Last autumn I expressed the view that the West would have to face in the next few years challenges and dangers more testing than any it had faced in the 1960s or 1970s. I called the 'eighties "the dangerous decade", but the first challenge has come sooner than many expected.
We face a grave development in East-West relations. Abroad, the Soviet Union has shown that it is prepared to use force to impose its will on a small neighbouring country. At home, by arresting and exiling Professor Sakharov, it has shown once again that it will not tolerate dissent within its own borders.
The Soviet Government's actions reveal a brutal disregard for accepted rules of international behaviour, for world public opinion, and for the principles laid down in the Helsinki Final Act of 1975—an agreement signed by President Brezhnev himself.
Does not the right hon. Lady recognise that the failure of the Attorney-General to prosecute the oil companies for their breaches of international sanctions and the reluctance to have an inquiry into how this House was misled have stripped the right hon. Lady of any right and authority to moralise on upholding the rule of international law?
As the hon. Member knows, anything to do with the Attorney-General must be raised with the Attorney-General.
I pick up the thread of my argument where I left off. I was referring to the Helsinki Final Act of 1975—an agreement that was signed by President Brezhnev himself.
The development in East-West relations, the invasion of Afghanistan and the arrest and exile of Professor Sakharov follow a decade of detente which some people thought would make such crises impossible.
"Detente" is an imprecise word. It reflects the common interest of all mankind to avoid a nuclear holocaust, which could come from military conflict between East and West.
For 10 years and more the West has built on that feeling to try to reach mutually beneficial East-West agreements on arms control, on Berlin and on Germany. East-West trade has grown, too. So have human contacts between the two sides.
Optimists in the West believed that this process would educate the Soviet Union about the outside world. They hoped that wider contacts and increasing prosperity would soften the harshness of the Soviet political system. They hoped that the Soviets would behave more moderately in the Third world, in Europe and in their relationship with the United States.
The Russians have a different interpretation of detente. For them, the word has meant the preservation of their security at the same time as they have enjoyed access to Western foodstuffs and technology on easy terms, and the chance to extend, by overt and covert means, their influence and political control wherever opportunity offered. They have proclaimed an unrelenting ideological hostility to all our ways, traditions, and institutions. They have meddled in our affairs at every turn, while angrily rejecting the thought that they should conduct their domestic affairs in a civilised and democratic manner. They have persecuted those of their citizens who have dared to think and speak for themselves. They have built up their armed forces far beyond their defensive needs.
In recent years they have gone further. They have instigated Cuba to intervene in Angola and Ethiopia on their behalf. They have provided arms, military advisers and financial support to the Marxist forces of subversion in the Third world—notably in the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East. They have worked directly and indirectly against Western interests wherever they could. They have claimed repeatedly that all this is compatible with the rules of detente as they define them.
Regrettably, many people in the West have been prepared to overlook these breaches of the rules in the hope that, with time, the Russians would come to behave more responsibly.
The invasion of Afghanistan and the exile of Professor Sakharov leave no room for illusion. They seriously weaken the basis for the fruitful conduct of East-West relations. They are deliberate acts of policy by the Soviet Government.
Afghanistan is a symbol and a warning. It is not just a far distant country, which we can ignore because we face no local crisis in Europe.
This is not the first time that the Russians have used force to invade a neighbour, used it massively, swiftly and callously in a pattern that bears the Soviet hallmark. It is not the first time that they have claimed to have been invited in by a Government who, on closer inspection, turned out not to exist, or whose leaders they subsequently killed. But it is the first time since the world war that they have sent tens of thousands of soldiers, backed by tanks and helicopter gunships, into a country outside the Warsaw Pact; an Islamic country, a member of the non-aligned movement, and a country that posed no conceivable threat to their country or their interests.
Who are the Russians fighting against? The newspapers call them "the rebels".
This is a very important point. I should like to know what is the difference in principle between the situation that the right hon. Lady has described—of the Soviet Union's attack on Afghanistan—and that, for example, of the United States on Cambodia during the course of the Vietnam war.
The hon. Gentleman knows that the Vietnam war arose because the Geneva treaty was not honoured over a decade, and that the United States went in to try to protect South Vietnam against North Vietnam and Communism. But that was after the Geneva treaty. The two are totally and utterly different.
I was talking about the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and asking against whom the Russians were fighting. I was pointing out that the newspapers called them "rebels". It is a strange word to use of people who are fighting to defend their own country against a foreign invader. Surely they are genuine freedom fighters, fighting to free their country from an alien oppressor.
Commentators speculate about the motives of the Soviet Union in moving into Afghanistan. It is argued that the invasion is a confession of Soviet weakness; and it reflects a defensive mentality; or that it flows from a fear of encirclement. But we cannot know the motives of the Russians for certain. What we know is what they have done.
The Soviet Union has driven a wedge into the heart of the Muslim world. If its hold on Afghanistan is consolidated, the Soviet Union will, in effect, have vastly extended its borders with Iran, will have acquired a border more than 1,000 miles long with Pakistan, and will have advanced to within 300 miles of the Straits of Hormuz, which control the Persian Gulf. These are the facts. They are a cause for alarm both to the countries of the region and to ourselves.
West of Afghanistan, Iran is now, more than ever, in the front line. The Soviet Union says that its intentions towards that country are benevolent, but who can believe them. After all, the Russians claim that the treaty that they signed with Persia in 1921 is still valid. That treaty says, among other things, that
if a Third Party should attempt…to use Persian territory as a base for operations against Russia…Russia shall have the right to advance her troops into the Persian interior
I need hardly comment on the implications of such a text.
The revolution in Iran has stirred up feelings for ethnic autonomy among the Kurds, the Azerbaijanis, the Baluchis and many other ethnic groups. It has fostered ideological dispute, and it has led to differences even among the religious leaders themselves. The temptation to the Russians is apparent. There are signs that the Iranians themselves are increasingly aware of the danger.
At this point, I should like to say a word about the American hostages. We in this country respect the right of peoples to choose their own regimes and Governments. We wish the Iranians well in their search for the political system best suited to their needs. We hope that they will emerge from their present difficulties united.
The election of Mr. Bani-Sadr as the first President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, if confirmed, is an important new development. Our embassy in Tehran has previously had contacts with Mr. Bani-Sadr in his capacity as Minister both of Finance and Economic Affairs and of Foreign Affairs. We hope that the continued detention of the United States hostages will be one of the first problems to which he devotes his efforts.
The hostages must be released. We admire and applaud the restraint that President Carter has shown in pursuit of this goal. We support him and shall co-operate in every way with policies that will contribute to the release of the hostages. In doing so, we shall bear in mind the situation in the region as a whole.
The Russians would be only too willing to pose as protectors of the Iranian revolution, or as the restorers of order in the country. We shall want both to avoid giving them any opportunity to do so and to make clear the consequences if they tried.
We shall need to be similarly clear about the importance that we attach to Afghanistan's eastern neighbour, Pakistan. The Soviet invasion has driven many Afghan people over the border into Pakistan. There are already half a million refugees in the country, and the number is expected to grow rapidly. These people will be resentful and aggrieved. They come in large part from tribes that in any case span the border of the two countries. The threat to stability is only too obvious, and President Zia's concern only too well justified.
It is a concern that is shared by China and India. Premier Hua told us last year how seriously the Chinese regarded Soviet global ambitions, of which they saw Soviet activities in Afghanistan as a significant part. Mrs. Gandhi has said that the Russian presence in Afghanistan has increased tension and moved danger closer to the Indian border. This, I stress, has not happened because of rivalry between the super-Powers. The Russians are the only super-Power with massive ground forces in the area.
