remain deeply disturbed that the kind of issues which have immense strategic significance for our future, and that of our children and grandchildren, are debated as Unstarred Questions late on Friday afternoons.

I want to make my position quite clear at the beginning. I am one of those who comes down very much in favour of the extension of NATO. However, I have always believed that the extension of NATO must be accompanied by a relentless commitment to building real, practical, substantive relationships with Russia. I think all of us also understand that it is a good thing that our Prime Minister and our Secretary of State have attached so much priority in their own approach to international affairs to the importance of good relationships with the United States. But good relationships with the United States is not the same as putting a premium on good relationships between the United Kingdom and Senator Helms.

I, for one, welcome the pragmatism of the Government, coupled with their healthy scepticism of ideology. But all that would sit awkwardly alongside accepting the diktats of that unreconstructed ideologist of the Right, Senator Helms. Let us consider what he said in speaking of what happened in the Senate. He said of the Senate resolution that it,
"builds impenetrable 'fire walls' in the NATO-Russia relationship, ensures that Russia will have neither a voice nor a veto in NATO decision-making and that the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council be a forum for explaining—not negotiating—NATO … decisions".
That is an interesting contrast with the words of the NATO Secretary General who said,
"The Founding Act has created a mechanism to … consult, coordinate and act jointly. Through the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council, it gives Russia a voice, not a veto on Alliance activities".
I was also interested to note the words of Senator Bob Smith during the debate in the Senate. He uttered brave words with which I associate myself. He said,
"During this debate, I listened to some of the debate of my colleagues on the other side of this issue. Very interesting. I thought for a moment that I was in a time warp, that I was hack in the 1950s and somehow privy to the debate here. I heard terms like 'Cold War'. I heard terms like 'evil empire', 'Iron Curtain', and Stalin was mentioned, as was Yalta and the Soviet Union. Unless I am missing something I don't see the same situation today".
The NATO-Russia Founding Act, with its emphasis on the importance of relationships between NATO and Russia, is obviously something which has to be nurtured carefully. Those of us who have been watching events are a little concerned lest little progress has been made. We are even a little fearful that Russia may be losing interest.

I turn to several themes that follow from the NATO-Russia Founding Act. It may be a little hard to expect my noble friend to answer those points in detail this afternoon. If she is able to place a fuller reply in the Library, that would be appreciated. First, what real progress has been made in the Partnership for Peace arrangements? Secondly, on the Individual Partnership Programme, what is the latest text and state of play? Where do we stand on air defence, democratic control of forces, defence research, peacekeeping, civil emergency planning, and military exercises? In relation to military exercises, are we talking about the exchange of observers, or about mutual participation'?

Thirdly, what is really happening in the Permanent Joint Council? When are we going to see the work plan for NATO/Russia co-operation dated 15th December? Are we right or wrong in understanding that it covers 18 topics for consultations, co-operation and exchange of information, including the future security architecture of Europe, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, defence conversion, retraining of soldiers, combating international terrorism, armaments co-operation and exchange of information on nuclear doctrine, strategy and safety? If the work plan really does cover all that, it is clearly encouraging news. But why the delay in publicly announcing it? Is it related to Senator Helms' conditions as approved by the Senate?

How do HMG propose to handle the new situation? If the role of NATO is to be constrained, shall we now see a reassertion of the potentially very significant role of the OSCE in European affairs? If that is to happen, shall we be prepared to take a lead in ensuring adequacy of resources for the OSCE role?

There are two other issues arising from the Senate's—I believe disappointingly—restrictive approach to enlargement. First, there is the issue of costs. We all know that security is about more than simply assembling armaments. It is about the economic and social viability of the societies that are endeavouring to defend themselves. Is there a danger in the new situation that still heavier financial burdens will be placed upon Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, let alone other candidate members? What are the implications for the social and economic viability of those societies in the future?

Then there is the relationship between NATO and the United Nations Security Council, to which Senator Helms' strictures apply. I hope my noble friend will forgive me for saying what I almost invariably say in debates of this kind, but it is a matter that goes very deep in our position in world affairs. We have inherited the role of being one of only five permanent members of the Security Council. Nobody, as I understand it, suggests that we should give up that role. We are therefore opting for the role of world stewardship through the Security Council.

