Foreign Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th May 1960.

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Photo of Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe , Windsor 12:00 am, 12th May 1960

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) has left the Chamber. I always listen to his speeches on the theory of Communism with great interest, and I think that his diagnosis is always much more accurate than that of the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus). I am sure that the hon. Member for Pembroke was right when he said that when the Russians talk about co-existence they mean what we mean by cold war.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary wisely warned the Committee and the country against expecting any dramatic results from the Summit talks. In view of all the speculation about the Summit talks—first, whether they would take place at all and, secondly, if they did, what would happen as a result —there was always a danger that the British public would regard Summit talks as a kind of Test match in which one side won and the other side lost.

Both my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have consistently stressed that their approach to the problem is not based upon one Summit meeting only, but a whole series of meetings spread over a number of years. That is how they wish to deal with the stresses and strains of East-West relations.

To continue the analogy of the Test match, even supposing that in the forthcoming years there were to be five Summit talks, I should be surprised if, at the end of the fifth, the rubber had been won by either side, because, as has been said by the hon. Member for Pembroke, the cold war is with us for our lifetime, for the simple reason that it is a war of ideals and of ideas.

How does the Soviet Union want to play its hand? Russia's interest at the moment is to maintain the tension that she herself has created, up to a point but not beyond it. I have always thought that East-West relations were rather like a piece of elastic. If it is pulled too taut, there is a danger that it will snap, and that the cold war might become a hot war. It would seem that the Russians never pull the elastic too taut. On the other hand, Russia does not want, and cannot afford, to allow the elastic to become too slack, because if there were no tension whatever people might think that they could play around with the elastic with impunity, which would mean that the Soviet Union might be in danger of losing control over the satellite States.

There are two reasons why the Soviet Union wants to reduce tension. First, with modern progress in scientific methods and with modern communications, the Soviet Union has aircraft that can fly from Moscow to London, from London to New York and from New York to Tokio and back to Moscow in a matter of 48 hours, if not less. In addition, Russia sends her scientists and doctors to international conferences, thus to show the world what great advances she has made in science and medicine. If Russia is doing all that, the Iron Curtain cannot be kept as solid and as firm as it was before.

The second reason is the economic one. As has already been said, Mr. Khrushchev wants to improve the standards of living of the Soviet Union. Some people who live in the Soviet Union have seen a little of what happens outside in the rest of the word. If they want some of the things to which the rest of the world has become accustomed, if they want what we regard as necessities but which they still call luxuries, Mr. Khrushchev must wish to reduce the burden of armaments expenditure and to switch as much of it as possible to domestic consumption. Even in the Soviet Union, the purse is not bottomless.

Having said that, I must agree to some extent with the Leader of the Opposition when he says that we must not be too optimistic concerning a settlement about Berlin. I have always thought that the cards which the Soviet Union hold concerning Berlin are too valuable for them —now, I am putting their point of view— to throw away without a considerable quid pro quo.

They can always name a date and say that by that date they will hand over control of the approaches to West Berlin to the East German Government. Having named the date, the N.A.T.O. countries would be bound to react. Then, as we get nearer to the date, we would have all the old arguments about the autobahn versus the airlift, and so on. When the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary went to Moscow, in April last year, they did not claim to have solved the Berlin problem. What they did was extremely valuable. They bought the most priceless commodity which can be bought in the cold war. when the elastic is getting rather taut. They bought time to think afresh. I agree that we should improve in various ways the methods of access to Berlin.

We must not on any account consider, nor would my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary or anybody in the House of Commons consider, no longer honouring to the hilt our obligations to the 2 million Germans who live in West Berlin. We must also make a clear distinction in our minds between what is called making a concession and what is called taking the initiative. Too often in the past, when the Soviet Union has provoked a crisis somewhere about something or other, certain Members of the party opposite, no doubt with the best intentions, have accused the Government of having lost the initiative and have told them to regain it. When they speak of regaining the initiative, more often than not they mean that the Government should make a concession in order to persuade the Soviet Union to stop provoking the very crisis which they started. There are times when it is a good thing to take the initiative, there are other times when it is a good plan to make a concession, but we must not confuse the one with the other.

I wish to say a word or two to the hon. Member for Gorton about the U2 spy plane. I do not agree with the hon. Member. This is an honest difference of opinion. I do not believe that this incident is of any great importance. Of all the major Powers, the Soviet Union is the least entitled to throw that stone into the glasshouse. I do not suppose that any country has more often or more deliberately, and, in some cases, more clumsily, violated diplomatic privilege for the purpose of espionage than the Soviet Union. So I do not think that we need take the incident too seriously.

I do not believe that it will make any difference to the course of the Summit talks. If Mr. Khrushchev decides, as, I hope he will, to be amenable during the Summit talks, he will decide to be amenable only because he thinks that it will suit Soviet interests to be so. I cannot believe that he would be deflected from that course by the mere fact that a United States spy plane has made a forced landing, or been shot down when, on Mr. Khrushchev's own admission—whether it is true, I do not know—for a number of years United States aircraft have been doing this sort of thing.

I cannot see that it will make the slightest difference to the course of the Summit talks, although I quite agree that Mr. Khrushchev has been presented with a good propaganda hand which he is playing very well.