I hope that recognition of this fact will lead to the development of a better understanding between Pakistan and India.
I know that the hon. Gentleman is pursuing a cause that he has pursued for a long time. We naturally do not wish Pakistan to obtain nuclear weapons. I should like to make that clear.
We were talking about a better understanding between Pakistan and India, which is vital to the future of the whole region. The threat from Afghanistan to her neighbours to west and east is plain and direct. The threat to the south is every bit as dangerous. From southern Afghanistan to the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz is but a short distance. I do not need to stress the importance to the West of the States bordering the Gulf.
The oil that they produce is the life blood of Western industrial societies. The Straits of Hormuz are the artery through which it flows. If that flow were abruptly stopped in the years immediately ahead there would be real doubt whether our societies could survive in their present form. The threat is the more compelling when one recalls the control that the Russians can exercise over the entrance to the Red Sea through their client States in South Yemen and Ethiopia.
Of course, we cannot prove that the Soviet invasion is part of a deliberate drive to the Gulf, but we can point to the fact that in a few days the Russians have advanced 500 miles towards it, and, again, to the fact that throughout the Third world they have worked consistently and patiently against Western interests when ever opportunity offered. To some, at least, the implications of their presence in Afghanistan are clear.
In this new situation, the nations of the free world must be resolute and united. We must bring home to the Russians how badly they underestimated the cost to themselves of the invasion and how serious would be the consequences should they try the same thing again. If we are to continue the painful attempt to build a safer world—as we would wish to do—the Soviet Government must abide by the normal standards of international conduct.
The Soviet action is an affront not only to the West but to the members of the non-aligned movement, to which Afghanistan belongs. In the United Nations General Assembly earlier this month, 104 countries, most of them members of the non-aligned movement, condemned the Soviet Government.
Seldom has a great power been censured so publicly, so rapidly and so comprehensively. Russia's claim to be a champion of the developing world has been shattered. The Soviet proxy, Cuba, currently chairman of the non-aligned movement, was forced to withdraw as a candidate for the Security Council when support for her evaporated in the wake of the invasion. The truth is that the Soviet Union has had little to offer the Third world but weapons and dogma.
Such economic aid as they have given has always had ulterior motives. It is noteworthy that in 1954 Afghanistan was the first recipient of Soviet aid. Soviet tanks cross Afghanistan on roads built with Soviet money. Their aircraft land on airfields similarly financed. That is hardly aid without strings.
The countries of the Third world are awakening to the realities of Soviet foreign policy. They are recognising that Soviet ambitions are incompatible with their wish to determine their own destinies. But it is not for us to tell them how to carry forward the work begun in the General Assembly. We shall, of course, help if asked to do so, but, in the first instance, they themselves must develop effective answers to the threat of subversion in their own countries. Resistance to infection requires awareness and effort from the potential victim.
We in the West have our own response to consider. A number of immediate measures have already been taken. President Carter, in a move of great political courage, has banned further supplies of American grain to Russia. He has cut back on the supply of high technology, and reduced official contacts in a number of ways. He has said that the Olympic Games should be moved from Moscow, postponed, or cancelled if the Soviet troops have not left Afghanistan within a month. Both Congress and the United States Olympic committee have supported him.
The British Government have also responded. We have stopped aid to Afghanistan and have withheld recogni- tion from the new regime in Kabul. We initiated consultations in NATO and in the European Community. My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has visited the countries of the region and described in another place the talks that he had and the conclusions that he drew. We shall be reviewing our aid plans for Pakistan. We and our partners will do what is in our power to improve stability in the Gulf and to reassure our other friends in the Arabian peninsula.
Will the right hon. Lady explain a little more what she means by "reviewing" our aid plans for Pakistan? Does that mean that we shall be reviewing the whole policy of military aid to Pakistan? Does that mean that we shall possibly be creating a worse situation between Pakistan and India? The right hon. Lady has appealed for the two countries to get together. Aid to Pakistan of that kind cannot possibly help relations between India and Pakistan.
I meant exactly what I said; we shall be reviewing aid to Pakistan, and we shall of course be reviewing the military situation, for the reason which most people fully understand, that Pakistan is now right in the front line.
I have answered the question. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman does not, or refuses to, understand it.
We shall also be developing our relations with China and we shall develop our co-operation with our Turkish allies.
We have announced the measures that we shall be taking with regard to the Soviet Union itself; measures to cut back political and official contacts, to cancel military exchanges, to refuse renewal of the Anglo-Soviet credit agreement which expires next month, and, in consultation with our allies, to tighten the rules governing the supply of high technology.
The House is already aware of the Government's concern at the prospect of the Olympic Games taking place in Moscow this summer. The Soviet Government hope, as another Government did in 1936, that the Games will give an immense boost to the State's prestige internationally and to its own prestige domestically. In any circumstances the Olympics in Moscow would have been a political event, but to attend the Games now would be to give aid and encouragement to the Soviet Government in the immediate aftermath of its invasion of an independent country and its arrest and exile of one of the country's most distinguished citizens.
Of course I sympathise with the athletes who have trained so hard for so long, but surely Sebastian Coe is right to say:
Athletes cannot have their heads in the sand. They cannot say, 'I am a runner and, while I sympathise with the people of Afghanistan, that is not my problem'.
The solution is to move the Games to a place or places where politics do not predominate.
This is a move that commands great support from many parts of the House. In response to the Government's request the chairman of the British Olympic Association has agreed to propose this to the International Olympic Committee. In the light of their decision, the Government will consider further what advice—it could only be advice—we should give.
The actions already announced by the Government will have effects stretching well into the future. It is important that we and our allies should persist in our efforts. We must not give the impression that our indignation is synthetic or short-lived. The most persuasive evidence of our determination will be our willingness to sustain our unity and defence effort. The House will know from last week's defence debate that the Government are resolved to do so. Alliance Governments recently decided to increase their defence expenditure in the years ahead. They have decided to modernise NATO's long-range theatre nuclear weapons. They must now demonstrate that they can carry out those decisions.
The new measures that the West has taken, or will take, do not imply that there can or should be a complete break with the past. The business of East-West relations must go on. We have to live in the same world.
I am coming on to deal with the West as Europe and as the larger definition of the Western alliance. I have just come to the point—having analysed the position of Russia in what she has done in her invasion of Afghanistan and defined what we have done—of saying that, nevertheless, we must continue to exist in the same world and that therefore the business of East-West relations must go on.
There are, for example, a number of arms control negotiations in which the West has a real and continuing interest. They are an integral part of our efforts to safeguard the nation's security. We do not propose to abandon them, but recent events once more call Soviet good faith into question and cast a shadow over the prospects for early progress. President Carter had no choice but to defer the ratification of the SALT II treaty, but we hope that the treaty will be ratified in due course.
We will persist with our effort to initiate negotiations with the Soviet Union about theatre nuclear forces in Europe. Although it rejected the recent American offer, that offer remains on the table. We will pursue the negotiations in Vienna on mutual and balanced force reductions. Here also the alliance took a new initiative last month. We will carry on the negotiations for a comprehensive test ban. We will continue preparations for the meeting in Madrid in November about the next stage in the process begun at Helsinki, although of course much will depend on Soviet actions meanwhile.