Where do the Government stand on that issue? What is the relationship between our commitment to NATO and NATO action and our commitment obligations and leadership role within the United Nations Security Council? Are we drifting into a situation in which we are saying that on occasion we shall have to act independently of Security Council authorisation? If we are saying that, as one of the current five permanent members of the Security Council, what is the lesson for the rest of the world? It is not a light matter. It is a matter that we have to consider very seriously indeed. It is not an easy issue. If we are taking it seriously, we have to examine the real implications of Senator Helms' strictures.

I wish to raise just one other matter in the context of this debate. I should like to thank the British American Security Information Council, better known as BASIC, for having drawn the attention of some of us to this point. NATO enlargement could result in an accelerated tendency for central and eastern European countries to dump their weapons abroad. Inter-operability and modernisation as prerequisites for NATO membership states have, as I have already indicated, initiated a flood of new weapons purchases. As they buy advanced weapons from the West, they may well finance new acquisitions by exporting obsolete and non-standard weapons to other parts of the world. Conflict-ridden states and unscrupulous gun runners are likely to be the main recipients of what has been described as the resulting cascade of surplus weapons. One arms dealer, Mr. Sam Cummings was reported by Brian Freemantle in The Octopus, published by Orion Books, as saying:
"There is enough weaponry throughout the [Eastern] Bloc to keep wars going for decades. It's scarcely worth the trouble to re-load. You might as well just pick up another gun".
Of course, the issue stretches way beyond the former Soviet Union to too many parts of the third world, and in part, to the industrialised world itself. We all know that it is light weapons which are doing the indiscriminate killing around the world. We also know that light weapons are so often causing political destabilisation. If the Helms manifesto increases the pressures on new and candidate members of the alliance to off-load their old arms, without proper regard for the consequences, what can the Government—our Government and others—do to put right that danger.

Will there be opportunities through the Partnership for Peace arrangements to do something or will these opportunities too become hamstrung by what Senator Helms has done?

We all applaud—I certainly do—what has been achieved by the Government by introducing their code of conduct on arms sales to the European Union. How will those principles be more widely applied beyond the European Union itself? What are the implications for doing that inherent in what Senator Helms has done?

2.26 p.m

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for drawing the attention of the House to the current plans for NATO enlargement. Like the noble Lord, Lord Judd, I think it a pity that we have to discuss extremely important subjects late on Friday afternoon when many of us might prefer to be somewhere else. But that is what we so often have to do.

My remarks will mainly concern Poland, as my wife is Polish and it is a country I visit frequently. I wondered what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was getting at when I read his Question and to some extent I wondered even more when he made his speech. We seemed to be going off to Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, central Asia and goodness knows where. But so far as I know the facts contained in the noble Lord's Question are well known to the Polish Government anyway and they have accepted them. The United States, being the main contributor to NATO and undoubtedly the leading partner, has given consent to the membership of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic on certain conditions which appear in the noble Lord's Question and some others.

My Lords, will the noble Lord permit me to intervene? The facts that I was talking about may be well known to the Polish Government but they were not known to the Polish parliamentary delegation at the North Atlantic Assembly meeting.

My Lords, all I can say is that they jolly well ought to have been known. I know that they were known to the Polish Government because I spoke to the Polish ambassador yesterday.

Those conditions have been accepted by Poland. Given that the Polish economy is one of the fastest growing in Europe, I see no reason why Poland should not be able to meet them. So far as I know, they have also been accepted by the Czech Republic and Hungary. That is clear so far as it goes, but there is, of course, with the expansion of NATO, the question of what external threat exists to these countries. For that, recent history is more than enough.

To recapitulate briefly, Russia, in the guise of the Soviet Union, dictated foreign and, to a large extent, internal policy in those countries until 1989. Like other noble Lords, I do not believe that the present régime in Russia poses any threat to central European security. However, knowing Russian history and knowing that we do not have a crystal ball, we cannot predict too far into the future. The whole history of Russia, both imperial and Soviet, is one of relentless expansion at the expense of her neighbours. Now Russia has returned to her heartland, basically though not entirely. But it is too early to forget the Chechen war, which only ended in 1996, less than two years ago.

