Commons Debate, Ukraine, Middle East, North Africa and Security – Bills Presented


Douglas Alexander (Shadow Foreign Secretary; Paisley and Renfrewshire South, Labour)
I hope I have got the gist of my hon. Friend’s point about the lifting of the blockade. Of course we want that, but in reality it will happen only with the agreement of the Israelis, who are ensuring that the blockade is in place at the moment. That therefore requires it to be part of a process, leading to the kind of meaningful negotiations of which I have spoken. After a previous conflict, one reason why I travelled to Gaza and Israel was to urge the lifting of the blockade, which at the time was affecting humanitarian supplies—not just access for humanitarian workers, but the most basic essentials of life in Gaza. Similarly, we need a dynamic process whereby we can get the blockade lifted and return to a greater degree of normality in Gaza, while at the same time have the kind of meaning negotiations of which I have been speaking.

I wish to make some progress, because I am conscious that many hon. Members want to speak. As I said, the north African region was the birthplace of the Arab uprising, and across the region countries are still struggling to address the consequences. Of course, although some might face similar problems, each north African state is different and distinctive. In Tunisia, the Government and the people continue to work towards a political settlement that can move the country forward. High unemployment and sporadic violent clashes on the streets continue, but the prospect for long-term political reconciliation remains strong, and the international community must unite around supporting elections to take place later this year.

The situation in Libya stands in marked contrast to the story of Tunisian progress. The intensification of fighting near the capital Tripoli has led to calls for an urgent and immediate ceasefire and the Libyan Cabinet submitted its resignation en masse to Parliament, which is today taking refuge in a ferry in the city of Tobruk after being forced out by the Tripoli militias. The UK

Government issued a joint statement on 25 August saying that outside interference in Libya would exacerbate divisions and undermine Libya’s democratic transition, but given the deteriorating security situation, I am sure the Foreign Secretary would agree that if the opportunity for real political reconciliation is to be seized, the UK, along with our allies France, Germany, Italy and the United States, have a responsibility and role to play. It is vital that international partners continue to encourage all sides in Libya to engage constructively in the democratic process, while continuing our active backing of the UN support mission there. The UN Libya envoy arriving in Tripoli on Monday said it was a society that was fed up with conflict. We know that the people of Libya want the fighting to stop; now we need to see Libya’s political leaders taking action to resolve this crisis.

I will speak briefly about Iran. In an already volatile region at a particularly perilous period, a nuclear-armed Iran poses a threat not only to its neighbours, but to the stability of the whole region, so the agreement in November 2013 to curb enrichment and grant greater access to inspectors was a significant step forward and one that we welcomed. As many Members across the House have acknowledged, however, the strength of the agreement will be tested through its implementation. In recent weeks, the talks between the P5 plus 1 have clearly stalled over disagreements on the purpose of Iran’s nuclear programme. The deadline to overcome these difficulties is fast approaching, so as meetings take place in New York later this month, the international community must remain focused on securing a comprehensive deal.

Until Russian troops violated the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine in 2014, no country had seized the territory of another European country by force since 1945. The recent ceasefire deal agreed last week was therefore a welcome sign of progress, but given the continuing potential for catastrophic misunderstanding or simply misjudgment on the ground, the priority must remain de-escalation. Russian troops must return to their bases, President Putin must cease his backing for separatist militias and the Kremlin must stop the flow of arms and personnel across the Russian border into Ukraine. Until then, Europe must continue to be explicit about the real costs and consequences for Russia if it fails to de-escalate the crisis.

Only a graduated hierarchy of diplomatic and economic measures can help President Putin to change course. That is why I welcome all the steps agreed last week at the NATO summit in Wales, specifically with regard to the reassurances given to NATO’s vital eastern European members and partners. In the face of renewed Russian aggression and the re-emergence of territorial disputes on the continent, the need for NATO to revisit its stated core purpose—securing a Europe that is whole, free and at peace—has been brought into stark relief.

This debate could not cover several other pressing issues that have rightly been the focus of the Foreign Secretary’s effort since his appointment. No doubt today the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary will cover in more detail some of the domestic aspects of security and counter-terrorism. As the Leader of the Opposition made clear on Monday, the Government must now demonstrate a clear-eyed understanding that wherever our interests lie, we need a strategy that combines military readiness with political, diplomatic and strategic alliances, and in their efforts to develop and advance such an approach, I hope they will continue to enjoy our support.

Several hon. Members:

Lindsay Hoyle (Chairman of Ways and Means; Chorley, Labour)
Order. We will start with a seven-minute limit, which means we should get everyone in, but if we can help each other, it will make a difference. I call Sir Richard Ottaway.

Richard Ottaway (Croydon South, Conservative)
It is a pleasure to follow the shadow Foreign Secretary—I agreed with virtually everything he said.

Originally, the NATO summit was primarily to deal with the future of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of ISAF forces, but two issues that threaten the world order dominated the agenda: first, the risk posed by Islamist extremism, and secondly the long-term implications of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The Syria vote last August left a vacuum in the world order, but no one predicted that ISIS would conquer large swathes of Syria and Iraq and impose terror, or that Russia would invade Crimea and directly fuel a bloody civil war in eastern Ukraine. Both crises, although unexpected, are not just regional conflicts and both threaten the security of Europe. The hybrid war led by Putin and the Islamist terror imposed by the jihadists cannot be tackled with traditional responses.

