§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Lord Home of the Hirsel rose to call attention to the relations of the United Kingdom with the United States and with the USSR; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like immediately to express my appreciation that so many noble Lords have put down their names to speak on this Motion. The issues raised have certainly turned out to be topical. In particular, I look forward with keen anticipation to the maiden speech of the noble and gallant field marshal who will give us his views.
§ At the end of last year I attended a lecture given by Sir Oliver Wright, who has lately been our ambassador in Washington for four years. He labelled his talk "The Atlantic Grows Wider". It was a slightly ominous title. His theme was that because we and the Americans talk the same language, and because we are recognisable democracies, we are apt to assume that understanding is automatic over a wide field of international events. He made the point—and quite truly—that over the years perspectives change, and if we want to keep in close and good relations, we have to consult together all the time.
§ I was lucky to serve under two Prime Ministers who took infinite trouble to cultivate an intimate relationship with the United States. I refer to Sir Winston Churchill and the late Lord Stockton. I need not recall to this House the high dividend (in particular concerning security) which their attention to this aspect of British foreign policy has paid in terms of the security of Britain and the security of the democracies of Western Europe.
§ We cannot all have American mothers, that is true. However, I know that there is no need to urge on our present Prime Minister the advantages of consultation. But it will be encouraging if at the end of this debate my noble friend Baroness Young is able to tell the House that it is the Government's intention to keep contacts with the United States active at every level of government during future years. That is particularly timely when the social and political gravity of the United States is moving westward towards the Pacific and towards American interests in the Far East.
§ Soon after Sir Oliver's talk two events claimed international attention. The first was the apparent faltering in the conduct of the Government and administration in America on foreign policy, and the 182 administration of government in the United States. The second event was the apparent readiness of the leadership of the Soviet Union to modify some of the extreme rigidities of the communist system as they are applied in that country. These events were sufficiently significant for Britain that I thought they should be reviewed by Members of your Lordships' House who are so experienced in these matters.
§ The United States rightly hold the reputation of being an exemplary practitioner of democracy. They are also a democracy which commands enormous physical power which—and we can thank our lucky stars for it—they have chosen to use to support other democracies who desire to maintain their freedom and their independence against those who would use their power to tyrannise. It is a pre-eminent British interest and the pre-eminent interest of the democracies of Europe that they should keep the power of the United States at their elbow. Therefore, it is of prime importance to us that America's poise and prestige should be quickly regained in international councils, if it has been lost. I am sure that my noble friend Lady Young will be able to assure the House that the United States leadership and authority in NATO councils is unimpaired.
§ Sometimes I see a glib comparison made to the effect that there is nothing to choose between the United States and the Soviet Union in the context of power. That is completely to misread history. For centuries Russia has been a country which has carefully calculated power, and its use, for national ends. The American Constitution emphasises restraint in the use of power, and in fact the United States have been reluctant to use their power—reluctant to the point of isolation.
§ I confess to a recurring nightmare on the subject of the United States and their power. The nightmare starts with the recollection that for the first part of my life the American mood was isolationist, they tried to keep clear of any entanglement in Europe's affairs at all. Noble Lords will remember that after the First World War they opted out of the League of Nations. They were so careful not to become entangled in any way.
§ My nightmare proceeds when I recall that neither the Kaiser nor Hitler, when they were planning their assaults on Western Europe, needed to assume that America would be an enemy. They counted America out. Luckily, the situation has changed. Now, the first assumption which any potential aggressor contemplating a conventional assault on Europe has to make is that his country will be at war with the United States within a matter of days. That is a total change. In fact, it is the first deterrent and in my view likely to be a decisive safeguard against war.
§ It is at this moment, curiously, that the Leader of the Opposition Party in Britain announces his intention, should the Labour Party gain power at the next election, to send the Americans home. I do not wish to rub this point into the noble Lord opposite now because many will be acutely uncomfortable at this decision. I shall only pose a couple of questions; namely, how long after the American forces are out of Britain is it thought that American forces can stay in Germany'? How can any American President ask the American people to send their soldiers to Europe when 183 the bases from which they are going to be defended are going to be abolished? My Lords, he could not do it.
§ Over the years I have seen some of the planning of NATO councils, and I say quite clearly from what I saw that if Mr. Kinnock's plan, or proposition, is put into effect and becomes a reality it will tear the guts out of the defence plan for democracies of Western Europe. Maybe this issue will have to go to the British people and they will have to stop it. I hope when that decision is taken that it will be accepted and that will be the end of this particular proposition. But if and when that happens, I hope that we can then return to something we ought never to have left—that is, the party consensus on the conduct of foreign policy and defence in Britain. We managed that perfectly well for a good many years. There was complete harmony on policy as regards NATO, and the sooner we return to that the better.
§ The second part of my Motion concentrates on better relations with Moscow—which is my hope—and in particular on the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow. As I understand it, she will be going there to see whether she can sow the seeds of co-operation with communist Russia. I am bound to say that she will he going there against a pretty bleak background. because up to now the soil has been particularly sterile. The reason is not far to seek. I shall recall to your Lordships President Brezhnev's definition of détente. He defined it as a state of continuing confrontation and struggle which may need to be intensified. That is not exactly an encouragement for better relations with the democracies.
§ No statesman in a democracy could conceivably define détente in that way. If that is the prospect when the Prime Minister meets Mr. Gorbachev, she might have saved herself a journey. I profoundly hope that that is not the prospect because if it is there will be no business worth doing. However, Mr. Gorbachev has said that in a number of respects he intends to break with the past and he has given notice of that fact to the Russian people. Indeed, he has started and has acted in the economic field. He has told the Russian people plainly that in order to enable their agriculture and industry to earn the wealth to underpin the requirements of a modern, developed state it is necessary to introduce an element of competition—it is necessary to stimulate what we call private enterprise. That is an extremely courageous decision because it stands on its head the economic teaching of 50 years.
§ Mr. Gorbachev is a clever man and he has obviously taken precautions and made preparations. This is not some sudden idea; it has obviously been maturing for some considerable time and Mr. Gorbachev has taken great care to present it to the Russian people in the best way. I cannot help but reflect that it is interesting that both the great socialist states in the world—Russia and communist China—have arrived at somewhat the same conclusion at the same time. Mr. Gorbachev knows that having started the reforms the fruits of change will take a long time. Therefore I guess that he is prepared to see those changes through.
§ The question which will face the Prime Minister in Moscow is whether Mr. Gorbachev is prepared to introduce change on that scale and of that dimension 184 into Russia's conduct of international relations. Your Lordships may have noticed that so far Mr. Gorbachev's criticisms of the past have not been extended to the conduct of foreign affairs and defence. I do not know whether or not there is any significance in that. However, I think that he probably understands very well that the only basis for satisfying relations between nations and making them productive is, on the one hand, respect for international law, which includes the sanctity of treaties.
§ In that context I should like to return to a point which I made in this House two years ago because it is still true. It has never been difficult to negotiate a treaty with the leaders of the Soviet Union. I have negotiated a number myself. The trouble has always been that the paper pledges have not been carried out on the ground and we have never been able to be confident that they would be carried out on the ground. In such circumstances trust cannot grow, and it did not grow.
§ As regards a treaty on disarmament, where governments are dealing with the lives of thousands or perhaps millions of people in these days of nuclear war, trust is absolutely imperitive. Therefore verification of any such treaty is of the first importance. I shall not deal with the particular proposal which it is advertised that the Prime Minister may try to negotiate; that is, the zero option with regard to medium-range nuclear missiles which will probably be on the agenda. However, I make the point that whether it is that particular disarmament arrangement which is negotiated or another, all of them will be useless unless Mr. Gorbachev is willing to make the fundamental change which is that Russia should observe the sanctity of treaties signed. That is what matters and I believe that the Prime Minister must tell Mr. Gorbachev that that is what matters if he wants to introduce Russia into the United Nations and other international associations and have his country accepted as wanting to make a constructive future for us all.
§ I do not think that there is much more to be said on the Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union. I believe that I have said all there is to be said on the making of treaties. Indeed, we must look forward to treaties which are honoured in the future. Therefore I greatly look forward to hearing your Lordships' views as they will be expounded over the next few hours. I believe that much will be said which will be of extreme value as we move forward in what we hope are better and happier times.
§ The situation in Russia is not within our control but I believe that we may be able to exercise influence on a new leader with new ideas. The relationship with America is largely within our control and therefore I trust that my noble friend will tell us that in every department of government negotiations will flourish with opposite numbers in the United States. I look forward to the debate and I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, like other noble Lords I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, for tabling the Motion and for his opening speech. The noble Lord has been very perceptive because he could not have chosen a more appropriate moment to discuss our relations with the 185 Soviet Union. In view of his great experience we listened to him with respect and interest. I agreed with some of the noble Lord's remarks, although perhaps not with their emphasis at every point. I also welcome the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, whose maiden speech we look forward to hearing.
At the outset, we wish the Prime Minister every success in her talks with Mr. Gorbachev. The state of affairs in Moscow and Washington, the mood in Western Europe and the more hopeful prospects of constructive disarmament give the visit a special significance.
It is 12 years since a British Prime Minister, then my noble friend Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, visited Russia. It appears that the Soviet Union is attaching great importance to Mrs. Thatcher's visit. This is partly because of recent critical events in Washington which were not mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Home, and partly because I believe that Mr. Gorbachev is very anxious to establish closer links with the British Government and other governments in Western Europe.
This was underlined recently when Mr. Gerasimov, the Kremlin's chief spokesman, said that they were hoping that Mrs. Thatcher's visit would lead to a breakthrough in Anglo-Soviet relations, improved political dialogue and progress in various aspects of international disarmament. Mr. Gerasimov also expressed the hope that the talks would give, "a tangible impetus to the effective development of bilateral relations in diverse fields".
These remarks imply a desire for improved trade relations. From all one can gather, it would seem that this is the most promising time since the war for exploring all the possibilities of improved trade. Mr. Gorbachev has himself argued strongly for a new Soviet strategy on foreign trade and we know that he and his colleagues require the help of Western technology to modernise the Soviet economy. Historically we have always had good trading relations with Russia but we are at present well behind our Western partners, as well as Japan and the USA, in trade with the USSR. I shall be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, if she will let us know what our trading objectives with the USSR are and whether the Prime Minister proposes to discuss this with Mr. Gorbachev.
The noble Lord, Lord Home, in referring to Mrs. Thatcher's visit also referred to my right honourable friend Mr. Neil Kinnock's visit to the United States. I am quite sure that the House will also wish him well; knowing him as I do, I am quite certain that he will do his utmost to improve the relations of this country and mutual understanding with the United States. There is an urgent need for improved relations between our two countries and between the United States and Western Europe at this time.
East-West relations have been the central subject of our debates on foreign affairs over the last few years and the noble Lord referred to the debate which he initiated almost exactly two years ago. That was also a crucial time because Mr. Gorbachev had then just assumed the leadership and there was much speculation about the implications of a new and younger leader. I ventured to say in that debate: 186I cannot but think that an able and comparatively young leader from a different generation may in due course develop a new approach".—[Official Report, 23/4/85; col. 1019.]A number of noble Lords at the time in that debate were sceptical that there could possibly be any change in Soviet attitudes or policies, whoever might become leader of the Soviet Union. We must not become too euphoric, but I took then and still take a less obdurate and more optimistic view. Of course we live under a different system and there are profound differences which have been underlined by Soviet leaders, some more aggressively than others. President Brezhnev talked about the class aims of socialism and capitalism being "opposite and irreconcilable". He was then dividing the world into two, into "them" and "us".
But there is a great lesson to be learnt; namely, that capitalism, like socialism, is a profoundly misleading word. During my political career I must have met 57 varieties of socialism and an equal variety of capitalism and some are much worse than others! But what needs to be understood is the simple fact that we in this country are a parliamentary democracy based on free elections and the doctrine of freedom under the law. We are not going to abandon that system for anyone or anything. Within that framework we have made many changes, social and economic, but the principles do not change.
I have said all this because I believe that Mr. Gorbachev has begun to make changes of a significant character in the Soviet Union. I was disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Home, did not emphasise this. Mr. Gorbachev has certainly exceeded my expectations and raised my hopes. Commentators have referred to the "Gorbachev phenomenon". The Economist on 14th February, for example, said: "Mr. Gorbachev's Russia deserves a long hard look". Mr. Hans Dietrich Genscher, West Germany's Foreign Minister, has urged the West not to assume the worst of Russia but to take Mr. Gorbachev at his word. Mr. Genscher is advocating a policy of persuading Russia to follow courses which are both friendly and favourable to the West.
Furthermore, it is not what he has said so much as what he has done at home in Russia that makes Mr. Gorbachev's first two years impressive. Talk is easy, but action, and the sort of criticism he has encountered in a community where deviation from the prescribed order is unknown, called for courage, imagination and skill. "Glasnost", of which we have heard a great deal in recent weeks, is precisely what the dissidents in Russia have been advocating for years and they are now getting a little of it.
What has Mr. Gorbachev achieved? First, he has faced up to some of the defects of the old order and to the old guard which sustained them in terms and tones which are rare in Russian history. On 28th January Mr. Gorbachev attacked, and I quote, "the sloth, incompetence and corruption of the Brezhnev years". He proposed that party secretaries should be elected by secret ballot and that more than one candidate could be put up and also that the soviets, the local government bodies, should be elected in a new and fairer way; and he referred to other reforms as well. Some people may not think much of this; they may regard it as very small beer. But those with experience of Russia say that it shows very great courage indeed.
187 All of us here are deeply concerned about human rights and the fulfilment of the Helsinki proposals. We have been concerned for years about the appalling treatment of Soviet Jewry and other dissident groups. But there is today a gleam of light. Under Gorbachev, we hear with relief and joy that political prisoners have been released daily from prison camps and that others are to follow. Furthermore, we understand that as part of a general revision of the Soviet penal code the infamous Article 70, so well known to us, is under review. The Soviet media have started to be a little more open. For example, the riots in Kazakhstan and the sinking of a nuclear submarine were publicly reported. There has been less radio jamming; plays and films critical of Russian life, as we know, are now being shown to large audiences.
There are those who say that this is only window dressing, and we may hear in this debate that there are those who say it is insignificant. I believe it is more than that. I think it may be the beginning of something significant and we must show that we support these developments and the man responsible for them.
On 2nd March, Time magazine described the new mood and resistance to the changes it represents. Mr. Sakharov, Russia's best known dissident, has returned to Moscow and has been praising Mr. Gorbachev's progress on human rights. But he has also said, and said freely in Moscow, that much more needs to be done. He said that there can be no disarmament without trust, which requires still greater strides towards human rights and democracy. Time magazine reports an official from the noble Baroness's department as saying that we must not become starry eyed but we must not be churlish, and also that "something seems to be happening in Gorbachev's Soviet Union which is welcome". I am delighted that this is the view of officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This welcome tinged by caution appears to be the reaction of the United States as well, and this is understandable.
However, it must not be overlooked that Mr. Gorbachev is experiencing his greatest resistance not from abroad but at home. That is where the criticism and the opposition come. That is what makes me admire him the more. His calls for more discipline and hard work and his fight against alcoholism are not widely appreciated in Russia, according to accounts in the press. A construction foreman in Tashkent is reported as saying, "People are used to doing things in a certain way and they won't change. We don't work very hard and we can't be forced to work hard". This reaction was reflected violently in the Kazakhstan revolt. I mention these events as evidence that Mr. Gorbachev has a massive task to perform. He is up against great difficulties within the Soviet Union itself.
We hope therefore that the Prime Minister will take full advantage of these developments. I believe I can call them historic developments. There is today an opportunity that may not repeat itself. The Prime Minister will wish to discuss human rights and Afghanistan, but we hope that she will also make plain that the British people have appreciated the steps which Mr. Gorbachev has taken.
188 We assume also that Mrs. Thatcher will discuss his recent disarmament proposals for a zero option in intermediate-range nuclear weapons with Mr. Gorbachev. We shall be glad to hear from the noble Baroness what the broad objectives of the British Government are at this time. I hope that the Prime Minister will not place obstacles in the way of a constructive negotiation on the Soviet proposals and that she will wish to be as flexible as the opportunity demands.
The noble Lord, Lord Home, has once again stressed the central importance of the Anglo-American special relationship. There is no doubt that it is still strong on the cultural, ethnic and social plane, but there is a growing fragility on the political level especially if we bring in all Western European countries. The United States Ambassador, Mr. Charles Price, whom we all respect, referred on 15th March to the growth of incipient anti-Americanism in Europe. He said:we can detect occasional grumblings on both sides of the Atlantic, a kind of petty intolerance that could threaten our unity".There is also a perceptible shift of focus of attention from the east coast to the west coast in the United States, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The significance of this and its implications deserve very careful thought indeed and I am quite sure that the noble Baroness and her right honourable and learned friend are thinking about it.
There are difficulties and disagreements between Western Europe and the United States at this time, and they need to be discussed openly and resolved. For example, trade relations have been under strain. Our membership of the Community means that we are tied to the EC. But the United States was in favour of our membership of the Community in 1973, and these things were predictable at that time.
A more serious worry is that the aggressive and at times unpredictable nature of US foreign policy in a number of countries—Nicaragua is the outstanding example—has weakened the United States position as the leader of the free world and as the champion of democracy. Irangate has also weakened the American Administration, at least temporarily. That is something I do not propose to discuss today. But in this context perhaps the noble Baroness can tell the House whether Mr. Willian Casey and Colonel Oliver North did in fact meet the Prime Minister or any other government Minister recently, as has indeed been reported. If there was any such meeting will she be kind enough to tell us what subjects were discussed at that time?
But there is no doubting the importance of our relationship with the United States. I agree generally with the leading article in the Economist on 14th March. It said this:This century's bond between America and Western Europe has been the greatest source of property through trade and democracy through defence that mankind has ever known".It is more or less what the noble Lord, Lord Home, said in his speech. But the continuance and survival of this bond depends on mutual respect and understanding. If we ourselves are not a super power that does not make us subordinate or a passive bystander in affairs which are of basic and profound concern to us.
189 Mrs. Thatcher has a friendly relationship with President Reagan, but this has not appeared to influence the course of events from time to time. Nevertheless, a continuing close and friendly relationship with the United States should be the cornerstone of our foreign policy. Perhaps we can be less dependent on the United States, as Dr. David Owen has suggested, and indeed as the right honourable and learned gentleman the Foreign Secretary indicated in his speech on 17th March when he said that Europe should place less reliance on the United States and look to the Western European Union as a basis for a specifically European defence policy within the overall context of NATO. These are radical proposals and they must be examined and analysed very carefully indeed.
Concurrently we must also examine the Soviet initiative on disarmament, and we must examine it with care and with good will. About two years ago Mrs. Thatcher said that she could do business with Mr. Gorbachev. We hope her hope will be fulfilled over the coming days when she is in Moscow.
After the Reykjavik summit the NATO ministers issued a statement as follows:We reconfirm our commitment to a more co-operative East-West relationship including political dialogue, commercial relations and cultural exchanges. in which all states participate on equal terms. Respect for human rights and encouragement of human contacts remain essential".That was a fundamental statement of view by the NATO ministers with which we agree. There is more hope for a real detente today than for many a long year, and I hope that the Government will grasp the opportunity. If they do so they will have our support. If they fail for inadequate reasons, then they must be criticised not only by us but by the rest of the civilised world.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, in 10 minutes or so anything that one says on the all-important subject so appropriately raised this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, can only be rather summary and dogmatic. It cannot be anything else. But perhaps I might begin in the same sort of way as the noble Lord began his speech by saying that, if I remember correctly, it was Oscar Wilde who said that Britain and the United States had everything in common—except, of course, the language!
This apparent paradox embodies a certain truth. During the past 200 years or so the United States has come a long way from being predominantly British. It is now much more Central-European, Italian, Nordic, Irish, Hispanic, Jewish and Amerindian in its composition, with a large black minority, and has developed of course a distinctive collective personality far removed from that of the Founding Fathers.
Americans are thus now very different from us, and our famous "special relationship"—if by that phrase is meant that our connection with the USA is regarded as in some way more important than the American relationship with all other countries—frankly no longer exists. We are, I hope and believe, regarded as an important and dependable ally, but that is another matter. There is no special relationship.
190 If America has a special relationship with any other country it is surely with Israel; that is to say, if you exclude a rather uneasy physical juxtaposition with Canada across a 3,000 miles undefended frontier.
This is not to say that we, along with our immediate neighbours, do not have close common interests with the United States. Of course we do. You have only to look at the map for a moment to see that Western Europe on the one side and Japan on the other are the essential pillars of American world power. For only by friendly association with these two geographical entities will America be able to preserve her influence in the world as against the super power to the East, and I suppose to any potential extension of a super power which may one day emerge in the West.
Nor is it to deny that there are also close cultural links between the United States and the Western European democracies. America shares with all these countries, and no longer with only one of them, a belief in fundamental human rights and a devotion to individual liberty. It is surely the preservation of such links that must remain the chief feature of transatlantic relations in the years to come.
But, my Lords, could all this work out differently? Unfortunately, it could. The most optimistic appraisal of the results of World War III if it ever broke out, and even if it were non-nuclear, is general defeat, the triumph of anarchy, and the end of what we call western civilisation. That is the most optimistic appraisal. I do not rate the possibility of this apocalypse very highly, but it exists. What is rather less unlikely, though we must all hope that it will never happen, is some decision on the part of the United States, infuriated perhaps by the apparent ingratitude and supineness of the Europeans—a possibility alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Home, but not referred to at all in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn—in other words, a decision taken as a result of such an attitude on the part of some future government here—to retreat as it were, into Fortress America. This might he consonant with a nationalistic attempt to dominate Latin America but leaving Europe to its fate, while perhaps attempting to achieve some kind of special relationship with Japan and perhaps even with emerging China.
In such distressing circumstances, short of having arrived at a credible form of European political unity, there is every reason to suppose that Western European governments would be found willing and able to enter into some arrangements which would leave the Soviet Union in a position to exercise a sort of hegemony over the whole Continent. It is even possible to imagine that the effective abandonment of Western Europe by America might be the result of some conscious act on the part of Western European governments who, perhaps fearing that the Americans were heading for war, might one day opt for a kind of neutrality in a continuing struggle between the super powers. They might also imagine, no doubt mistakenly, that some kind of European unity might also be achieved in agreement with the Russians.
