§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Lord CHALFONT rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what consultations they have had with Western European Governments and what representations they have made to the Government of the United States regarding the content of the treaty on Strategic Arms Limitation (SALT II). The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In asking this Question may I first say that I ask it in no spirit of hostility or provocation, and indeed I should like to express my apologies to The noble Lord who will answer from the Government Front Bench for keeping him late at night in the House when I know that he has a very heavy and busy schedule. I ask this Question because I believe it to be a matter of some urgency in international affairs and because I believe it is a very com- 1788 plicated question. It is a Question that addresses itself to a very complicated subject, and although I know that in most Western Governments there are a number of experts who are closely involved with, and experienced in, these matters, it seems to me that it is possible that busy Ministers who have a great number of other things to think about may not have been able to address their minds to some of the technicalities and some of the important matters which lie behind the negotiations on a Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty.
§ Before I ask the Minister a series of specific questions perhaps I ought to say that I am in no way questioning the value of serious and constructive arms control agreements and agreements of other kinds with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. It is my strong view that real arms control and disarmament agreements are of great value, but I would make one condition and one reservation. It is this: arms control and disarmament are only one facet of security, and in the West we should not engage with the Soviet Union in any arms control agreements or any international agreements of any kind unless it can be demonstrated that these agreements either improve the security of the West or at least do not damage it. The questions that I have to ask this evening—and I shall keep my remarks as brief as possible—are made in the context of my fear that the current negotiations on strategic arms limitations and the draft treaty, as I understand it to be considered at this moment, in fact in some ways create potential dangers for the West.
§ I framed the Question very carefully in the sense that I have brought together the twin concepts of negotiations of a multilateral kind, that is to say consultations with our allies in Western Europe and representations to the Government of the United States of America; and I have framed the Question in this way because I believe it to be terribly important that a European voice should be heard, and heard clearly and taken note of, in these negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States of America.
§ Although the strategic arms limitation talks are, by their nature, bilateral talks between the two super Powers, this is not a matter that can in fact be left to the two 1789 super-Powers. This is a matter that affects the security—indeed the survival—of all of us. It is a matter which affects, in a very direct way, the security of Western Europe and the survival of the Western political system, because if this treaty is, as I think it may well be, something which damages the security and the strategic position of the United States of America, then it damages our security in Western Europe as well.
§ My recent travels in Europe and in the United States of America lead me to believe that there are people in positions of very considerable importance and authority in Western Europe who are very worried and concerned indeed about the strategic arms limitation talks as they are at present proceeding, and there are a great many people who are expert in this subject who are very unhappy indeed about the draft treaty as we understand that it exists at the moment.
§ I know that The noble Lord who is to reply to this Question is perhaps not in a position to endorse—to agree with—anything that I say may exist in the draft treaty, and I would assure him that I am not expecting him this evening in his reply to my Question to give any confidential or secret information at all; and I shall quite understand if he feels unable to confirm what I understand to be the contents of the present draft treaty on strategic arms limitation. But he will know, I think, that the information which I have and which has prompted this Question is not information which has been gained from unreliable, superficial or frivolous sources.
§ As I have said, I believe that we need now to examine this draft treaty before it is signed and before it is ratified by the United States Congress, because if this treaty is signed by President Carter on behalf of the United States Administration, and if it is subsequently ratified by the United States Congress and if it subsequently comes into force, it will then be too late for us to do anything about it. It will incidentally—and I think this is a matter of some importance—not be too late for us and our friends in Europe to do something in between the signature of the treaty and its ratification, because whatever may be said to the contrary, if this treaty is signed by President Carter and is not ratified by the United States Congress it will be very difficult indeed 1790 to conceive that that treaty may come into force. I understand it is theoretically possible that the President could make it an executive act not requiring the ratification of Congress, but I find it difficult to believe that, in a matter of such importance as this, that would be the case. Therefore, what I am asking now is that Her Majesty's Government should consult, or should continue whatever consultations they are having with our Western European allies and should represent with the utmost strength to the United States Government any reservations or fears they may have about this treaty and about the effect that it may have on the security of the West.