The Ukrainian crisis is a wake-up call for the west. Russian imperialism and revisionism are back. We have tried to address it with diplomacy, but clearly it has not worked, so we have imposed sanctions. However, not every country has complied with the new rules. Spain, for instance, is still allowing the Russian navy to refuel in Ceuta. The bans and asset freezes have now been escalated, but we must be ready to take more hard-line measures. Even France has decided to stop the delivery of the Mistral warships. The City of London and Russian transactions should be our next targets. As Edward Lucas, senior economist for The Economist and a witness before the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the other day:

“The City is a fifth column in this country and it lobbies very hard against restrictions on the import and laundry of dirty money here.”

This has to end. The City cannot be allowed to get away with it.

Sanctions only, however, will not deter an irrational and unpredictable Vladimir Putin, who reportedly said that

“if I want, I will have Kiev in two weeks”.

We must show more solidarity with countries in the vicinity of Russia, especially now that Russian forces have crossed the border and kidnapped an Estonian officer. I welcome the Prime Minister’s reassurance on Monday that Estonia is a red line for NATO.

Perhaps we should forget about the NATO-Russian Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Co-operation and Security and install permanent NATO bases in the member states that were once part of the communist bloc. Russia itself has breached that agreement by annexing Crimea and intervening in Ukraine. We must not forget about Ukraine. Kiev needs our reassurance, but mostly our money to contain a severe economic crisis. The freeze of the conflict in eastern Ukraine could end up in another no man’s land being influenced by Russia, like Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia or Moldova’s Transnistria and Gagauzia.

The second major threat is from Islamist extremism. ISIS is a manifestation of the brutal and poisonous extremism that has developed in the middle east, north Africa and the Sahel. It has been thriving on the sectarian violence triggered by the polarising Shi’a Government of Nouri al-Maliki. In addition, the fight against Assad has strengthened the jihadists. Islamist warriors from all over the world, including the UK, have joined ISIS in its crusade to topple the Syrian dictator. Cash, too, has flooded in from wealthy Gulf donors. However, I completely accept the word of Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al-Saud, the hugely respected Saudi Arabian ambassador to London, when he denies his Government’s involvement.

The suspicion remains, however, that shadowy middle eastern figures are funding terrorism, and the UK has been leading efforts to halt that flow. I welcome the UN resolution, drafted by the UK and adopted by everyone, threatening sanctions against ISIS financiers and weapons suppliers. However, ISIS does not rely solely on that money; it has been flourishing on smuggling, extorting taxes and ransoms, plundering and selling oil from invaded territories.

Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex, Conservative)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that at a meeting tomorrow in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, hosted by the Saudis, the Gulf states, with John Kerry present, are to decide how best to move forward in the fight against ISIS? Does he agree that they have a perfect chance to show, through bold and decisive action, that they will not tolerate what ISIS is doing and well understand the need to deal with it?

Richard Ottaway (Croydon South, Conservative)
I completely agree with my right hon. Friend and I welcome that meeting. Indeed, he pre-empts my next remark. ISIS must be stopped and defeated, and I for one will support the Government’s plan to join the United States in air strikes if they decide to do so.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham, Conservative)
On air strikes, ISIL and Syria, my right hon. Friend will be aware of the words of Robert Ford, the former US envoy to Syria, who said that the current international policy on Syria does not reflect the reality on the ground. That being the case, does my right hon. Friend agree that the international community now needs to review its policy on Syria?

Richard Ottaway (Croydon South, Conservative)
I have to confess that I rather agree with the Foreign Secretary that Syria is very much a different case from Iraq. We have to be guided by those in the Foreign Office who are closer to the ground and to the intelligence that has been received on the ground.

The focus should now be on Iraq and then we can think about how to address the situation in Syria. However, to be frank, a western intervention will not magically solve the problems on the ground. There is a need for Arab countries to join the coalition of the willing to step in and confront ISIS militarily and politically. A huge rift has arisen between the Sunnis, the Shi’as and, to a degree, the Kurds. The ISIS surge is fuelled by a Sunni uprising, but in truth the Sunnis are not fans of ISIS. In my view, they would ditch the jihadists once a “Sunnistan” was established. As ISIS is hostile to everybody, I predict that it will have a relatively short life, but eventually I think these developments will result in a Kurdistan in the north, a “Sunnistan” in the west and a “Shi’astan” in the south.

However, the threats posed by a revanchist Russia and an extremist ISIS are not the only ones currently facing the world—although they are the most pressing. The internet and modern methods of communication have enabled local and regional extremisms to flourish. Thanks to them, we are witnessing a wave of global tribalism, starting with the Scottish referendum in our own backyard. In times like these we realise how much we depend on our international alliances to address present and future risks.