There arc elements in Germany which might favour such a solution. Indeed we should probably dismiss the classic German Drang nach Osten, as they call it, at our peril. The only sure way to eliminate this danger is 191 for us to favour the genuine embodiment of Western Germany in an operative European political union which, at the moment and unlike the French, we seem as a government to be far from favouring. I fear I find the present attitude of the Government in this respect to be rather dangerously shortsighted.
In view of these dreadful possibilities, what should we Europeans best do at the moment? Surely it is up to the European Community, as such, to make an early attempt to increase the contribution of Europe to Atlantic defence, thus avoiding American reproaches that too great a burden financially is being left on American shoulders. From the point of view of reciprocal effort these reproaches may not be entirely valid, but they are certainly genuine and are backed up by considerable isolationist sentiment in America.
I do not believe that the Russians have any present intention of occupying Western Europe by physical means, but they might well be tempted to do so if the Americans left, if very little real resistance could be expected in Europe and if there was small danger of the war spreading. The great thing is to make sure that the Americans stay by convincing them that we in Europe mean business.
What practical steps could we now take with this end in view? For the past 15 years or so I have been suggesting that there was nothing to prevent those members of the European Community who were so disposed from taking the necessary common action within the framework of the political wing of the Community, which as we all know comes under the aegis of the European Council and is hence in no way constrained by any treaty obligation involving unanimity. Other members who might not want to associate themselves with these activities, such as Ireland or Denmark, would thus in no way be bound to accept the decisions reached. But these sort of schemes have hitherto always foundered on the objection that they would endanger the so-called unity of the Community.
In order to get round this, mention has often been made of the possibility, alluded to in his speech by Lord Cledwyn, that we might use for this purpose the Western European Union: a rather dormant organisation consisting of six members of the Community, whose chief functions were long ago taken over by NATO. But here the alleged danger to European unity always appeared to be even greater, seeing that the only operative organ of the WEU—namely the assembly—is situated in Paris and that measures agreed there, no doubt under French auspices, might only with difficulty be reconciled with others that might be taken in Brussels or discussed in Strasbourg.
However, I now hear rumours that it might be possible, after all, to relocate the WEU in Brussels and possibly extend it to include Spain and Norway, both the assembly and the London office thus being in the same place as the Commission of the Community and, above all, NATO. which as we know in itself embodies something called Eurogroup. This seems to me to be a much more healthy idea which I warmly support, but would the French agree? Perhaps the noble Baroness, 192 when she winds up, will tell us what the present position is regarding this suggestion. It would be interesting to know.
Generally speaking, we are rapidly approaching the point when crucial decisions will have to be taken. One of the dangers is that the so-called "hard Right" in America will make it impossible for the United States to conclude any meaningful arms limitation agreement with the Russians, no compromise being found on SDI research and development, to say nothing of deployment, and the arms race going merrily on. The long-term effect of such an impasse on public opinion in Europe might well, to say the least, be most unfortunate. Nobody wants to give the Soviet Union any undue advantages in the negotiations. No doubt the Soviet Union will remain, whatever happens, a redoubtable adversary to our kind of civilisation in the years to come. That can hardly be avoided. But we must all devoutly hope that the newly formed White House team under Mr. Baker, acting in agreement with Congress, will see to it that sensible solutions eventually emerge. That must be our hope and presumably it is the hope of the Government.
When and if they do, it would be splendid if the whole new international construction was, as it were, reinforced by a successful effort on the part of the Europeans, as a continuing part of NATO, to streamline and co-ordinate their entire defensive effort, even arranging for some co-operation on nuclear matters, presumably with the object, pending disarmament of course, of arriving at a credible, if modest, "second strike deterrent"—I repeat the phrase "second strike deterrent"—credible, that is, if a genuine European political community ever had to stand by itself.
But necessary as it is for the Europeans to concert their defences, the immediate thing is for the super powers to get together on arms limitation. Can the Prime Minister do something in Moscow to help bring this about? She has apparently agreed some kind of policy with the French and the Germans, but from what we hear that does not get us very far beyond recommending, very sensibly, that the agreement on the zero option for intermediate range missiles should immediately be followed by agreement on the so-called battlefield weapons as well.
I must say I doubt whether it would do much good for her to lecture Mr. Gorbachev unduly—for instance, on the need to get out of Afghanistan and the desirability of completely living up to Helsinki on human rights. She should and she will no doubt mention both but it would surely be unwise to represent complete accord on such things by both sides as a sine qua non for agreement on arms control. It looks as if Mr. Gorbachev—as was said by the noble Lord. Lord Cledwyn—is doing his best on both counts. Given the Soviet system, there are limits, however, beyond which he cannot go. In any case, agreement on arms control would probably enable him, if it happened, to make further concessions on these other two fronts rather than the reverse.
Incidentally, might I say that I do not altogether agree with the noble Lord, Lord Home, about the invariable non-regard for treaties by the Soviet Union. My impression is that when, after great difficulty, they 193 sign a paper, they usually do live up to it, certainly commercially, but also, I think, politically. I may be wrong, but that is my impression.
What I feel might be of more assistance would be if the Prime Minister could at least assure Mr. Gorbachev that, so far as she is concerned, she still holds to the conditions regarding star wars which she originally negotiated some years ago with President Reagan at Camp David. I hope that we may have that assurance from the noble Baroness who will wind up. I think that it might help just as much if she suggested that the two super powers would do very well now to call a halt on both sides to ASAT—anti-satellite activity—with which of course any anti-ballistic missile projects are now inevitably linked. Indeed, if Mr. Gorbachev is right on anything, it is that the greatest efforts should now be made to avoid all possibility of war—even non-nuclear war—in space.
One final thought: I think that we must all on this side of the Atlantic welcome the fact that a rather penitent President Reagan, surrounded by what now seems to be more intelligent advisers, is apparently recovering some of his authority, or at least enough for him to participate in fresh and this time, it must be hoped, successful summit talks. We should do anything that we can do to further this end. If Mrs. Thatcher can really be seen to have assisted in this all-important process she will, I am sure, and irrespective of any party political consideration, deserve well of the nation.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Lord Bramall
My Lords, I am sure that many noble Lords will have felt a deep sense of diffidence when addressing your Lordships' House for the first time, and I am certainly no exception. However, I feel proud that my presence in the House seems to indicate continuing recognition of the valuable and constructive role that the armed forces of the Crown play in the service of the nation in peace, which thankfully, but not accidentally, has come to be the more normal state for the British people, as well as in more war-like operations.
It is on this theme of continuing peace that I offer my initial contribution in the context of this debate. It is, of course, difficult at this time to say anything with defence connotations that is not considered controversial by some: so I know that I must proceed delicately, like Agag, and can only hope that, with your Lordships' indulgence, I avoid his subsequent fate of being hewed in pieces!
I just belong, as do so many others in the House, to the generation which experienced at first hand the realities and dangers, and not infrequently the horrors, of modern warfare both on the home front and with the field armies, in the latter case under the distinguished command of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. At the end of the war, I had the somewhat unusual experience, in a space of only a few months, of seeing for myself the ruins of both Hamburg and Hiroshima, the first no less horrifying than the second. Perhaps as a result of such experiences, I have never found myself impressed by the argument, however understandable, that if you totally removed nuclear weapons from Western 194 armouries or, indeed, from both West and East, you would somehow be serving the cause of peace, because then the risks and general panoply of so-called conventional war would have become more respectable and even tolerable.
Modern warfare with modem weapons, with 40 years of improvement over those that we experienced, would be quite disastrous enough for our country's future. This is why peace, with honour and territorial integrity unimpaired, must be preserved, and why all aggressive war must be made too difficult and dangerous for rational men to contemplate and thus eradicated as a viable extension of foreign policy by other means as, we must never forget, the Kaiser held it to be in 1914 and Hitler in 1939. You started a conventional war because you believed you could win it. Even the remotest prospect of nuclear conflict encourages no such dangerous thoughts, not even—perhaps particularly not—in retired field marshals. I hope that noble Lords will not believe all those stories about field marshals never retiring. Their active duty, I assure your Lordships, is almost entirely confined to attending each other's funerals. But I am digressing.
When I was in China recently, a senior Minister said to me that the will of the people all over the world was for peace, and I am afraid that I had to take issue with him. Certainly, I said, those who lived under the protection, or, if you prefer, the shadow, of nuclear weapons undoubtedly wanted peace because the consequences of not having it were obviously too awful to contemplate. But, where such restraints did not apply, the human race seemed all too willing to fight each other, given half the chance, and local fighting can all too easily, if unrestrained by those with more to lose, lead to all-embracing conflict.
So 1 suggest, my Lords, that with man as belligerent and competitive as he naturally is in this dangerous world, there must still be strong restraints. Berlin, that outpost of a free society, is a good case in point. The West can only defend Berlin, as it must, by ensuring that it is not attacked because the price of attacking it in terms of wider proliferation within the NATO alliance, and even escalation into the realms of some just possible but unspecified nuclear release, must be, and would be seen to be, far too high, and greatly to outweigh any advantages that might accrue to those who would wish, as some undoubtedly do. to change the status quo.
That is why I have always believed that a manifest—not a precipitous trip wire, but a manifest—linkage between shop window and credible conventional forces on the one hand and some background and preferably invulnerable nuclear weapons on the other provides just that mix of commitment and restraint that is needed to be assured of maintaining peace while retaining territory and freedom of thought and action. The last 40 years of such peace, which may seem commonplace to our children but, to our generation and to our fathers' generation, constitutes no mean achievement, has not dissuaded me from that view, nor discouraged me for the future.
The question therefore that we should perhaps be asking ourselves is whether the NATO alliance, with its strategy of flexible response—which, I need hardly 195 point out, not only keeps potential aggressors out but comfortably ensures that any allies remain firmly in—continues to provide that required mixture, or whether that wind, if not of change, then of more open debate and presentation, which seems to be blowing across the Soviet Union, and the somewhat erratic content of some of the policies that sadly have recently been evident across the Atlantic, should somehow be changing what we do.
In general terms, I am sure that the answer to the second question is emphatically no. With the Middle East remaining so volatile and so dangerous for miscalculated super power confrontation; with Europe still the key area in any ongoing ideological competition; with the undoubted numerical superiority and technological potential of the. Warsaw Pact, as yet undented by any balanced force reductions; and with our strongest ally in some disarray, albeit, I hope, only temporarily, this is surely no time for NATO to drop its sensible guard if we are to face the future with confidence and negotiate from a position of strength; nor, incidentally, to do anything which would risk throwing away that one great advantage that we have today over 1914 or 1939, and to which the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, with all his experience, has so clearly drawn the attention of the House—a firm United States commitment to Europe.
What these new developments—some encouraging, some rather discouraging and even conflicting—must surely do is to make us look again most critically at the type and number of nuclear weapons that are really needed in order to meet that precise NATO aim of deterring attacks and pressures in all parts of the alliance: no more and no less. Certainly no one could possibly be satisfied with the 45,000 or so nuclear warheads which, at the last count, were available to the two power blocs, when, if only 45 were used, the consequences would be too awful to describe. As someone who has been connected with the problem for seven or eight years, I firmly believe that in the light of Mr. Gorbachev's so-called initiative—which only seems to say what many in the West have been wanting for some time—it makes considerable sense to start by mutually reducing or eliminating medium-range missiles, which have always had more useful political and bargaining potential than real military value.
Of course, it would still be necessary to maintain in our deterrent some bridge between the purely conventional and the largely strategic weapons, but there are other weapons systems which can cover this. Difficult as it is, an attempt should be made to bring chemical weapons into the equation: otherwise we could indeed find ourselves highly vulnerable. But I believe that progress can be made if the will is there. I believe that we in the United Kingdom must not only try to help bring about a significant breakthrough in regard to these missiles, as I am sure we will, but we must actually succeed.
Perhaps the greatest danger in our international relations is that if this present opportunity is not taken and if the overkill—which can only have been designed for mutual obliteration—is allowed to persist and if the escalation of the nuclear arms race is not halted or even reversed, the revulsion and impatience 196 of the ordinary general public may become so great that it will start to question the whole basis of deterrence. If that were to happen, then, out with the ridiculous overkill bathwater may go a really indispensable baby in the shape of a much more modest but adequate and balanced stockpile on both sides, with the risk that the world would become not a safer place but a less safe one for future generations to grow up in.
§ 4.23 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Manchester
My Lords, it is my very pleasant duty to congratulate most warmly the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, on his contribution to our debate this afternoon. He speaks out of a great wealth of military experience, and indeed his presence here shows the invaluable part played by the forces of the Crown in the life of our country. He has shown this very deep concern for peace and also a perhaps not unexpected flash of Biblical knowledge. I hope it does not come from listening to all those lessons read at the funerals he has been attending! We do indeed very much welcome the noble Lord among us and we look forward to many more contributions of this kind in the years ahead.
I am very grateful indeed to the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, for his choice of subject for this debate. As others have said, it is most timely. I have to apologise to the noble Baroness in case I am not here when she winds up at the end of the debate, because British Rail is not yet sufficiently flexible in regard to trains back to Manchester. I hope that she will forgive me, and I am encouraged by the fact that she is the next speaker on the list.
Our relations with both super powers are of course vitally important and, even though Britain's role has been changing and is not now perhaps as influential as it once was, when we co-operate with our European Community partners we can exercise a great deal of influence still. But I should like to make the point that good relations do not mean sweeping important differences between the powers under the carpet or abandoning things for which this country ought to stand in international affairs. Therefore I welcome the fact that we read in the press today that the Prime Minister is to raise issues of human rights while in Moscow, as has already been mentioned. However, although we welcome most warmly the very remarkable changes that are taking place in Soviet society, as has already been said, especially by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, there is still a long way to go before the Soviet Union will develop into the kind of society where many of us would feel that basic human rights were really respected.
It is also right that the Soviet policy over Afghanistan has been very sharply criticised by the United Kingdom Government, whose voice has been strong and consistent on the issue. What I think is not so clear is whether the voice of the British Government has been sufficiently strong over certain aspects of American foreign policy; and it is on that I wish to speak.
I may perhaps mention to the noble Lord, Lord Home, that I benefit from having an American mother, but whether we have American mothers or not I think all of us are deeply concerned to have the 197 very best relations possible with the United States. There is an enormous amount that brings us alongside them, even if the relationship, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has said, is necessarily changing. We have long ties of history and friendship and a similar open and democratic system; but this should not mean silence or acquiescence on the part of our Government when the United States engages in policies which are morally wrong, counter-productive and damaging to peace.
The restrained picture of the use of American strength which the noble Lord, Lord Home, gave us at the outset of this debate would not be recognised by many people in Central America, I think. The policies which are being followed in Central America at the present time are extremely dangerous, I believe, as well as basically immoral. That applies especially to Nicaragua. Here, so far as I can see, our own Government have been remarkably silent in public. Of course things go on behind the scenes, as we well know. Representations can be made and sometimes governments are successful in keeping them out of the newspapers—though that seems to be more rare now than it was once.
However, so far as I know, there has been no strong or consistent voice from the United Kingdom Government over what has been happening in Central America and the use of the power of the United States and of the Reagan Administration there. European governments such as Sweden, France, Greece and Spain, have pressed for critical support for Nicaragua in the face of continued pressure from the Administration of President Reagan, but such policies have been opposed by Britain and West Germany, who have even sought—or so I understand—to block additional EC aid to this country which is in such desperate need.
I do not believe that this serves the cause of peace in that important region. It may be that vital British interests are not so involved there as in some other parts of the world. Nevertheless, it is a powder keg, and a most dangerous situation. It seems to me not enough to speak of United Kingdom support for the efforts of the Contadora peace initiative, which appears to have run into the sand. We need to show the depth of feeling of many people in Europe about efforts to destabilise Nicaragua by backing the Contras with continued support from the United States Administration.
It is also significant that the strongest opposition to the Reagan Administration in this matter and to American policies in Central America comes from within the United States itself. Major Protestant Churches and the Roman Catholic Church have consistently opposed what is happening and have called for critical solidarity with Nicaragua. In fact some of your Lordships may be aware of what is known in the United States as the Sanctuary Movement in certain Churches. The argument goes there, in sharp contrast to anything which could be claimed in this country, that it is in fact American policies which have been producing the flood of illegal refugees into the United States, who would face a dangerous situation if they were sent back.
So what are the facts? The facts are that the United States is a country of vast wealth and economic and military power; and on this particular issue it faces a 198 very small, struggling country of approximately 3 million people, who are extremely poor and striving for survival. It was in 1979 that the Sandinista revolution achieved power, getting rid of the brutal regime of Samoza. I am sure that none in your Lordships' House would wish to defend that regime and that it was better that it should be consigned to the dustbin of history with all the suffering which it caused.
As a result of the Nicaraguan revolution, there was a genuine effort to raise the standards of the poorest in the country and to bring new hope and encouragement to many people who were suffering there. For example, there was a literacy crusade which raised literacy from 50 per cent. to more than 85 per cent. and, incidentally, won a UNESCO literacy prize. Schools and health clinics were built and imaginative efforts were made in the field of education and health. There were credit schemes for farmers and there was some attempt to introduce agrarian reform and redistribute land—something which is right at the heart of the most basic problems in Central America.
Since 1981, the Contras, made up in part of those from the old Somoza régime, have produced in that country more than 14,000 deaths and 250,000 refugees internally, in addition to all those who have been injured and handicapped. We can see pictures of these things on our television screens. This is not for one moment to suggest that no atrocities have been committed by the Nicaraguan Government—a point to which I shall come in a moment. But the weight has been all on the other side.
Why has this policy of stabilisation been followed? It is argued by the United States Administration that it is to force the Nicaraguan Government to negotiate and to stop exporting revolution to its neighbours—Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Costa Rica. But I would refer your Lordships to the comments of William Walker of the United States Administration, who was seen by a group of Church leaders from this country last year. They wrote:We were courteously received by Mr. William Walker at the State Department, who emphasised, but failed to justify, the Government's determination to continue the war. He presented the situation entirely as one of Soviet and Cuban domination. 'The problem in Nicaragua' he said, 'is that we are involved with the proxy of a proxy. Nicaragua is a Cuban dependency. The Cubans have taken over the political and military structure of Nicaragua right down to platoon level' ".If that is the basis of the opposition to Nicaragua—this small, struggling country—by the United States Administration, you would think that the pressure would be for negotiation. But what did Mr. John Ferch say when he was dismissed last year from his post as United States Ambassador to Honduras? He said:1 always thought we meant what we said. We wanted pressures so we could negotiate. I'm beginning to think I accepted something that wasn't true … our goal is something different. It's a military solution".Chilling words—"a military solution". We already have a tragedy in Central America. It could be a great human disaster if present policies are pursued.
It is not at all anti-American to say this and I stress that to your Lordships. The best friends are those who do not keep silent when people are in danger of going astray, but who "speak the truth in love". None of this 199 suggests that the Nicaraguan Government is perfect. It has been criticised by Amnesty International and it has admitted serious mistakes made in the treatment of the Mesquite Indians in the east of the country.
But I should like to quote the conclusion about atrocities of the Catholic Institute of International Relations, which produces excellent material on the whole Central American situation. It has stated:Recent studies, based on interviews with eye-witnesses and survivors of attacks and other incidents, conclude that abuses by Nicaraguan government forces are isolated and the consequence of individual abuse of power or the breakdown of discipline, whereas abuses committed by the 'contras' are gross and systematic violations of human rights.".There are also tensions with the hierarchy of the Church in Nicaragua, as we know, and yet it is basically a Catholic country. The revolution has been widely supported by many, including priests, some of whom have served in the Government. You have to remember that this is a country which is now forced to spend more than half the national budget on defence. The basic reason for the hostility of the Reagan Administration is that the Nicaraguan revolution has given hope to some of the poorest people on that continent. Two-thirds of Central Americans live in poverty and it is estimated that 40 per cent. live in extreme poverty.
There have, of course, been massive injections of US aid, but it has gone in on the basis of the trickledown theory, the idea that if you strengthen certain sections of the economy, inevitably the benefit will come down to the poorest in the end. But evidence seems to show that that simply does not work and it does not benefit the poorest in the way that is needed.
So we have a desperate situation in Central America. However, there are signs of hope. Perhaps as I come to a conclusion, I may quote from the report of those from the British Churches who visited Nicaragua and those other surrounding countries last year. They said:We were deeply impressed by those who, under such conditions, hold a vision of a better future—who are indeed, in Saint Paul's words, more than conquerors. In Nicaragua. they are able to see, at least in part, some fulfilment of their hopes.".May we ask, therefore, for, on the part of the British Government, critical support for Nicaragua and constructive criticism, as by one friend of another, of the United States Administration in its policies there?
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I am sure that we should all like to thank my noble friend Lord Home for introducing this important and timely debate this afternoon. He spoke, if I may say so, with his usual wisdom and clarity. I should also like to add my congratulations to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. We all listened with great interest to what he, speaking as an expert, had to say, we support his remarks about the importance and role of the British services. We hope that we shall hear from him on many occasions in the future.
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and my right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will 200 shortly travel to Moscow. They will meet Mr. Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders. The first full visit by a British Prime Minister since 1975 is a major event—for our relations with the Soviet Union, and for East-West relations generally.
The wording of the Motion we are debating this afternoon might at first sight suggest that it is possible to equate our relations with the United States and the USSR. But, as your Lordships will know, they are worlds apart: our relations with the United States are deep, close and warm. This is unfortunately not the case with our relations with the Soviet Union.
We need not look beyond the innumerable contacts between British and American businessmen, financiers, sportsmen, musicians, artists, friends and relatives. Last year, 7 million people travelled between British and American airports—45 times as many as flew between Britain and the Soviet Union. In 1985, visible trade between Britain and the United States was 15 times greater than our trade with the Soviet Union. Our vast transatlantic invisible trade makes this large difference even greater.
These patterns are not coincidental—the British and American ways of life encourage contact, while the Soviet communist system discourages it. There are depressingly many examples: your Lordships will have been disappointed at the recent Soviet refusal to issue visas to two British parliamentary groups interested in the release of Soviet Jewry—scarcely a triumph for "openness". So let us remind ourselves that the United Kingdom and the United States are free—the Soviet Union is not; we and the Americans each enjoy an open, democratic system—the Soviet Union does not.
Today our relations with both super-powers must be seen in a wider, European context. This year is the 40th anniversary of the Marshall Plan. After helping to win the Second World War, the Americans generously underpinned Western Europe's recovery. The 40 years since then have brought Western Europe steadily increasing prosperity that is historically unprecedented.
Today the economic fortunes of Western Europe and the United States are intimately linked. American firms have over 80 billion dollars invested in the European Community—EC firms have 95 billion dollars invested in the United States. EC-US trade is a huge 120 billion dollars per year.