I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend, because I know that the House is listening with great attention and is welcoming the firm line that she is laying down—particularly what she is saying about not letting up in our efforts to achieve agreed multilateral disarmament. However, will she take this opportunity, against the background of the forthcoming defence White Paper, to emphasise that this would be the worst possible moment for this country to set an example to our allies by making any unilateral cuts in defence spending?
As my hon. Friend knows, we had a debate on defence last week. I hope that it is clear from that debate and from other statements that the Government are resolved to play their full part in NATO and to increase their expenditure by 3 per cent. over the outturn this year.
The West's efforts, whether in defence or in negotiations, can be effective only if we are united. Here I come to the point raised by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley). We and our partners in Europe came together in the Community above all for political reasons. A greater ability to resist external pressure was not the least of those reasons. That shared interest lies behind the common action that the Community aims to develop in response to the crisis, in its relations with the Gulf, with Yugoslavia and with Pakistan. The Soviet Government doubtless think that they can detect differences among us. Indeed, some differences of emphasis are inevitable when a free association of nations deliberates on a problem of this magnitude, but the Soviet Government should pause before they conclude that debate is a sign of weakness. They would be making another miscalculation if they thought that their efforts to split us could succeed.
Nor should the Soviet Government expect to succeed in their attempt to persuade us that the interest of Europe in a sensible relationship between East and West is in some way different from that of the United States. The United States is the final guarantor of European security. It is demonstrating clear leadership, and we should back it.
I am reminded of the superb response that General de Gaulle gave to President Kennedy's representative at the time of the Cuba missile crisis. General de Gaulle then said:
You may tell the President that France will support him".
Europe should send the same message today.
I began by speaking about the meaning of detente. If it means anything, it must mean a process whereby East and West move away from the hostility and confrontation of the years after the Second World War. It is about the management of East-West relations, so that war is avoided while the legitimate interests of both sides are protected.
The process cannot be confined to Europe. In an interdependent and oil-hungry world the interests of East and West are affected by events everywhere. Detente is indivisible, or it is nothing. So long as the Russians refuse to accept this—so long as they go on trying to defeat the West by all means short of war—we shall do whatever is necessary to counter their policies.
We shall strengthen our relations with the whole non-Communist world. We shall look to our defences, but we shall continue to negotiate—
The right hon. Lady has, not unnaturally, spent a lot of time dealing with the political and strategic aspects of response. Will she tell the House what is the Government's view of the aid aspect of response? We are battling for the hearts and minds of men and if the West responds in strategic and military terms only we shall alienate the people whom we hope to defend.
I have said that we shall be reviewing aid to Pakistan. I have pointed out that Soviet aid is in terms of military advisers and dogma only and not in terms of genuine economic aid. As the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas) knows, our record in aid still compares favourably with most countries in the world.
I had reached the point of saying that it is absolutely necessary and vital that the unity of the West is retained. The Russians have a view of detente totally different from ours. Our view is that with security the legitimate interests of both East and West must be protected. We shall do whatever is necessary to counter Soviet policies by strengthening our relations with the whole non-Communist world, and, above all, by looking to our defences.
We shall continue to negotiate with the Soviet Union from a position of balanced strength on issues where our interests are mutual. If we are vigilant and steadfast our democratic values will outlast the sterile dictatorship and the spurious theories of Soviet Marxism.
We can gladly take on the Soviet Union in the struggle of ideas. This is an arena where the defeat, not the victory, of Marxism is inevitable. Meanwhile, we stand ready for co-operation in a search for mutual benefit in a true detente if, one day, the Soviet Union decides genuinely to take the path of peace. The burden of proof now lies with the Soviet Union.
The visible presence of large contingents of Soviet troops and tanks in Afghanistan has demonstrated to the world that the Soviet Union will move swiftly, ruthlessly and powerfully when it makes up its mind that its interests require it. By doing so it has caused many countries to make a fresh assessment of their policies on military dispositions.
The Prime Minister referred to the response of the United Nations. I think that it has been most impressive. The Soviet Union has called down upon itself the condemnation of the overwhelming majority of the members of the United Nations in an almost unprecedented manner. Countries which would normally be reluctant to take sides when the West and the Soviet Union seem to be opposed to each other have not hesitated to express their total opposition to the action of the Soviet Union. They have united in an urgent call for the Russians to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan. That call goes out from the House once again today.
The first consequences of Russia's action are already becoming evident. Let me list them. Russia is clearly seen as a colonial Power. Its action has had the effect of strengthening Chinese relations with the United States. The Government of Pakistan are to receive economic aid and arms. The rival factions in Afghanistan have come together in opposition to the Soviets. The influence of Russia in the world of Islam has been weakened. The influence of Cuba among the nonaligned, as the Prime Minister said, has been undermined. The United States, among others, is taking restrained but firm action in the economic and trade context and the Olympic Games are in question.
This invasion has not been all gain for the Soviets. Russia has already begun to pay a price for a disastrous miscalculation. Answering a Pravda correspondent recently, Mr. Brezhnev said that the decision to enter Afghanistan had not been a simple one and that the Soviet Government and the party central committee took into account the entire sum total of the circumstances. I can only say that they added up the total sum wrongly. Their actions have made the world a more dangerous place.
In Europe we have been watching for some time the deterioration in relations between the West and the Soviet Union. Following the invasion of Afghanistan, the Soviet Union has added to that deterioration by the contemptuous flick of the wrist with which Dr. Sakharov has been banished to Gorki. The question that some countries are now bound to ask is whether they will be the next to be threatened.
The greatest danger at present lies probably in the prospect of the People's Democratic Republic of the Yemen, backed by Soviet advisers, attempting a coup in North Yemen. I hope that the Government are taking that possibility seriously into account, but it would not be in accordance with the measured caution that the Soviet Union usually displays if it were to take a bigger step than that within the foreseeable future.
I believe that we can discount the possibility of an outright attack on Pakistan, Iran or Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, the potential threat exists. The shadow of the Soviet Union hangs over many countries in that long are stretching from Turkey to Pakistan. This uncertainty and doubt will prompt those countries to strengthen their armed forces, and no one can blame them. Such a military response is inevitable and essential. Nevertheless, it is not enough in itself and it is to this that I wish to address myself later.
President Carter's message on the state of the union recognises that, and that recognition underlies much of the analysis of President Giscard and Chancellor Schmidt. We must welcome the intention of President Carter to set up a task force of 100,000 men which could move quickly into position, if only because of the utter dependence of the West on oil.
We must strongly support the Carter doctrine that, while the United States has no desire at all to intervene in that particular area, any attempt by the Soviet Union to gain control of the Gulf—as the President says—must be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the West as a whole. That is the American position. It will be understood, and I hope accepted, by the countries of the Middle East and by the Soviet Union, because in an area where there is possible doubt and uncertainty it is essential that that doubt and uncertainty should be removed. There can be no room for misunderstanding about that. I believe that when misunderstanding is removed the prospects of external attack are lessened, not made greater.
Mr. Brezhnev is surely mistaken when he says that the strengthening of the positions of the United States and the Middle East is a hostile act. His experts must have told him of the vital importance of Middle East oil to the economic and industrial life of the West. Our lighting, heating, fuel, energy for our machinery, transport and levels of employment are all dependent upon the continuing and uninterrupted supply of oil. Unless that is accepted by the Soviet Union, there will be growing tension in the Middle East and no basis for future understanding between the Soviet Union and the West.