Over the summer recess, we heard a lot from bishops and generals, who gave us the benefit of their views. The Bishop of Leeds is a great friend of mine. Indeed, he was the best bishop that Croydon ever had, but to accuse the Government of lacking a strategy towards the Christians stuck on a mountain in Syria is, I think, the wrong approach. Our strategy is to have an Army, to be a member of NATO, to be a member of international institutions and then to react when the circumstances arise. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children wants children to be saved; Médecins Sans Frontières wants more health services. These are single-issue lobbying organisations. I think the Churches should recognise that. Again, that goes for the generals who on numerous occasions called for Parliament to be recalled to bomb anywhere they could think of. In this area the only people who can make policy are those who are prepared to seek election and to stand on a platform to defend it, not those who sit in armchairs.

Jack Straw (Blackburn, Labour)
I draw to the House’s attention the fact that I am co-chairman of the all-party group on Iran and also co-chairman of the British-Turkish Forum.

I begin by echoing the sentiments expressed by my right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary to the Foreign Secretary—a great post that I hope he enjoys. I always felt it was living history, but I had echoing in my head the words of Henry Ford: history was “one damned thing after another”. So it was for me, and so I think it will be for the Foreign Secretary.

John Maynard Keynes famously said:

“When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”

The information on Syria has changed. The Assad regime is not going to go and, with respect to the Foreign Secretary, I did not really feel that he was any more convinced than we were by the answer he gave. The situation has simply changed. I would not put any money on that regime now going, and if we want to deal with the greater evil, in my view there has to be communication—not a re-establishment of relations—with it. I firmly believe that those in the Government should follow up the entirely sensible suggestion from their hon. Friend Crispin Blunt and many others in this House that we need to see a restoration of the Geneva arrangements and, critically, we need to see Iran brought into that process as well, because there will not be a solution to the problems of Syria—and therefore to the problems of Iraq—without that regional agreement, which yes involves Turkey, but also has to involve Iran. With respect to Sir Richard Ottaway, we will not get a solution in Iraq unless we solve Syria as well, because that border is so porous.

Iran has played a constructive part in trying to defeat ISIL and in securing the necessary change in Iraq. The US Administration, as is well known, have been in direct communication with the Iranians and, according to well sourced reports, are now doing all they can to reach agreement with Iran in the P5 plus 1 talks on the nuclear issue. I greatly welcomed the acts of the Foreign Secretary’s predecessor in agreeing in principle to reopen the embassies in Tehran, but those were promised for May. They were pushed back to August and they have now been pushed back to some other date, yet to be defined. I ask the Foreign Secretary: why is this? I know the Iranians are not the easiest partners—a feeling which, I should say, is reciprocated by them—but the Administration in Tehran are under domestic pressure. They have a population desperate for links with the west, and if we build a partnership with them, we can do a great deal more than we have.

I hope, too, that the British Government will abandon their view that we should try to punish Iran through trade. We are the only Government doing this. As US-led sanctions against Iran were being tightened, guess what? Hard-nosed as ever, the United States was increasing its exports to Iran, to the benefit of its farming and its pharmaceutical companies. In Britain, we have been punishing our own companies—nobody else—by ensuring that trade with the Iranians plummets.

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham, Conservative)
I completely concur with the right hon. Gentleman on that point. A Coventry-based company has worked with the Iranians in the past to produce their national state car. That company would like to do much more work with the Iranians, but because of these policies it is impossible to do so.

Jack Straw (Blackburn, Labour)
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. The United States has gone out of its way to assist its own companies to ensure that they exploit, as widely as possible, the provisions in the sanctions regime—including those that were extended in the agreement with Iran of 24 November last year—and take up these opportunities, and western European countries are doing the same. Why is Britain failing to take these opportunities?

Alistair Burt (North East Bedfordshire, Conservative)
I will be very brief. Just before history gets completely rewritten, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks that pressure on the economy in Iran played any part whatever in bringing Iran back to the negotiating table to talk about its nuclear file?

Jack Straw (Blackburn, Labour)
I am absolutely certain that it did, but the sanctions, led by the United States, allowed for the export from the west to Iran of agricultural products, food products and pharmaceuticals. Those concessions were exploited by the United States and western European countries. It is only the United Kingdom that has added to those sanctions, through additional, gratuitous efforts that simply hurt United Kingdom companies, not Iran.

Let me now turn to Israel and Palestine. Like everybody else in this House, I have no brief whatever for Hamas. It was I who introduced the Terrorism Act 2000 and then, as soon as it was on the statute book, ensured that Hamas, along with 20 other terrorist organisations, was proscribed as a terrorist organisation. I was right to do that then and it is right for it to stay as a terrorist outfit. Hamas breached every rule in the book by launching rockets against the civilian population in Israel, but, as the Foreign Secretary said, that cannot conceivably justify the wholly disproportionate response of the Israelis in allowing 2,000 mainly innocent men, women and children to be killed in the way that they did. Whatever they say, they did not have a care for the civilian population.

Now, as we have heard, the Israelis have decided to annex over 1,000 acres of Palestinian land near Bethlehem. I congratulate the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on their strong words—this was “utterly deplorable”, according to the Prime Minister, and illegal under international law—but what I ask is, what are we going to do about it? I say, with respect, that the Israelis do not care what is said by any western European Government. I used to think something different, but it is not the case; provided that this more right-wing and more extreme Israeli Government have the United States Congress in their pocket, which they do, they do not care about sentiment here. They would care if we were to do what we should be doing, which is to ensure that goods produced in the occupied territories with the label of Israel are treated like any other counterfeit goods and subject to strict rules and additional tariffs.