We share our freedom and prosperity—and we defend them together. That is why 16 independent nations from both sides of the Atlantic, representing over 600 million people, are in NATO. That is why over 300,000 American troops are based in Europe, committed to our joint defence.
We and our European allies have gained enormously in the past and will continue to gain in the future from our close relations with the United States. By contrast, it is precisely the Soviet Union's rejection of freedom and democracy that has shaped Anglo-Soviet relations since the 1917 revolution. We fought alongside the Russians after the nazis turned on them, but since 1945 the Soviet Union has chiefly represented a major military threat, a persistent political challenge, and alien ideological values. Nevertheless, we have continued to look for common ground.
201 This picture of two markedly different systems and relationships has not changed in recent years. Yet here and in Western Europe various people and organisations now seem to see the United States and the Soviet Union as morally equivalent. Not surprisingly, this causes concern on both sides of the Atlantic; indeed, the United States ambassador addressed this very point in a recent speech in the Guildhall.
One variation of the moral equivalence thesis, warmly espoused by various elements within the Labour Party. is to seize every opportunity to criticise the United States on all counts: its leaders, policies, economic success, culture and way of life. These critics portray American leaders as hard-line and aggressive, or weak and muddled: they see American energy and inventiveness only as threats, not opportunities. American setbacks vindicate these theories, but American successes are dismissed as irrelevant or dangerous.
These critics rarely if ever turn their manufactured outrage on the Soviet Union. They try to explain away the Soviet record. They argue that the Russians' vast military might is a reasonable response to Western forces; that their economic failings are never the fault of the communist system as such; that Afghanistan cannot be taken as demonstrating Soviet expansionism—indeed, that the Russians regret their invasion; and so on. While that bizarre anti-Americanism is damaging, it is also transparent. It does not fool the British public.
A second variation of so-called moral equivalence is less obvious and possibly more dangerous. It consists not so much of denigrating the Americans as seeing the Soviet Union as a state driven by the same motives as others. Unlike the crude anti-Americans, those who subscribe to that view are usually well-meaning. They welcome each and every positive-sounding pronouncement from Soviet leaders as yet more evidence of their good intentions. They urge Western governments not to be hard-line but to take Soviet gestures at face value, making compromises for quick agreements. Maybe this appeals to our British reluctance to see the worst in people. Because we are pragmatic and ready for friendly give-and-take, we can all too easily assume that our adversaries are like us.
However, the historical record shows that the Russians are not like us. They single-mindedly exploit weakness. They will compromise, but only when they realise that their opponent is strong and determined not to give way on key issues. We cannot assume that Soviet leaders—including those like Mr. Gorbachev who seem sincere about improving East-West relations—are really motivated by the same ideals and beliefs that motivate us. The Russians themselves have no illusions on that score. Your Lordships will recall Lenin's analogy of a zigzag path up the mountain towards the top. The terrain might dictate the angle of approach, but the goal of world communism remains until specifically disavowed.
One other variety of moral equivalence lies in fatalistic pessimism, which sees Western Europe as helpless, squeezed between two enormous and cynical superpowers over which it has little if any influence. This attitude sees the United States and the Soviet 202 Union as just as bad as each other; it dismisses super power rivalry as a futile game, which Britain and Europe should opt out of as quickly as possible.
The leader of the Labour Party seemed to be subscribing to that view when he said, shortly after the last election, that the Soviet Union and the US presented "an almost miserable equality of threat" to Britain. Perhaps this explains the need for his forthcoming visit to Washington in an attempt to persuade the United States leaders that the Labour Party is not set on a neutralist course.
Unfortunately our own media sometimes propagate this view when they concentrate on the nuclear balance between East and West, without explaining the basic political and moral differences between them. Such talk strikes a chord with those who are impatient with, or confused by, the complexities of East-West problems, and believe that the United Kingdom and Western Europe can stand hack from them. The British people cannot and will not stand hack. Let us reject all ideas of moral equivalence between the United States and the Soviet Union. We and our European partners do have periodic differences with the United States, but the values that bring us together are far more important.
Having indicated where Britain's basic interests lie, let me comment briefly on our relations with the two super powers, first the United States. The very fact that Britain's relations with the United States arc so wide-ranging and complex means that there have always been and always will be questions on which we do not see eye to eye; for example, the Siberian pipeline dispute, the Laker problem, and now a potential argument over Airbus. This can make the transatlantic relationship seem rather turbulent, especially if friendly European criticism of individual American policies is wrongly interpreted here or in the United States as new evidence of anti-Americanism. We should certainly see the Tower Report and the surrounding political developments in Washington in this light. They are indeed the direct result of a permanent and guaranteed state of glasnost.
However, the United Kingdom, the United States and our Western partners and allies are all sovereign nations. Differences have to be, and are, resolved by open argument and negotiation. We need to keep transatlantic disagreements in proportion and manage them sensibly. We can not afford to let them sap the strength of our alliance. That applies particularly to trade problems which these days involve the whole European Community. I have already mentioned the huge volume of trade in both directions. These disputes only affect a tiny part of it, despite their significant public effect. Nations do not find it easy to preserve an overall framework for free and fair trade while competing energetically within it: there is still strong and worrying protectionist sentiment in the United States Congress, which has its counterpart in Europe.
We and our European partners most certainly do not want any trade war. But equally we cannot do other than make it clear that moves towards greater protectionism will have their price. I hope that United States Congress members will note the message from the European Community foreign ministers on 16th 203 March: Europe will respond to unilateral American restrictions on EC exports.
The spectacle of the United States and the European Community squabbling over the disposal of subsidised food surpluses—inconceivable in the 1940s and 1950s when American aid was flowing in—is unedifying. Everyone loses from protectionism; everyone gains from acknowledging our shared interest in keeping trade as free and fair as possible. The United Kingdom is working very hard indeed to that end.
Trade is a large element in our transatlantic relationship. Another is security. Transatlantic trade disputes must not be allowed to upset our shared perception of our common interest in defending Europe. This applies particularly now. It is not always appreciated that for the first time since the end of the Second World War there is now a real prospect of agreements between the super powers which would mean the reduction of the nuclear arsenals of East and West. However, real progress means real choices. Change is more challenging than stagnation; so now is the time when the Western alliance needs unity and strength of purpose.
The United Kingdom makes up its own mind on arms control and defence issues, and we are energetic in helping to co-ordinate alliance policy across the whole field of security questions. This is why my right honourable friend the Prime Minister helped crystallise a sound Western position on strategic arms reductions after the Reykjavik summit when she met President Reagan at Camp David and why we are now working hard with the Americans, as with all our allies, to produce the right Western approach to the belated Soviet response to our proposals on INF in Europe: and why we are also pressing very hard indeed to eliminate all chemical weapons, and to eliminate conventional imbalances. This approach is bringing results. Let us stick with it.
The Soviet Union's ideological hostility and ever-expanding military power have confronted Western Europe since the end of the Second World War. We and our European allies have had to work out how to maintain our security while seeking improved relations on a basis acceptable to both sides. As successive British Governments have realised, there is only one way to achieve this: to negotiate firmly from a position of strength; not to waste time on grandiose propaganda gestures but to persist with sensible proposals for realistic improvements; not to fritter away our negotiating chips with unilateral offers. As Mr. Callaghan so accurately said recently, the Russians readily pocket something for nothing; and, as my noble friend Lord Home has already emphasised, we must not accept agreements unless we can be sure of strict compliance. Our experience with the Helsinki accords is not an encouraging precedent.
Our approach may appear unspectacular. It vexes some people in the West, who believe that a simple lack of will or effort stands in the way of better East-West relations. But that is to ignore the historical sources of today's distrust between East and West. We have seen the Soviet Union suppress moves for freedom in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland; 204 and, even as we speak, it is still subjecting Afghanistan to a ferocious onslaught.
Other people argue that Mr. Gorbachev is bringing in major new changes and that the West should make concessions to help him in his difficult task of reforming the Soviet Union. We do indeed hear a lot about Mr. Gorbachev's "new thinking", about "democratisation" and "glasnost" in the Soviet Union. He has a daunting task. Apart from the inherent weakness of the Soviet economy, the issues he must tackle include the release of prisoners of conscience, the easing of restrictions on emigration and foreign travel, a move forward over verification of arms control agreements, and more access for Soviet citizens to Western media. We would naturally welcome wholeheartedly changes in these areas.
There have been encouraging signs; not only within the Soviet Union. Its external policies now indicate long overdue but nonetheless welcome flexibility and realism. This is not confined to security issues. The Soviet Union is at last coming to terms with the European Community both as an economic and a political fact of life. But we cannot allow ourselves to be carried away. The fundamentals of the Soviet system remain firmly in place—government by one party. I hope Mr. Gorbachev can humanise the party. But will he loosen its grip on power? The basic structure and attitudes of today's Soviet Union will surely be with us for a good time yet.
We must—and do—encourage the sort of reforms which I have just mentioned. But we cannot sacrifice our interests to encourage the Soviet Union down the road of reform. Experience shows that the West can get results—but only by caution and patience, backed by a clear willingness to defend ourselves. On that basis the West can indeed do business with Mr. Gorbachev, as the successful conclusion of the CDE conference in Stockholm last year showed.
Of course, we want to see our bilateral relationship improve. We want trade to expand. During his visit to the United Kingdom in 1984 Mr. Gorbachev identified the target of a 40 to 50 per cent. increase in trade. We are continuing to work towards this target. We also want to see more cultural, scientific, educational, sporting and other exchanges. There is obviously scope for improvement in all these areas, and I am sure that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will be pursuing these questions vigorously in Moscow.
Progress in all East-West issues—not just arms control but also security in its widest sense, including human rights and regional security—requires full and frank dialogue. The visit of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to Moscow will take this dialogue forward. It is not for us today to try to prejudge what she will say. But the basic message is clear. If each side is realistic, and understands what the other thinks and why it thinks it, there is room for progress. We will all benefit from it.
As East-West relations enter a particularly challenging phase, let us be clear where the basic interests of our country lie. They lie in standing firm with our European allies, the United States and Canada to defend our shared freedom and democracy, and to devise and implement solid long-term strategies 205 that enhance the security and prosperity of the West as a whole. As long as this joint commitment remains resolute, we in Britain will be well-placed to enjoy, and hopefully to develop further, relations with the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe.
The strength of the foundations of our friendship with the United States stems from long years of mutual trust and support. It is difficult to see that any structure of comparable strength could exist between countries of such markedly different social systems as Britain and the Soviet Union. But your Lordships can be confident that we shall be seeking to test and build on any area of firm ground so that our relations with the Soviet Union can develop as well.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, it has been argued often throughout history whether nations choose their friends and allies, or, alternatively, their rivals and enemies, on ideological grounds, or whether they do it on more materialistic grounds of desire for colonies, territory and so on. One can select examples from history to prove one thesis or the other. However, it seems to me that at the present time, ideology is the chief factor determining how nations line themselves up.
This is probably because the other matters about which nations might quarrel have ceased to be worth quarrelling about in view of the nature of modern warfare. Who is going to wage war these days in order to acquire a colony? Who would want a colony in the world as we now know it? Great powers, at any rate, do not wage war for territorial aggrandisement alone. Therefore we find ourselves in a world where what matters chiefly is ideology and where the main conflicts and disagreements are on ideological grounds.
That being so, it is apparent at once that the greatest, most powerful nation in the world is very fortunately of the same ideology as we are. Therefore, the relations between this country and the United States ought continually to be those of close friendship and understanding, and we ought to direct our energies towards the strengthening of that understanding. I do not myself believe that the special relationship is gone forever. It is true, as I have heard one lecturer put it, that we cannot expect somebody of Lithuanian extraction and the Jewish faith, born in New York, to look upon England automatically as the old country; but on the other hand, in a classroom in an American school attended by children of many different ethnic origins, I have seen a large chart on the wall saying "Ten things we owe to old England". It began with Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights, and after that my memory fails me. It was quite an impressive list.
I am quite sure that we in this country would never dream of saying that we owed anything of that sort to any other nation in the world; nor indeed do we. However, I think it is true that there is still a special feeling about this country. It was apparent, I think, during the Falklands war when we looked at the surge of popular opinion in America. While America is concerned for the health of the whole of the NATO alliance, this country is in a sense the pivot of the alliance. If we were to step aside from it a great many 206 Americans might then ask themselves, "If the British do not want the alliance, what exactly are we there for?" Therefore if we are anxious to maintain those things which we and the Americans together believe in, we must seek to strengthen and make richer and deeper the understanding between ourselves and the United States.
What stands in the way? Some of the things that block Anglo-American understanding are understandable. I listened with great interest to the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. I think many of us are worried about the situation in Nicaragua. I was sorry to note that the noble Baroness did not answer that part of the right reverend Prelate's speech. I think we all want to know what has happened to the Contadora initiative. That is something in which we could possibly have played a part. None of us can feel happy about the situation in Nicaragua or about the position of the United States in regard to it.
The right reverend Prelate mentioned—and it is important to mention it—that some of the sharpest criticism of United States policy on Nicaragua comes from Americans themselves, expressed in the American Congress. That will be the day—when we read the debates in the Supreme Soviet discussing the merits and demerits of Soviet policy in Afghanistan! The fact that we cannot do that is of course a factor of enormous importance and shows what is the vital difference between our relations with the United States on the one hand and relations with the Soviet Union on the other. However, while some of the anti-American feeling in this country is generously based on a real concern about what many must regard as the hamhanded actions, to say the least, of the United States in Central America, other streams of anti-American thought are merely contemptible.
I do not know how many of your Lordships read the comic strip in the Guardian. I think "comic strip" is the right description for it, though "comic" should imply that something is funny and this strip never seems to be; but that is by the way. Frequently this comic strip is a series of almost obscene lampoons on the President of the United States. This is a free country so why should not a British newspaper do that if it wants to? Nevertheless, I invite those responsible for the appearance of this in the Guardian to ask themselves what would happen if the Guardian published the comic strip with an obscene lampoon of Mr. Gorbachev. There would be a torrent of letters of protest pouring into the newspaper's letter-box in the following weeks. We know that the newspaper would not do any such thing.
It seems to me that that is the kind of behaviour which is in the highest degree irresponsible. The friendship and understanding between Britain and the United States is of enormous importance. It ought not to be jeopardised merely for rather unpleasant amusement, particularly when it comes from an organ which used to have great prestige in this country.
I listened with great interest to the maiden speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall; both to the force and energy of his argument and to what seemed to me, if I may so call it, his cautiously optimistic approach towards the prospects of some measure of agreement on disarmament. That brings me to the 207 other point we have to consider—our relationship with the Soviet Union. Here, just as it is quite plain that we and the United States are on the same side in the ideological differences in the world, so we and the Soviet Union are inevitably on the opposite sides in that ideological dispute.
It is no good trying to avoid that; but it is also important to realise that there is no useful purpose served by deliberately provoking it. We have to recognise it as one of the facts of the present situation, the causes of which lie a long way back in history and which cannot be undone in a short time. I share the hopes of my noble friend Lord Cledwyn as to what we may expect from the Government and from Mr. Gorbachev, but we do not yet know how far he will be able to alter the nature of Soviet policy. We must wait to see what will happen.
Therefore in our attitude towards the Soviet Union, while recognising the inescapable differences between us we must avoid provocation and we must seek to promote, so far as possible, cultural contacts between the two nations. I am very much of the opinion that whenever there is a cultural meeting of, say, doctors or scientists, and so on, from various nations, those meetings will work in the long run to the advantage of the free societies of the world. When meetings of that kind are held it is those who have come from the free countries who go away more assured of the rightness of the system under which they live and those who come from tyrannies who go away with perhaps some doubt as to the wisdom of the way in which their own government treats the question of human liberty. Therefore I think we should maintain our beliefs.
There will be opportunities for the right honourable lady the Prime Minister when she is in Moscow to raise the question of human rights. I see that she is receiving advice from various journalists and others on the extent to which this should be done and that she must not lecture the Russians. We shall of course expect her to treat Mr. Gorbachev with more consideration than she would treat us if we were arguing with her—and that is understood. The Prime Minister should remember that, following the Helsinki conference, there is now a periodic opportunity to raise this matter because every year we have a look at what progress has been made on that part of the Helsinki Agreement which deals with human rights. There is a regular and recognised forum in which this question of human rights can be raised. I hope we shall always go on doing that.
While we must maintain our beliefs, we must also maintain our defences; and that must mean maintaining our part in nuclear defence. If we give the Soviet Union the impression that it need only wait a little longer and a British government will abandon all their nuclear defences, we greatly reduce the chance of any agreement on disarmament. Why should the Soviet Union enter into an agreement where it will have to give something when it can get it all for nothing if it is only prepared to wait a little longer? I hope we shall always keep that in mind when negotiating with the Soviet Union.
It is a difficult problem because no one can describe a sudden moving away of the clouds, so to speak—a 208 sudden solution to the difficulties in which we have lived for so long. We must live in this situation in a world which is ideologically divided for as far ahead as many of us are able to see. However, it does not follow that it need not be a time of peace if we are prepared to cling firmly to our friends and to behave with dignity and with patience to those with whom we do not agree. Therefore the watchword for our relations with the United States must be good fellowship and cordial friendship; and for the Soviet Union it must be patience and courtesy.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, it has often been my fate to speak immediately or shortly after the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and it is always a pleasure to say how much I agree with his realism and the pacific and sensible approach that he adopts towards the world.
I should like to say a few words about Nicaragua. Is it not time that we in this country and particularly. those of us in this House were a little more worldly about the situation there? The question of what has happened to Contadora is answered very simply indeed. The United States has throttled it by means of the debt rescheduling and aid negotiations with the neighbouring countries of Costa Rica, Salvador and Honduras. It did so in February this year for the third time since Contadora began. That is the long and short of it. There is no mystery behind it at all.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, but I really do not think that I can allow his description of what has happened to Contadora to pass without comment. I went to represent the British Government at the European Community Central American Contadora Group meeting in Guatemala about three weeks ago, and agreed political and economic communiques were signed on both counts. The British Government's policy has been one of continual support for Contadora and we hope very much that the process will continue. It is continuing.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, I did not for one moment intend to imply that the British Government were faint in their support for Contadora. I think that they are just not being tremendously sharpsighted about what is going on behind the scenes, or are affecting to be not tremendously sharpsighted.
Being the longest running head of government in Western Europe has given the Prime Minister good reason to think right from its invention or inception last year that her mission to Moscow, accompanied by Sir Geoffrey Howe, would he important. Since then the United States Government have fallen to pieces in dishonour and recrimination and have not yet been fully able to pull themselves together again, so she is now also the senior head of a functioning government in NATO. Behind her she has countless links and obligations to the United States, many of her own making and some, particularly her ever feebler attitude to the maintenance of the anti-ballistic missile treaty, which put at risk her bona fides as a negotiator. Before her, she has the greatest innovator in the history of state communism.
209 In their Gleneagles communique last October, NATO ministers noted:The Soviet side agreed last year  to conclude a separate INF agreement".The NATO ministers then called on the Soviet leadership to reaffirm its commitment not to hold an INF agreement hostage to any other agreement. They said that failure to do so would destroy the credibility of the highest Soviet assurances. Mr. Gorbachev has now obliged and there can be no question of the NATO allies backing away from the zero-zero option on INF. The credibility of our highest assurances is now at stake. The Prime Minister is indeed facing an opportunity in Moscow, and from these Benches we wish her well so long as she handles that great opportunity in a non-electoral manner.
I think that the INF negotiation is bound to dominate the scene. Mr. Gorbachev, rightly anticipating justifiable West European apprehensions, has said that the Soviet Union is,prepared to begin talks immediately with a view to reducing and fully eliminatingthe shorter range Soviet nuclear missiles in Eastern Europe. That is unambiguous language. It has been taken up by the Western governments correctly and optimistically and there should be no difficulty there. Of course, the more things that are grouped together in negotiation the more risk there is of those things that have not been grouped together unexpectedly rising up and hitting you on the nose half-way through the negotiation. There remains of course the question of conventional weapons.
The turning point on the road to a safer world, in so far as it lay within Mr. Gorbachev's making, came in January last year with his big general proposal which contained all the necessary elements: space, nuclear test ban, reductions of nuclear weapons of various ranges, conventional disarmament, chemical disarmament, and so on, with their relations comprehensively mapped out, and verification—national, international and on-site—promised all round. This was no more than a map and the negotiation remains to be done, but it showed—something which many in the West have long maintained is necessary—how all the various negotiations should fit together.
At that stage the Soviet Union linked all strategic weapons reductions—and let us remember that INF is strategic to both the Soviet Union and all of Europe, and is only not so to the United States—to the maintenance of the ABM treaty regime. The new proposal simply changes the relationship between one of the main sets (space weapons) and one sub-set (INF) of nuclear weaponry. However, it is in the nature of things—not of Soviet caprice—that other relationships cannot be changed. Offensive and defensive strategic weapons irremediably are related, and by all the signs this is something which Mrs. Thatcher has not yet fully understood or at least has not yet openly averred. When she sent Mr. Renton, a junior Foreign Office Minister, to Moscow in January to prepare the way for her visit, he fiercely repeated the traditional British step-by-step approach to all arms control and disarmament negotiations. He seemed simply to be turning E. M. Forster's famous dictum on its head and saying, "Never connect".
210 The Prime Minister's own reaction to the Gorbachev map-making exercise has been to castigate the strategic nuclear disarmament part of it as being oversimplistic and impractical, although she has never said as much about President Reagan's dream of a world without nuclear weapons, made safe by his space shield. All that still appears to have to be faced. It will be important also to stop the United States from just walking away from the other disarmament negotiations. Indeed, Europe's own urgent need for conventional arms control alongside INF reductions should finally impel the West to get its act together and start negotiating on that issue too.
Moreover, at Gleneagles the allies fully endorsed the President's programme which was presented in Iceland and which included the idea of abolishing all ballistic missiles within 10 years. That brings me to reports this morning from Moscow about the general who apparently said that Britain and France must expect to have to surrender their independent nuclear forces to the disarmament process. Those words caused an understandable flurry. It is very odd talk and I should not be at all surprised to learn that that man had already been called to account by Mr. Gorbachev.