I learnt of that war from my Polish friends. It had a profound effect on Poland. Many people were made extremely nervous by the Russian action and there was a certain amount of support in Poland for the Chechen rebels, if we can call them that. The brutality of the assault on the small Chechen nation was out of all proportion to any threat it posed to Russia. The war, from the Russian point of view, was a disaster. A fact which is little known is that more Russian soldiers were killed in the initial assault on Grozny than were killed in the whole of the Afghan war. The loss of life and property of the civilian population was appalling. One must hope that some lessons have been learnt, but it is only too easy to see why Poland wishes to join NATO in self-protection.

If Russia feels that NATO threatens her, she must consider her past history. I can say categorically that Poland seeks no territory, only to retain what she has; and that goes for the Czech Republic and Hungary also. From our point of view, a security vacuum in central Europe could be extremely dangerous. In my opinion it is important that a threat to any of those three countries should be treated as a threat to us all. That will be the case too when they are in NATO; otherwise we might just make noises, say, "How dreadful!" and do nothing, as we have done sometimes in the past. We are talking, after all, of that part of the heartland of European civilisation which came close to being lost over 50 years of war and foreign occupation. They cannot be classified at the present time—nor should they ever have been classified—as faraway countries of which we know nothing.

With regard to the Polish application, I need hardly remind your Lordships of the Polish contribution in the Second World War in the Battle of Britain and at Tobruk, Monte Cassino, Falaise and the many other actions in which they fought side by side with us. I cannot claim much military knowledge, but I have seen their soldiers on parade in Warsaw. Their military bearing is still superb and—dare I say?—on a par with the Brigade of Guards. I should guess that we may at some time need them as much as they need us.

2.32 p.m.

My Lords, I was unfortunately too late to put my name down to this Unstarred Question, having just missed the deadline at six o'clock last night. With your Lordships' permission therefore I shall make just a few remarks in the gap.

I am well aware of the real fear that the three countries concerned in the Unstarred Question feel from their large neighbour, which has oppressed them on and off for centuries. However, it is worth mentioning that Germany has been as guilty, if not more guilty, of oppressing those countries as has Russia. But Germany is a member of the European Union and of NATO and is therefore constrained in any aggressive tendencies that might re-emerge. The logic of excluding Russia from any possibility of even loosely joining or being associated with NATO in the future—if it is to exist at all in the long term—when one previous aggressor is a core member of that organisation is, to say the least, shaky.

The remark by Senator Helms that the resolution, "builds impenetrable firewalls", has already been mentioned. He goes on to say that that will ensure,
"that Russia will neither have a voice nor a veto in NATO decision-making, and that the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council will be a forum for explaining—not negotiating—NATO policy decision".
I suggest that that kind of language is patronising, insulting and, far from helping to increase security, is likely to cause resentment and perpetuate rather than ease tension.

Of course there are voices, and we have heard some this afternoon, especially from the noble Baroness, Lady Park, which say that strength is the only language the Russians understand. I suggest that that is to remain locked in a Cold War time warp. There are many voices of reason inside Russia that are struggling to make themselves heard. Of course, there are other voices to the far Right and Left who will capitalise on the widespread poverty and disillusion of the current phase of "transition" to a capitalist economy by using Russia's international humiliation (of which this resolution is a part) to gain support for rearmament and revanchism. The long delay in Russian ratification of the START treaty, mentioned by several noble Lords, may be an indication of that. It is one of their few remaining bargaining chips. I suggest that this delaying tactic is being encouraged by NATO expansion and the intransigent language of the United States Senate. I hope that Her Majesty's Government can find a formula which brings Russia back into the European family of nations, following the same line of thought as my noble friend Lord Judd, rather than pushing her dangerously into the position of a perpetual enemy or pariah state, as this Senate Resolution will tend to do, whether intentionally or otherwise.

2.35 p.m.

My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for initiating this debate because we have not had a debate on NATO enlargement since the decision of the Madrid Summit and, like the noble Lord, Lord Judd, I hope that we will have a full debate before too long on the ratification of the accession of protocol, and indeed a full public debate on both NATO and EU enlargement. Perhaps we can only envy the power of Congress. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for helpfully guiding us to the documents.