I am not in favour for a moment of generalised boycotts or sanctions against Israel, but I am in favour of an EU démarche on Israel to get it to pull back—and if it does not do that, we should withdraw our ambassadors and temporarily downgrade our diplomatic arrangements with the country. I am also strongly in favour of recognising Palestine as a state with a formal status in the United Nations. All the things that Israel said would happen if we were to do this have happened anyway—and with a vengeance.

Let me turn to the issue of Russia and Ukraine. I support the approach that the Government are broadly taking in respect of Russia. The brutal truth is that, at the moment, Vladimir Putin believes that he is winning by his own calculus, because he has more to gain than to lose in the region than the west does. The annexation of the Crimea is now a fait accompli, but I believe that over time these sanctions will hurt Russia. It is significantly economically weaker than we are. Its economy is half our size for a population twice our size, and it is over-dependent on energy. As well as maintaining sanctions, we must work out what we can legitimately offer Russia in the final negotiation and, above all, we must start to reduce Europe’s over-dependence on Russian hydrocarbons. That is what lies behind Russia’s belief that it can win. It must not be allowed to do so.


Gerald Howarth (Aldershot, Conservative)
I would like member countries to get up to 2%. At least they will be fulfilling the commitments to which they have signed up. Clearly, the international situation is so demanding that we all need to review whether that is the correct level of expenditure. At the moment, NATO depends heavily on the contribution of the United States. The people of Britain and Europe must understand that American taxpayers have made a big contribution to our overall defence.

On the question of Ukraine and Russia, it is instructive to remind ourselves that, at the NATO-Russia Council meeting in 2002, Vladimir Putin said:

“Russia is prepared to act in accordance with international law, international rules in the course of a civilised dialogue for the achieving of common and joint ends.”

Indeed, in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear arsenal—the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world—the Budapest agreement, which was signed by his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, said:

“The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine…to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”

Those three nations reaffirmed their obligation

“to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.”

We have seen a flagrant breach of that agreement, which was signed by Boris Yeltsin, Bill Clinton and John Major. If Putin can simply renege on the agreements he has signed, what does that 2002 speech mean?

Russia now believes in the extraordinary and dangerous doctrine that it can intervene in other sovereign countries if it believes there is any threat to those who have Russian connections or who speak Russian. That is chilling. We should remind ourselves that, in The Daily Telegraph, the Russian ambassador wrote:

“With the rights of national minorities violated and the interests of regions disregarded, the people of Crimea found it necessary to determine their own political future by means of a referendum—and to do it fast.”

We know that it was Russian military intervention that took Ukraine. We need to be clear that there is no land link between Russia and Crimea at the moment. All that is going on in eastern Ukraine is designed to soften it up so that, at some point, Putin will come in, possibly link up with Odessa and Transnistria, and render the rump of Ukraine a landlocked country. They are very serious matters. We must make it clear to Russia that the Baltic states are subject to article 5. There can be absolutely no doubt about it. It is irrefutable that article 5 stands.

I am sorry that we have not had enough time to debate these matters. The Scottish referendum will take place next Thursday. With Russia penetrating our airspace and following our sea lanes, the idea that we should surrender a part of the United Kingdom and render it a foreign country and therefore not part of NATO—

John Bercow (Speaker)
Order. I call Mark Hendrick.

Mark Hendrick (Preston, Labour)
It is a pleasure to follow Sir Gerald Howarth. I will carry on in that vein. As he rightly said, Putin has reneged on the Budapest accord. To develop my argument, I will talk about Russia’s past and what will happen in future.

The UN estimates that, since the Russian annexation of Crimea in April, nearly 2,600 people have been killed in fighting between pro-Russian separatist rebels and the Ukrainian army in eastern Ukraine. The UN figure does not include the 298 passengers and crew of Malaysian Airlines MH17, which was shot down in the area by separatist rebels on 18 July.

Ukraine is not the first conflict to be frozen and it will not be the last. For some years, Russia has become increasingly uneasy about the expansion of both NATO and the European Union. As the EU has become bigger, Russia has seen the buffer of states between her borders and those of EU states dramatically reduced. In the north-east of the EU, they are non-existent. Many in Russia believe that the west reneged on an informal agreement in 1990 not to expand NATO eastwards. That misunderstanding or breach of trust is the basis for the current instability in eastern Europe.

It is not the first time Russia has used proxy forces to destabilise countries and create frozen conflicts. In 1992, during the break-up of the Soviet Union, the newly created country of Moldova was destabilised when its large ethnic Russian population of 200,000 people chose to break away and join Russia. As in Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists fought Government forces to a standstill. Russia committed 150,000 so-called peacekeepers to Transnistria. They are still there today. Transnistria held a referendum in 2006 similar to that we saw in Crimea, voting heavily in favour of joining Russia. The region’s status has still to be decided.