The reality is that it depends solely on how far ahead one looks. If one looks five years ahead when there seems to be a good chance of America and Russia agreeing to halve the strategic nuclear weapons, then of course there can be no question whatsoever of our giving up our nuclear force. We hold our nuclear force as long as anybody holds a nuclear force. But on the international table there is a proposal from each side which would approach the great ideal of the utter abolition of nuclear weapons within 10 years. Just as it is certain that we shall not give up our nuclear weapons entirely while others hold theirs, it is equally certain that we shall not insist on continuing to hold ours when others have entirely given up theirs. That is the simple truth of the matter.
There is one worry which should occupy us and about which the Government should think carefully before the Moscow visit. It is the verification of the INF reductions. We know that verification is dear to the Prime Minister's heart, and rightly so. There is a risk of our Government agreeing that the verification of the INF removals and destructions should be carried out by the Soviet Union and the United States alone. We cannot have that. We cannot have American and Russian officers walking hand in hand into the airfield at Greenham Common to declare whether, and if so, how many, missiles have been rendered inoperable, destroyed or removed, and witholding that information from our Government. Equally, I suspect, the Germans will feel the same about the removal of Pershing IIs.
Such weapons are on our soil. It has been difficult for us to live with the fact that they are under the sole physical control of a foreign government, however friendly. It would be intolerable for us to live with the truth or untruth of assertions and observations or non-observations of undertakings being verified by two foreign governments, one friendly and one hostile, without our participation in the process. Equally the other way around, the withdrawal or destruction of the SS.20s must be observed by Europeans for Europeans more than it must be observed by Americans for 211 Americans. These weapons cannot hit America. It is us they can hit. Our need to have our own independent knowledge that obligations are being kept is as great as our need to have, and to have had all along, our separate nuclear weapons systems in Europe.
Arms control is not all. We hope that Mrs. Thatcher will take the opportunity to launch some forward looking and peaceful plans in which Britain, the Soviet Union, Western Europe and the United States can co-operate. Space is the obvious field. The ever-increasing militarisation of United States domestic space effort, and its overall reduction after the shuttle accident, would make it highly sensible to seek a EuroSoviet-US programme to which we could commit a large part of our national space ambitions. Our ambitions are so far commendably peaceful. The Government are realistically facing the need to increase the money for them about threefold. It would be a pity if there were a risk of any of that going down the military drain.
An old French notion, which is still alive—the International Satellite Monitoring Agency—and which the Soviet Union has accepted, could play a key role in disarmament agreements.
I think that I have noticed an interesting difference of attitude as between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. I cannot remember the Foreign Secretary having said anything of any note which was not also the policy of the SDP-Liberal Alliance, except when he is attacking it. When he attacks it, he never resorts to specifics; he is just against it. The same of course is not true of the Prime Minister. She says many things which are not in accordance with our policies. For that reason I take realistic, modest comfort from the fact that the Foreign Secretary is also going to Moscow. I feel sure that we shall be safe in the hands of both together.
The Moscow visit should not and need not be part of the British electoral campaign. If it is not, we on these Benches will welcome what the Prime Minister intends to do and whatever degree of success she has in doing it.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships' House appreciates only too well that the subject we are discussing is the most important in the world. The relationship between the United States, the Soviet Union and ourselves bears on the question of the avoidance of war and the survival of our civilisation. No subject could be of more compelling importance.
It therefore seems particularly appropriate that the debate should have been opened by my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel whose experience of foreign affairs is almost the greatest of any living man. Your Lordships may not immediately recall that it was nearly half a century ago that my noble friend rushed into the other place to hand to Mr. Neville Chamberlain Herr Hitler's invitation to Munich. My noble friend's experience of the highest level of international affairs runs over that enormous period.
I hope that I may be allowed, if it is not insubordinate for one who never got beyond the rank 212 of major, to congratulate a field marshal. I should like to convey respectful congratulations to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, because his presence here indicates that your Lordships' House is likely to have the advantage of impressive and knowledgeable contributions from him over the years. And, as he said, it indicates the enormous respect which we in this country have today for the armed forces of which he was for so many years the distinguished head.
We have our relations with the two countries. With Russia, I commend to your Lordships the observation which, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, may remember, was printed in the manual of infantry training in 1939. It advocated that in war, officers should bear themselves with an attitude of suspicious alertness. That is probably the right approach to the USSR.
We wish the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary the best of luck in Moscow in the next few days. The fact that there seems to be at least a chance of a useful negotiation is the result of firmness of policy over the past few years. This may well have convinced the Russians that they are more likely to make progress by sensible negotiation than by bluffs and threats.
There are two aspects of those discussions which I should like to put for your Lordships' consideration. First, it is useless to have any agreement on nuclear restrictions unless that agreement is backed by proper and effective inspection provisions. The Soviet Union covers a vast territory in which weapons of war could most easily be concealed. Unless an agreement contains full possibilities of inspection, on a mutual basis of course, with similar inspections in our country and those of our allies, there is a danger that an agreement on nuclear limitation may prove to be dangerous self-deception.
The other aspect was mentioned, just in a word, by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall; it is Russian preparations for chemical warfare. As your Lordships may recall, we in this country stood down our preparations for chemical warfare, closed the plants and abandoned the training in the late 1950s. That example was not followed by the Russians.
The United States, for 17 years, put its provision for chemical warfare into abeyance. The Russians have continued it. Today they devote considerable resources to the production of deadly gases—nerve gases and other highly dangerous elements of chemical warfare. It would again be a mockery to seek to tie up neatly in a package provisions in respect of nuclear warfare if the possibility of chemical warfare—which is at least as dreadful—were left unchecked and uninspected. I very much hope that those who think they may have influence with the Soviet Union, those who seek to persuade it, will realise what genuine and real apprehension the existence of these powerful instruments of terror in the hands of the Soviet Union must have on the minds of all of us. There can be very little to choose between being annihilated by a nuclear bomb or gasping one's life out in an hour or two after a drop of nerve gas has fallen on one's hand. At a time when we have abandoned this type of warfare, it is a matter of some alarm and concern that the Soviet Union should be devoting so many resources to it.
213 The very large resources devoted to the navy is another interesting aspect of Russian conduct. Unlike ourselves, Russia is an enormous landlocked area, hardly dependent on overseas trade for anything of very great importance to it. Yet it has brought into being a very large, expensive fleet of aircraft carriers, cruisers that are much bigger than any in our own navy, destroyers and an enormous number of submarines. Again, one is tempted to ask the question: what are they there for? They wander the oceans of the world. They are to be seen in the Pacific, the South Atlantic, and sometimes in the North Atlantic. In respect of a country which quite plainly does not need them for defence, one is rather driven to the conclusion that if they are to be produced, it is as a potential weapon of offence.
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary have some enormously difficult tasks to perform in Moscow. I am sure that they will not allow the fact that everybody wishes them well on this enterprise to cause them to enter into any agreement which was not soundly based. However, we hope that they may make some progress which will have the chance of reducing tension.
I turn to the United States. I have been listening to speeches by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, as he will recall, for very nearly 60 years. This afternoon was a great experience. I listened to a speech from the noble Lord with which I wholly agree. It has taken 60 years to reach that happy state of affairs. It only shows that everything comes to him who waits. I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, with the authority of a former Foreign Secretary—if he will allow me to say so, an extremely effective and efficient Foreign Secretary—speaking from those Benches, stress the enormous importance of our friendship with the United States. This is a view I have shared with him for a very long time.
My memory goes back in this context to an afternoon some 32 years ago. It was the afternoon of the day when Winston Churchill had been to the Palace to resign. He summoned to the Cabinet Room at Downing Street a number of Ministers close to Cabinet rank to say goodbye. He sat there, in the fading light of a stormy spring afternoon, in rather a sad mood; sad, because he had hoped before he resigned that he would be able to come to some settlement or arrangement with the Soviet Union and this had not proved possible; sad, too, that his tremendous career was now coming to an end. But he talked to us almost the whole time of the importance of Anglo-American relations. I recall the scene as vividly as if it were quite a short time ago. He said that if we stayed in close friendship with the United States, and in close alliance, despite all the dangers that surrounded us, and would surround us, the world would come through in peace. If, however, we fell apart; if we quarrelled; if the alliance broke up, then he took the gloomiest view of the future and suspected that wars and all their horrors would sooner or later come upon us. Noble Lords will appreciate that hearing those words from that very great man was a very moving experience which has certainly implanted in, and imprinted on, my mind the immense significance of the Anglo-American relationship.
214 As the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham said, it is sad, in the circumstances, that some people in this country seem continuously to want to nag at the United States—far more than they do at Soviet Russia. We had a very good example this afternoon from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. I am sorry to say that he has just absented himself. The right reverend Prelate spent two-thirds of his speech talking in a critical tone about American policy in Nicaragua. I do not share his idealistic view of the way the central American governments are conducted. I think that most of us who have seen anything of them know that there is very little to choose between government and opposition.
We sympathise with the United States in having these difficult problems on its doorstep. But what was significant—and I propose to say this despite the fact that the right reverend Prelate has absented himself—was that he should devote two-thirds of his speech to a criticism of the United States for its policy in central America without saying a word of criticism of Russian policy in other countries. He ignored the fact that the Russian armies are in occupation of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria, and that in none of those countries can their governments act independently because of the presence of Soviet military forces.
The right reverend Prelate hardly mentioned Afghanistan where the utmost cruelty and brutality has been used to suppress a hardy and independent people who do not wish to have a communist government imposed upon them. There was not a word of that, which would have been criticism of the Soviet Union. All the criticism was of American policy in the much more difficult, much less obviously wrong, situation in central America. This is worth pointing out because there is a world-wide tendency to nag at the United States. Of course we do not always agree. We are good friends. Those noble Lords who have many friends in this House, as I have, know that one disagrees with good friends very often but that one stands by them in times of difficulty and danger. That is why I am glad that when the Libyan crisis arose and the United States wished to use its air force based in this country, we permitted it, although this country was subjected to great criticism for doing so. We stood by an ally and friend in difficulty. I believe that we did more good to the Anglo-American relationship, and therefore to world peace, by that action than ever could be achieved with such people as Mr. Gaddafi. It was the right thing to do.
Again, there is the nagging over what are called star wars. That is of course a complete misnomer. It suggests general hostilities in space. It ignores the fact that the proposition is for a wholly defensive arrangement. It also ignores the fact that the Russians have a possibly quite impressive defensive arrangement around Moscow. They have had it for years. Nobody criticises the Russians for that. But the United States is criticised. It is extremely regrettable that the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition in another place is saying that he will freeze British co-operation in the SDI development. Quite apart from the fact that it will throw possibly 20,000 or 30,000 people out of a job; and will deprive us of immensely valuable technological knowledge, what a way to treat an ally! 215 Also what a way to treat an ally to say, as the leader of the Opposition does, "You can take your equipment and your men away from this country". How can friendship and co-operation be expected when we are in difficulties—as we will be from time to time—if we seek to treat our ally in that utterly irresponsible way? I was delighted to hear that view very firmly rejected by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, as it is by all thinking people on the Opposition Benches as well as on the government side.
The problem is in maintaining the Anglo-American alliance with sufficient nuclear power both in the United States and in this country—and I would suggest in France—to be available in case the worst should happen. I know that there is great emotion worked up about this matter but I ask your Lordships to consider the remarks of the late Dean Inge:It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion".The "gloomy Dean", as he was called, talked more sense in these matters than perhaps do some contemporary prelates, absent or present.
The policy surely must be of watchful care in our discussions with the USSR, not trying to drive them into a corner, but being prepared to negotiate, so long as negotiation is backed by proper practical provisions for inspection and so long as they will proceed to tackle the ridiculous disparity in respect of chemical warfare. We should also seek to maintain the firm front with our allies which has maintained the peace of Europe over the years, and which, I think, is responsible for the apparently better attitude of the USSR today; and then to close with links of iron our contacts with the United States.
Earlier, I quoted Winston Churchill on that matter. I reaffirm the view which he then expressed; that, from the point of view of preserving the peace of the world, there is nothing as important as Anglo-American friendship. I am not suggesting that we should always agree with the Americans or always do what they want, or that they will always do what we want. But, to quarrel with them, to nag at them, and to try and raise ill will against them, is the most dangerous policy that there is. It is in the utmost interest of world peace that we and the Americans should remain close together. Your Lordships have already been reminded that the two wars of this century were entered into with the United States absent. They were only brought in after several years of warfare. Surely it is the immense gain since then that the United States is not absent but is taking a leading part in NATO, in which she should have every conceivable encouragement.
I leave your Lordships with this thought, in the form of a quotation, which is so often misquoted but I have the correct text. The following words were spoken by John Philpot Curran on the night of the election of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, on 10th July 1790:The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime, and the punishment of his guilt".
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I am sorry that I cannot bring to the interesting speech which we have 216 just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, the 100 per cent. agreement which he brought to the speech of my noble friend. I would not say that I brought to his speech 100 per cent. disagreement, but it was not very far off. I do not think it impossible that my noble friend Lord Stewart could make a speech with which the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and I may both agree, but it would have to be on a subject remote from that which we are discussing this afternoon.
I am not among noble Lords who find it impossible to agree with any aspect of the policy of the United States. The suggestion has been made that there are many such people, but it is not the case so far as I am concerned. The noble Lord, Lord Home, is to be congratulated on introducing the subject because I think it is an important one. Where I disagree chiefly with my noble friend Lord Stewart is with his personalisation of countries so that America is good; Russia, bad. That scene is not one which accords with reality at all. My total detestation of the present Government of the United States goes along quite easily with my total admiration for many American people. Therefore, the notion of the personalisation of nations is one of the most dangerous traps into which we can all fall if we are not careful.
I am able to say that in a few respects at least, the Government have failed to follow the example of the United States, when they ought to have done. One such incident I mentioned recently concerned the question of nuclear energy. Here they have followed slavishly in the path of the Soviet Union, even after Chernobyl, continuing with the approval of nuclear energy, while on the other hand they have the example of the United States which has not ordered a new nuclear reactor for many years. Indeed, the chairman of Georgia Power, once a pro-nuclear advocate, said that any executive ordering a new nuclear reactor today would either be certified or committed. It is in this respect that the Government choose not to follow the American example. The Government have an uncanny knack of failing to do what the Americans do when they are doing good things, but it is unfortunate that they do not point out to the Americans the error of their ways when they are going wrong.
This brings me to the second point on which the Government ought to follow the American example. There has been much argument in the other place recently and a great fuss was made about whether or not the Government had been deceiving Parliament in the matter of NATO's front line first-use nuclear capability. We should not have known anything about this matter but for the American Freedom of Information Act. As a result of that Act and the researches of a young man called Dan Plesch, who has been very active in this area, we know that as long ago as 1977 the NATO nuclear planning group set up a subcommittee called the "High Level Group" on which Britain is represented, (and still is) by a leading defence civil servant. We know that in 1978 this group recommended new American nuclear missiles in Europe. We also know that in 1979 the final deployment programme was worked out. That was approved by NATO in Brussels and was endorsed by Ministers. The same group put forward specific proposals for new battlefield weapons which were 217 approved at Montebello in 1983. We know all that because of the American Freedom of Information Act. Yet, simultaneously the Government have been consistently denying time and time again that they have embarked upon that path. They have denied it asbsolutely. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, the then Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, in writing to Mr. Wareing, Member of Parliament, on 26th March, 1985, said:No proposals have been made for enhanced radiation warheads to be deployed in Europe; and in the context of General Rogers' review of NATO's nuclear stockpile no specific proposals of any sort have yet been made to Alliance Ministers. You are therefore asking us to speculate about a situation which may not even arise. I do not think that would be wise".That is going a little far considering that the decision by that time had already been taken. It had been taken 18 months before that statement was made by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne.
We are in danger of becoming the anti-Glasnost government in the whole scene. On the one hand, we have the Americans with freedom of information already and, on the other hand, we have the Soviet Union painfully struggling in that direction. However, we appear to be moving in the opposite direction and are trying to conceal from our people many things which are known to the citizens of the United States, and which have been announced in the American Congress. Any citizen of this country who cares to take the trouble to do so can discover that his own government are concealing information which is widely known in other parts of the world.
That is an undignified situation for the Government to place the people of this country in. Either information is secret—and if it is secret it must be secret from everybody—or else it is not secret. We cannot have a situation where matters which are widely known in the United States of America (and thereby also known in the Soviet Union) are concealed and consistently denied in this country. That will not do, and it is about time the Government said that in that respect they will follow the United States.
Before leaving that subject, in May 1984, Mr. Weinberger reported to the American Congress that NATO decisions at Montebello included improvements in shorter range INF and short range nuclear force systems and warheads. My information is that those warheads actually exist. I do not believe that they are deployed, but they are in existence in Europe and ready for deployment to the extent of at least a couple of hundred. Each one of those short range battlefield weapons is capable of inflicting the same scale of damage as that inflicted on Hiroshima. Therefore, the suggestion that we are painfully in the position of not being able to defend ourselves is utterly ludicrous. We are in a position to destroy ourselves—that is the position. As regards that point, I should like to quote Lord Mountbatten. He said:I cannot imagine a situation in which nuclear weapons would be used as battlefield weapons without the conflagration spreading".That is putting it mildly.
On that point, I find myself in agreement with the impressive maiden speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. I do not agree with every point that he made—I possibly do not agree with many—but there were points in his argument about which any 218 rational person must say, "Yes, he has something there". I hope that we shall hear a great deal more from him in the future.
I have suggested that Ministers have over-rigidly interpreted the necessity of keeping security tight. I believe that there comes a point where if one says that everything is secret, one finishes up with the situation where nothing is secret. One must be pretty selective about secrecy and say, "These are matters which we must keep tight to ourselves". Only then can one reach the position where those secrets can be kept. Once one has reached the situation where everything is secret, one is running into a problem which will be hard to overcome.
When I asked the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, a supplementary question, he replied (at col. 321 of Hansard) on 26th February 1987:I think that the noble Lord's views are familiar to us all".That was not an answer to my question which was about Trident missiles. It did not say anything about Trident missiles, but charitably it might be regarded as a tribute to my own assiduity. It was also a way of not answering the question. I believe that we must ask the Government to he more open to their colleagues in Parliament and more open to the public. I hope that when Mrs. Thatcher meets Mr. Gorbachev in the near future she will do what a remarkable advertisement suggests, and congratulate him. Noble Lords may have seen the advertisement published in a number of papers recently which is headed "Congratulations Mr. Gorbachev! …"
I do not know where the advertisement comes from and it would be interesting to find out. It has appeared in a number of papers. It says that a memorandum will be prepared stating the views of whoever is behind the advertisement in greater detail, and that copies will be supplied. I look forward to seeing the memorandum because, so far as concerns the summary, it seems to be something with which no reasonable person could disagree, and I think that a number of your Lordships will agree with that. One might disagree with it in detail, but the general movement is likely to secure approval, however much one may disagree with the way I, for example, set about the road to peace.
I believe that the advertisement indicates a certain amount of desperation. There is the conclusion that there is no real will to peace among the governments of the West. That conclusion appears to have been reached by the Soviet Union at the end of the latest Geneva talks on the subject of nuclear testing. It is hard to view the blank refusal of the United States to match the USSR's moratorium on nuclear testing in any other way. The pretence of the British and French Governments that their nuclear weapons are peaceful weapons about which the Soviet Union need not worry is not exactly convincing. At least, I am pretty sure that it is not very convincing in Moscow even if some people here may find it so.
When referring to Mr. Gorbachev I have developed my noble leader's habit of putting the accent on the middle syllable. I also wish to pay tribute to the speech which my noble friend made from our Front Bench. I found myself very largely in accord with it. I was rather 219 encouraged by that because I was unable to find myself in accord with my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham. I hope that I bring the dignity and patience which he recommends for those who find themselves in an ideological disagreement. I shall always try to do so.
Finally, Moscow's main spokesman on US-Soviet relations told the Guardian's correspondent, Martin Walker, that if the Americans were to dishonour the SALT and ABM treaties:there is no chance for anything".There has been some talk about the Soviet tendency not to carry out treaties, though it has been pointed out elsewhere that this is not altogether true. However, there has been little attention drawn to the fact that the United States have been very careless with their intention to honour treaties quite recently signed.
Dr. Arbatov went on to say that President Reagan had been surrounded by reckless and irresponsible people. Recklessness and irresponsibility on these matters are not confined to the United States. We have our fair share of them in this country and I think it is necessary for us all who speak on this kind of subject to recognise all the time the seriousness of the position which people on all sides and of all views have recognised in the debate today. In the period running up to the general election, we should not treat this as a subject to be used freely and easily in electioneering processes. I speak about this to all parties.
I heard a debate on the television in one of the "Any Questions?" programmes which was a disgraceful performance. The idea that some electoral advantage was to be gained upon this issue according to one's attitude to it is not in itself wrong, but it ought to be treated in the serious way which the seriousness of the subject deserves. A mutual exchange of slogans on this sort of issue is not the right way to go on.
There is much one could say about this, particularly as I find myself, perhaps not unusually, in a minority position at least in this House. But I would say finally that if Mrs. Thatcher is to carry conviction when she goes to Moscow as a leader really interested in reducing the risk of war, she will have to develop a sense of proportion and recognise that she is not there for the purpose of baiting the Russian bear. I myself have been the target of a good deal of this kind of baiting in my political life. It has never done me any harm personally, but we are in a position now where this is not a question of the personal convenience of any one of us; we are in a position in which the peace of the world is at stake and where we must face the fact that unless we solve the problem we may be the last generation to have the privilege of inhabiting this earth.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Viscount Eccles
My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel for giving us such an interesting speech, the kind of speech which confirms the value of your Lordships' House in public debate. I should also like to congratulate the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, on a forthright speech about defence, the kind of speech that I think we need very much to hear because defence is now a political 220 football. We want people who are experts in defence and not thinking about getting any votes at the next election.
The noble Lord, Lord Home, saw some hope for better relations between the United States and the Soviets, and that must depend on the extent to which the Soviets have changed their aggressive conception of their national interest. I remember that 200 years ago George Washington said that no nation is to be trusted further than it is bound by its national interests. That is still true. However, with the passage of time we are all compelled to reconsider the nature of our national interests.
In the 1980s every country's business overlaps and is intermingled to an extent we have never known before. That must compel us all to review our national interests and foreign policies to see how far they reflect all that is new and important in our lives. British foreign policy is not what it was. I remember that we used to look on the Foreign Office as a very superior department, almost out of sight, managed by highly intelligent gentlemen with private means, either their own or their wives'. It is very different today and the main reason is that domestic issues have claimed a big place in foreign policy.