It is from that point, because I wish us to come to an understanding with the Soviet Union, that we must start. The world's concern about Afghanistan is genuine for some of the reasons given by the Prime Minister. We cannot accept the Soviet justification that Afghanistan was destined to become a bridge head for imperialist threats to the southern border of the Soviet Union.
This has always been a troubled area, but there was no real evidence that any major move was contemplated, and Russia must have mistaken—it has lived next door to them for a long time—the temperament of the Afghan people if it believed that they would consent to be used in this way by the so-called imperialists.
In the last century the tribesmen of Afghanistan fought with great deter- mination and some success against Britain. Now they will fight with equal determination against Russia. Every schoolboy knows that in Afghanistan in surgency has been a way of life. The Afghans do not need imperialists, whether the old-fashioned nineteenth century type or the new 1980 version, to tell them what to do. They will certainly not allow imperialists of any stripe to make use of them.
The Soviet Union claimed that the insurrection in the country was a threat to it and that it was fomented by outside influences. If that is so, I suggest that the proper course was for the Soviet Union to have brought the matter to the bar of world opinion. It made clear—as I know from personal conversations and otherwise—that the Afghanistan Government had made many requests to it for intervention over a long period, but it had not acted upon that. Surely, therefore, the Soviet Union, having refused to act on so many occasions when requests were made, does not claim that the situation was so desperate and that the borders of the mighty Soviet Union were under such threat from armed Afghan tribesmen that it had no alternative but to invade that country. The Soviet Union should now swiftly withdraw its troops. Only in that way can it begin to undo the damage it has done and reduce the alarm that is felt among some of its neighbours.
As I said earlier, a military response is not sufficient.
Before the right hon. Gentleman moves from the military response to the many other responses that he no doubt wishes to see, will he say fairly plainly that, in pledging his support for the necessary military response by the United States, he will pledge the support of his party to such military measures as may be necessary for this country to take in support of the United States?
I do not know why the hon. Gentleman wants to introduce party considerations into this matter. I shall make my speech in my own way and make the position absolutely clear.
In this area political instability is more likely to arise in the immediate future from the internal discontent of the peole there than from outside threat. If the causes of such discontent are not removed, instability will exist that the Soviet Union will be swift to turn to advantage in the way that it has done elsewhere and endeavour to regain the prestige it has lost in the Islamic countries.
We have before us the lessons of Iran. With those in mind, it is our responsibility to encourage all those countries with which we have contacts to root out internal corruption wherever it exists, to open up their social and political systems and to improve their social policies. There is a vacuum of understanding and agreement between the West and the Middle East countries that is made more difficult by the situation in Iran and by the conflict between Israel and certain Arab States.
The Prime Minister spoke of the need for the new President of Iran to devote himself to the question of the hostages; and I am glad to observe that the situation there seems to be easing a little. The Government and people of the United States have shown great patience in their response to the intolerable behaviour of militants in detaining American citizens as hostages. The United States feels the frustrated impotence of a great Power that knows that its strength cannot be effectively used, but the patience and caution that it has displayed may yet deliver the hostages unharmed where other methods would have led to their execution.
I agree with the Prime Minister that we support and encourage the United States at this time, and I welcome the fact that the President has said that, when the issue of the hostages is resolved and the men and women concerned are returned unharmed to the United States, as we profoundly hope they will be, there will be no irreconcilable differences between the two countries.
The signals from many Middle East countries are clear. They are alarmed at recent happenings. They wish to protect themselves from a possible takeover, but their peoples do not wish to enrol either under the Western banner or under the hammer and sickle. Their Governments are rightly chary of accepting a possible Western defence presence in their territories, and we should not press it upon them. They know that oil is essential to our economies and that it has dominated our relations with them. In some senses it has deformed our relationships with those countries. We in Britain had had a long relationship with them before oil was a major factor, and the people of Islam, as we knew before oil came to dominate all our considerations, have a long history, a wide culture and a deep religious belief. I believe that those people would value the relationship between them and the West much more highly were we to make stronger attempts to broaden and deepen our cultural links with them, to respect them as a people and not merely to regard them as purveyors of an essential source of fuel.
Our Government should encourage greater efforts in this direction, not only to escape from Mr. Brezhnev's taunt in the Pravda interview that our only interest is the smell of oil, as he described it, but to show the people of Islam that we value them as fellow human beings who have a contribution to make to the progress of the world as great as that of anyone else.
The United States is right to maintain the momentum to achieve a settlement of the problem of self-rule in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Principal negotiators from Egypt and Israel will be meetting Ambassador Linowitz this week to attempt to carry the process forward. I doubt whether this issue can be satisfactorily concluded until the framework is created to enable Jordan and the people of the West Bank to take part in such discussions. The future of the people of the West Bank is being discussed. If they are to accept the settlement—even if it is a transitional settlement with a long interim period, as might well prove to be the best next step—they will need to be involved in the discussions that lead up to it.
I shall not go into detail about this complicated Arab-Israeli dispute today, but we stand firmly by the need to ensure peace and independence for Israel within secure borders. We recognise that the conditions that would enable Israel to negotiate freely with representatives of the Arab people do not yet exist. However, these difficulties must be overcome and I trust that Ambassador Linowitz will be able to make some progress during his visit this week.
We must not overlook the problems of the Indian sub-continent either. By his visit to India, the Foreign Secretary was able to dispel any belief that our interest in the sub-continent is confined to Pakistan because of the events in Afghanistan. India has just emerged from a general election in which, with whatever defects there were, power has been transferred through the ballot box. That is rare enough in Asia, and we must give India our full encouragement. Our experience with India and Pakistan has been longer and richer than that of anyone else. Many people from the sub-continent who live in Britain today have a warmth and feeling for this country and the country of their origin. In our anxiety about Pakistan, we should not forget or overlook the need to cultivate, for its own sake and for the reward that it would bring us by the sharing of culture, the friendship of India. I greatly welcome the comments recently by General Zia and Mrs. Gandhi that seem to betoken a great willingness to co-operate with each other.
The Soviet Union has recently given voice to two specific areas of complaint against the West. The first is that the SALT II agreement has not been ratified. I must agree with Mr. Brezhnev on that. It is a great misfortune that the Senate failed to put its seal on this treaty in spite of the President's clear lead and his continuing desire, as he has said once again in his state of the union message that it should be ratified. I cannot do better than repeat his words:
SALT II is in our mutual interest. It is neither an American favour to the Soviet Union, nor a Soviet favour to the United States.
We can support that view. It is a favour to the whole world, if only because it would provide confidence that would lead on, as was intended, to a fresh set of negotiations between the two super-Powers with the object not merely of putting a cap on the number of missile launchers and warheads but of reducing their unnecessarily vast number. I hope, therefore, that the Senate will ratify the treaty in due course and that, although the President has felt it necessary to with draw it, the Senate will take it upon itself before the election, if possible, to proceed to ratification.
On the other hand, I certainly do not agree with Mr. Brezhnev's second com- plaint against us, that the NATO decision to modernise its theatre nuclear forces gives him legitimate reason for refusing to negotiate on the control and withdrawal of such weapons from the European front. He is, of course, aware that there is a long gap in time, as the Prime Minister said, between the taking of the decision to modernise and the subsequent manufacture and deployment of the weapons.
Mr. Brezhnev knows also that the Soviet Union has altered the balance itself in recent years so that in nuclear weapons what was Western superiority has now been replaced by rough equivalence and in some fields, perhaps, by a Soviet advantage, although not an overwhelming one.