§ I should like to put to the Minister four specific questions, three of which are of a detailed kind to do with the provisions of the treaty and the fourth a general question to do with the general desirability of such a treaty as this in the current state of international relations. The first question is this: having regard to the consultations which Her Majesty's Government presumably have had with their allies and with the United States Government, are the Government really happy about the way in which it will be possible to verify this treaty? "Verify" may be a piece of rather arcane arms control jargon. What I mean is, if this treaty is signed have we in the West and have the United States any way of ensuring that the Soviet Union will in fact observe the conditions of the treaty? Without being in any way, I hope, abrasive or disobliging I think it possible to point out that there have been occasions in the past upon which the Soviet Union has entered into solemn international agreements and has subsequently broken them.
§ I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are happy that if this treaty is signed and ratified, there are ways of ensuring that the Soviet Union will not subsequently break the provisions of the agreement. As The noble Lord knows because I have discussed this with him on other occasions, frankly it will be no good telling the House that this treaty can be verified by use of reconnaissance satellites, because, as I have said before and I repeat, reconnaissance satellites can photograph a missile but cannot tell you how far that missile can travel, what its degree of 1791 accuracy is, what its degree of penetration is and how many warheads lie inside the missile. Therefore, I should like as a first question to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are perfectly happy, perfectly confident, if this treaty is signed, that we have clear unequivocal and foolproof ways of ensuring that the Soviet Union abides by the provisions of the treaty?
§ My second question is a somewhat more technical one and it concerns the balance of strategic power between the United States and the Soviet Union. Anyone who has studied the development of the nuclear striking power of the two super-Powers over recent years will know that the Russians and the Americans have built up and developed their nuclear armoury in entirely different ways and based upon entirely different strategic concepts. The American concept has been that nuclear war is unthinkable and they have based the build-up of their nuclear striking force upon what is called the principle of mutual assured destruction; that is, if you can face your potential enemy with such a devastating fear of reprisal he will never attack you with nuclear weapons. And this has caused the Americans to build up their nuclear weapons in a certain easily identifiable and clearly verifiable way. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, has never—and this is very clear to anyone who has studied the literature of Soviet strategy—believed in the principle of mutual assured destruction. It has always believed in the possibility of fighting a nuclear war and it has most recently come to believe that it can not only fight but win a nuclear war.
§ I do not wish to develop this argument at great length at this time in the evening, but I would ask Her Majesty's Government this question. Are Her Majesty's Government satisfied with the proposals in the present draft of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty? To remind your Lordships of the basic provisions, the proposals are that both sides should have 2,400 strategic launch vehicles, later to be reduced to 2,250. Are Her Majesty's Government absolutely confident that within that ceiling there are not ways in which the Soviet Union could—by, for example, having a greater number of individual warheads in their missiles than 1792 the United States, by having a greater degree of penetration, a greater degree of accuracy, all of which can be done unless there is adequate verification of this treaty—gain under this treaty an unacceptable degree of nuclear superiority?
§ I ask this question not because I believe that we are going to engage in a nuclear war, but for a very different reason, and it is this: that nuclear superiority is not simply a question of whether you can or cannot win a nuclear war; but if you have that superiority, and you have superiority in other military fields as well, you can do almost anything in the certain knowledge that your adversaries will never confront you because they know that you have strategic superiority. This is a psychological problem almost as much as a military one. I ask Her Majesty's Government to assure the House that they are confident that within the confines and the restrictions of this treaty the Soviet Union cannot achieve and maintain—because the treaty will place a ceiling on nuclear development—a position of strategic superiority.
§ My third specific question concerns some weapons which are left out of this treaty and some which are included in it. The noble Lord will know, I think, although he may not be able to confirm this, that as the treaty is at present drafted the Soviet strategic bomber known as the Backfire, which has the capacity to devastate any city in Western Europe and given certain conditions also to devastate cities in the United States, is excluded from the treaty. There is no restriction upon the Soviet Union in the development of this bomber. There is no restriction in the treaty which prevents the Soviet Union from deploying the mobile missiles; the specific one I have in mind is called the SS20, which is a mobile missile which again is targeted on and capable of destroying the whole of Western Europe; there is no restriction in the treaty which prevents the Soviet Union from developing and deploying that weapon.