We on these Benches heartily welcome both the NATO enlargement decision and the decisive Senate vote. It is especially welcome that it was a bipartisan majority. I do not put the same alarming interpretation on the Senate conditions as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. As my noble friend, Lord Carlisle, pointed out, the conditions are binding on the US President and not on NATO. As Senator Roth, President of the North Atlantic Assembly, said to its political committee on 24th May that this vote,
"represents a strong reaffirmation of US commitment to European security and to the Alliance as the cornerstone of the transatlantic community".
But there is also, in the condition on reassurances about costs and burden-sharing, a warning to Europeans that we cannot be complacent about the American guarantee. We cannot afford to leave the impression in the United States that the European Union is content to leave the burden for security in Europe firmly on US shoulders.

Security is a concept broader in scope than defence, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said. While NATO remains, rightly, primarily a military alliance whose core mission is collective defence, it is also striking that the 1991 Strategic Concept defined one of the three main threats to NATO as social, economic and political difficulties created by potential ethnic and territorial conflicts in central and Eastern Europe.

As a student at the London School of Economics 25 years ago, in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and suspicion of the US and all things military, I could not have imagined that in 1998 I would have listened to the Chairman of the Military Committee of NATO (as I did a few months ago) talking much less about tanks and armies and guns than about democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the dangers of ethnic cleansing; in other words, about security within societies.

At the same time as I was a student 25 years ago Britain was entering a European Economic Community. Now the Amsterdam Treaty, building on Maastricht, defines one of the European Union's aims as the implementation,
"of a common foreign and security policy including the progressive framing of a common defence policy which might lead to a common defence".
What we clearly have is a convergence of the NATO and EU definitions of security and a complementarity in their roles in securing such security and stability. Only by building societies founded in democracy, non-discrimination and economic and social justice (primarily the role of the European Union) can the bedrock of peace be assured, and only by effective common defence (primarily a NATO task) can threats to stability be countered when necessary.

NATO is acting with a new sense of purpose and speed. The decision on this first enlargement has been reached and is being implemented. It is encouraging, although it is early days yet, the way that NATO seems resolved not to let the bullying of President Milosevic succeed in Kosovo as it did for a long time in Bosnia. But the new challenge for the European Union is to be equally able to fulfil its part of the responsibility for ensuring the future security and stability of the European continent. This means, first, pushing through the process of EU enlargement—which is the other half with NATO of the process of double enlargement—and, secondly, developing a common foreign and security policy.

I was therefore disappointed when the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, took pains to emphasise in our debates on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill that what Her Majesty's Government had ensured at the Amsterdam conference was the continuation of inter-governmental co-operation—she stressed that word—on foreign and security policy, not a common policy. It is for us on these Benches a paradox that while this Government are too inclined to look across the Atlantic rather than across the Channel for a meeting of minds, the Americans are urging us Europeans to forge a common responsibility for our own security. We need to build a common defence in Europe not as a rival to NATO but as a complement to it.

It was President Clinton who said, addressing the Europeans in his speech to the NATO summit in 1994:
"Ultimately, you [Europeans] will have to decide what sort of Europe you want and how hard you want to work for it … You have the most to gain from a Europe which is integrated in terms of security, in terms of economics, in terms of democracy".
That encouragement and that warning are no less true today. I am not sure President Clinton would applaud the remark by the Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, in reply to my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire in a debate on the NATO summit last July. He claimed—nay, he boasted—in answer to my noble friend that "we"—that is, the United Kingdom—rejected moves towards a European Union common defence. He claimed that there was no relationship between NATO and the European Union—two completely separate organisations. That can hardly be true with the relationship now between NATO, the WEU and the EU. We need to put flesh, as others have said, on the concept of European security and defence identity. It was developed within NATO to mean defence co-operation between European members of NATO but it must also now encompass links between the European Union and the WEU. WEU has become both the European pillar of NATO and the defence personality of the European Union and ESDI floats somewhere between NATO, WEU and the EU. It is time ESDI stopped floating and came down to earth and became a cohesive attempt at a common defence by the European Union and WEU acting coherently.

On the eve of the announcement of the UK's strategic defence review it is apparent that what is needed is a European defence review to make best use of Europe's defence resources. Our strategic defence review should not take place in isolation but should be a contribution to common European security. We have the opportunity, to which the Senate's resolution is pointing, which is imposed by the convergence of financial necessity and military requirement. The most cost-effective as well as militarily effective way to maximise the European defence effort is by closer co-operation. This means greater efforts are needed for rationalisation in the arms industries, for common specification in procurement, for inter-operability, for sharing of facilities and equipment and for specialisation. As someone who has a background in local government, perhaps I may say that we need in European defence, as in local government, to pursue the concept of "best value".