Mr. Brezhnev knows that Western policy in the strategic field is not to seek to retain superiority—that would he a mad competition—but, likewise, is not to permit the Soviet Union to do so. We cannot afford to allow nuclear weaponry to expand without the most strenuous efforts to control it, for we in Europe live in the most heavily armed region of the globe, with large standing armies carrying the most dangerous weapons yet known to man.
Moreover, quite apart from Europe's preoccupations, there is the need for urgent discussion to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons to nations which do not yet have them. I was glad to hear that the right hon. Lady is continuing the policy of seeking to make the non-proliferation treaty effective and also to continue the negotiations for a test ban agreement as well.
I must say to the House that the situation in regard to non-proliferation today is most unsatisfactory. The President of the United States has recently said that it is possible for suppliers and recipients of nuclear fuels to work together in order to balance energy needs, which they rightly have, with the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. I hope that he is right. So far, I have not seen the evidence to that effect, but I understand that when we receive the INFECYEP report it will be available to us.
I hope that that is so, especially in the sensitive and unstable area of the Middle East. I do not know whether hon. Members are studying what is happening there, but there are at least five countries in that region alone, from Turkey to Pakistan, where work is at varying stages of development on nuclear weapons technology. This most dangerous development must be taken in hand, and I urge that the strongest efforts be made to do so in co-operation with the Soviet Union, because it is necessary to secure its co-operation if we are to have new and effective agreements.
I mention that because part of my theme, as I think is becoming clear, is that, while we resist very strongly the policy of the Soviet Union as it has been demonstrated in Afghanistan, it is nevertheless our responsibility and our interest to seek out areas of co-operation with the Soviet Union, and it was this element which I found missing from the right hon. Lady's speech this afternoon. The nuclear area is the most obvious one in which the consequences of failure to agree—
I very much agree with what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has just said. Does he agree that many of the measures proposed by the Prime Minister, and, indeed, the whole tenor of her speech, will create an unbridgeable gap between East and West, which should be the very last thing for us to intend?
Everybody will draw his own conclusions from the Prime Minister's speech, but I hope in my speech to make positive proposals about where our real interest lies. We are not out to punish people. We are out to secure peace in the world, but a peace in which we can all live in freedom and justice. That is the approach which I am making this afternoon.
No, I would not agree with the hon. Gentleman about the right hon. Lady's speech. I am not accustomed to give encomiums to her, and I do not do so this afternoon. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I am sure that everybody will come to his own judgment. With some of the things that she said I found myself in total agreement, and others, I thought, were phrased in a way which would not create the area of understanding that I am coming to. [Interruption.] I do not wish to make too much of this, unless hon. Members want to fight a party battle, for I think it important that we should get as much agreement as we can in this area. That is why, unless I am dragged into it, I shall not venture into trying to find points of difference between us.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) that the Soviet Union does not withdraw from areas into which she goes. There have been a number of areas from which she has had to withdraw—Ghana in 1966, Egypt, Somalia—
All right, but there is no need for a difference on this. We have stated what the Soviet Union will do. What I am saying is that the hon. Gentleman is historically wrong if he says that it is not possible to get the Soviet Union to withdraw. That is all. Now let us move on to something more useful.
The nuclear field is the most obvious area where the consequences of failure to agree are of such transcendental importance that we have common interest with the Soviet Union in preventing a world catastrophe. What, therefore, is to be our general approach?
In Afghanistan, I submit, the Soviet Union has reacted as a continental Power in the traditional way with a problem in one of her border States that she wishes to correct. But some of her other actions during recent years, especially in Africa, have shown that the Soviet Union now regards her destiny as that of a global Power. The dispositions of her navy and the widespread surveillance carried out over the oceans by her aircraft demonstrate that she intends to have the capability to influence disputes and settlements in parts of the world well outside what were her continental and traditional areas of concern.
Throughout the period of detente in the 1970s, as the right hon. Lady said, the Soviet Union never deserted her intention to use her weight to reshape the existing system on a basis which was more responsive to her needs. The question for us, properly posed, is how to respond.
Adequate military strength is necessary, but it is not enough in the dangerous world in which we live. The United States Administration are far-sighted enough to recognise that.
I used to hold the view that, despite Korea, despite Cuba and the confrontation there and despite Vietnam, in this nuclear age the world could feel fairly safe from the horrors of all-out nuclear holocaust provided that we maintained an understanding of the limits to which each side could move in Europe and that, provided that we had that understanding there—peace being maintained, of course, by the threat of deterrence under a nuclear umbrella—we would escape the dangers of a nuclear war elsewhere. By this means, indeed, we built up the understandings in the 1940s, the 1950s and the 1960s. We reached understandings about Berlin and the question of German reunification.
But it is now clear—to me at any rate—that more than that is required. The regional understanding that we have in Europe between the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance and the Warsaw Pact countries is not sufficient to prevent wide spread conflagration in other parts of the world which could develop into a nuclear conflict.
I do not wish to put it too high, but I believe that we must look ahead and recognise that that is the shape of things which could emerge in the 1980s, and I believe that these matters must be tackled on two fronts. As well as the military response, there are two other fronts, the economic and the political.
As for the economic situation, it is as plain as a pikestaff that the world's economic and monetary system is not working effectively. What is more, our policy makers, perhaps for the first time since the 1930s, give the impression that there is nothing that they can or should do about it. So unemployment mounts throughout the world and men and women go hungry as Third world Governments find that the cost of servicing their overseas debt swallows up the resources which should be devoted to feeding, clothing and educating their people.
The world is in need of a new economic initiative, which can best be supplied by the leaders of the Western industrial Powers. I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) hopes to speak in the debate. I hope that he does, because I believe that what I have seen so far of the Brandt report—he was a member of the commission which produced it—can offer us some way forward. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us the benefit of his views on this matter.
I am told that there is a possibility of the seven major industrial nations holding a summit later this year. I very much hope that that will be so. But it must be properly prepared beforehand. The most effective summit that we held, if I may say so to the Prime Minister, was that in 1978 in Bonn, and it was so because prior to the meeting there were months of intensive discussion between personal representatives appointed by the leader of each of the seven countries.
The discussions were based on what was, in origin, a set of British proposals. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, played a great part in that. After many meetings between the personal representatives of the leaders of the seven countries, the proposals with much amendment, secured a large measure of common thinking, which each representative presented to his country.
In consequence, when the seven leaders arrived in Bonn they were positive that it was not only a 24-hour exchange of views but a discussion of positive, tangible proposals for action on which we could reach conclusions.
Some of the proposals were not palatable to one country of another. I recall that at different times Germany, Japan and the United States had difficulties. In some cases the final acceptance of the proposals—and that was their value—came only because, as a group, we were convinced that they were for the common good, even though some argued that the proposals, that they were adopting did not wholly meet their domestic circumstances.
The conclusion was that we agreed on a different programme for each country which, when added together, made a sum total whose benefit was to the world as a whole. I ask hon. Members to look at the record of the ensuing 12 months. I will not go into details now, but it shows that the world felt the benefit of that well-prepared summit.
Something similar is needed once again. Quiet, unpublicised work should continue. No one knew of the meetings at the time. Open government is all very well, but when considering certain situations there is a lot to be said for keeping one's thoughts to oneself.
I have been following the right hon. Gentleman's exposition of the long-term remedies that he feels the West should adopt. Has he abandoned all hope of taking short-term remedies to encourage the Soviet Union to withdraw from Afghanistan?