§ On the other hand, so far as the West is concerned, as I understand it there is a protocol in the treaty which restricts the range of a proposed allied missile, the Cruise missile, in such a way that for the period of the protocol the range of that weapon is restricted, and it is restricted simply because by restricting its range 1793 the Soviet Union ensures that the missile cannot strike, from the United States or from United States launching platforms, at the Soviet Union. I ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are happy at this deal. Why should it be that the two major weapons of the Soviet Union which can devastate Western Europe are excluded from the treaty, while the one weapon which the West propose to develop which might redress that balance is restricted by the terms of the treaty? Those are the three specific questions I would ask.
§ The fourth and last question is this. Are the Government really content that a treaty of this kind should be signed at a time when we seem to be faced all over the world with the evidence of an aggressive and expansionist Soviet foreign policy, at a time when the Soviet Union is spending 15 per cent. of its gross national product on its military establishment, at a time when Soviet foreign policy in its most aggressive and expansionist form is evident in Africa, in the Middle East, in South-East Asia. Are we really justified in engaging in an arms control treaty of this kind without some kind of what is called in the jargon "linkage"? Should we not be making it absolutely clear to the Soviet Union that we will not engage in agreements of this kind unless they are prepared to show some change of direction in their foreign policy?
§ I am not suggesting for one moment that the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, as imperfect and defective as I think it may be, is a bad thing. No arms control treaty in itself is bad. But what I say is this. Can Her Majesty's Government assure the House, first, that this treaty will in no way diminish the security of the West by the provisions which I understand are contained in it; and, secondly, are they really happy, having consulted their allies in Western Europe and having had consultations with the Government of the United States of America, that a treaty of this kind should be signed at a time when the Soviet Union seems bent upon pursuing an aggressive foreign policy and attacking the interests of the West all over the world?
§ As I said at the beginning, I ask these questions in no hostile spirit because I know that Her Majesty's Government are deeply committed to arms control and 1794 disarmament and I welcome that and applaud it. However, I ask the Minister when he answers to assure the House that we are not allowing the United States to engage in a treaty with the Soviet Union which may diminish, and which certainly will not increase, the security of the West, without making the voice of this country and the voice of Western Europe heard very clearly indeed in the White House and the State Department.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Lord STRATHCONA and MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords, The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has predictably asked the right penetrating questions against the kind of authoritative background that we should expect of him. That, I hope, enables me to be brief, which is just as well as I am sorry to say that I am inflicting upon your Lordships a rather shaky voice box. I noticed that throughout his speech The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, asked whether the Government "were happy", which I thought was a nice expression although it is one that is not often used in defence matters. I often think that the Government, certainly as represented in this House, are seldom happy in defence matters. In any event, such matters are extraordinarily difficult.
The first point to be made is that it is perfectly true, as The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has said, that this country is not directly involved in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. As I understand it, those are essentially very protracted and unbelievably complicated negotiations between the two super-Powers: the US on the one side and the USSR on the other. As The noble Lord has pointed out, one of the most difficult features of these negotiations has been the apparently simple one of defining just what are strategic arms in this sense. I do not think that I need repeat at great length what we have said so often in defence debates—namely, that we share with the United States a distrust and a dismay at Russian intentions as evidenced by the capabilities which they choose to create for themselves. Clearly it would be desirable, if some means could be found to make it possible, for both sides to reduce the investment that they fee! it necessary to make in that capability.
I had planned to ask The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, much the same 1795 Question, while not putting it so well, as The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, asked: namely, the question of verification. Is it not inevitable that our suspicions are far from being allayed by any nation which so resolutely refuses to allow the type of verification which one would wish to see? Does it not immediately raise questions in one's mind about the good faith of the negotiator on the other side? Are we satisfied that satellite surveillance really is an adequate substitute for on-the-ground inspection to ensure that the agreements are being honoured?
