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Volume 715: debated on Wednesday 25 November 2009


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to consult Parliament on the reformulation of NATO’s strategic concept.

NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen has appointed an independent group of experts to advise him on the content for a new strategic concept. They will report next spring and Rasmussen will then produce a draft concept for consultation with Governments. We believe it appropriate that Parliament discuss that draft should time allow. My honourable friend the Minister of State responsible for NATO would be ready to host a meeting with interested Members of both Houses before then.

I thank the Minister for that reply. I am sure that there are many of us who would like to take up the offer to meet the Minister of State concerned at an early stage. How do Her Majesty's Government respond to the Obama Administration’s views on the future of NATO—that it should be more a regional alliance than a global alliance, and that it should move from being a collection of bilateral relations with the United States towards having a much stronger European grouping within it?

My Lords, it is clear that Article 5 of the treaty, as affirmed by the Declaration on Alliance Security at the Strasbourg summit, will remain the core purpose of NATO, binding us to defend any nation within NATO which is under attack. That does not gainsay the fact that new forms of terrorism mean not only that we can have a defensive role but that we should be able to go on deployable operations. It is not a choice of one or the other. Threats to our security are continually evolving and are likely to become increasingly complex. NATO must be willing and able to to respond to these threats whenever possible.

On the second part of the noble Lord’s question, NATO-EU co-operation is of particular importance given that the security objectives of the two organisations are so closely intertwined. The concept should give a strong commitment to maintaining and strengthening the alliance’s partnership with the EU and developing mutual reinforcing structures and capabilities without duplication. This will enhance both organisations’ ability to address the hard and soft security challenges of the 21st century.

Will my noble friend assure the House that, in this work that is being done, full consideration will be given to the traditional role of the UN Security Council in global security and peace-making?

My noble friend makes an important point. NATO does not exist in isolation. While we must collaborate with the EU, we must have collaboration also with the United Nations and regional collaboration with other forces in this world, whether it is the African Union or others. My noble friend’s point is well taken.

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that this review of the strategic concept will include NATO’s nuclear posture? What input will the British Government make on that aspect? Will they ensure that any revision of NATO’s nuclear posture is firmly in line with the unanimous decision of the UN Security Council under President Obama’s chairmanship to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons?

Will the Minister assure us that, in moving towards a new strategy for Afghanistan, and with the American President’s announcements just coming up, all our NATO allies, including this country, have been properly and adequately consulted about the strategic implications and the lessons that we need to learn from Afghanistan?

The noble Lord makes an important point, and one that I believe the Government have clearly on board. A letter was recently sent by the Prime Minister to the Secretary-General, pointing out the need for a greater communal effort from within, from our partners. Indeed, we have been in discussions as a Government with our strategic partners in NATO and there is to be a conference in January to consider the outcome of that. We are looking to fellow NATO member states to increase their commitment in line with ours and with what we expect to be an increased commitment from the United States. I have given the long answer—the short answer is yes.

Does the Minister agree that the transformation of NATO’s military capabilities so that it can conduct more out-of-area operations is extremely relevant to this? Will the Government’s position be to argue for that transformation?

Can I bring the Minister’s attention back to the central Question asked by my noble friend? The Obama Administration have now proposed, as Kennedy and Kissinger did before, a twin-pillar NATO, with Europe co-ordinated so that it becomes a dialogue of equals rather than one between a giant and a collection of pygmies. Are the Government in favour of that?

I shall resist the temptation to give a short answer and say yes, although that is the essence of my answer to that question. As I said, we need greater collaboration within NATO and a leaner and more efficient NATO defending the collective body that is NATO—but also one that is ready to intervene in other areas where failed states are a threat to NATO’s security. That is the long answer; the short answer is still yes.

Will the outcome of the Georgia war last year mean that who joins NATO in the future is determined by the Russian Federation and the Kremlin, rather than the members of NATO?

I would hope that the noble Lord never believed that for a second. It is not the case, and I can give the very simple answer—no.