In contrast to us, it is only very recently that the United States and the USSR have begun to pay attention to what happens inside their territories when they are framing their foreign policies. Let us first take the United States. For generations the Americans practised isolationism as a real alternative to a foreign policy. At the same time, they felt that it was their duty to preach abroad the ideals enshrined in their great constitution: sacred human rights and universal suffrage. Men such as Woodrow Wilson and Foster Dulles made a mess of foreign affairs because they assumed that international institutions could produce a moral consensus where none existed. Such visions are all very well on a platform, but in a world devoted to reality they create more problems than they solve.
After the last war the Americans expressed their traditional idealism—and very great it is—in an all-out opposition to communism. That was right, but they did not see any contradiction between a passionate belief in the rights of the individual and the support of anyone who was anti-communist. Foreign policy of that kind does not owe much to the facts of life in the rest of the world. On the other hand, the British have profited from our long experience of the world beyond our shores. We may have been a trifle short of ideals at times, but we have developed a sense of the world as a whole which is of immense importance in the present circumstances.
I am so glad that my noble friend Lord Home reminded noble Lords that there is also another difference between us and the Americans. If the Americans were attacked by Russia, there would be no one strong enough to come to the defence of their country. If we are attacked by Russia, we can count on the United States coming to our rescue. That is a great difference between the two sides of the Atlantic; for over here the comfort of the feeling of protection allows certain elements in our population, whose hearts are better than their heads, to talk about freezing star wars' contracts or throwing out the 221 American bases. There is no such support for wishful thinking of that kind in the United States.
I now turn to the Soviets. When Brezhnev was still in power they did not pay much attention to the internal events when they framed their foreign policy. They spent what was needed on the arms race and they proclaimed communism as a way of life which sooner or later the whole world would accept. Communism turns politics into theology with all the illusions and the horrible consequences that are permissible in the name of the true faith. That went on until it proved impossible because of the weakness of the Soviet economy, and then Mr. Gorbachev saw the connection between the Russian economy, the arms race and foreign policy.
On our side we too have to face up to the deficits on the American federal budget and on their balance of payments, which are destabilising our economies and causing us to rethink our foreign policies. For example, Mr. Baker, the Secretary of the US Treasury, is telling Japan and the European allies that independent economic policies no longer make sense. All our foreign policies, industrial policies and financial policies, he says—I think rightly—now have to be acted on a single stage, a world stage, on which although the United States has the best claim to the leading role the United States is only one in a cast of powerful actors.
For the United States to confess its inability to stand alone is very important to us and to our allies and to Soviet Russia. If you live in the United States, as I do, you feel even in the past 12 month the change of their view about the scope of their foreign policy: what happens to the dollar and the pound; how Germany and Japan deal with their surpluses; whether OPEC can hold down the output of oil; whether the standards of education right across the United States compare with those in other countries. All such questions are now beginning to be treated as part of the evolving history of North America. Are they not equally part of the history of the United Kingdom and Soviet Russia, and is not that why national interests and foreign policies are, or should be, changing very rapidly?
So one asks: how far can governments control these eruptions of change? Very little, my Lords, unless we learn to co-operate much more closely than we do now. Not ministers, not political parties but scientists and engineers are responsible for the revolution in our lives. Governments did not encircle the world with electronic communications, or double the output of an acre of farmland, or invent new drugs and new ways of treating the sick. Just as the Churches have to rethink their moral teaching to take account of contraceptives, so all governments in their foreign policies must now take account of international business, finance and technology.
Those innovations, for which they are not responsible, are throwing all governments off course, and none more clearly than the Soviet Government. Mr. Gorbachev is telling his people that Lenin's socialism is no longer in the interests of the USSR. He is the true follower of Peter the Great, who came to this country as a young man to learn how to build ships. The task, as some noble Lords have already said, which Mr. Gorbachev has set himself is simply 222 tremendous—to break the spell of Marx and Lenin and to give his country a more open society.
Now we come to the real question. Is it in our interests that Mr. Gorbachev should succeed? That is the question that is being debated in Washington. There are plenty of hawks in the United States, there are a few in this country—and maybe one or two in your Lordships' House—who want to believe that the further the Russian economy falls behind the economies of the Western world the sooner communism will collapse.
Communism is collapsing before our eyes. The world sees that it cannot produce the goods. Politically it is not much of a danger now, but the old Russian nationalism could still give us great trouble. Therefore let us consider, and consider carefully against the new background, whether the failure of the Gorbachev reforms and the return of the hardliners—no doubt enthusiasts for Russian imperialism, but in charge of a weak and inefficient economy—would be more to our advantage than a prosperous and open society even though it were still expansionist as it was under the Czars. Whatever happens there will be risk and crises, but can your Lordships doubt that on balance our interest is that Mr. Gorbachev should succeed? If he does, the Russians and the Americans will understand each other better, more often speak the same language, and be less likely to believe that either wants to attack the other. Surely it would then be easier to handle the world disorders which threaten the stability of all of us.
I wonder whether the Prime Minister will discover how far Mr. Gorbachev wants to integrate the communist bloc into the world economy. She can give him some very sound reasons why he should. He knows that centralised socialism is a dead duck, but what does he want to put in its place? That is the great question. The whole House will, I am sure, wish the Prime Minister success in probing it.
In conclusion, I am tempted to remind your Lordships that when the poet Dante had finished with the Inferno he opened the Purgatorio with the famous line:"Per correr miglior acqua alza le vele"—to voyage in better waters, hoist the sails. That is what we have to do now.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, I should like to join with others in congratulating the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, on his maiden speech. It was very good to hear his sensible views so forcibly expressed. I am glad that we have him in the House, if only to consider the prospect that we may have the chance of seeing two field marshals battle it out in peaceful debate.
It is certainly an appropriate time to discuss Anglo-American relations and to try to penetrate some of the mysteries of Russian policy, and it is a great privilege to have the debate introduced with the authority of the noble Lord, Lord Home. We are well into the second generation since the end of the war, and the conduct of affairs and the formation of public opinion in this country, and in those countries with which we most closely deal, is increasingly in the hands of those who are personally unfamiliar with many of the events 223 which have determined our foreign and defence policies over the past 40 years.
Despite the astonishing revolution in worldwide communication it is questionable whether our understanding of each other has in fact increased over recent years, and I think that that is true of our relationship with the United States. We are naturally disturbed when events suddenly make us realise that new and unfamiliar factors are determining our relations with old friends.
The history of our relations with the United States, even in wartime, has not been uniformly smooth, politically or economically. There has always been beneath the surface in this country a mild envy and sometimes suspicion of America. This latent attitude is not confined to one political party or to one stratum of our society. It has occasionally spread to those with American mothers.
In recent years the United States has of course drawn ahead economically of its long-established friends. Moreover, the character of its population and that population's distribution has altered in striking ways. Who would have anticipated the eclipse of the once all-powerful East Coast establishment? Who would have imagined that the use of the English language would be seriously challenged as it is today in some parts of the American continent, or that the percentage of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants in New York would have sunk to low single figures? On this side of the Atlantic there have been profound developments in our own country, no doubt to the amazement of many Americans. These changes cannot be halted, let alone reversed.
The noble Lord, Lord Home, has quoted Sir Oliver Wright's very perceptive lecture on Anglo-American relations subtitled "The Atlantic Widens". This indeed is so and both American and British personalities worry because our stature has so diminished beside that of the Americans. But there are still multitudinous, permanent and affectionate links between our two countries—probably more numerous than between any two sovereign states—and we enjoy intimate access to the United States Government. But the fact is that in bilateral relations we are at some disadvantage and we must necessarily, where possible, bring like-minded countries into the bargaining and into the policy making. Nowadays we are most likely to find like-minded countries among our European rather than among our Commonwealth associates. But I suggest that we must resist the temptation to expect Europe to help solve all our problems and smooth out our difficulties with the Americans. There is no substitute for putting our own domestic house into better order, and this must be given the highest priority.
It happens that the areas in which we may differ most from the Americans are defence and trade. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, pointed out that it is trade disputes that may well be the more stubborn of our difficulties, particularly if protectionist tendencies prevail in the United States. In many cases we shall need all the help we can get from a common line with our EC partners.
224 On defence, the problem has, as many speakers have pointed out, been complicated by our own party disputes, in which there is an irresponsible tendency to dismiss the system that has successfully sustained us without adequate thought as to how to replace it. I found it reassuring to read the speech made by Sir Geoffrey Howe to the Belgian institute of Foreign Affairs, which pointed out the way in which a more self-reliant European Defence policy can be evolved to continue the partnership with the United States and modernise the NATO alliance, which for the time being must remain the essential basis of our security. Such an evolution would be a realistic adjustment to public opinion in the United States and in this country. I hope that the Government will persist with this line.
Whether in the long run the United States will ever wish to distance itself from direct self-interested responsibility towards European security depends, first and foremost, on developments in the Soviet Union. I cannot see it happening soon, and for this one must be thankful. If the West appears to approach the new Soviet policies with caution, the Russians have only themselves to blame. The line that Mr. Gorbachev is now taking was to be expected, but I do not think it was expected quite so soon. It is clear, and Mr. Gorbachev admits it, that there is resistance to it within his party. It is by no means certain that he will prevail, but personally I think it would be reasonable to assume that he will, as I believe time is on his side. So far he has attempted comparatively little and the emphasis must be put on the limited nature of the changes, which for the most part concern the Soviet Communist party rather than the whole of the Russian country. These changes can still be reversed.
But the situation offers opportunities to the West and to this country: first, to understand better the reasons for Soviet policies and, secondly, to seek our way towards agreements on long-standing problems, not only on arms control but agreements on what are referred to as regional problems. Above all it requires Western solidarity and consultations, constant contact with the Soviets and sustained study of the new policy.
It has been a characteristic of the British people to give the Soviet Union the benefit of the doubt and often to refuse to face facts even when their disagreeable nature is indisputable. One has only to recall the extravagant follies of generations of fellow travellers to be made aware of this, and there seem to be some signs of fellow travellers reappearing. However, Western Governments are surely right to be cautious with the Soviet Union but constructive and unprovocative. The path that Mr. Gorbachev is following may eventually lead him further than he means to go, to the ultimate advantage of the Russian people rather than the Russian Communist party, and of course to the advantage of Eastern Europe and the West.
The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, wished Mrs. Thatcher luck in Moscow. I am not sure that "luck" is the word I should have chosen. It is not luck that is required. It is hard study and realistic negotiation. In that, the Prime Minister has my warmest wishes.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Lord Reay
My Lords, we must all be grateful to my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel for having introduced this subject for debate at such an extremely opportune moment. I have one faint criticism of the wording of the Motion, which is that a way was not found possible to include a reference in it to our Western European allies. It does not seem to me realistic today to consider relations between this country and the Soviet Union and this country and the United States in isolation from the rest of Europe.
Europe's immediate object of concern must be the negotiations over INF weapons between the Soviet Union and the United States. Should Europe be pleased, even boast, that the Soviet Union has now returned with an offer which was originally made in 1981 by the United States, or has Europe been trapped?
I must confess to having considerable misgivings about a zero-zero agreement for INF weapons in Europe. It seems to me that the withdrawal of cruise and Pershing II from Western Europe—the latter a weapon particularly feared by the Soviet Union—would chip away dangerously at two things: the credibility of NATO's flexible nuclear response to conventional attack and the United States commitment to the defence of Europe. That the INF weapons are a link in the chain of NATO's flexible nuclear response to the Soviet Union's overwhelming conventional and chemical might in Central Europe is self-evident. As United States weapons on European soil, they are also one of the chains that bind the United States to the defence of Europe. We weaken, it seems to me, both systems at our peril.
When the zero-zero offer was originally made, the Soviet Union was bound to refuse it. Why should it have agreed to withdraw missiles which it had in place in return for an American undertaking not to instal missiles which America could not yet deliver, particularly when there was a very strong chance that European public opinion might refuse, or might be induced to refuse, their installation? In the event it was a very close-run thing. I was a member of the Parliamentary Association of the Western European Union at that time, and I well remember how in session after session those of us who believed in the necessity of NATO carrying out this decision had to argue the case against objections from Dutch, German and other delegates; and how it was not at all a foregone conclusion that the decision, which had been made dependent on four countries carrying it out, would be carried out at all. Not to have done so, I believed then and I believe still, would have been a catastrophic moral defeat for NATO.
Anyway, the political gauntlet was run and the weapons were installed. That being the case, I see no reason why the Soviet Union should retain the right to treat the offer as if it had lain all these years on the table. Just as to instal the intermediate-range missiles was, for political reasons, infinitely more difficult for the United States than for the Soviet Union, so to withdraw them involves a far greater sacrifice. I have the gravest doubts whether we should risk the demoralisation of NATO and the triumphalism of the so-called peace movement by throwing into the 226 negotiating ring so easily the fruits of such a hard-won struggle.
I do not believe that any agreement on INF weapons will he followed by negotiations either on short-range nuclear weapons or on conventional weapons; or, rather. negotiations will take place, but they would have no meaning and no outcome, as they never do when all the concessions have to be made by one side. Why have the MBFR talks produced nothing in 14 years, and why does the chemical weapons ban, which is promised year after year even by our own Government, never materialise if not because the Soviet Union will never negotiate away an advantage—and, anyway, why should it?
But of course the pressures for an agreement arc considerable. For the White House the temptation is a foreign policy achievement never more needed than now; moreover, one in an area in which United States strategic interests are not involved so that it would be easier to bring about. For the Soviet Union it is an opportunity to weaken the NATO alliance. The fact that this is seen by it as such an opportunity is evidenced by its great activity to win over Western opinion. Letters to The Times from the Novosti Press Agency in Moscow, television appearances by brilliant officials speaking beautiful English, announcements by negotiator Karpov in Isvetzia—these are not steps in a negotiation; they are steps in a propaganda war.
For European political leaders the temptations are to court fleeting popularity by promising peace in our time—something which I am sure our Prime Minister at least will not do. I take the point that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. made in his most interesting maiden speech—that there is scope and possibly even political need for reduction in nuclear weapons—hut the outcome of any agreement should not be to make us more vulnerable to other imbalances, whether nuclear, chemical or conventional.
One of the concerns of Europe should be to prevent any withdrawal of cruise and Pershing turning into a more general American departure. After all, even our nuclear deterrent, about which there is no reason to suppose the Americans are naturally enthusiastic, is and will remain dependent on missiles being made available to us by the United States. In this context I hope that the remarks made last week by United States Ambassador Charles Price to the European Atlantic Group will have been widely noted. He drew graphic attention to the prevalence of offensive and unbalanced criticism of the United States from quarters which should know better. As the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, pointed out, and here I quote Ambassador Price:this … insidious anti-Americanism … spreads to every segment of society and undermines the mutual respect that our alliance needs to prosper"."This of course provokes a negative reaction in the United States, including demands that troops should be withdrawn. Criticism there can be between allies, but it has to be temperate. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, that attacks on the United States President should not be personal. No British political leader should refer publicly, in my opinion, to President Reagan's obsession with SDI. SDI may or may not turn out to be practicable in whole or in part, 227 but nobody could say that it may not have a chance of turning out in part practicable; but in any case it should not be treated as if only fools could believe in it.
Apart from doing more to nurture the trans-Atlantic relationship, Europe should do more to get its own act together. It is thoroughly unsatisfactory that when the Soviet Union, or the United States for that matter, throws an arms proposal into the public arena there should immediately be half a dozen different official European reactions. Discussions need to be more formalised and more regular than at present; and, like the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, I welcome the recent suggestions that the Foreign Secretary has put forward for improvements in this direction.
As for Chairman Gorbachev, I do not doubt that he is trying to stimulate a stagnant society, a society which is itself responsible for a stagnant economy and which in turn threatens to deprive yet another generation of Soviet consumers of a reasonable standard of living, quite apart from eventually not being able to support the country's enormous lighting machine. Any improvements which Chairman Gorbachev manages to bring to the lives of Soviet citizens should surely be welcomed by us. It cannot be in the interests of peace for a chasm to persist in the quality of the lives led by the peoples of East and West.
Further than that, I agree with other noble Lords that we should reserve judgment. We should be cautious: we should be watchful; we should be courteous; and we should not he provocative. The one thing, however, with which we should not reward Chairman Gorbachev is an arms control agreement which diminishes our own security.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
My Lords, I should like to begin by congratulating the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, on his maiden speech. His brother and I are very good friends. We were colleagues in County Hall for 16 years; and I want to tell the noble Lord that his brother was sitting in County Hall when I made my maiden speech in 1961. I am very glad that I am here today to hear the noble and gallant Lord make his maiden speech. I can tell from the speech he has delivered to us this afternoon that we are going to hear a lot from him, and it will be stuff that is fully worthwhile. I would say to him: just keep it up.
We must thank the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, for introducing this debate, which is very timely. I do not think that I know any more than anybody else about what is happening, but the sorts of changes that we seem to see happening in the Soviet Union are interesting. I hope we shall make sure that we encourage them; and in order to do that we must not be—how shall I put it?—too niggardly in the way we respond to offers from the Soviet Union.
I was glad to hear the noble and gallant Lord say that in fact we could have this agreement in regard to intermediate missiles and that it would be quite in keeping with the military strategy that he would favour. That suggests there is a step we can take towards reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons and nuclear missiles that exist. I believe all of us, regardless 228 of whether we think we should all have nuclear weapons as a deterrent, feel that there are too many warheads around so that if we can get them to the lowest possible level we really should do everything we can to achieve that.
I am often worried, listening to debates, as to whether we are right in thinking that what the Americans want from us are more nuclear weapons. I perceive in all my discussions—although I must confess that I know Congressmen rather than Senators—that what Americans really want from us are more conventional weapons. What they want us to be providing are conventional forces. The Americans provide the nuclear weapons anyway. Even if we have them as our own independent deterrents to use as we wish, they are American weapons. What the Americans want from us is a bigger commitment to providing the conventional forces needed to resist any Russian advance. I must say that I look in vain for any sign that this particular message is ever accepted on this side of the Atlantic.
In a previous debate on foreign policy, I said that I never look at the world merely in terms of the East-West struggle, because there is more to it than that. There is the North-South struggle: there is what I call the black-white struggle. We spend so much of our time concentrating on the East-West struggle that we fail to do what we can about the others.
I should like to make two suggestions as to the way in which I can believe we should collaborate in dealing with these problems. First, I can see this country and the United States, plus Canada, launching a perfectly good and sound Marshall Plan for the Caribbean. The initiative should come from us rather than from the United States because the United States cannot spend its time concentrating on these small territories in the Caribbean. It has to concentrate on Central and South America and on the larger territories there, which are very important to the United States.
On the other hand, we have a responsibility for those territories. Not only were they our colonies, but some of them are still British colonies. Therefore we have a duty and a responsibility to be doing something about that area. However, what I see is that the United States and Canada would willingly join us in a properly co-ordinated programme to develop those territories. It would not he all that expensive.
What do these territories need? They need infrastructure and they need ships so that they can get easily from one place to another. They need what I would call reliable air transport and, as I said, they need infrastructure. They also need what I would describe as encouragement for the companies in the large countries to help them to develop. All these little islands produce something and if you are producing products for other countries you need marketing. So what these little islands need is a good form of marketing for what they produce. That is not calling for very elaborate financial investment but it calls for a deliberate plan—something that is agreed, envisaged and worked out—so that those territories can be helped to develop themselves and not be what they are now: a danger to the West.
They are a danger because you have there a lot of little territories, any of which can be taken over by half 229 a dozen thugs. Therefore they are really a danger. What they need is to be developed in a co-operative way by the territories that matter around them, in order to make sure that they are able to develop and also to make sure that they can be safeguarded. That is about all that they need, and it is not very expensive. So that is one form of co-operation that I can see which would he a form of Anglo-American effort, and I am sure Canada would be happy to join in it. That could be done.
The other matter, as I see it, is dealing with southern Africa. There again, co-operation—not only between Britain and America this time but also bringing in the Soviet Union—is needed so that East and West on this occasion, instead of trying to have puppet governments which they regard as being on their side rather than on the other, and trying to manipulate them in their own favour, can see that the sort of development which is required can take place.
First, I am sure we all agree that the system which exists in South Africa must go but we must ask: how does it go and what is to take its place? This is something that, frankly, can be done only through the United Nations. What is required here is the cooperation by the super-powers, plus the middle powers, through the United Nations, in order to make sure that not only are we able to get rid of apartheid but that we are also able to have the sort of development in southern Africa which will allow peace to prevail. We do not only have apartheid in South Africa. What we have is South Africa, in desperation, busily destabilising all those territories around it. That is something which the world could do something about.
Therefore I thought I would take this opportunity, while this Motion is on the agenda, of suggesting that one of the things Her Majesty's Government can do is to play a major role in bringing together the United States and Canada for one piece of work, and the United States and the Soviet Union for the bigger job that is required in southern Africa. I cannot expect the Minister to get up and tell me, "Yes, the Government will do that", but I hope it is something she will take on hoard and discuss with her right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State. I genuinely believe that this is the sort of thing that can take place in the present atmosphere, and that would be very worthwhile.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Lord Banks
My Lords, I believe the whole House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, for raising this important subject this afternoon and for throwing upon it the light of his great experience. My own first experience of United States-United Kingdom co-operation was immediately after the war when I joined the Allied military government in Trieste. The province of Venezia Giulia was at that time in dispute between Italy and Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia under Tito was lined up with the Cominform—the split had not then occurred—and we had daily demonstrations in Trieste at that time.
I remember one of the communist demonstrations which people came to take part in from well outside our territory and from far down the Istrian peninsula. 230 The city was dominated by red flags, and at the end of the day I watched the fishing boats sailing away back down the Istrian peninsula flying their red flags and taking the demonstrators back. It seemed to me that Eastern Communism had spilled over into the West that afternoon.
There were few of us in Trieste at that time who would have prophesied that we were on the verge of 40 years of peace in Europe, and yet we have had those 40 years without war. A vital role in that has been played by United States-Western European co-operation, defensively through NATO and economically in the early days through Marshall Aid. I believe, too, that the nuclear threat has played a major part in preserving peace; the knowledge that war would be catastrophic. 1 cannot prove that, but I have observed that where there are no nuclear restraints governments seem prepared to enter upon conventional war, horrible though it is.
However, the continued and continual nuclear escalation is both dangerous and wasteful and I am sure we all agree in this House that it must be halted and must be reduced. I think, too, we all hope that this will be achieved through the current neogitations even if, like the noble Lord, Lord Reay, we have reservations about the precise nature of the settlement which we should like to see. I am convinced that, in the meantime at any rate, we need a nuclear deterrent and that the continuation of the North Atlantic Treat Organisation is essential into the foreseeable future.