For Georgia, the current crisis in Ukraine and Crimea has clear parallels with its own conflict with Russia in 2008. After its application for NATO membership, ethnic Russian separatists rose up in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and there were reports of “unidentified troops” posing as local insurgents in Georgia’s separatist regions. Russia intervened under similar auspices, claiming the citizens’ right to self-determination, separation and Russian protection under international law. As in Moldova, the statuses of the two breakaway regions are still to be formally decided. Although they are so-called independent regions, they are effectively now as much a part of Russia as Crimea.

The current rebel advance has raised fears that the Kremlin may seek to create a land corridor between Russia and Crimea. As with Moldova and Georgia, analysts have speculated that Putin does not want a Crimea-style annexation, which would be expensive and militarily difficult, but instead wants to create a “frozen conflict” that would give Moscow permanent leverage in Ukraine. Only time will tell whether eastern Ukraine will be annexed, too.

I feel that the west has seriously misjudged Putin and does not seem to understand where he is coming from and what he hopes to achieve. In many Russian minds, Ukraine is a part of Russia. Putin has certainly reflected that view in public with recent press conferences referring to Ukraine as either little Russia or, in some cases, new Russia. He says that part of Ukraine’s territories are eastern Europe, but that the greater part are a gift from Russia.

Putin witnessed first hand the mismanagement of the Russian economy, open corruption and the economic hardships that the collapse of the USSR and market forces brought to Russia. It is with the period that saw the decline of the Soviet Union and of Russia in mind that Putin has said quite openly that he regrets

“the passing of the Soviet Union”

and that the blame for much of the past lies squarely at the feet of the west.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty considers an attack in terms of “armed force”, yet Russia is currently inciting an insurgency.

Gerald Howarth (Aldershot, Conservative)
The hon. Gentleman is talking about the Baltic states. He will know that Kaliningrad is a part of Russia on the Baltic sea, surrounded by Poland and Lithuania. Does he fear that Russia might try to produce a land link between itself and Kaliningrad?

Mark Hendrick (Preston, Labour)
I think that is perfectly possible and I concur with the hon. Gentleman. I think that, even though Ukraine is not an article 5 member of NATO, it poses many questions about NATO members, particularly the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Kaliningrad, like Crimea, is strategically very important to the Russians and if the west does not take strong action at some point, possibly going beyond sanctions, the west, particularly countries such as the UK, will suffer and might enter a third world war. The situation is far more serious than it has been painted. It is at least as serious as what is happening in Iraq and Syria for the stability and future of Europe. I hope that the west sees Putin for what he is and treats him not as a former economic Minister but as a former head of the KGB.

Julian Lewis (New Forest East, Conservative)
I apologise to colleagues for having missed some of the Back-Bench speeches earlier due to an unbreakable commitment related to the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.

As was observed earlier, when my hon. Friend Mr Jenkin is thought about in defence terms the one word that will be associated with him will be “strategy”. When my political epitaph comes to be written, I guess most people would think that the one word that would be associated me would be “Trident”—or, if they were feeling kinder, it might be “deterrence”. Actually, a different word ought to be associated with what I am trying to outline in terms of strategy today: “containment”. Containment is the key to what we need to do in the two very different scenarios of Russia’s behaviour and ISIL’s behaviour. Containment sometimes has to be done by means of a balance of terror, as when dealing with a nuclear-armed state such as Russia. On other occasions, it has to be done with the more traditional concept of the balance of power, as when dealing with states such as those of the middle east. Containment by means of the balance of power often means active intervention.

Let me refer briefly to two scenarios. In the case of Russia and Ukraine, what Russia is doing is not new, as Mark Hendrick observed in his interesting speech. In fact, it is based on a model of what it did in the immediate aftermath of the second world war, when countries such as Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Hungary were first subverted and then taken over. I have previously mentioned the important work of Professor Anatol Lieven in analysing the situation in Ukraine. Time prevents me from doing more than pointing out that he has consistently said that the only way in which a disaster will be averted is for some considerable degree of autonomy to be awarded to the Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine. If we try to egg on the other parts of Ukraine to win militarily, Russia will simply step up its military effort and the overall effect will be disastrous.

Helen Goodman (Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport); Bishop Auckland, Labour)
The hon. Gentleman is making a very powerful point, and I agree with him. Did he agree with the remarks of Mr Redwood, as I was somewhat alarmed to discover that I did?

Julian Lewis (New Forest East, Conservative)
Sadly, that is one of the Back-Bench speeches that I missed.

I am grateful, in any case, for the hon. Lady’s intervention, as it gives me a little more time to refer to the important point made by my hon. Friend Sir Gerald Howarth. There is a huge difference between NATO members that are covered by the article 5 guarantee and other countries, no matter how sympathetic we are towards them, that are not. When I was 16, Czechoslovakia was invaded. I thought what a shame it was that while Czechoslovakia was temporarily free we did not scoop up this poor vulnerable country under the protection of NATO. But I was 16 then—I am not 16 now, and I know the realities. I know that what was done in the aftermath of the second world war was nothing more than a recognition of the reality that the west could band together to protect itself by means of NATO, but it could not, at that stage, protect the countries of central and eastern Europe. Russia had to be contained by means of the balance of terror involving nuclear deterrence.