I do not abandon all hope, although, realistically, I do not think that the prospects of withdrawal are good. The moves that have been made by the United States—the Prime Minister referred to the courageous moves, especially in election year, on the sale of grain, the transfer of technology, and so on—are all valuable as showing the Soviet Union that our attitude will not quickly or quietly die away.
I am trying to prepare an agenda for directing the world back to a better course. I hope that there is no doubt about my attitude on the general position. I take that for granted. I am trying to move into another area. If we are to secure such a course, the agenda for a new summit should be concerned with four or five issues. There should be a programme on how to promote faster economic growth, how to increase world trade, how to lessen the debt burden of the non-oil producers in Third world countries—that is of supreme importance—how to reduce inflation and how to stabilise the world monetary system.
Urgent consideration should be given to how discussions could proceed on all these matters on a world basis. I should like to see our Government taking the lead. In addition, there should be a subsidiary discussion between the industrial seven and the Middle East oil producers. It is obvious that when the OPEC countries meet there is no input from the West into their discussions about the effect of their decisions, their price increases and their policies on such matters as world inflation and world employment.
Ideas have been proposed that should be considered carefully. There is no better place to start than by discussion between the seven and then with the Middle East countries. The idea has been canvassed of reaching agreement on indexing the prices of their oil against inflation, perhaps measured in SDRs or some other manner, by any other currency or collection of currencies that might be devised, in exchange for secure supplies from those countries. There are many problems of that sort to be solved. I hope that the Government will take the lead.
I turn to the political issue. The response of the Middle East countries shows that they are determined to prevent themselves from being swallowed. I agree with the Prime Minister that it is for them, and no one else, to decide whether they will establish a regional defensive alliance to preserve their independence. They will need more discussion before they consider that.
If they decide to do so, we should take up President Carter's idea for a regional framework of co-operation. We should give all aid possible, knowing that the basis for stability and peace has far more chance of enduring when there are democratic methods. Hence our support for human rights that President Carter has emphasised in his state of the union message. When that moment comes, we must be ready—
I shall give way in a moment. We must be ready for discussions with the Soviet Union—I wish us to enter into such discussions—about the prospect of reaching a new understanding and constructing a new set of rules. The time for that has not arrived, but it must come soon or the position will deteriorate even further, with an eventual drift to war.
I have stated the conditions and the preliminaries that need to be accepted before there can be a fruitful discussion. The Soviet Union must understand that to seek to follow the path of detente in Europe, coupled with Third world adventurism and ideological struggle, is no longer a realistic option if peace is to be preserved.
There is a need for restraint by the super-Powers during social and economic change in the Third world countries. There is a need for the Soviet Union to join the North-South dialogue. There is a need for joint restraint in arms supplies to Third world countries. There is a need to accept that dwindling energy resources will provide a growing source of tension.
In short, it must be obvious to everyone that we live or die in one world. The real option is between a retreat to a new cold war, fuelled by a new arms race, and an advance to the concept, when we can, of global detente. The Soviet Union has to make such a choice. We know what we prefer.
There may be occasions on which Back Benchers can say things that Front Benchers would like to say but do not, and others on which Back Benchers say things that Front Benchers would prefer not to hear. I may indulge in both activities during the course of the few remarks that I wish to make.
The debate is really about world strategy. If it is not, it ought to be. It is a question not of East-West relations on Afghanistan but of one world, indivisible, and the strategy to be pursued by the West, by the non-aligned countries and by the Eastern bloc.
It has long been clear that the Soviet bloc has a well-defined strategy. It was a three-pronged form of advance, with Vietnam into South-East Asia, with Afghanistan into the Indian Ocean and down into the Gulf. In addition, it was able to maintain its forces on its western frontier with Europe and on its north-eastern frontier with China and, if necessary, to build against Japan. That was the clear strategy.
As the Leader of the Opposition said, added to that strategy is the ability to interfere wherever an opportunity arises and to justify it by saying that it is in the interests of its friends in that part of the world. That has been the case in Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere.
Against that, the West has had no clear strategy of any sort whatever for the past six years, and from that springs the greatest danger to the world. That is what we are discussing today—the danger of a third world war because we stumble into it by mistake or by misjudgment. That is the real danger that we face today. The only way to cope with that is for the West to have a clear strategy and for there to be a complete understanding between the East, the West and the non-aligned countries about that strategy.
For that reason, I am sorry that any contact should be broken. If it is true that Mr. Gromyko intended to visit Britain but has been asked not to do so, I regret it. I believe that the best thing would be for Mr. Gromyko to hear the views of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench about Afghanistan—indeed, the views of those on the Opposition Front Bench as well. If we are to recreate the understanding of our strategy, it can be done only by maintaining contacts and by making clear to the Soviet Union and its bloc where we stand and what we are prepared to do.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition about the need to define that strategy. However, that takes time, and the West has been taken unawares. On Saturday night a White House spokesman said on television "We are extemporising" What is more dangerous than to extemporise in today's world? We should not declare that we shall do things which, palpably, it can be seen that we cannot perform. That only increases the incredibility. Incredibility is the problem.
On the other hand, we must protect our vital interests. We are dealing with the Soviet Union not because it is a Marxist country—although some would argue that it is no longer that; we are dealing with it not even because of its treatment of dissent, which we find most horrifying; we are dealing with it on the basis of the interests of our country and the West as a whole. On that, above all, we have to decide.
I suggest that it is not enough to look at the present. We have to look back at the immediate past because of the problems that it presents to us. After the debacle of Vietnam and the withdrawal from that country, the United States opted out of a large part of the world obligations that it had previously undertaken. The West allowed it to do so, and Europe put nothing into the vacuum. Therefore, when the events of Angola happened the United States did nothing. The American people were not prepared to let Congress do anything and Congress was not prepared to let the President do anything. It was not President Carter or Mr. Vance who did nothing it was their predecessors, President Ford and Dr. Kissinger, who were not allowed to intervene in Angola.
The Russians were the first to assess what that meant. As a result, through their Cuban friends and allies they were able to exploit it. Similarly, they exploited Ethiopia, Somalia, South Yemen and Aden. The pattern built up because both America and Europe had opted out.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that it was not a question of opting out of Angola? There was the impossible dilemma of supporting Fascism on the one hand—which could not possibly be done in Africa—or supporting a Marxist Government, which the Americans did not want to do?
That was not how the Americans saw it. The Administration were prepared to intervene but they were not allowed to do so by Congress or by the mood of the American people.
Since that time, we have seen Russia support Vietnam and the two countries become allies. We have seen Vietnam absorb Laos, reach into Kampuchea and launch attacks across the Thai border. There has been a push to the South-East. How far will that push extend into Malaysia? As far as Thailand? Will it continue to Singapore and Indonesia? The West must make up its mind about its strategy. The position in South-East Asia affects us intensely.
What did the West do about the push into South-East Asia? Absolutely nothing. We were only too glad to wash our hands of Vietnam, Laos and Kampuchea and to ignore what was going on until the humanitarian question of the boat people arose. Even then, such people as the Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore knew that behind the question of the boat people lay the political purpose of the entrenchment in their countries of groups that would work against their Administrations.