If I had a complaint about the terms of the Motion which is before the House this afternoon, it would he the same as the one expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Reay. I think I would have preferred if it had referred to relations between Western Europe, the United States and the Soviet Union. I am fortified in saying that by the publication last week of an opinion poll which revealed, surprisingly, that most West Europeans believe that Western Europe will achieve super-power status by the year 2000. Even more surprisingly, it revealed that most British people believe that we shall eventually have a fully fledged European government.
Bearing in mind that that is the opinion of the inhabitants of Western Europe, it seems sensible to think in terms of the relations of the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and Western Europe. But, of course, we are not yet near having the fully fledged government which, apparently, West Europeans expect. Nevertheless it is true that Europe has gained her economic independence. The European Economic Community now has a gross domestic product which is in excess of that of either the United States or the Soviet Union. The Economic Community has developed as a trade partner and indeed as a trade rival for the United States. Unhappily, there has been a conflict between protectionist trends in the United States and the protectionist nature of the common agricultural policy. There was nearly a trade war earlier in the year. Fortunately, that appears to have been averted.
The point I am making is that there has been a big change in the economic relationship between the United States and Western Europe since those now far off days of Marshall Aid. But in the realms of foreign policy and defence, Western Europe has not advanced 231 correspondingly. There is no clear European entity, although there is much trotting to and fro of the heads of governments of the various states and there is, of course, regular consultation on foreign policy within the framework of the Community. Following the Single European Act, they may now discuss security as well.
Differences of outlook between Europeans and Americans place a strain on the NATO Alliance. The rhetoric of the Reagan Administration and some of the policies pursued by President Reagan—such as the bombing of Libya, adherence to SDI and arms for Iran—have alienated public opinion in Europe; and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester referred to similar opposition to policies pursued in Central America. I understand those feelings and, in the main, I share them, but I realise that Americans also have complaints about Europe.
There may be some in Europe who consider that United States policies pose a greater threat to peace than the behaviour of the Soviet Union, and who believe that the Soviet Union is readier for arms reductions than the United States. But there are equally Americans who consider Europeans to be cowardly, indecisive and inadequate to borrow a phrase from Jan Reifenberg writing recently in the NATO Review. They believe that we are not prepared to pay our full share in defence and yet we are always demanding a greater say and then changing our mind.
When we add to this the fact that the Soviet threat is not so obvious at the moment, that there is this welcome new openness in the Gorbachev policies, that there is some attempt at democratisation within the Communist system, we see why there are strains within the NATO Alliance. In this situation, Richard Mayne writing in the European has said that Western Europe should be "forbearing and self-reliant", and I think he is right.
We must appreciate that things can look different on the other side of the Atlantic. We must appreciate that the President of the United States is only part—though a very important part—of the governmental machine; that in foreign affairs and defence Congress plays a large part, often differs from the President and sometimes counters the policies of the Administration. We must not judge the United States by President Reagan alone.
We must be forbearing and self-reliant and to be self-reliant means, in my view, providing in Western Europe a political system in foreign affairs and defence to match the political system in economic affairs. That means developing the two-pillar approach. It means having a more equal Europe, ready to take our share of the burden, seeking detente with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe without destroying our defensive system openly critical of United States policies when we have to be, but without the continual hostile carping.
How are we to create that political system? It appears to be the received wisdom at the present time that the focal point of European defence and coordination should be the Western European Union. That has the advantage of linking the two European nuclear powers with West Germany. Furthermore, the 232 seven powers involved, Britain and the original six of the Community, are pledged to assist each other in defence.
I have two reservations about WEU. First, there may be some danger in having too many councils of Ministers and assemblies playing a key role in European affairs; and secondly, Western Europe does leave out five of our EC partners, four of whom are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. In that connection I read in the press that there has been pressure for an early summit meeting of the EC heads of government to shape a united European response to Mr. Gorbachev's arms reduction initiative. President Mitterrand has made such a plea. I understand that it is supported by Belgium and by the President of the European Economic Commission, Mr. Delors.
Speaking on the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, I trust that that initiative will be followed up. In the long run—I stress the long run—I do not believe it will be possible to keep the common foreign policy and the Economic Community on the one hand separate from the defence community on the other. However we go about establishing it, I am convinced that a self-reliant, forbearing Western Europe with a political entity to match its economic entity will recognise the need to continue in a critical but friendly and more equal partnership with the United States, together seeking accommodation with the Soviet Union.
§ 7 p.m.
§ The Earl of Perth
My Lords, I intend to devote most of my speech to the question of our relationship not only with the United States but also with Europe. We should not think just in terms of the United Kingdom when in fact we are part of the European Community. I should particularly like to develop the point that was put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Home, in his very fine opening speech about the importance of consultation.
I should like to stress that it is Russia's aim to divide Europe and the United States, in particular on the disarmament negotiations. Noble Lords may remember how nearly it succeeded with cruise and Pershing. Luckily the Americans stood firm, but in Europe there was considerable disarray. Now it is a question of SDI or star wars. The Soviet Union says that its aim is peace and that the United States is the warmonger. I do not blame it for that or for doing all it can in its own interests, but such propaganda must not succeed. If it does, we shall be divided and we shall fall.
Noble Lords may also remember Mr. Gorbachev's marathon six-hour speech before the Communist Central Committee. He devoted an hour or more to an expression of his faith in the communist system and how ultimately communism must prevail and how no holds were to be barred to achieve that end. I am not an expert on Russian affairs or a Russia watcher, but I well remember somebody who is so qualified telling me he was confident that the part of that speech which expressed the communist faith and the determination that communism should spread throughout the world was written by Mr. Gorbachev himself. If that be right, let us not forget it.
233 How are we to ensure the necessary Western unity? How can we guard against the subtle propaganda which is naturally but wrongly spread by Russia? I suggest that we must have a regular exchange of information and constant consultation between the United States and Europe before, perhaps during, and certainly after any meetings of the super powers. Those meetings will go on for a long time. We must organise consultative machinery so that it is automatic, something which happens naturally, though that will not be easy to achieve. After the Reykjavik meeting all of Europe was alarmed that there might have been a deal between the two super powers and that the United States would leave us in the lurch and withdraw from Europe into splendid isolation. I shall not spend time developing why that was nonsense and an unnecessary fear, but we must learn a lesson from it. It is that if we had had good consultative machinery there would not have been such alarm.
I also recall how after the various disarmament meetings representatives of the Americans had to travel all over Europe. I have in mind particularly my old friend Mr. Paul Nitze, who spent much of his time going to each capital, to each individual government, explaining what they had done or what they were proposing to do. That was a waste of time. It would have been much better if there had been some consultative machinery between Europe, including ourselves, and the United States. This machinery exists in NATO for our defence. It may he difficult for it to be too formal and too organised in relation to political questions, but we must try to ensure that the European leaders meet regularly, not only on their own but with their American counterparts. I suggest that we might try to set up a permanent secretariat to that end, and I commend that idea to the noble Baroness, Lady Young.
I know that there has been talk of reviving the Western European Union. I am all in favour of that, but it must not be thought of as an independent counterweight to the two super powers. In some way the United States must be an integral part of any Western European Union. If it is not an official member, nonetheless it must be there to hear what is going on and what we are planning to do. Some will say, "Well, why bother? The Americans will go it alone anyhow. They won't really pay any attention to what we suggest, and so what's the use?" I do not agree. We have common ideals and a common system of democracy. It is by the exchange of information and by consultation that we come to common policies and make things worth while out of it.
Above all, we must act so that we trust each other. At all costs we must not break faith with America. I shall not develop what happened at Suez but I, and I am sure many of your Lordships, will never forget that that was the saddest time in the history of our relations. We then broke faith and it took a long time for America to trust us once more. My plea is that we in Europe work out some form of consultative body which can work with the Americans. While it is perfectly certain that we shall do certain things which they do not like and they will do things of which we do not approve, nonetheless when it comes to the fundamentals, the really important things, we have a common cause and can go forward together.
234 For 40 years we have been under the American umbrella and leadership, and great blessings it has brought us in Europe. Let us make sure that it endures through properly organised consultative machinery. We share a common heritage amd have common ideals of liberty and of freedom of expression. Together we must not fail.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, we must all thank the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, not only for introducing this debate but also for the fact that he set us on the right path by pointing out that both the great countries to which we are directing our attention are in the process of change. It is variously estimated, but on the fact of change I think there is no disagreement.
The change in the United States is perhaps on the whole in a direction unfavourable to our interests. The change in the Soviet Union may turn out to be a beneficent one. In the United States there is bound to be a move to disengage from the total commitment to Europe which was its natural foreign policy in the immediate postwar years. This point has been emphasised by more than one speaker. Changes in its demographic features, in the location of industry and the direction of its trade all pull the United States away from Europe. It is surely our interest to try to limit the damage which that might bring about by convincing the United States both by emphasising the role that Europe can and should play in its own defence, as has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Banks, and others, and also by endeavouring to show that over a long period our interests in Europe and globally can be reconciled.
In this respect one must find the current visit of the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition to Washington very peculiar. One would expect that a leader of any British political party would make the reinforcement of good relations with the United States the sine qua non of his attitude in foreign affairs. But to go to Washington and to expound a policy which invites the United States to disengage seems to be quite extraordinary and perhaps unparalleled in the history of British diplomacy. Mr. Kinnock's message will of course be well received by some people in the United States. It will be received by the isolationists as proof that they were right all the time that Europeans are ungrateful, unwilling to co-operate and unable to see beyond the ends of their noses. It will not be welcome to those in the United States, whether in the Administration or in Congress, who are fighting to maintain the traditional concern of the United States for the security of this country and of Western Europe.
It is true that within the past few days it has been announced that Mr. Kinnock is to be accompanied by a "minder", if I may borrow political language, in the person of Mr. Denis Healey. It is not quite clear what Mr. Healey's role is to be. Is he to stay behind after each interview that Mr. Kinnock gives and say, with a nudge and a wink, "Don't take it too seriously: I shall be there and nothing drastic will happen"? For a former Secretary of State for Defence that would seem to be a somewhat humiliating role. We may find that in Washington Messrs. Kinnock and Healey are familiarly described as the "zero zero option".
235 Perhaps I may turn to the much more interesting aspect of this question, which is our relations with the Soviet Union. The changes in the Soviet Union, or the possible changes, are obviously much greater than those in the United States, where within an existing system—democratic, capitalist or whatever you like to call it—we are talking of changes of foreign policy, changes in the weight of particular interests, changes in commercial affairs, and so on. In the Soviet Union it is suggested in some quarters—we heard it today in this House, I think at Question Time rather than in this debate—that Mr. Gorbachev's two or so years in power mark a fundamental change and that there is every prospect of a change of real magnitude. Indeed, the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, has said that one of the questions we must ask is: If this change is of such a magnitude, do we welcome it?
It is very difficult. Because we find a system of this kind so difficult to comprehend there has been a tendency over and over again to believe that a new leader and some change in policy and some change in circumstance might mean the whole thing becoming quite different. I tend to believe that we ought to be thinking in terms of decades and centuries, not in months and years.
Earlier today I had the opportunity to discuss with someone of international reputation from inside the Communist world, the Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas, the latest phase of Soviet development. He said that, when he thought about the Soviet Union and the pace of development and the nature of change, he was reminded of the Ottoman Empire, under which the country from which he comes once dwelt. As he said, from the Battle of Lepanto and the siege of Vienna to the ultimate downfall of the Ottoman Empire, we are talking of centuries. The empire retreated, various countries obtained their independence, but the real change in Turkey—and this was all I could add to his analysis—came after that empire dissolved and Attaturk was left with the Turkish nation to recreate.
When we talk about the Soviet Union and the changes which Mr. Gorbachev is bringing about, we must always remember—and perhaps now more than ever because of the demographic phenomena involved—that we are talking about an imperial system in which the ruling nation is a minority, and a diminishing minority. Some of that empire is formally within the bounds of the Soviet Union as an internationally recognised state. Other parts are nominally independent countries around the periphery, both in Western Europe and in Asia. Nor, with the example of Afghanistan before us, can we even be certain that it is an empire which has abandoned territorial expansion.
Therefore, any change that is made in the nature of the economy, in the degree of control by the Communist Party, or in the allegiance paid to the Marxist-Leninist ideology, has to be considered not only in its impact upon the Russians, the proper inhabitants in Moscow and Leningrad, but on the Ukrainians and other Slav peoples and non-Slav. peoples in Asia and in the countries of Eastern Europe. If you have a system in which the planning of the economy goes beyond the borders of the Soviet Union, 236 to change the method and instil an element of market economy suggests upheavals of such grandeur and on such a scale that it would correspond not merely to, say, the withdrawal of the British, French and Dutch overseas empires in our time, but would be something more equivalent to what happened when Rome broke up.
I give one example of how difficult it is to be certain of what is happening. It has been pointed out by a number of speakers that certain eminent dissidents have been released from prison or allowed to go abroad and that there has been an advance in human rights. Nevertheless, it remains a fact that more visas were granted to Jews who wished to emigrate to Israel when Mr. Andropov was in power than have been granted since Mr. Gorbachev came to power. This is not a matter of a few, but of comparing hundreds with tens. Why is this the case? Why, at a time when Mr. Gorbachev appears to wish to impress Western opinion with his liberalism and openness—others have raised this point—is he more rigid than his predecessors? Does this correspond to a feeling that the people to be trusted, the people whose instincts he wishes to follow, are his own Russian compatriots? Does it relate to some undisclosed concern about international relations, about the role of the Soviet Union in the Middle East? We do not know and we cannot possibly know.
I have noticed, perhaps not so much in this debate but during some of our previous discussions, that one is inclined too easily to dismiss the idea of ideology. People find it difficult to believe in ideology—I move for a moment from our particular concern with the Soviet Union—despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and are being killed in the Gulf war over basically religious, racial and, in a sense, ideological differences. An American sociologist rather foolishly said about 30 years ago that ideology was dead. In the case of the Soviet Union the reason for the strength of ideology is simple. It is the only system of thought which legitimises the government in power.
Nobody elected Mr. Gorbachev or his friends. They did not inherit their position from ancestors, like the monarchies of the ancien régime. They are in power because they are recognised to be the bearers of the ideology. Being that—it was stressed, I believe, by the noble Earl, Lord Perth—when they speak, even if they are modifying policy, they still have to bring it within the confines of the system of thought which gives them their justification. Their trouble must be that in modifying a system of that kind—an elaborate system which has answers for everything in the economy, in society, in personal family relations and so on—and in easing censorship a little, one cannot tell what the consequences will be. The ancien régime in France looked pretty solid in 1780.
What impact will be made on Soviet readers—and the Russians are great readers—by the publication next year, legally and for the first time, of Dr. Zhivago—a description of their revolution differing altogether from that which they have been brought up to expect or understand? In those circumstances it is almost certain—to answer the question of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles—that it is in our interest that Mr. Gorbachev's regime should not suddenly collapse 237 and fail. If that happened, the chaos and the possible military consequence of a major upheaval in Eastern Europe are matters which the West, with its present disunity, is in no position to tackle.
However, I do not go on from that to put forward the argument, which one hears in some quarters, that the important thing is to give Mr. Gorbachev the support he would get by accepting any and all of the demands that he makes in the sphere of foreign policy. It is not necessary to sacrifice either our interests or our principles. It is necessary, I believe, to talk. It is necessary, in the Prime Minister's words, to do business if we can; but we must remember that in dealing with the Soviet Union and in dealing with the United States there are great forces at work which none of us is in a position altogether to comprehend.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Lord Kagan
My Lords, two years ago, on 23rd April, the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, rose to call attention to the desire of Britain to seek better relations with the Soviet Union and to call attention to the obstacles which stood in the way of obtaining that objective. At that point Mr. Gorbachev had already appeared on the political stage and a new dawn seemed to be rising. Change was in the air and change was, and is, taking place at an accelerating rate—for very good and compelling historical reasons.
The Soviet Union is an empire and power is its objective. Security and survival are its main concern. The assumption that ideology rules in Moscow is misleading, and dangerously so. Ideology is only accepted when it serves the purposes of the state and it is changed or abandoned when it does not. It is merely a tool that is retained as long as it serves to increase or safeguard the power of the state. However, while Bolshevik philosophy enabled the Soviet Union to keep its empire together through the political machine and the disciplines that it imposed, it was only effective up to the time of Tito. Tito was the first to crack the mould. When he got away with it, Mao Tse Tung followed and slowly the powers in the Kremlin realised that political control would not hold their empire together. Only the army might do that.
Khrushchev started discrediting the Stalinist past; Andropov tried to continue that policy. Mr. Gorbachev has now attacked the political machine. He warned the politicians that they should not rely on remaining unconditionally and safely installed in their positions. He attacked the bureaucrats and warned them that he would not stand for corruption or nepotism. This literally meant attacking every single manager in the Soviet Union. He went on to warn the workers that there would be no more money and that they would have to work twice as hard—hardly an electioneering ploy. He proceeded to antagonise the peasantry and the rest of the country by doubling the price of vodka.
Mr. Gorbachev is a very brave man. He is not a political innocent, nor is he naïve. We know that he must have some backing. It is significant that in the 18 months that he has been in power he has attacked everybody except the army. There is no trace of a single critical word being uttered against the army—not one. He has attacked the political 238 commissariat of the army and its political controllers, but not the army itself. I am sure that he would not have embarked upon the wholesale antagonising of every other power centre in the Soviet Union unless he felt sure of having powerful backing. He is not a kamikaze politician.
The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, took the House through an historical explanation. After all, what happened in France during and after the French revolution? After the excesses of Robespierre, Napoleon was brought out of gaol, as a Robespierrian soldier, in order to put things right, and he then enabled the army to take control. Are we seeing the rise of another Napoleon? It is interesting to note that in 1957 Zhukov was removed for "bonapartist" tendencies.
This all leads to the question of what is to be done. The Soviet Union is no longer in a position to hope for expansion but it is concerned with the survival of its empire. The challenge to it does not come from the West—there are not thousands of dissidents queuing up in Washington for exit visas in order to go to Moscow. But there is certainly a strong pull toward Siberia from Japan and China. The Soviet Union needs a strong army on that side of its empire, but even more is it in need of a strong army for internal rather than external purposes, because it is only the army that can hold the Soviet empire together.
I believe that the Polish, Czech and Hungarian armies are allowed only a few days' supply of live ammunition. It is the Soviet army that has held the empire together. It is the Soviet army that corrected the situation in Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
For this country, the logical conclusion is to go into Europe and support a very strong Europe. There must be no power vacuum. The danger is Finlandisation. The 250 million people of the European Community will be a strong enough counterweight to Russia. The United States could be drifting into isolationism: the Soviet Union, I repeat, is preoccupied with defending itself from the East; and in my opinion the future lies in the direction of a self-contained very powerful United States of Europe. When the Prime Minister goes to Moscow she should remember that for the Soviet Union the question of safety is a matter of self interest and that where self interest is at stake the Soviet Union may be trusted. I thank your Lordships.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
My Lords, like other noble Lords I wish to thank my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel for introducing this debate. I should like also to express my gratitude for the way in which the terms of the debate are phrased. It seems quite right to recognise the importance of our relations with those two great countries, particularly since at the moment those relations are so good.
If one travels to the United States one frequently comes across people who tell you that they consider my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to be the President's best adviser. If one goes to the Soviet Union one comes across those who say that although they do not always agree with my right honourable friend the Prime Minister they respect her, which is the case in the Soviet Union as regards strong leaders. I 239 think that it is also true, as those who read the Soviet specialist military press tell us, that we are respected in this country because of the quality of our armed services over which my noble and gallant friend, Lord Bramall, has presided with such distinction for many years, and to whose maiden speech we have listened today with such interest and pleasure.
In different ways, both countries are undoubtedly changing, as my noble friend Lord Beloff has pointed out. The United States has changed in the past few years in, let us say, a long-term as well as a short-term way. In the long-term way, my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel reminded us of the speech made by Sir Oliver Wright. It is perfectly obvious that the United States is concerned with Mexico and the 12 million Mexicans who live in the United States, with central America including Nicaragua, with the Pacific and with the Philippines. The trade of the United States with the Pacific countries is now greater than its trade with the Atlantic countries. The Atlantic community, which has served us all so well for two generations, sometimes seems as if it is an elder sister—a respected but nevertheless elder sister to the Pacific community. Sometimes it seems to have what the noble Lord, Lord Harvey, referred to as "the faded glory of a last century toast".
The short-term way of change in the United States derives from the crisis that has come to be known with scandalous lack of imagination in language as "Irangate". That crisis turned what we had been accustomed to look on as a strong and determined presidency into an apologetic one. The apologies have now been generally accepted. In the past year or two, the United States has undoubtedly committed one serious mistake. I do not mean the Contras and the Nicaraguan crisis, to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester devoted such attention. That is a crisis and the United States needs a great deal of sympathy over it. It is not clear how the problem will be resolved. The mistake surely was treating with and negotiating the sale of arms to a nation which has openly and privately supported terrorism.
In that respect, I agree entirely with what Mr. Jacques Chirac said in his interview with the Washington Times in November. Nevertheless, we are all seeing the inventiveness—I think that was the word used by my noble friend Lady Young—and ingenuity of the American system in showing that that crisis will turn out to be a short-term one and not the kind of catastrophe which occurred in the 1970s at the time of President Nixon and Watergate.
I turn to the Soviet Union, to which so much attention has been paid during the debate—a country the exact reverse of the United States. It has an economy which is politically interfered with; it is over-centralised; and it is without motivation. Mr. Gorbachev, as we all know, has been saying that he will do something about it. How are we to judge what is happening? My noble friend Lord Beloff pointed out, and I am sure that he is right, that it is important to bear in mind the time element. It is unclear as to what will happen in the short term. Surely, big changes will take a long time.
240 Nevertheless, some interesting things have occurred. It would be foolish as well as churlish not to recognise that. There have been changes, for example, in respect of the participation of foreign enterprises in the Soviet economy. Efforts have been made to regularise or legalise the thriving black economy. There have been changes in the press. Criticisms of corruption have been openly made in the pages of Pravda, and we may see the publication not only of Dr. Zhivago but also, according to rumour, of the Gulag Archipelago. Those and other changes are undoubtedly important. In some respects, they go further than anything upon which Khrushchev embarked. As I said, it would be foolish and churlish not to recognise their importance.