Let me quickly move on to ISIL. We are not in a situation where we have a choice of good outcomes. Mr McFadden and my hon. Friend Nadhim Zahawi set out certain conditions in hoping for a good outcome in relation to the choices that face us. I hope they are right, but the likelihood is that there will be no good outcome in these confrontations—that no good guys are going to come out on top, but only somebody of the stripe of an Arab dictator, on the one hand, or revolutionary jihadists on the other.

That is where we move on to containment by means of a balance of power, whereby sometimes there is no ally to be helped and all we can do is try to ensure that no one of a bunch of undesirable actors on the international stage gets to be dominant. That is what we have to do in this case. That is why I gently disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex about the vote that we had last year. I am absolutely delighted to look back on the fact that I was one of the people who made sure that we did not intervene to drag down Assad, atrocious though he is, because the upshot of that would have been similar to that of dragging down Gaddafi. The effect of the latter was not to further western strategic interests but the interests of our deadly enemies on the jihadist front.


Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour)
I think that is an incredibly generous description of how NATO is behaving under President Obama, although it certainly was belligerent under Bush.

NATO’s endless eastward expansion has encouraged an equal and opposite reaction on the other side, in Russia. Although I am not a defender of Putin or, indeed, of Russian foreign policy, one has to say that if there was a general agreement that Ukraine should be a neutral, non-nuclear state, the presence of NATO forces in Ukraine and joint exercises with Ukrainian forces were likely to encourage the Russian military to do the same across the border. If we want to see peace in the region, as we all do, surely there has to be demilitarisation and a process that brings about a peaceful reconciliation in Ukraine, if that is at all possible. Instead, what I hear all the time is the ratcheting up of the military options on both sides, with more and more exercises and more and more overflying.

This is a very dangerous situation that could indeed lead to some dreadful conflict. I want to sound a note of caution about it and also draw attention to the fact that NATO now gives itself the right to involve itself in any part of the world, at any time, through its rapid reaction force. Indeed, the Prime Minister wanted to bring another 33 countries on board. A global military power that can go in anywhere is not necessarily a good thing; indeed, it can provoke all the opposition and all the problems that we are discussing in today’s debate.

The question I want to put to the Minister—to which I hope I will get a reply either today or in writing—is this. The mutual defence agreement between Britain and the USA on the sharing of nuclear information, originally signed in 1958, comes up for renewal this year. There is no date set for Parliament to debate it, and apparently the Government do not seem terribly keen on that, yet President Obama sent a message to Congress on 24 July saying that he approved of the renewal of the agreement and hoped that Congress would approve it. If it is good enough for Congress to debate the mutual defence agreement, surely it is good enough for us to debate it as well.

Helen Goodman (Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport); Bishop Auckland, Labour)
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways to bring down conflict, tension and the international temperature is to be predictable? These unclear mandates lead to uncertainty and unpredictability.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour)
Indeed, and the daily dangers from the situation in Ukraine and eastern Europe are pretty obvious for everyone to see. I hope we can think more carefully about this, rather than rushing more and more troops, more and more arms and more and more missiles into the area, and instead try to search for a political solution, difficult as I obviously recognise that to be.

I want to make two other points. This morning a number of us went to Room 14 to hear a statement from Dr Mustafa Barghouti of the Palestine National Initiative. He showed us a short film that was appalling, shocking and horrible. All I was seeing were pictures of buildings in Gaza that I have visited and known. They are all ruined, and there are 2,000 people dead and many families completely bereft of everything. The bitterness from that bombing by Israel continues and will continue for a very long time. Surely there should have been a response by the British Government on this. It is not good enough just to talk about Israel’s right to exist and its right to self-defence. There was a total disproportionality about the whole conflict. More than 2,000 Palestinians are dead; sadly, 100 Israelis are dead. I wish no one had died from that conflict, but unless we address the rights of and justice for the Palestinian people—their right to nationhood, their right to recognition, their right to travel, their right to trade; all those things—and instead keep them in prison in Gaza, this will all break out again in the not-too-distant future and we will have a renewal of all the horrible bloodletting that has happened over the past month.

There was a massive lobby of Parliament yesterday by supporters of Palestine. On 9 August, 150,000 people came on a demonstration in London to show their solidarity with people under bombardment. It is up to us, as one of the authors of the Sykes-Picot agreement, which is the antecedent of many of these problems, to be prepared politically to do something about the problem, at the very least by suspending all military arrangements with Israel. Although I recognise that that will not solve the problem, it would at least send a significant political message.

My final point in my remaining minute is simply this. I have been a Member of this House long enough to have discussed the Afghanistan war, the Iraq war, the Libya conflict and indeed, before that, the Gulf war. I am no supporter, sympathiser, apologist or whatever for ISIL—for what it stands for, what it does, what its methods are or for its current threat and attacks on the Kurdish people. Surely, however, some basic understanding of history will recognise that our interventions and our behaviour—American interventions, American behaviour—have created the circumstances in which ISIL has grown up. The money now going into the region for arms—from Saudi and other sources—as well as all the other weapons going in are a major cause of the current conflict within Iraq. Let us learn the lesson: intervention everywhere is surely not the solution; the solution is working with people on development and bringing about peaceful solutions to problems rather than the obsession with taking military intervention around the world.