The required reading for this debate has been Henry Kissinger's interviews in the Economist newspaper—the one two weeks ago was the critical one for this debate—where he very wisely said that the treaty should not be judged solely in the terms of its own provisions. Here again The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, put the situation very well. The fear must be that, once the USSR is ahead in nuclear weaponry—and all the indications are that they will be—any small restraint which there now is and which may have been exercised since the end of the last war upon their meddling in international situations and fishing in troubled waters (indeed, in the last few days a neighbouring State has become very unstable) will be removed.
I should like to put two other questions to The noble Lord the Minister. In fact, I think it is the same question put in another way. First, can we obtain any assurance that Europe will have something to counter the SS.20 missile, which is excluded from the talks because it is classed as an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) as opposed to an Intercontinental Range Ballistic Missile (ICRBM) and as such does not come into the SALT negotiations? However, it does have the whole of Europe within its range. Furthermore, I think I am right in saying that that same weapon is also excluded from the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions negotiations which are taking place in Vienna. Therefore, it seems to fall uncomfortably outside either of the negotiations which are taking place. That leaves us with the feeling that we may be talking about two cowboys agreeing to throw down their rifles when we know perfectly well that one of them has a shotgun in the other hand. That is 1796 an unhappy situation in which to find ourselves.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly from the point of view of this country, can we be assured that the SALT negotiations will not preclude the United States from being in a position to exchange with this country nuclear technology? That is of particular importance to those of us who sit on this side of the House, because we have gone on record as saying that we believe that the nuclear submarines—the Polaris weapons—will need to be replaced. Therefore we shall need to keep open all the options as to how those weapons might be replaced, be it by some other nuclear weapon or by the Cruise missile to which The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred.
Finally, one goes back to the more general question that we believe that if the outcome of the SALT negotiations is to be considered successful, they must achieve a satisfactory strategic balance for the future. For, as I have tried to say, as The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has said, and as has generally been recognised through history, if we have a strategic imbalance we create an inherently unstable situation in the world. I sincerely hope that The noble Lord will be able to reassure us that that is not envisaged in this treaty and that there will be a satisfactory answer to the problem of the counter-prevailing force to the SS.20 missile, and confidence that we can obtain the necessary technology to replace the Polaris missiles when they will be needed.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Lord GLADWYN
My Lords, I rise with reluctance to take part in this short debate because, frankly, before I came to the House I did not realise that I was to speak. I thought that my noble friend Lord Kimberley was going to bear the burden and heat of the day, but I gather that he is otherwise engaged, so I have had no time to prepare anything formal. I merely speak from my inadequate knowledge gained from the Press about what has apparently been going on.
To say the least, I think that something rather disconcerting has been going on. It certainly gives me a feeling of acute unease. I am concerned about what might be called the ponderous manoeuvres of these two brontosauruses, each capable 1797 of knocking each other out, even on a second strike, to the extent of eliminating at least many millions of people, especially when apparently the object is to achieve some advantage over the other,—at least on paper—when, as has been pointed out by noble Lords who have spoken, what with MIRVed warheads and so on, it is quite possible that no agreement will be capable of being supervised that will ensure that no one is cheating. That is perhaps not a question which The noble Lord can answer. Nevertheless, we must all hope that in one way or another the SALT negotiations will be successful.
Part of the trouble surely is that as soon as agreement on the production and deployment of any particular frightful weapon seems likely, another comes along which appears likely to render that weapon obsolete or out of date. So the argument goes on. All the argument about anti-force and anti-city weapons seems to me to be largely academic. For if nuclear war really does begin, there is every chance of its becoming general, or at least of its becoming general in the area in which the first shots are fired; that is to say, general in Europe. As I see it, the only hope seems to lie in the presumptive reluctance of any Power to have first recourse to nuclear weapons of any kind whatever. Of course, I recognise that if NATO were to make a declaration to that effect, it might well encourage the Soviet Union to initiate some offensive with conventional weapons where, of course, as we all know, they have an overwhelming advantage.