It would also be foolish not to recollect that we have seen this kind of thing before. I do not remember it myself, but it is obvious that in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, Lenin embarked on something called the new economic policy in which economic collaboration with the West was sought. It was also thought desirable to have a short period of good diplomatic relations with the West.
There is then the question of Mr. Gorbachev and ideology, to which my noble friend Lord Beloff devoted some important remarks. My noble friend Lord Eccles thought that Mr. Gorbachev had perhaps abandoned Marx, Engels and Lenin. There is not much evidence for that. Indeed, all the evidence is to the contrary. If one examines Mr. Gorbachev's latest speech to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, one sees that he insists with great care on his Leninist credentials. That may be for external consumption only, but my noble friend's assumption would be a dangerous one to make.
We are entitled to say that if there is to be a real change in the Soviet Union, we must expect some kind of demolition of the ideology and some abandonment of the language of Lenin, just as Khrushchev abandoned the language and to some extent the practices of Stalin. If that were to be done, we could begin to think we were at a new stage of history rather than at a stage of history which merely enables the Soviet Union to take stock and to reform where necessary but to continue with its basic intentions.
However, as my noble friend Lord Beloff said, those are all issues about which we cannot be certain. We notice what has not been done; for example, with regard to the regime's attitude to religion. Mr. Gorbachev has insisted on the importance of maintaining the campaign against religion. He has made no concessions towards local nationalism. In an interesting speech, the noble Lord, Lord Kagan, said that the only institution which Mr. Gorbachev had spared from his criticism was the military. That is true. He did spare it. But it is not the only institution. He has not criticised the KGB. If there is to be abandonment of the things which the Russian people want to get rid of most, criticism of the KGB should be part of the story.
We should probably concede that despite the interesting events, despite the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, was perhaps right when he said that Mr. Gorbachev may be carried further than he desires, and despite the fact that it is necessary for him to placate some interests, we must reach the conclusion 241 that the probability is that he is seeking to reform, improve and modernise the system, but not to change it.
Secondly we must remember that if Mr. Gorbachev is the great reformer, and he may well turn out to be, great reformers in Russia, like Peter and Catherine, have an uncomfortable habit of being most inconvenient to their neighbours. In a nuclear age, we are all neighbours of the Soviet Union.
These two great nations are, as we know, seeking to negotiate arms control agreements; at first INF, then perhaps short-range weapons and possibly ICBM and a range of other weapons. Unlike my noble friend Lord Reay, but like the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, I feel that such agreements, provided that verification is appropriately achieved, are worth supporting. After all, verification alone would cause such a change in the Soviet structure as to compensate for the obvious disadvantages of an INF agreement to the European countries.
Let us think about the verification system that would he necessary. I do not know how it would work. No doubt we should have to insist on international controllers—Swiss, perhaps, or some other neutrals—going at will throughout the secretive Soviet world. The advantages of that would he considerable. However, certain qualifications must be made. An armaments agreement of such dimensions may tempt the two protagonists to reach agreements on territorial and other questions.
As the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said, Reykjavik was a warning. There must be occasions when the Europeans must be involved, if that kind of dual approach between the two great powers—there are no other great powers in the old sense—is to continue and lead to other understandings. Despite our close association and deep friendship over two generations with the United States, we need to watch these developments carefully. Something like a Tocquevillean duopoly between the United States and the Soviet Union would have much to commend it were it to be confined to nuclear and other matters which might threaten the survival of the planet.
I recognise that we are Europeans. The Europeans must look to their laurels as to what they are trying to do in the future. I would suspect that my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary in his speech in Brussels last week touched a chord which many Europeans will welcome when he said that we must attend not only to trying to build the unity and power of Western Europe under the umbrella of NATO, but also in order to ensure that we are not left out of matters which are essential to us.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, I must apologise for not being here at the beginning of the debate and therefore missing the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, and the maiden speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. As a member of the Select Committee of your Lordships' House I was visiting the Medical Research Council's Clinical Research Centre.
The noble Baroness has a marathon task ahead of her in replying to some 22 speeches. I shall try to be as brief as possible. I wish to ask her a single question in 242 the field of Anglo-Soviet relations; and to raise a single point regarding Anglo-US relations. I hope that she will have time to consider these.
I am aware that the Prime Minister will have a very full agenda in Moscow dealing with major questions such as nuclear disarmament. In this field, even if it is an electoral advantage to her, I wish her success. I hope that an agreement on intermediate-range nuclear weapons can he reached. Of course I should be even happier if a start on negotiations for reductions in those deadly dangerous short-range or battlefield weapons could also be made, and agreement reached on the banning of chemical weapons, which is also quite near to completion barring the verification issue. I hope that the Prime Minister does not remain totally inflexible with regard to the non negotiability of our own independent nuclear deterrent. We must have a flexible response to negotiations if they seem to be leading to a situation in which we shall not have to use the incredibly dangerous nuclear "flexible response" which is so beloved of the NATO nuclear planners.
However, even without agreements on other classes of weapons we should surely welcome the opportunity to be rid of intermediate-range nuclear weapons and start the ball rolling in ridding Europe of nuclear weapons altogether.
My question is on the topic of cultural and scientific co-operation with the USSR which is relevant to my visit earlier this afternoon to the Medical Research Council. The noble Baroness will recall that last November a protocol was signed after the fifth session of the Joint Committee of the United Kingdom and USSR on co-operation in the fields of medicine and public health. I warmly welcome that protocol. As part of this mutual "Glasnost" we hope to see an increasing number of medical exchanges in the future.
There is one aspect of co-operation in this field which I feel could usefully be added to that agreement. It is the practice of medical schools in this (and other countries) to encourage medical students to travel to other countries for two-month or three-month "electives", working in clinics and hospitals to expand their breadth of outlook and experience. When a final-year medical student last year, my son spent two very valuable months in Zimbabwe. Last month. when I was visiting a hospital in one of the smaller Fiji islands, I met an Edinburgh medical student doing a first-class and very interesting job there on his elective.
There are a number of medical students in the United Kingdom who would like to visit the USSR and other countries in Eastern Europe, as part of their electives. This could be very valuable for them and for Britain on their return in the long run. They either speak Russian already or are prepared to learn. Although there are Soviet medical colleagues and health officials prepared to help these students, the students have not been able to get through—because of administrative delays; and noble Lords will know what I mean—to the Soviet Ministry of Higher and Special Education which has to give its permission. I feel sure that an approach from the British Government here would be extremely helpful in setting up what would at first be quite a small number of student elective visits. If exchange visits from Soviet students to Britain could be arranged, I am sure that this would 243 be even better, although that should not at first be necessary as a quid pro quo.
With regard to Anglo-United States relationships, my other point arises from my recent visit to Latin American countries, which included Nicaragua. The present government of Nicaragua took power as a result of the overthrow of a very unpopular dictatorship. Since then there has been an election in which any political party was able to stand. Despite some criticisms by the Government, and by the United States, these elections were regarded by independent observers as fairer and more correctly carried out than almost any election to date in Latin America; certainly more so than the most recent elections in El Salvador and Guatemala, whose governments we recognise as democratic although the main opposition parties were not allowed to field candidates.
Since 1981 the United States has through economic boycott and by openly supporting the so-called Contras (who have no territorial or political base in Nicaragua) been conducting a consistent and cruel operation, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester has pointed out, to destabilise and economically cripple that small country. The International Court at The Hague found against the United States last year on several counts with regard to its operations against Nicaragua. The British Government have admittedly not supported the Contra war directly although yesterday's exchange in the House of Commons was at least interesting in that respect. Perhaps the noble Baroness can add a little to the Blowpipe dicusssion.
On the other hand, the British have not condemned the American operation. We support the Contadora process or agreement which calls for a political and not a military solution to the problems in Central America. One of the paragraphs of the Contadora Agreement calls for non-interference in the affairs of neighbouring countries. This is clearly being transgressed by the United States-funded Contras, who would collapse if it were not for that support.
Nicaragua has the largest army in Central America, it is said. This may well be so, but the army exists only because of the military threat posed by the United States-backed Contra operation. It is true that some 50 per cent. of the budget in Nicaragua goes on military expenditure, so that vital measures to improve the economy are having to be postponed. It was clear to me that if they could the Nicaraguans would, with great relief, reduce military expenditure. They have a big programme of development in health, housing, education, agriculture and industry to get on with.
United States policy, as well as being illegal according to international law, is also throwing the Nicaraguans into the hands of the Soviet bloc economically, which they do not want. Their aim is to be non-aligned. Nicaraguans have many links with the United States, historically and economically, which they did not particularly want to break. The national sport is baseball; everyone drinks Coca-Cola; they love pop music and American films. Many Nicaraguan families have a member living in the United States. 244 Most technically trained people in Nicaragua have lived and been trained in the United States.
It is tragic that this small, go-ahead, idealistic country should have been spurned by the United States simply because it chose to exert some independence from United States domination. The United States could still be helping it to overcome the years of neglect and exploitation of the Somoza regime and the Americans could still be making a reasonable profit out of it. There are some American enterprises which are making profits in Nicaragua at the moment.
The Reverend Martin Luther King said (I do not know whether this is a quote from the Scriptures) that if a person knows that a crime is being committed but stands idly by, in reality he is a party to that crime. Has the time not come for the British Government to tell their friends in the United States to wind up their illegal activities in Central America against Nicaragua? By so doing we will gain many friends in the United States who are now convinced that their government is on the wrong path. It will also help to end a cruel, pointless and now totally unsuccessful war against very courageous small people who are threatening nobody and trying hard to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I ask whether or not he would agree that the Carter Administration was helping the Nicaraguan Government with aid right up to the moment until it knew that the Nicaraguan Government was helping the El Salvadorian guerrillas?
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, I join all other noble Lords in congratulating my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel for initiating this particularly timely debate, especially timely given recent developments in the United States and the Soviet Union.
I shall say only a few words about the United States because what is happening there is well known through coverage in the Western media. It is in the very nature of the open democratic societies of the West that problems and indeed errors by leaders can be discovered, publicised and blazoned across the world's headlines. Thus culpable behaviour can be exposed and people in positions of influence can be called to public account. This is an aspect of the so-called Irangate affair which is often forgotten especially by those in this country who seem more keen to criticise the United States than to strengthen our relations with a nation, which surely, is our closest ally. Of course, historical and contemporary ties of friendship, and of economic and military co-operation should not make us condone that which should not be condoned.
However, we must never devalue our relationship with the United States or encourage our younger generation so to do. On previous occasions in your 245 Lordships' House I have expressed my grave concern over much educational material which is biased with a grossly anti-American slant in subjects such as so-called peace studies or world studies. I am also concerned about the apparent anti-Americanism in many television programmes and in speeches made by some of our leading politicians.
I have just returned from a visit to the United States where I visited many towns. There I found great anxiety about anti-Americanism here. I fear that over time this could cause some of our American friends to think again about their relationship with us, as my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel himself suggested. I would therefore conclude my few remarks on our relations with the United States with a plea that we do not. in our education system, in our media, or in the political arena, risk devaluing and eroding our relationship with a nation to whom we owe so much historically and at the present time.
As I turn to consider the other part of the Motion dealing with the Soviet Union, I am struck by a sharp contrast, a widespread urge to believe in the most charitable and optimistic interpretation of events, and to give the benefit of the doubt sometimes against all the evidence, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, pointed out. If we look back over history we see that many people, who should have the wits and integrity to know better such as the Webbs, have eulogised the Soviet system even under the horrendous brutality of Stalin. Perhaps more disturbing for us are their present-day counterparts who are suspending their critical faculties in response to the magic word "glasnost".
In case my few words on this topic may appear harsh, I should like to forestall the criticism, which is sometimes made of those who publicly criticise the Soviet Union, that to do so is unhelpful because it stirs up fear and hatred of the Russian people. That is not my purpose—rather the opposite. I believe that it is necessary to spell out the reality of life in the Soviet Union in order to encourage sympathy for the Russian people who live under the Soviet régime and to respond in ways most helpful to them.
Given constraints of time, I shall limit myself to two aspects of our relationship with the Soviet Union related to glasnost; namely, human rights and the openness of communication. It is a welcome fact that a number of human rights activists have recently been released from prison, labour camps and exile. The Western media have widely reported Mr. Gorbachev's claim that he has released 140 political prisoners and is reviewing a further 140 cases. But I understand that according to figures available in the West only 84 have actually been released, although Dr. Sakharov, to whom everyone reports, claims that the figure is 86. Whichever is the case the release of' the full 140 is unconfirmed. Even so, 140 is a small drop in the ocean and these releases are essentially arbitrary. They are not a result of legislative changes and could easily be reversed. They are thus a far cry from the real reforms necessary if we are to believe in a significant change of policy.
The 10 Soviet dissidents who wrote the article in The Times on 16th March claim that this move:appears calculated to make a maximum public impression with minimum concessions. If the Kremlin is really undergoing a change 246 of heart, why not declare a general amnesty for all prisoners of conscience? We still await a clear condemnation of the criminal use of psychiatry against dissidents. We have seen no progress on emigration".I wish to say just a few words about the abuse of psychiatry for the treatment of political and religious dissidents. The December 1986 information bulletin of the International Association on the Political Use of Psychiatry gives spine-chilling information on well documented cases of Soviet citizens subjected to psychiatric torture. Time only allows me to cite one case, but it is typical of many. I will place my copy of the report in the Library of your Lordships' House, should any of your Lordships he interested in reading further evidence. I refer to Grigory Stetsyenko, who became interested in Jewish history and religion and requested permission to emigrate to Israel. He was expelled from his job at the Institute of Transport Engineering and interned in a psycho-neurological hospital. I quote:During my examination, the head of the hospital … and the head of the department … stated that, according to the most advanced theories of Soviet psychiatry, the desire to leave the USSR, the best country in the world, is a sympton of schizophrenia. Expressing views incompatible with official ideology, defending civil rights guaranteed by the constitution and international law, being interested in Judaism, are also symptoms of the same disorder. Therefore I am subjected to forcible treatment".That treatment included injections of large doses of neuroleptic drugs which have intensely unpleasant physical and psychological effects, and incarceration in a ward:A small room with grates on the windows, not unlike a prison cell … 18 beds close to each other … some occupied by 2 or 3 patients. The room is never aired and seldom cleaned, and brightly illuminated around the clock … it is extremely dangerous as many patients are in an irresponsible condition and may commit any hostile action against others".In other words, he was incarcerated with genuinely insane and dangerous people.
The fact that such treatment is typical of that meted out to many political patients in Soviet special psychiatric hospitals has been endorsed by the testimony of the courageous Soviet dissident psychiatrist, Dr. Koryagin. He was recently released after serving six years of a 14-year term for exposing the abuse of psychiatry as one of the methods used to silence Soviet religious and political dissidents. In an interview reported in the Daily Telegraph on 28th February, he says that he has not heard of the release of any political inmates from psychiatric hospitals and he points out:Now that I am free I sadly see no real shift in the Soviet people's way of life, no matter what the official propoganda organs are saying about 'democratisation' in this country. I see the same almighty power of the KGB and the Interior Ministry over ordinary people, who, in turn, are powerless, without rights".That leads me to my second area of' concern: the asymmetry of' rights with regard to information. Many people in the West are not aware of the extent and nature of the control over the media and other forms of communication in the Soviet Union. A massive censorship organisation called Glavlet rigidly controls news, literature and art. Access to Western newspapers and broadcasts is virtually impossible for most Soviet citizens; and such newspapers as are allowed to circulate are limited to those such as the Morning Star, the British Communist Party newspaper, which is not 247 likely to reveal any interpretation of events at variance with the ruling party's own propoganda, which is consistently and virulently anti-Western.
Perhaps the most telling information relates to the jamming of Western radio programmes. According to a report by the BBC External Services last year, the Soviet Union jammed all Russian language programmes transmitted by the BBC, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty and Voice of America, although some concessions have recently been made concerning certain religious broadcasts. Soviet jamming is also directed continuously against broadcasts in 16 languages of the Soviet Union transmitted by both Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, while Radio Free Europe broadcasts in Bulgarian, Czech and Polish are also heavily jammed. Such jamming requires an enormous investment in equipment, including both skywave and local jamming transmitters at an estimated cost of over £620 million a year. And despite Glasnost there is no sign that either Glavlet or these massive jamming operations are being dismantled.
The suppression of news is not confined to foreign inputs. For example, the Soviet press failed to report to its own people the declared release of the 140 dissidents so widely publicised in Western media, or Mr. Gorbachev's much publicised confession in the West that he and his wife rather like the Beatles. It appears that Glasnost is strictly controlled and caution is now being urged. For example, Pravda has warned Soviet journalists not to go too far in their criticisms; the Glasnost campaign is to support the party and the system rather than attacking it or exposing negative phenomena. According to the editor:We are all tired of this period of negativism".Comparison with the openness of the media in the West is so stark as to merit little comment except that we so often forget it. We must remind ourselves of the dangers of accepting the idea of moral equivalents between the open and relatively free societies of the West and the closed, controlled societies such as the Soviet Union—a point made so well by my noble friend Lady Young.
We should also think very carefully about what has or has not been achieved following the Helsinki Final Act. In a well-argued and sober report entitled The Helsinki Agreement: Dialogue or Delusion?. Mr. Jonathan Luxmoore of the Institute of European Defence and Strategic Studies argues that the failures of the Soviet Union to comply with the provisions of the Helsinki Agreement may have such harmful effects for the West that perhaps we should reconsider our commitment to it. However, at the very least we should be pressing more actively for greater symmetry in openness, with freedom of broadcasting and access to the media within the Soviet Union comparable to that which the Soviets enjoy in the West. Until and unless we achieve that we are dangerously disadvantaged in the battle for the mind in both the national and international arenas.
I conclude with a plea that we do not ignore the message spelt out so clearly for us by those who speak with the authority of personal experience, such as Vladimir Bukovsky, now in the West, or Dr. 248 Sakharov, still in the Soviet Union. They urge us to remember that the Soviet Union differs fundamentally from the West in many ways—not only in its savage repression of dissidents and its rigid censorship, which I have mentioned, but also in its denial of other freedoms such as free trade unions and free elections. Even the recent electoral reforms, so applauded in the West, are not free but limited to carefully chosen party members. However, above all, Bukovsky, Sakharov, Solzhenitsyn and many others remind us that we must always stand firm in the defence of our own freedom and our own precious and fragile inheritance of democracy.
In Bukovsky's words:peace has never been preserved at ari, price. Nor has it been promoted by catchy phrases or cheap slogans. There are 400 million people in Europe whose freedom was stolen from them and whose existence is miserable".Let us as a nation do all that we can to try to help them, using the freedoms that we have been privileged to inherit. One way in which we can help is to press for a true glasnost—a true openness—both in the Soviet Union's relations with us and within the Soviet Union itself. Openness is necessary for truth to flourish, and in the end it is only the truth which will make us all free.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, at this late stage I think that your patience must be nearly at an end. To listen to another speech is asking a great deal of your Lordships. Nonetheless, I should like to join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, for initiating this debate. I congratulate him on the exquisite timing which I understand is due to the parliamentary skills of his noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. I should also like to join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, on his extremely interesting and impressive first contribution in this House.
Before I move on to the matters which I had thought I was going to deal with, I feel I must say a word or two about the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who has just spoken. I think it is very important that one should distinguish between anti-Americanism and disagreement with President Reagan's policies. They are not the same thing. One can be profoundly pro-American, and whereas some people in this House have American mothers I do not claim that, but I have an American wife. I was educated at an American university and I claim to know America fairly well. Americans distinguish perfectly clearly, and it is incredibly patronising to think that they do not, between those who are anti-American and those who simply disagree with President Reagan's policies.
Secondly, I find extraordinary this idea that there is some kind of pro-Soviet conspiracy in this country. I happen to be chairman of an organisation called Writers' and Scholars' Educational Trust which publishes a magazine which far too few of my noble friends in this House or other noble Lords buy. I urge them to do so, declaring my interest straightaway. The magazine is concerned with censorship. Of course, the vast bulk of what we publish is profoundly to the detriment of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and the 249 Soviet bloc. There is no conspiracy of silence about the horrors which happened in the Soviet Union under Stalin or subsequently; indeed most of them were revealed in this country. The first novel of Pasternak was published in this country, and Solzhenitsyn, Yevtuchenko, Voznesensky and a host of other Soviet dissident writers. The idea that we have not tried to open up the Soviet Union to this country because of some extraordinary pro-Soviet conspiracy is quite frankly an illusion. All we are saying, or all those who I think the noble Baroness is addressing are saying, is that a change seems to have occurred and it is one which should he welcomed. I do not think that all the dissidents have been released, but I am glad that Mr. Sakharov has been released. I do not say that there is a total absence of censorship in the Soviet Union, but I am glad that there is a prospect of Dr. Zhivago being published. This is better than it was and I think we should be thankful for small mercies.
That having been said, perhaps I may move on to the main topic of this debate. I listened naturally with great respect and interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Home and there is only one point on which I feel I must disagree with him, or anyhow where I have some reservations about what he said. I am not sure that I am totally convinced by the belief which he expressed in the necessary and intrinsic virtues of a consensual foreign and defence policy because that consent depends on what the policy is. It is difficult to consent to a policy with which one disagrees. I wholly share the consent which he expressed to the policies of Sir Winston Churchill and Mr. Harold Macmillan, as he then was, in regard to Anglo-US relations. But they and, I am glad to say others, did not consent to the policy of appeasement embraced by Mr. Chamberlain. I am profoundly grateful that they did not do so.
However when the noble Lord introduced this debate almost two years ago in April 1985, he asked whether we could expect an improvement in relations with the USSR which he characterised quite rightly as an absence of trust since 1945. Therefore I think it is legitimate to ask ourselves whether the situation has changed. It seems to me, looking at the world, that changes which have been going on for some time have now suddenly become rather more apparent. For example, the relationship between the USSR and the USA in connection with arms control has become more fluid. The relationship between Europe and the USA is undergoing a change of degree but not, I would emphasise, a change of quality. There are changes in the relationship between Europe and the USSR and a symptom of that is that I understand that at last the relationship between Comecon and the European Community is now for the first time on the cards. That is very significant.
Then I would point to the extremely important speech made by the Foreign Secretary in Brussels on 16th March. It has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow. But that speech was reflected in a paper, I may say, submitted by the Minister of Defence to the Wehrkunde Conference, also I think in March.