Charles Walker (Broxbourne, Conservative)
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me to speak in this debate on the middle east and security matters. I am sorry that I have been nipping in and out of the Chamber.

It is important to get my concerns on the record, and I will be brief. I am greatly concerned about the impact that events in the middle east are having on our country, and about how these events are being perverted to give licence to hate. As a tolerant society, we cannot tolerate British people hating British people on the basis of the faith they are born into or choose to follow. I am deeply disturbed by the personal letters I have received from a number of my Jewish constituents—I have only 250 of them—expressing their distress at what the future holds in the UK for them and their families.

These are British citizens who have as much to do with the middle east as I do. It is not right that synagogues now have to be protected by security guards and that banners are being seen and chants are being heard that say, “Kill all Jews”, “Hitler was right” and “Death to all Jews”. This situation is not tolerable. There are no excuses.

David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate, Conservative)
I totally agree with my hon. Friend, and he is certainly right to raise issues about our Jewish constituents in this debate about security. The issue goes further than the physical threats. For the first time in my surgery, I encountered a family that is now fearful of its children going on a public bus to a Jewish school, or even of them going alone into the local Asda or Tesco. The family thinks how they look will give an indication of their being Jewish and that people will take an anti-Semitic view.

Charles Walker (Broxbourne, Conservative)
I am aware of those concerns; they are shared by members of the Jewish faith in my constituency.

The cancer of anti-Semitism is stalking our country under the disguise of a new cloak. This cloak must be stripped away, exposing the wickedness of those who lurk behind it. I am no saint in these matters. We all have the weakness to give in to the easy seduction of hate, so it is incumbent on us all to recognise the siren calls of that weakness and keep them in check.

In coming here today, I do not want to stand behind my Jewish constituents; I do not want to stand beside them; I want to stand in front of them. I say this: if I had Christian constituents, Hindu constituents or Muslim constituents who felt threatened as a result of their faith or colour, I would stand in front of them as well.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green)
I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in this thoughtful debate. I will start my brief remarks with a reflection on Ukraine.

Russia is undoubtedly breaching international law and its previous commitment to non-interference in Ukraine’s affairs. I want to make it crystal clear that I condemn President Putin’s hostile actions and violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. We do, however, have to understand better what is going on in that area if we are de-escalate the situation and find the solutions that we seek. Russia has long been suspicious of western intentions on its borders, and it fears encirclement. The history and culture of Ukraine and Russia are inextricably bound together. In this context, no Russian Government would coolly accept the drawing of Ukraine into the EU or NATO.

Extremely experienced and respected commentators and ex-diplomats, including Sir Roderic Braithwaite and Sir Brian Barder, have observed that the west has badly mishandled relations with both Ukraine and Moscow with irresponsible talk of EU and NATO membership. Members of the European Parliament will vote next week on whether to ratify the EU-UK association agreement. I think we should be deeply uneasy about actions and statements that suggest a wish to draw Ukraine into NATO or the EU at a time when that will only escalate tensions.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North, Labour)
Does the hon. Lady agree that at the time of Ukraine’s independence at the end of the Soviet Union it became specifically a non-nuclear power, and specifically sought to be neutral-ish within the region and to pursue a peaceful course? Does she not think that that is something that we should have respected, and should respect now?

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green)
I absolutely believe that that is at the heart of the problems that we are facing. The association agreement requires Ukraine to steadily approximate its legislation to that of the EU, a process to be monitored and even enforced by the EU. It sets up a political dialogue designed explicitly to

“promote gradual convergence on foreign and security matters with the aim of Ukraine’s ever-deeper involvement in the European security area.”

That is not compatible with what my hon. Friend has just described, namely the understanding and settlement for Ukraine in the past. I believe that at a time of such heightened tension, this agreement is inflammatory and divisive.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham, Liberal Democrat)
Does the hon. Lady accept that there are neutral countries in the European Union, including Ireland, and that that does not imply any kind of military threat to Russia? Does she accept that the Budapest memorandum was actually about the giving up of nuclear weapons—it did not particularly mention any alliances—in return for the guarantee of the respecting of Ukraine’s existing borders and its independence, which Russia has clearly breached?

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green)
There is no doubt that Russia has clearly breached that, and I absolutely condemn Russia as much as anyone else in the House, but I also think that the EU has been particularly provocative in the actions that it has taken and in the language in the association agreement. In my view, to suggest that Ukraine has a chance of joining the EU or NATO undermines the agreement that was made in the past.

In Washington, hawks in Congress are shouting about appeasement, and demanding action such as a NATO rapid reaction force to be deployed across eastern Europe to deter Moscow. Meanwhile, Britain is planning to send troops to Ukraine for exercises. I seriously question whether those actions will have the desired effect. The best instrument for co-operation and peace must be the UN Security Council. By definition, that must include Russian involvement, and must take account of Russia’s interests and fears in its own backyard. I share the view that we should declare that Ukrainian membership of either the EU or NATO is not on the cards, and never will be. That might help to calm the situation, and it would be no more than a recognition of geopolitical reality. At the same time, Russia must stop seeing the world in zero-sum terms, and must stop seeing Ukraine as an extension of Russia.

