Lord West of Spithead (Labour)
My Lords, the Minister will be aware of the huge increase in Russian defence expenditure, particularly on its whole nuclear triad, with brand new ballistic missile submarines, a brand new ballistic missile and a brand new attack submarine with a new cruise nuclear weapon, while it is also running its nuclear trains again—all the indicators that during the Cold War would have had me terrified as Chief of Defence Intelligence. There is also the articulation of Putin’s policy of de-escalation, which in fact, when you read it, is talking about nuclear escalation. Is it not time to inject a sense of urgency into these talks? We are constantly getting near misses over the Baltic. Things are very risky indeed and we need to have proper talks, fully involving the Russians, who I believe have a real and proper interest in the Ukraine. We also need to give a sense of realism to some of the Ukrainian expectations. We need to get this going quickly with everyone involved, including the Russians, otherwise we might move towards a scenario that none of us would like.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Conservative)
My Lords, I entirely sympathise with the noble Lord’s views. The talks that are expected to take place next week will indeed involve the Russians with Mr Poroshenko, Monsieur Hollande and Chancellor Merkel, and those talks deserve to be given a chance. The Russians are feeling the brunt of sanctions, as they should for their illegal occupation of Crimea and for what they are doing in sending their troops into eastern Ukraine and making the humanitarian situation there worse. Diplomacy can be a strong tool—let us ensure that it is.