A further symptom of this change were the agreements reached between France and the United Kingdom, also in March, for the procurement of 250 defence equipment, a breakthrough. Indeed, the French Minister for Defence, M. André Giraud, in impeccable Franglais which was absolutely appropriate for the occasion, is reported to have said, "Mon vieux, c'est un major breakthrough." And so I think it was, symbolising for this country that the European dimension, about which my, noble friend Lord Banks spoke, has become an assumption which is no longer in contention and which is accepted, if reluctantly, even by the Labour Party, although I should like to ask the Labour Party when Mr. Kinnock last went to Paris, Bonn or Rome, now that he is on his second visit to the United States. I also think this agreement symbolises for France possibly the first steps in a gradual escape from what someone described as the "self-ostracism" of Gaullist policy.
I believe it was Reykjavik which dramatised these changes which had been evolving over some period of time. It reflected changes in Europe and real changes in the position of the United States. For example, there is pressure to which other noble Lords have referred in the United States, of which the Nunn amendment is an example, for Europe to take a greater financial responsibility for its own defence. That was also mentioned by my noble friend Lord Gladwyn. This simply reflects the fact that one-third of the US military budget can be identified as directed towards the defence of Europe.
There is also the knowledge that after the Reagan administration, given the US deficit and the huge increase in military expenditure under the Reagan administration, military spending in the United States will be cut and an obvious area for those cuts is Europe.
These changes are also indicated by the fact which I think the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, mentioned that the East Coast Establishment, with whom we have been used to dealing, is no longer in control and that to the United States the Pacific, Central and South America are as important as Europe. It is very possible that the Caribbean is more important to the United States than, say, Eastern Europe. Perhaps this is simply to face the facts of the situation, to recognise, as Mr. Younger recognised in his speech at Wehrkunde, that European and American interests do not always coincide. I for one would expect that within the next decade there will be fewer than 300,000 American troops in Europe. Meanwhile, the way in which Europe regards itself has also changed and is changing. It seems to me that Reykjavik crystallised those changes. For example, with Euro-missiles—they are called "Euro-missiles" because they are meant to help defend Europe—at Reykjavik we found how very little control we had over those missiles.
Another example is that despite the central importance to France of Franco-German relations, the prospects of' an agreement on arms control and the opening up of a kind of room for manoeuvre in diplomacy have, I suspect, had the effect of reviving French fears of German neutrality. This may have reminded them—which may be something to do with that agreement recently concluded to which I have already referred—of the importance of the old Anglo-French link. That was, after all, in the forefront of the minds of the founders of the European Community who hoped that the United Kingdom (had she joined) 251 together with France, would balance the economic power of Germany.
It is worth recalling at this time the ideas that inspired the European Community in the first place. It was not inspired by economic ideas; it was inspired by a political motive to prevent the outbreak of a fourth European civil war by scrambling the European states into an omelette which could never be unscrambled. The means used to achieve that gastronomic feat were economic.
The European Community was inspired, in my view, by a great and important idea. Of recent years it has been bogged down in budgetary disputes and endless discussion of the CAP. The reactivation of the Western European Union—whatever the reservations some noble Lords may have about that body—the search for a common defence policy and the search for a common foreign policy, are in my view a return to the original European idea.
The Atlantic Alliance remains the linchpin, but the European pillar needs strengthening, and by strengthening it I believe that the Atlantic Alliance itself will be strengthened. This means that the development of European political co-operation is something in which this country has a crucial role to play. The speech by the Foreign Secretary to which I have referred, and by the Minister of Defence recently, give me hope that one can believe that on this occasion this country will play its full part.
§ 8.32 p.m.
My Lords, this debate has been so wide ranging that I doubt whether at this hour it would be helpful or indeed welcome if I attempted to reply to the many interesting speeches that we have heard. Rather, what I would wish to do is to put more emphasis on two matters which have not been fully dealt with by previous speakers but which I believe to be important.
The first is the internal economic changes in the Soviet Union and their significance. Those internal changes, I believe, are motivating the Gorbachev external initiative towards arms reduction. The second aspect that I wish to deal with is the need to involve other major powers in arms control negotiations. Such negotiations, in my view, should not be exclusively a super power concern.
This is not the first occasion on which the noble Lord, Lord Home, has given us the opportunity of discussing British relations with the great powers. There have already been one or two references to the debate he initiated two years ago which dealt with the growing influence of the Soviet Union in the third world and asked the question: what should be our response?
The difference between the two debates is that today's takes place soon after a major initiative by the Soviet Union and on the eve of the visit of our Prime Minister to Moscow. In that sense this debate is more urgent than that of two years ago.
The aspect of super power relationship that we discussed two years ago—namely, the third world connection—should, however, not be far from our thoughts when considering today's Motion. In 252 considering the problems, as several speakers have done, of, for example, Nicaragua, or if we turn our thoughts to the Middle East or to what is going on in the Philippines or in parts of Africa, we need to see them all not only in their local or regional aspects but against a background of worldwide conflict and the ever-present danger that what starts as a local war can all too easily escalate into a global war. This was a point well made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, in his speech, to which so many compliments have been directed.
It is against that background that we should try to understand the Gorbachev initiatives. I shall try to indicate my understanding of Mr. Gorbachev's motives. The basic question which has run through many speeches, and which we are all asking, is whether the Gorbachev initiatives are genuine or merely a diplomatic ploy. I believe quite firmly that they are genuine and that we should respond in the same spirit.
My noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham suggested that in the situation which has now arisen we should avoid being provocative. I thoroughly agree. With that as a guideline, I must say that I found the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, disappointing and depressing. If she had been speaking, not to your Lordships' House but to Mr. Gorbachev or some of his advisers, I am sure that they would have found her speech very provocative indeed.
In my view, it is far better to take the advice given in the speech of my noble friend Lord Cledwyn that there is a new situation brought about by Mr. Gorbachev, and that this is an opportunity for us at long last to bring about a better relationship with the USSR. If we seize the opportunity now, it may well in due course lead to even greater and better changes.
The aspect of the Gorbachev initiatives which most catches the attention of public opinion both here and throughout the world is the external one. It is the offer of a zero-zero agreement in respect of intermediate-range nuclear weapons. It is what I consider to be the dramatic dc-linking of INF and SDI, and it is the new spirit that has been created, a spirit of optimism, in the Geneva negotiations.
Those are the aspects of the present situation to which most attention has been given in today's debate. But it is also true to say that despite some differences, almost all speakers—they expressed it in different ways, but I hope that this is true to say—hope that the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow can make some contribution to the breakthrough which has been initiated by Mr. Gorbachev.
But crucially important though all that external initiative is, I believe that we shall fail to understand the new opportunities which are opening up unless we understand the internal changes that Mr. Gorbachev is seeking to bring about within the Soviet Union. In my view, it is no exaggeration to say that those internal initiatives are even more fundamental than the new Soviet approach to arms control.
What has happened, I believe, is that Mr. Gorbachev has recognised that the need for radically new internal economic policies is dictated by the stagnation and the debilitating bureaucracy of the current Soviet situation. They have their problems of an enormous dimension. Mr. Gorbachev needs a 253 decrease in the burden of arms expenditure in order to revive the Soviet economy. In other words, he needs relaxation to solve his internal problems, both political and economic. What so clearly and importantly distinguishes Gorbachev from his predecessors, Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Andropov, is that they were victims and to some extent were the symbols of this vast Soviet bureaucracy and economic stagnation. Although they made speeches sometimes about that situation, they completely failed to break through. Mr. Gorbachev is very different. He is clearly determined to overcome those problems of economic stagnation by this method of economic openness.
A number of the ingredients of these new economic policies arc in my judgment revolutionary by comparison with the rigid state planning and authoritarian methods which have hitherto dominated the Soviet industrial scene. The changes are being introduced cautiously because Mr. Gorbachev realises that he is up against a tremendous weight of vested interest, of rules and regulations and of people in powerful posts of privilege. He faces a tremendous task and he is an enormously courageous man, in my view, to he facing that task. He seems determined to tackle that by no means easy task by the devolution of responsibility to the lower echelons of administration, to local authorities, to individual factory managers, to co-operatives and to industrial and agricultural workers at the grass roots.
He is also in the process of letting the price and profit mechanisms take the place of arbitrary allocations by state institutions. Without daring to say so he is in fact setting out on that same path of a decentralised socialism which is proving so conspicuously successful in China, as I have had the opportunity to see on three occasions in recent years. I can assure those who have expressed the thought today when talking of these changes that they mean an abandonment of socialism that that view is very far from the truth. It is, on the example of China, a new form of socialism which gets away from the heavy bureaucracy of the previous and the existing situation into a new form of socialism which I believe is enormously successful in China already, and that is the path that the Soviet Union is also about to follow.
Indeed China, as a nuclear power with a quarter of the world's population—we sometimes forget those facts—is to my mind highly significant, not only in the way I have just mentioned in terms of economic organisation but also in relation to what I call the Gorbachev external initiative. China, Japan and indeed other Asian powers are as concerned with world security as the super powers and Europe. We are all involved in seeking international security.
My second point is that I want to suggest that there is this other grouping of nations in Asia which are as involved as Europe. Their security should not be overlooked, either in Moscow in the coming few days or in the continuing negotiations at Geneva. I notice, for example, in reviewing the press reactions worldwide to the Gorbachev pronouncements that Japan urged that Asian countries should be involved in any negotiations about nuclear weapons and world disarmament.
I recall that when Mr. Gorbachev first took his present position he included in his initial statement 254 improved relations with China and he repeated it, I noticed, in his more recent Vladivostok speech. Such declarations are of great significance, in my view, but so far they are only declarations. No Soviet actions are yet discernible in relation to those issues which trouble the Chinese leaders, particularly the continuing troubled situation on the borders between China and the Soviet Union. That is why China in particular and other Asian countries, especially Japan, have a direct interest in the negotiations at Geneva. That is why I believe the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Home, though wide enough, was too narrowly drawn because these other powers need to be considered in this context.
China will want to be assured that as intermediate nuclear weapons are withdrawn from Europe as part of a zero-zero agreement they should not be redeployed within reach of Chinese targets. If that were to be done, increased stability in Europe would be far outweighed by increased instability in Asia. I very much hope therefore that those aspects of the world security problem will be urged upon Mr. Gorbachev when the Prime Minister speaks to him.
Needless to say, what I have been suggesting and what the debate as a whole has been suggesting is that we have reached a moment in world history which calls for the utmost diplomatic and political skill. As I have said, we all hope that the Prime Minister when in Moscow will display that degree of diplomatic skill. I hope that she will be more sensitive and more successful as a diplomat than she was, for example, in the negotiations over the independence of Zimbabwe when she was wrongfooted. I hope she will be more successful than she was when she spoke in most unwise words in Peking about the delicate negotiations over the future of Hong Kong. I hope she will be more diplomatic than she has been on a number of occasions in Commonwealth circles. She has the opportunity, a supreme opportunity, of improving relations with the Soviet Union. She has said that she can work with Mr. Gorbachev. I hope that she can also listen and learn from him and that she will make a positive response to what I believe to be his positive initiatives.
Let us remember that though necessarily security and armaments dominate discussions such as we have had today, there are many other avenues that ought to be explored, many other possibilities for improving relationships between the great powers and ourselves. We should think of trade. We should think as many speakers have suggested, about the human rights questions. We should think of economic, scientific and cultural exchange. We must hope that the Moscow talks and perhaps also the Washington talks will begin to return that kind of issue to the world's agenda and that the consultations about to take place will help to bring about a much better situation in all these fields of human endeavour.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, this has indeed been a timely and valuable debate. It comes on the eve of the visit of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to Moscow. I am sure that she will take with her the good wishes and support of all those who have an interest in building an understanding between the Soviet Union and the free world.
255 We are indeed grateful to my noble friend Lord Home for introducing the debate. We have listened this evening to many excellent speeches of high quality. I think that all your Lordships have joined in paying their tribute to the excellent maiden speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. We have also had a most interesting historical analysis of the present situation by my noble friend Lord Beloff.
I am sure that I am not the only Member of your Lordships' House who hopes that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham—which, if I may say so, was characterised by his usual honesty and courage and knowledge of foreign affairs—will be read by all members of the Labour Party. I particularly commend it to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. But I say to him, because he commented on the NATO nuclear stockpile, that he might look at yesterday's Hansard of another place, at col. 162, when my right honourable friend the Prime Minister responded on that very point. She said:At the Montebello meeting of the nuclear planning group in 1983, NATO agreed both a major reduction in the number of its theatre nuclear weapons in Europe and the need for possible improvements to ensure the effectiveness of the remaining stockpile. This was clearly set out in the communiqué issued at the Montebello meeting. Since then SACEUR has put forward his proposals for these improvements. These are being pursued with the individual nations concerned, but, as Defence Ministers have made clear to the House, no decisions affecting the modernisation of the theatre nuclear weapons in service with British forces have yet been made".Let me state again a most important fact. For the first time since the Second World War there is a prospect of agreement between the super powers which would mean actual reductions in the arsenals of East and West.
What contribution can and does the United Kingdom make to arms control? We played a full and important role in the multilateral negotiations and discussions at the Geneva conference on disarmament and the negotiations in Vienna. While we sit at these tables in our own right, we never forget that we are members of an alliance. We acknowledge close and frequent bilateral and multilateral consultations with our allies and we use our influence fully in this way, as was demonstrated by the November 1986 statement by President Reagan and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister.
We also have regular contacts with representatives of the Soviet Union. Thus the Prime Minister will be visiting Moscow after consulting President Mitterrand and Chancellor Kohl. I hope that this answers the point that was raised about co-operation in Europe by the noble Earl, Lord Perth. This is the way forward—hard work and a realistic but constructive approach shared with our allies. We should not abandon it just when it is beginning to bring results.
What is the basis of our approach to arms control? First, arms control is one of the means by which we pursue a fundamental policy of government, to maintain and enhance our security. In principle, arms control can secure this at lower levels of armament and so bring political, economic and strategic benefits. But arms control and disarmament agreements are worth having only if they are fair, balanced and verifiable, a point rightly emphasised both by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill. 256 Moreover, experience shows that the ideal of a once-and-for-all breakthrough is an illusion. A realistic step-by-step approach is more likely to succeed than an all-or-nothing approach. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister agreed with President Reagan at Camp David last November:Reductions in nuclear weapons would increase the importance of eliminating conventional disparities. Nuclear weapons cannot be dealt with in isolation given the need for stable overall balance at all times.".On the question of strategic defence, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that the four points that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister agreed with President Reagan at the previous meeting at Camp David in December 1984 remain the basis of the Government's policy towards this issue. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister also agreed with President Reagan last November on the need to press ahead with the SDI research programme, which is permitted by the ABM Treaty.
We welcome President Gorbachev's decision in his 28th February statement to delink the question of an INF agreement from the separate question of the United States strategic defence initiative programme. Some people hail this delinking as a major concession. In fact, it was a reversion to a position that the Russians had adopted previously but then abandoned. Nevertheless, we welcomed it as a major step towards the acceptance of our long-standing NATO position of global zero-zero for the long range in the intermediate nuclear forces. However, we also recognised that Mr. Gorbachev had not resolved all the outstanding problems, particularly the present imbalance in shorter-range INF and in verification. These are not new obstacles designed to block agreement; they are consistent Western concerns which go back to the first US-oviet negotiations on INF in 1981 to 1983.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Oram, when he said that no doubt the Soviet economic difficulties have had a significant influence on the Soviet approach to arms control issues. But I would not agree with him in the remarks that he made at the conclusion of his speech about my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. I think that it has been her strength and her profound convictions which have contributed to the present position in which we find ourselves and in which we are all glad the Russians have come back to the negotiating table.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, suggested that the United States might regard Europe's contribution to its own defence as inadequate. To do so would be to ignore the fact that, of the forces in place in Europe, we Europeans provide 90 per cent. of the manpower, 85 per cent. of the tanks, 95 per cent. of the artillery and 80 per cent. of the combat aircraft as well as 70 per cent. of the fighting ships in European waters and the Atlantic.
§ Lord Gladwyn
With respect to the noble Baroness, I think that I did not say quite that. The Americans—perhaps I had better write to her about it.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I think that we shall both have to look at Hansard tomorrow to see exactly what the noble Lord said. If I may suggest it to him, it is an important point as to what Europe's contribution to the forces in Europe actually is. I think that the 257 point that he made was whether the United States regarded Europe's contribution as adequate.
The noble Lord—I hesitate to say this—I think went on to suggest that the WEU might provide a forum in which to concert European security thinking. This point was referred to also by the noble Lord, Lord Banks, and my noble friend Lord Reay. Perhaps I may draw to their attention what my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary said in Brussels on 16th March:A Europe which gets its own ideas straight is a far more rewarding partner for the United States and far more likely to have its views taken seriously than a Europe which speaks with a multitude of voices. If we want our particular European concerns to he clearly perceived and taken into account then we must argue them out clearly and come wherever possible to a common view".I think that confirms an important point made by my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton.
Our aim with the WEU is to make it a forum where this process can take place. Our objective is to make a clearer and more distinctive European contribution to the alliance as a whole, but there is no question of supplanting the alliance, of taking decisions in the WEU or of bringing the collective WEU position into alliance discussions. A more effective WEU must bring more, and not less, strength to the alliance and must not divide it.
However, may I emphasise that arms control is not the only issue. The whole point of the CSCE process is to improve European security in its widest sense, to remove barriers which prevent human contacts, to allow ideas to flow freely and to abandon human rights abuses. The Soviet Union still has a long way to go to live up to its Helsinki obligations in all these areas. Perhaps I may draw to your Lordships' attention once again what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in another place yesterday, at col. 162 of Hansard. Again I quote:I shall, of course, he raising those matters under the Helsinki accords, which deal with the free movement of people and ideas. 1 am having a bigger correspondence than I have ever had from people who wish certain personal cases to be raised and from people who hope that I will raise the matter of religious freedom and freedom of speech for all in the Soviet Union".My noble friend Lady Cox raised the question of psychiatric abuse in the Soviet Union. I can say to her that we regularly press the Soviet Union on its human rights record, including psychiatric abuse. We welcome the release of Dr. Koryagin from a labour camp and we hope that he and his sons will be allowed to emigrate. We also welcome the recent concessions by the Soviet Union in the jamming of the BBC's Russian Service and hope that it will be extended to the Polish Service and to other foreign radio stations which are still jammed. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, also made a specific point about cultural and scientific co-operation. I have taken note of it. I can say that we are working to increase co-operation both multilaterally and bilaterally, and have emphasised our own interest in increased contacts. The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, raised the question of co-operation in the Caribbean. I can reassure him that we work closely with the United States authorities, as we do with regional governments, on many aspects of relations with, and activities in, the Caribbean. Drugs and money-laundering are only two examples; but, as he 258 will know, we also work together over regional defence.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked two important questions. The first was about trade. After a period of stagnation in the late 1970s, our exports to the USSR rose to £735 million in 1984. In the face of an overall Soviet cutback in imports from the West, British exports have held up well and the figure for 1986 was £539 million. But, as I said in my opening speech, Mr. Gorbachev set a target of a 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. increase in trade. That is a statistic we are happy to endorse. I am sure that my right honourable friend will be discussing trade during her visit to Moscow.
The noble Lord also referred to Blowpipe and the Contras. That point was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rea. I should like to say categorically that the suggestion that the United Kingdom has supplied Blowpipe to the Contras is nonsense and the allegations that have been made about meetings between my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and United States officials on this subject are a complete fantasy. The British Government have at no time authorised the supply of Blowpipe or any other arms for the use of the Contras. The United States Government have assured us that the Contras do not have Blowpipe and it is not their intention to supply it. Neither is there any evidence from any reliable source that the Contras have the weapon. The British Government support a peaceful and not a military solution in Central America. Our actions have been, and will continue to be, consistent with that policy. As I said in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, we support the Contadora process.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, may I say that we are extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for that information and for that reassurance. Could she go further and answer my question in full: namely, to say whether there was a meeting between Mr. Casey and Colonel North on any other subject—that is to say, a meeting with the Prime Minister or any Government Minister?
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I can confirm that there was no meeting between my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and Mr. Casey and Colonel North; and I am glad to make that confirmation.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester also spoke about United States policy in Central America. I can only confirm to your Lordships that we remain committed to the Contadora process and to the political solution it seeks to achieve. We believe that the problems of the region cannot be solved by armed force, and we have constantly urged restraint on all sides.
Many of your Lordships—and I am thinking particularly of my noble friend Lord Eccles—have during this debate rightly emphasised the warmth and scope of our relationship with the United States, whether personal, political, economic or strategic. My noble friend Lord Home referred to the efforts of the late Sir Winston Churchill and of the late Lord Stockton to ensure intimate contact with United States leaders. If I may say so, with characteristic modesty he did not refer to his own considerable efforts and 259 success in this field, to which I am glad—and I am sure I speak on behalf of all your Lordships—to pay tribute.
This special friendship is every bit as marked today. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and President Reagan go out of their way to consult closely on the great issues of the day that affect us all. In this situation, and with NATO strong and united, I can reassure your Lordships and others about the danger of American isolationism. But we cannot ever afford to be complacent; nor can we afford to have anti-American attitudes, which I regret that I hear among members of the Labour Party and about which the noble Lord. Lord Beloff, has so convincingly argued this evening. We and our NATO allies are committed to defending ourselves, but we are also committed to dialogue.
As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in 1983 about the Soviet Union and Soviet communism:We have to live together on the same planet and that is why, when the circumstances are right, we must he ready to talk to the Soviet leadership. That is why we should grasp every genuine opportunity for dialogue and keep that dialogue going in the interests of East and West alike".My right honourable friend will travel to Moscow in that spirit.
§ 9.8 p.m.
Lord Home of the Hirsel
My Lords, I think your Lordships who have sat through this debate will agree that we have had an extraordinarily interesting afternoon. As each one of your Lordships has testified. the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, gave us a splendid start. But each contribution has been of the highest quality and I was most impressed by the very careful judgments which each noble Lord made on the two halves of the Motion as they were presented; the relationship between the United States and this country and between Europe—I take that correction—and the United States, and the possibilities that might be opened up for the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow.
The whole House, as the noble Lord, Lord Oram, reminded us, has wished the Prime Minister well and I know my right honourable friend will be very encouraged by that message. I should like to express particular gratitude to my noble friend Lady Young for the care and trouble she has taken with her replies, and to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition in this House for his courtesy and kindness in opening the debate from his side.
I will say no more this evening. I shall study Hansard because it will repay study. One thing is certain. This is not the end of the story and we shall return to the subject again, I have no doubt, in the months ahead. So, in thanking all your Lordships, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.