On the theory of the thing and on the assumption that some kind of deal will nevertheless be made between the two super/Powers, does it really matter whether one of them possesses more apparent power to damage the other, so long as the latter still has enough power—even on a second strike—to cause unacceptable damage? But, of course, that does not solve the problem of the security of Western Europe—to which The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred—if we believe that neither is willing to accept any considerable damage to its own homeland: That brings us to the whole question of the defence of Western Europe and the so-called grey areas. I very much hope that the Minister will be able to give a satisfactory reply to the four very pertinent questions put by the noble 1798 Lord, Lord Chalfont, and more or less backed up by The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona.
It seems very difficult to imagine that there can be any system of real verification in the present unfortunate conditions. The Government must decide whether or not that is a real impediment to the conclusion of any SALT treaty. On the different development, I entirely agree with The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. It may be that, owing to this difference of approach and philosophy, the Soviet Union will end up with some considerable strategic advantage. However, I think it is on the so-called grey areas that we must be most apprehensive. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, mentioned the Backfire Bomber which could do incredible damage to the West and, it is possible, I suppose, to the United States. Then, of course, there is the famous SS.20 mobile missile. Both those weapons are unrestricted. Is it right that they should be unrestricted when the SALT treaty is to be signed? Is it in the interests of the West that they should be? Apparently, although we know that there is to be some restriction, The noble Lord cannot say whether that is so. Nevertheless, we know that the cruise missile, which would to some extent be the answer to these two horrible weapons directed at Europe, will be restricted. Indeed, as we understand it, the USA will be under an obligation not to communicate to its allies any information about its construction.
On the last question concerning whether or not we should sign the treaty at all in view of the fact that the Soviet Union is being so aggressive all over the world, if we can reach a satisfactory agreement—and I think it will be extremely difficult—on the control of these strategic weapons in general, then I should be inclined to say "For heaven's sake, sign it," whether or not the Soviet Union's political ambitions are satisfied. My impression is that the one thing does not really affect the other. I hope that The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, will be able to give satisfactory answers, even if he is not happy, to the four questions formulated by The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, this debate has been short and 1799 pointed because The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, deployed his thoughts and questions more pointedly perhaps than he would had the occasion been slightly more elaborate. Therefore, I shall confine myself to attempting to answer as well as I can the three, perhaps four, questions which formed the bulk of his speech. I have no doubt that he and others here who are interested in this aspect of arms control and security will return to this matter possibly against a background of a more elaborate debate. I well understand The noble Lord's decision to approach this matter tonight a little more restrictedly than he might otherwise have done. Similarly, The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, took his cue from The noble Lord. I understand his approach to it well. I hope that I can respond in kind.
The first of the four questions that were put to me by all three speakers—not necessarily in the same order—was that of verification. This is a natural condition of disarmament. There is no disarmament without security and there is no security without proper verification. In this field in particular, when there are naturally questions about the continued validity of, for instance, satellite observance, it is necessary to raise this kind of question. On this point I can do no better than to draw your Lordships' attention to the statement of President Carter in his recent State of the Union message. He said:We have very sophisticated proven means—including our satellites—to determine for ourselves whether the Soviet Union is meeting its treaty obligations. I will sign no agreement that cannot be verified".In terms of verification SALT II marks an advance on the arrangements in SALT I. It confirms the principles of SALT I, in particular the idea that neither side will interfere with the other's national technical means, and includes new provisions drawing on experience with SALT I. I think that that is a substantial answer to the point on verification which was raised in this short debate.
The second question which I think all three speakers emphasised relates to the question of balance, or what is sometimes called, "equivalence". It is of particular importance to us in Europe that we are not left in a position where the equivalence 1800 of deterrence is not of such a kind as, in the event, to place Europe at a disadvantage. This is a complicated but perfectly valid point to make. It is possible, for instance—and I am sure that we would all have wished to hear The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, develop this; he has written on it with great cogency—or it might be possible to achieve an agreement between the super-Powers which, because of the various categories of agreements on missiles in particular ensured the immunity of a part of the territorial alliance (for instance, the United States), but, on the other hand, worked out so that the part of the Alliance closest to the Soviet Union was put at risk.