The lesson I take from the Senate vote is that the days when it seemed necessary to choose between being a good Atlanticist and a good European are well and truly over. A strong European security and defence identity is vital not only to ensure that Europe maintains a robust capability in the long term, but also to reassure our American allies that Europe is able and willing to share the burden of its own defence.

Finally, European co-leadership within NATO will ensure that it remains primarily a regional security organisation for Europe and not one designed for the projection of US global power.

2.45 p.m.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for raising this subject as an Unstarred Question. The noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, made an interesting point regarding our ability to initiate such a debate. Your Lordships will need no telling of the importance of full consideration of the merits and potential drawbacks that may arise with the expansion of NATO.

I am also pleased that for the first time I shall be able to engage in debate with the Minister. I echo the thanks that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, gave to the Minister for making herself available for this debate. Many noble Lords will he relieved that, for the time being, she has managed to duck below the parapet and avoid the crossfire arising from the West African adventure of her honourable friend Mr. Lloyd.

As the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has identified, the US Senate has required assurances from the US President that US taxpayers will not be subsidising the expansion of NATO. Indeed, it is well known that the US spends a higher proportion of its GDP on defence than most European countries. So for that reason alone the Senate's cautious position is understandable. Consequently, in order to prevent the formation of false expectations, it should indeed be made clear to all potential members of NATO that there are costs and obligations as well as benefits that go along with NATO membership. In the light of that, what action are the Government taking to prevent the formation of false expectations by potential members regarding financial support?

Section 2(3)(A) of the US Senate's resolution states that NATO does not require the consent of the UN or OSCE prior to taking action pursuant to the treaty. This statement should not be unexpected or surprising due to the fact that it is simply a reiteration of what is already provided for, and the Treaty of Washington is registered with the UN. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, put an interesting question to the Minister regarding the NATO-UN relationship and I look forward to hearing or reading in Hansard her answer.

Given that NATO is vital to the security of the United Kingdom and to the rest' of the EU, it would be unfortunate, to say the least, if the current stable situation in Western Europe were to be placed in jeopardy. There is concern in the US that both EU enlargement and EMU might divert attention away from defence. The United States often seeks reassurance of Europe's commitment to NATO both financially and militarily. A major concern must be that support for NATO may be withdrawn or reduced if these reassurances were not forthcoming or were diluted. Can the Minister assure the House that the strategic defence review will not send the wrong signal to the United States about our commitment to support NATO? The Minister will agree that the signal actually received and heard in Washington is as important as the foreign policy basis claimed for SDR.

While we are on the subject of signals, your Lordships will note that they can be received slightly distorted or possibly even amplified. Does the Minister agree that Section 3(2)(C) states that it is the sense rather than a condition of the Senate that the US proposes that the share and not the absolute expenditure of NATO, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, should be reduced by 1 per cent. per annum—in other words, the signal is no increase. If I heard the noble Lord correctly, he understands it to be a condition.

Another concern expressed by the US Senate stems from Article 5 of the Treaty of Washington which, as we know, broadly states that an attack on one is an attack against all. With each expansion of NATO, the possibility of the NATO allies becoming involved in a military conflict increases, even if only slightly. The noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, touched on that point. It will obviously be a matter of concern to certain Senators in the US. But it will not apply only to the US but also to the UK. Therefore, is the Minister confident that the people of the United Kingdom, or even their elected representatives, are fully aware of the ramifications involved in the commitment to Article 5?

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred to the attitude of the Russian Federation and to our relationship with it. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, in his short intervention, referred to the internal situation in Russia. Certainly, with the successful conclusion of the cold war, it is essential to keep the Russians on-side rather than isolated, but I think that the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is that Partnership for Peace is not enough reassurance on its own. I hope that the Minister will accept the invitation from the noble Lord to place a Partnership for Peace situation paper in the Library.