There are many reasons why it is in Europe’s best interests to re-engage with Russia, and not the least of those is the rise of the vicious and barbaric terrorism in the middle east. That is why I believe that we should be very concerned about what is happening in the context of the rise of ISIL. On Monday, the Prime Minister rightly said:

“Britain is clear that we need to oppose not only violent extremists, but the extremist narrative.”—[Hansard, 8 September 2014; Vol. 585, c. 660.]

If we are to halt the influence of ISIL’s vile narrative, we would do well to try to better understand it, and to understand why it appeals to some disenchanted and marginalised young men. Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford university’s peace studies department, who is a specialist in international security and politics, points out that ISIL and others like it make effective use of western foreign policy to advance their warped message of a western expansionist “far enemy” intent on destroying Islam. ISIL does not care about consistency, justice, human rights or international law, but it has been very adept at exploiting any double standards on our part—such as the illegal invasion of Iraq, and such as continuing support for the Israeli Government despite ongoing breaches of international law, repeated horrific and disproportionate attacks on Gaza, and, now, the biggest land grab in the occupied territories for 30 years.

Double standards are wrong in themselves, but the fact they are exploited by ISIL is another reason, if it were needed, to ensure that we have a foreign policy with—dare I say—an ethical dimension. I do not believe that there is a “quick fix” military response that will defeat the likes of ISIL. Its ideology and influence need to be undermined, and airstrikes will do the opposite. That is precisely why ISIL is goading us to invade with its terrible, barbaric beheadings. That analysis is backed up by Richard Barrett, the former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, who warns that western military action would precisely play into IS hands and would, in a sense, be a recruiting sergeant for it. Airstrikes are sometimes promoted as some kind of intervention-light, whereas we know there is really no such thing—that precision accuracy is in reality all too often not precise. As ISIL well knows, those bombs often result in civilian deaths, which would greatly assist the extremists’ long-term recruitment drive. I completely understand the desire to do something, as people are being murdered, starved and raped, but we must not make things worse.

In the short term, the Red Cross principle of impartial aid to all victims of armed conflict must now dominate as our model for humanitarian intervention, not the doctrine that we must pick one side and help it. Moreover, our diplomatic efforts must intensify, and I want to know what progress has been made on working with Turkey, given the major concerns that ISIL is selling stolen oil through the Turkish border. What pressure are we putting on the Gulf regimes like Saudi Arabia—and surely that is compromised when, as I discovered in an answer received just today to a parliamentary question, it transpires that we have more than 200 civil servants from the MOD working for the Saudi Government?

Then there is Qatar, from which funds are often channelled to extremist groups, yet this is the same Qatar to whom we also sell millions of pounds-worth of weaponry. Surely we have more leverage than just calling Qatar “unwise” as the Prime Minister did on Monday—not forgetting that Qataris own a large portion of Sainsbury’s, a chunk of the London Stock Exchange, and London’s iconic Shard. We must continue to work with Iran, too.

Then, as I have said, there is also Russia. Unless we change our stance on what is happening in Russia and Ukraine, the possibility of working with Russia to try to stem extremism in the middle east will be massively undermined.


David Tredinnick (Bosworth, Conservative)
I want to focus on Ukraine and Russia in the short time allowed to me. In 1988 and the early 1990s I chaired a parliamentary group, the Future of Europe Trust, dedicated to building links with Russia. I am appalled at what has happened between Russia and Ukraine. It is totally unnecessary

and I think the west has done quite a lot of damage through not consulting on moves towards European Union membership for Ukraine after its nuclear disarmament. I also think that the approach of NATO has been quite wrong.

I refer the House to what the then US Secretary of State Mr Baker said at the time of the reunification of Germany. He said that there would be

“no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east”.

The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that President Putin made it clear at the 2008 NATO conference in Bucharest that, because Ukraine and, for that matter, Belarus are so clearly in Russia’s back yard, any move towards bringing NATO to Ukraine would cause severe problems with Russia. We have to take that into consideration. There is also the history of Crimea, which was taken by French and British forces, and that means Russia would see NATO coming into Ukraine as another defeat. Russia has always had security worries since the French attack under Napoleon and, of course, that by Hitler in the second world war.

However, I see Russia potentially as a friend. It helped us enormously through the northern distribution network when the Afghan war was at its height, and it did not interrupt our use of the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan. If we do not make some sort of accommodation with Russia, we will have huge problems with Iran. Many hon. Friends have referred to the need to deal with the Syrian theatre, which is also a subject in this debate, but without Russian help that will be impossible. We need to be accommodating as far the small Russian base at Tartus in Syria is concerned.

The way forward is to say firmly that NATO will not move into Ukraine, part of which is anyway in Asia. The European Union needs to show some sympathy in dealing with that. We now need a realistic policy: we cannot go on with expansion that undermines Russian security, and we must think very carefully about bringing the Russians on board to resolve the terrible problems in Syria, Iraq and the surrounding areas.