NATO's ballistic missile defence programme has proved a cause of increased friction, writes Lord Browne of Ladyton.
On Monday, May 22, the leader of the House of Lords repeated a statement by the PM to the Commons on the G8 and NATO Summits. Understandably, the G8 element, with its focus on austerity, growth and the Euro-zone crisis, stole the headlines. In the NATO part of the statement, Afghanistan and transition to Afghan control dominated. However, deep in the heart of the statement, the PM reported NATO's declaration at Chicago that "...the interim ballistic missile defence (BMD) capability that will protect Europe is operational".
Back in November 2010, after the last NATO Summit in London, the PM said about ballistic missile defence:
"Crucially, NATO agreed to develop a ballistic missile defence system for Europe...it will be in place by the end of the decade, paid for within NATO's existing resources ... Two years ago, missile defence for Europe caused a major split in relations with Russia. Now it is an issue on which we are working together."
Not any longer, it seems. Far from a catalyst for co-operation, NATO's ballistic missile defence programme has proved a cause of increased friction and division with Russia and substantially was responsible for Russia's absence from the NATO Summit where no NATO-Russia Council took place.
The role of ballistic missile defence in the defence of Europe and its place in the mix of nuclear, conventional and missile defence forces for NATO were part of a wider review that reported in Chicago too. At Lisbon in 2010, NATO leaders adopted a new strategic concept, which was incomplete, so they agreed to "review NATO's overall posture in deterring and defending against the full range of threats to the Alliance, taking into account changes to the evolving international security environment".
This Deterrence and Defence Posture Review (DDPR) was to solve differences among the allies on the future role of nuclear and the balance of the mix of NATO's other capabilities.
The issues involved in this important discussion, which has far reaching future implications for NATO's deterrence and defence posture, overall European security and our relationship with Russia, need to be debated by Parliament. As a nuclear armed state whose nuclear weapons are committed to the Alliance, this review should be a matter of particular interest to parliamentarians. However, not only has no debate taken place in the two years of this process, it has not even been mentioned in a ministerial statement to Parliament.
My principal purpose in sponsoring today's debate is to correct that omission and to promote discussion about whether the DDPR achieved the best possible outcome and whether the mix of capabilities decided upon are appropriate for the international security environment in the years ahead.
In the words of senator Sam Nunn, 24 years a US senator and former chairman of the powerful US Senate Committee on Armed Services: "The Deterrence and Defence Posture Review (DDPR) has made little progress in defining a clear strategy for changing the nuclear status quo and deserves, at best, "incomplete".
Today, I am providing an opportunity for the coalition government to explain why the DDPR, which substantially supported the status quo, serves their ambition for change in NATO, change to address the challenge of protecting our security in a world of new unconventional threats, to explain why this process is not regressive in the face of that changing world and whether it serves our ambition of building the strategic partnerships, particularly with Russia, that we need for our future security.
I suspect I will not get all of the answers I would like today, but at least for the first time, Parliament will debate the issues.