My noble friend Lady Park explained the situation regarding Russian military exports and Russia's attitude to export licences. Does the Minister find the situation satisfactory? The noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred to the problem of what could be described as a secondary tier of arms sales.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred to the Senate's requirement for the development of a plan—I repeat "a plan"—for a ballistic missile defence system. Section 3(1)(D) requires the submission of a report that requires, among other things,
"the identification of alternative system architectures".
I think that that US-speak means "develop a plan". I am sure that the Minister would be alarmed if there was no plan to counter an acknowledged threat. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, made an interesting comment regarding command and control of such ABM systems and equipment.

The Russian Federation must also have concerns regarding instability derived from the increased availability of more effective missiles, but can the Minister say what the implications are for the ABM treaty? Is she confident that it meets all the requirements of the new world order or does it require an overhaul? Does the Minister agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that ABM systems are the first part of a first-strike policy or are they just a defence against a maverick state?

Finally, before sitting down, I should like to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and to his noble friend the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, who is unfortunately not in his place this afternoon, as they both regularly raise issues and test the validity of policies that many of us would otherwise be tempted to accept without sufficient review.

2.52 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for the opportunity to debate this important topic. I thank also all the other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. Your Lordships have asked many questions, which I shall, of course, do my best to answer, but if I fail to deal with any particular point, I shall write to the noble Lord concerned. Indeed, noble Lords are welcome to draw any such points to my attention after the debate.

The Government believe that NATO should remain the foundation of our security. The UK can play a lead role in developing NATO as an organisation which reduces tension and is a force for good in the world. For the UK, this means a NATO which embodies and maintains the transatlantic security relationship; prevents renationalisation of defence in Europe; helps to maintain and to strengthen other key relationships and engages the Russians; remains an effective and flexible military instrument for dealing with future threats and challenges to our security. It also means a NATO which, through engagement with other countries in the region, spreads stability and democratic values in the way the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, suggested and acts as the allies' primary forum for consultation on all issues of security concern. Other organisations aspire to meet at least some of those objectives, but only NATO has proved itself able to meet all of them.

The Government have made it plain that they are committed to an open-door policy on future NATO enlargement. The enlargement process will be discussed at the Washington Summit next year. Meanwhile no decision has been made about which countries will be invited to join NATO in the future or when. By enlarging NATO to the east we enable central Europe's new democracies to join NATO's collective defence instead of adopting national defence policies that may be seen as potentially threatening by neighbours and may well be more expensive.

I assure my noble friends Lord Kennet and Lord Rea that NATO enlargement does not threaten or seek to isolate Russia. Russia has legitimate security concerns. NATO wants a real partnership with Russia. The noble Baroness, Lady Park, referred to the NATO/Russia Founding Act. The signature of that founding Act on 27th May 1997 established the foundation for greater co-operation between NATO and Russia in political and security matters, although Russia will have no veto over NATO decisions, including NATO enlargement. Successive meetings at all levels between NATO and Russia in the forum of the Permanent Joint Council are already helping to meet this goal.

My noble friend Lord Kennet and other noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the noble Baroness, Lady Park, referred to costs. Costs will be divided among the 16 existing allies and the three new members and spread over a number of years. We contribute nearly one-sixth of NATO's common budgets and the European allies together contribute some 70 per cent. of the total. Those shares will apply equally to the cost to NATO budgets of enlargement. An MoD paper was placed in the Libraries of both Houses in March which explained the cost estimates agreed at last December's NATO ministerial meeting and their relationship with the earlier higher estimates. NATO defence Ministers agreed in December that the cost to NATO budgets of admitting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic would be approximately 1.5 billion US dollars over 10 years.

My noble friend Lord Judd asked specifically about the effect on those countries which joined NATO. The invited countries have agreed to pay the cost shares to NATO budgets proposed to them by the alliance: 2.48 per cent. for Poland; 0.65 per cent. for Hungary and 0.9 per cent. for the Czech Republic. The Government have welcomed the ratification by the United States Senate of the accession to NATO by Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland. Noble Lords will be aware that heads of state and government at their summit in Madrid last year decided unanimously to extend the invitation to these three countries to begin accession negotiations with a view to joining by the time of the Washington Summit next year. I am pleased to be able to inform the House that procedures for accession are going well.

My noble friend Lord Kennet asked about conditions of the United States Senate as to ratification. That point was also touched upon by my noble friend Lord Judd and the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle. I am sure noble Lords will agree that the deliberations of the United States Senate are a matter for that body and that its relationship with the US Administration is an internal matter for the United States. Decisions in NATO are taken by consensus of states parties. There is no question of the United States ordering NATO to take action without the support of all the allies.