The second push was into Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been a Soviet protegé for the past two years. It has existed by permission of the Soviet Union for that time. What has the West done about that? It has never discussed it; it has left it there as a Soviet protegé Therefore, the Soviet Union will claim the Brezhnev doctrine that it was a Socialist State under the Soviet Union's protection and that it intervened in those circumstances. We may reject that idea, but it leads to the more important question of Yugoslavia. After President Tito, will there be a claim that Yugoslavia is subject to the Brezhnev doctrine? Will it be claimed that it is a Socialist State and that until 1948 it was under Soviet domination? That is the biggest individual threat to Europe today.
If the Soviets move into Yugoslavia, NATO and Europe will become divided into two parts. The Soviet Union will be on the Mediterranean. That is why I raise the question of what we accepted about Afghanistan, and the fact that nothing was done about it. The Soviet Union has been allowed to establish itself on the Horn of Africa and to ensure that when it wants to do so it can operate from a warm-water port at Aden. For the past six years, neither the United States nor Europe has done anything about that.
There have been declarations. The last one was about Soviet combat forces in Cuba. President Carter said that that situation could not be allowed to continue. Nevertheless, it has been allowed to continue. Who learnt the lessons from that operation? The people in the Caribbean and in South America said that it did not matter and that it could not produce results.
The last and most tragic fact of all is the revelation that the greatest military Power in the world can do nothing about securing the release of 50 hostages in its embassy in Tehran. In the modern world, that is the most tragic and ghastly warning. A result can be achieved only by some sort of negotiation.
In the minds of a large part of the world, all these facts have left a great credibility gap. The Soviet Union is trading on that gap at the moment and we have to bridge that credibility gap. We can do that only by working out our strategy and by showing that we can carry it out. We have to make absolutely clear to the Soviet Union where we stand.
In the past few weeks, the Soviet Union has demonstrated its ability to use forces and maintain its position in the West and the East. In any undertakings that we make, it must not be forgotten that the Soviet Union has short communications. As was the case in Vietnam, other communications have to go by the long routes, whether from the United States or Europe. That is an important factor to be considered in our strategy.
We are seeing the emergence of a much stronger military power inside the Soviet Government. That happened before Mr. Khrushchev took office, after the demise of Stalin and the short reign of Malenkov. Mr. Brezhnev is obviously on the point of giving up office, and the same thing is happening again. We are seeing increased military power in the Soviet organization, which has been able to get its way—inspite of the political objections about Afghanistan.
The time came when, finally, there was no restraint by SALT II. The Soviet Union made up its mind and said that it would not ratify the agreement. It is a presidential year and it thought that nothing could happen until after 1980 and well into 1981. Therefore, it took a chance because it felt that the reaction would be forgotten in time and because there was no restraint by SALT II.
Factors have emerged on the United States and Western side. First, the President cannot take effective action unless there is a general consensus in the United States and the West. That consensus was lacking over Vietnam and it destroyed the American policy on that country. Therefore, President Carter must ensure that such a consensus exists now. That is where we in Europe have a major part to play.
Another factor that inhibits action is the difficult relationships between countries in the affected regions. We should examine that matter in detail because it governs the strategy that we can adopt. First, there is the problem of Turkey. We denied access and military support to Turkey because of its action in Cyprus. As a result, Turkey has fallen into economic chaos and political disarray and it leans more and more towards Moscow.
Then there is the problem of the Aegean, between Turkey and Greece. There is the problem of Cyprus, with no settlement there. What has the West done about these? It has done absolutely nothing for the past five or six years. But now we have suddenly to say that we accept any faults that we proclaimed that Turkey had, because we want her as a strong ally with us in the West. But look at what has happened in the meantime and the difficulties, particularly economic, that Turkey faces. These can be overcome only by very substantial amounts of financial assistance—not limited means, in the usual way of aid, but massive assistance—if Turkey is to be an effective ally.
Let us consider Pakistan. To all intents and purposes, relations with and aid to Pakistan were broken because of the nuclear problem. If we are not to support Pakistan because of the danger from Afghanistan, we can no longer link with it the nuclear problem, for the very simple reason that from Pakistan's point of view this is a matter of national prestige and national security. She will therefore say "Thank you very much for your offer, but if you are to link it in this way we cannot accept it." In that event, we shall see a key country looking towards Afghanistan and the Soviet Union instead of the West.
This is the dilemma that confronts us in our strategy. We shall have to forgo some of the things that we have insisted upon in the past five years if we are to be able to carry out a strategy of this kind. We shall have to forgo much of the attitude that has been taken about human rights, because the regimes that we are now to be asked to support, because of their vulnerability, are very often regimes which do not maintain our standards of human rights. We must not put ourselves in the position of being accused of double talk on these questions, because that is the accusation we make against those from whom we are trying to protect other countries.
The right hon. Gentleman is concerned about a Pakistani bomb. Ought we not also to be concerned about a Libyan bomb and an Iraqi bomb, since the two are linked, possibly financially and probably technically?
I could not agree more. I am just pointing out the dilemma in dealing with this question in relation to Pakistan and the neighbouring countries. It has to be faced if an answer is to be found.
Then there is the problem of the association of Iran's neighbouring countries with the United States, following the long episode of 30 years of American support for the Shah. We have seen a double reaction in the Middle East. First, there are those who say that because the Americans were associated so closely with the Shah, whose regime has been over-thrown, they cannot have any real arrangements with the Americans and the West. That is one attitude.
There was another attitude that I found in the Middle East just before Christmas. People were asking "Who now are our friends? We thought the Americans were the friends of the Shah, and after 30 years they pulled the rug from under him. What good were all the forces that were put into Iran? Absolutely nothing. The rebellion went ahead. So where do we look for our friends?" This was particularly emphasised when people pointed out that the Americans have now blocked the Iranian accounts. This has had more impact in the Middle East than any other single item. They said "If it can be done on one political question, it can be done on others. What happens to our oil revenues which are banked with American and international banks?"
If we are to achieve our purpose of allowing these countries to secure their defence with our aid, very often, in material goods, we have to be careful about the attitudes that we take on other things.
I have been trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument very closely. Why, then, are we concerned about the Soviet Union's entry into Afghanistan, its entry into other countries and the whole question of human rights? Is it only because of our national imperialist interest in relation to oil—precisely the same as that of the Russians—or is it that we are deeply concerned about human rights? Are we perhaps prepared to say that we are not concerned about human rights in those countries that back up against the Russians? Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how it can be argued that oppression is all right in a country if its economic and political system is satisfactory to us but that it is not all right in another country if that country is opposed to us?
I shall be coming to that point later on. I want to mention the question of how we can have a relationship with States that may be necessary for our strategic defence when at the same time those States do not have the standards that we have. This is a crucial point.
I want now to mention the difficulties involved in making these relationships. First, there is the question of the Muslim world. I do not believe that the West understands the Muslim world today. We do not understand its enoromous breadth, from the Philippines to Nigeria, with 600 million people. We do not understand its immense economic strength as the supplier of 80 per cent. of the West's oil supplies. This is the Muslim world today.
We have long thought that people in the Muslim world wanted the Western way of life, that if they did not want it they ought to want it, and that in any case they were jolly well going to get it. What has now been shown in Iran, and is being shown elsewhere in the Muslim world, is that none of those things is true. There is a younger generation which does not want the Western way of life and which wants to go back to what it believes to be a simpler, older, authoritative—sometimes we would say authoritarian—way of life, according to the Muslim religion.
I remember going into Tehran during last summer. We thought that it was necessary for Iran to have full employment. A million foreign workers were brought in because the work had to be done. There were 5 million cars, there were luxury hotels, the women were all liberated, and there were discotheques, alcohol and pornography—all the best that we could give them. How could they want to change that? But the fact is that they did, and we have to recognise it. We have to accept these facts in making a relationship with the Muslim world, otherwise we have no means of looking after our security and that of the developing world.