I have no doubt myself, neither have the British Government, that President Carter, and indeed nobody in authority or influence in the United States, would agree to an agreement which did that, but it is necessary of course to look at the technical facts. Among the provisions of particular interest to us and our European allies, the United States Government has indeed accepted arranged limits on sea and ground launched cruise missiles, although there are no restrictions on the Soviet SS.20. I come to the question of whether there is a counterpart to the SS.20 available, or going to be available, in the West in a moment. There are no restrictions on the Soviet SS.20, the range of which is close to that envisaged for some types of cruise missiles. The United States Government has agreed that aircraft carrying long-range cruise missiles are to be counted as strategic systems and come within the sub-ceiling for ICBMs, SLBMs and cruise missile carriers.
That is one part of the agreement affecting one side, but major concessions have been made on the Soviet side too. For example, the overall ceiling on delivery systems, as we have heard, will oblige the Soviet Union to dismantle over 250 existing systems. Moreover, the agreement will hold down the total number of Soviet warheads and the throw-weight of their strategic forces to a level well below what is estimated they would have in the absence of an agreement.
We believe that there is overall a fair balance of concessions. It is impossible to count categories or systems, or indeed to match system for system. What counts is what The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, 1801 emphasised: will SALT II leave the United States, and therefore the Alliance, at least as strong in relation to the Soviet Union as they would have been without the agreement. This is the central question, and it is well that we have somebody in this House who can put it in the way that he did. We believe that this is so.
§ Lord CHALFONT
My Lords, before The noble Lord leaves that point—and I ask him to accept that I am asking these questions in a constructive spirit—would he not accept that the fact that the Soviet Union has, under the agreement, to destroy a number of strategic launch vehicles, should be taken in the context of the fact that they have about that number of obsolete strategic launch vehicles anyway which would be going out of service? Would he also agree that the restriction on warheads is only valid if the number of warheads can be verified? It is no good placing a restriction on the number of warheads if we have no way of knowing how many warheads the Soviet Union has.
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, I take the point on the obsolete category, and certainly I would agree with The noble Lord on the question of the number of warheads. Indeed, as he knows, there will be limits on the total number of warheads per missile, and national verification means will therefore be enough to check both on launchers and on warheads. The point that The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, made on obsolete categories is one of great importance, and I can assure him that that has been taken into account and will be taken into account in the computation—I believe I follow him in this—which affects the achievement of an effective balance.
The third question that was asked related to Backfire and the SS.20, which I said I would come to in a moment. There is of course nothing new in the existence of such strategical systems of this kind. The SS.4, the MRBM, first appeared in 1959, but the Alliance has for some time been seriously discussing the implications of these weapons in the Soviet theatre nuclear weapons, and the options for the Alliance in terms both of arms control and future weapons systems. The time for a decision has not been reached, but I 1802 can assure the House that this is a priority topic in the Alliance. Indeed, the United States Secretary for Defence has said publicly,We have a wide range of options, including various forms of cruise missiles, a new version of the Pershing, and others".I hope I have said enough on that point to indicate that there is a balance of acquisition, certainly of development, in this field, if I may put it like this, on the answer, or the potential answer, to the SS.20.
The fourth point I wrote down in this way—but possibly I may be corrected—related to the question of the Backfire and the SS.20. Possibly I should include in what I have to say on that matter that it is true that some critics of SALT II have argued that the temporary restrictions in the protocol—that is, the document attending the treaty—will in practice become permanent because it will be part of the background to SALT III. They also maintain that the protocol limits systems which could be vital to Western security—the point I made earlier on—mobile ICBMs, which are a possible answer to the problem of the vulnerability of the United States' Minuteman missiles, and ground and sea launch missiles which some see as the answer to the build-up of Soviet theatre nuclear weapons. The important point is that the United States administration is in no way obliged to extend these limitations after the protocol expires.