My noble friend Lord Kennet also referred to references to the EU in the Senate's resolution. The EU is recognised as an essential organisation for the economic, social and political integration of Europe. NATO, the OSCE and WEU all have important roles in the European security architecture.

The WEU provides a valuable interface between NATO and the EU's common foreign and security policy. It provides Europe with a valuable crisis management tool and a military capability which the European Union can call upon to support the CFSP. The WEU is also an essential part of the development of the European Security and Defence identity in NATO able to draw on the assets and experience of NATO to run crisis management operations in which our North American allies choose not to take part. ESDI thus enables Europeans through the WEU to take an increased share of responsibility for their security in a way which is consistent with the primary role of NATO in Europe's defence. The total cost of the WEU to the United Kingdom is about £4 million per year.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked specifically about the OSCE role. The OSCE's importance lies in conflict prevention, as we have seen in the expansion of its operations in the former Yugoslavia since 1995.

On the question of the deployment of ballistic missiles, apart from long-standing capabilities of the recognised nuclear weapon states, no country currently has ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United Kingdom. The delivery of weapons of mass destruction presents formidable technical challenges and such a threat is some years away. But some of our allies are, and our deployed forces may sometimes be, closer to nations of proliferation concern. It is therefore important that the alliance is well informed about developments both in the potential threat and in defensive technology. NATO's Conference of National Armament Directives has drawn up plans for feasibility studies into the development of an alliance theatre ballistic missile defence capability, although we and our allies are not committed to the procurement phase.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked me, I believe, to confirm that actions pursuant to the North Atlantic Council under the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty do not require the consent of the United Nations.

My Lords, if the Minister will be so good as to allow me to intervene, I did not ask her to confirm that because I hope and believe that that is not the case. I pointed out that Senator Helms was binding the President to the interpretation that that was the case.

My Lords, I misunderstood the question that the noble Lord asked. I made the point a few moments ago about the effect of what the Senate said on the American Government. It is of course an internal matter for the United States. An important point is that any negotiation in NATO will be a matter of consensus.

I shall try to answer some of the specific points raised. The noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, talked about NATO membership for the Baltic states. We recognise the aspirations of the Baltic states to join NATO. The Madrid Declaration of July 1997, following the NATO Summit, recognised the progress achieved towards greater stability and co-operation by the states in the Baltic region.

The noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, raised the question of Poland. The UK Armed Forces are already using Polish training areas to exercise, with participation by Polish troops, as part of the precursor to the discussions of NATO enlargement.

I have been asked a number of questions by noble Lords about the strategic defence review. It is important to remember the purpose of the review. We have been clear about this when talking of the messages received. The aim of the strategic defence review has been to ensure that the United Kingdom has the right defence capabilities to match the new security challenges which have sprung up since the end of the Cold War including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, aggressive nationalism, international terrorism, drugs and organised crime. It will provide a coherent and stable planning base for the year 2000 and beyond. I believe that that message is clearly understood by our allies.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, asked specific points about NATO's relationship with Russia. Those were echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Rea. The new strategic concept will take account of NATO's new co-operative relationships with Russia, the Ukraine and other partners. NATO wants Russia as a partner in building European security and we are encouraged by the co-operation with Russia in the permanent Joint Council since the signature of the founding Act. If the noble Lord wishes to pursue more specific points I am happy to do so in correspondence.

The enlargement of NATO agreed by members of the alliance in Madrid was, in the words of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister,
"an historic decision and a step of huge importance".
It is strongly supported by our allies, with whom we are at one in believing that it will make a major contribution to the security and stability of Europe. We also support NATO's open-door policy for future applicants. In the meantime, we intend to play a prominent part in supporting all NATO partners who wish to engage fully in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council dialogue and the opportunities for military co-operation in the Partnership for Peace.

I can confirm what most of your Lordships have mentioned—that the Government have a commitment to give time to debating NATO enlargement fully in both Houses before formal ratification by the UK. That undertaking still stands and I hope soon to be able to make available a date for debate in this House. Therefore, if noble Lords do not feel that I have answered all their questions today they can be pursued at that time.

House adjourned at six minutes past three o'clock.