I know there is considerable questioning, particularly in the United States, as to what happens during the operation of the protocol, because it is for a considerable period, and I agree that is a valid point. The Administration have made it clear that their position at the time—I take this to be at the end of the period of the protocol—will be determined in consultation with their allies in the light of all the circumstances. It is worth noting that according to the State Department, any future limitations on issues covered in the protocol will require United States agreement and Congressional approval.
The noble Lord mentioned that the result of the SALT II discussions could be adopted by the United States by Executive order. It is the President himself, I believe, who has indicated that it shall be by treaty to be ratified by the 1803 Senate, requiring, as he knows, a two-thirds majority. There is a confidence there that what is proposed—I suppose we know most of the details now—will commend itself not only to the Executive of the United States (to the President and his immediate departmental executive staff) but to the elected Congress.
Meanwhile, the United States Government have kept their options wide open by continuing research and development on both mobile ICBMs and the Cruise missile systems covered in the protocol. They are also continuing to improve their existing systems within the terms of SALT II by modernising their Minuteman force, pressing on with the Trident programme and deploying air launched Cruise missiles. I know The noble Lord would have mentioned all three categories if he had chosen to deploy his argument tonight. I think it is reassuring that there is provision in the United States policy, which neither the treaty nor the protocol prevent, of modernising the ICBM force, the Minuteman force, pressing on with the Trident programme, which had been held back previously, and deploying air launched Cruise missiles.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, raised, I thought satisfactorily, the point that there is a new speculation as to whether arms control and disarmament are in fact always the answer to problems of stability and the maintenance of peace. It is a remarkable fact that this question has been raised, but it is a respectable argument. It is the argument that the maintenance of peace depends primarily on deterrence—on actual and assumed deterrence—and not on rather chancy, not always verifiable and sometimes rather dangerous, technical discussions leading to an imbalance of security.
Naturally, I come down, as I know Lord Chalfont does, in favour of doing everything we can with our allies and in consultation with the United States within the Alliance—a constant effort in the strategic air limitation sphere as well as in the mutual force reduction talks relating to more conventional weapons—to effect a limitation, a reduction of arms. However, I join with noble Lords in saying that this must be done on the basis of the utmost possible verification of the implementation of agreements, otherwise agreements which are carried out by one side and not by the 1804 other—even in certain directions, in certain particulars—can only lead to destabilisation and to a direct threat to the peace.
I am sure I can give the House the undertaking that in all our discussions on arms limitation and disarmament—and I believe we can take this as being the American attitude in their own specialised discussions as well as those they join the rest of the Alliance in conducting—our approach is one of realistic technical assessment, particularly in regard to the essential question of verification.
The noble Lord asked how close the consultation was. He asked whether we were fully in consultation, in the first place, with our European allies and, secondly, in representation to our American allies. I believe we are. I believe there is a new spirit of political co-operation in Europe and a new assessment of the importance of a European representation to the Americans, and that within NATO there is a growing feeling, perhaps based on urgency prompted by political developments—these things go together—that we really must cohere our ideas, broadly as Europeans, and then achieve the utmost consultation with the United States.
It is debates like this—sometimes short but very much to the point and sometimes perhaps enlarged in certain connections—that should now, here and across the Atlantic, be proceeding. There is every reason why we and they, Europe and America, as two major composite democracies, should not fight shy of discussion. There is considerable discussion in the United States, in North America as a whole, and those of us who keep up with reports, not only with what Mr. Kissinger has been saying but with what others have been saying and with what is being speculated and talked about in Europe, can only welcome this.
It must not however lead us on to panic stations, and my noble friend is the last to do that. We must avoid both complacency and undue panic, and the basis for it, as he rightly said, is close consultation and co-operation with our immediate neighbours and allies, and, on that basis, very close consultation and cooperation with our American friends. I am substantially satisfied that the answers to the questions put to me tonight are satisfactory from our and from the West's point of view.