If we say, as President Carter has rightly said, that the Middle East is crucial to us because of the oil supplies—particularly to Europe, because we are more dependent upon these oil supplies than is the United States—we have to recognise that the key to the Middle East is the settlement of the Palestinian problem. Until that is settled, the moderate States in the Middle East are not free to look to us or to the United States for help or for common policies.
It is basically crucial that every effort should be made, therefore, to solve the Palestinian problem. But, again, Europe has done absolutely nothing about it. It has just allowed it to roll along. President Carter, of late, has been so preoccupied with other factors that he has not been able to keep up the pressure. But it is the key, and the solving of the Palestinian problem is a matter of the utmost urgency.
It is all very well for us to say that President Sadat, with all his courage, his imagination and his negotiating prowess, will be prepared to accept us and to work with us. With all that, he is a lone figure, and neither the radical nor the moderate Arab States will support him. If we are associated alone with President Sadat, we cannot expect to have a working relationship with the other States. That is why it is so important to solve the Palestinian question and to solve the Middle Eastern problem. Then we can have the States there working on our side.
I regret that in all this Europe has done nothing. But we have a part to play, certainly over Cyprus, certainly over the Aegean and certainly over Turkey. I believe that we also have a part to play over the Middle East. I believe that we can be of help to President Carter in finding a solution to the Palestinian problem.
What response do we make, therefore, in the present situation, against the background of the last six years? I have already said that we have to restore credibility. The West as a whole has to rethink its foreign policy. We have to ensure that the non-aligned world understands this and sympathises with it. We have also to drop the linkage that we have made in a variety of places, not only in the Indian sub-continent and in Europe but also in South America, in relation to the action that we take. We have the problem of dealing with the question of human rights.
Oil is a crucial interest for us all. But, if at the end of the 1980s the Soviet Union will no longer be self-sufficient in oil supplies, we should make it absolutely plain to the Soviet Union that we shall not deny it access to Middle Eastern oil.
Although I fully supported the settlement between President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin, in many ways I regret that the whole matter was lifted out of the Geneva sphere, because there the Soviet Union was present. Now the Soviet Union has no incentive to co-operate in the Middle East. I have a feeling that when eventually we can reach an arrangement over the Palestinian question it will be necessary to return to Geneva and obtain the commitment of the Soviet Union to it and at the same time make plain that the oil in the Middle East is an interest of both of us, if we are deficient in oil supplies.
I accept the breaking of trade contacts. That is a natural response to public opinion, particularly on grain, but it produces its dilemmas. If it goes on for only a short time, the Soviet Union will say "Short memories". If it goes on for a long time, one of the restraints on the Soviet Union is removed. The Soviet Union will say "It did not operate last time, over the past five years. "The restraint is removed, and it may then go its own way in other parts of the world where it thinks it can get away with it.
The Olympic Games are a matter for natural differences of opinion. I happen to be one of those who take part in sport. I am proud that I have captained two national teams in international sport. I believe that we should keep politics out of sport. I fully accept that other people do not, but that does not alter my view.
Nor do I think that having the Olympic Games in Moscow is only a question of prestige for Moscow. It is a question of prestige wherever the Games go. On Saturday night the presidential spokesman said that it had now become a question of American prestige. We have that problem in either case.
The question that I ask myself is this: "If the Soviet Union is as determined on aggression as is said, will abandoning the Olympic Games really stop it?" I find it difficult to believe that it will. But if individuals, teams or nations do not want to take part, it is fully up to them to take their decision.
The governing point in my mind is that, because the matter has been so ventilated in public opinion, it has taken the nation's mind and the Western mind off what really requires to be done. That is what worries me. To do the things that are required will need a great public effort by the whole of the West.
What should be our main objectives? I believe that one objective should be to buttress the countries that require it in our international interests, from both the military and the economic points of view. I welcome the President's naval force in the Indian Ocean. It has taken a decade to persuade the United States that the Indian Ocean is important. We started in 1970, and for the first two years the United States Government would not believe it, but gradually they have accepted the idea, and I welcome that. Europe should make its contribution as well and not leave it to the United States.
I welcome, too, the fact that the President is to have a quick-strike force. If it is to have credibility, it must be seen to exist and be operative. That is certainly not so at present, and it may not be so for some time. That is another practical point.
The third point is that in going to help the countries concerned we must learn the lesson of Iran. We must not do it in a way that will make public opinion in those countries revolt against us because the public deduce that we are trying to dominate their society. Therefore, military help requires to be given in a fairly discreet way. It means diplomatic action in a discreet way.
Oman has been asking for a long time for help to have minesweepers to keep the Straits of Hormuz clear. What have we done about it? Absolutely nothing. If anyone, wherever he comes from, likes to try to block the straits by mines at present, he can do so without the least fear of anyone's being able to clear the straits. That is a practical example of how words are simply not enough in the present situation.
No. I am saying exactly the reverse. The point about a naval force is that it can be inconspicuous. One does not need the great bases that we had in former times.
I come to the question of supporting the Afghan rebels when they flee into Pakistan, which has been put forward in some quarters. I strongly support financial assistance for Pakistan. If military support is given to counter-attack across the Afghan border, we are running into grave dangers. The policy on that matter should be absolutely clear. If necessary, some international force must be brought in to prevent that.
I deal, fourthly, with the question of financial assistance. This links up very much with what the Leader of the Opposition said about the Brandt commission. I do not want to go into details now, because I hope that the House will find time to debate its report in detail when it appears. The plain fact is that any financial assistance to the non-aligned world today must be on a scale that is nowhere near being approached by any of us—any of us in Europe, let alone the United States, which has consistently reduced its aid programme. I regret to say that even our Government have reduced their aid programme.
For example, the problem of Jamaica, in our Commonwealth, is appalling—from the point of view of its indebtedness, its unemployment and its economic position in general. Look at the appeal of neighbours nearby who say "We can put that right, because we shall produce the money for you from Soviet sources." We have already seen it happening in the Caribbean islands.
Let us take the case of Brazil, a prosperous country. The total cost of its oil imports plus servicing its indebtedness now exceeds its total exports. That is the problem facing countries in the non aligned world. They say "If you mean what you say, take some action. You will have to face up to the questions of access for industrial goods, of commodity arrangements for one or two more commodities, of dealing with indebtedness—rolling it over, reducing interest rates, dealing with the least developed countries in this respect. You will have to have a code for transnationals." That sort of approach may need to start off with small groups of leaders from the non-aligned countries, the Western world and the OPEC countries.
If the OPEC countries with the resources can be satisfied that we in the West are now genuine about dealing with these problems, I believe that they will be prepared to pool their resources with us. That is the only way in which we can obtain the total resources necessary to help the countries that are now in difficulty and that we want to keep on our side. Our purpose must be to hold them on our side in a non-aligned position, healthy enough economically to resist Soviet subversion.
What is required is a world strategy—military, political, economic and social. We have, again with discretion and diplomacy, to try to persuade those countries that do not share our attitude towards human rights to move, with increasing prosperity, into that democratic situation.
I do not believe that that is beyond possibility. It is happening in various places already. It is happening now in Brazil. It should happen in Argentina. With discretion and diplomacy we can help to persuade these people, who are now so important to us—they always have been, but perhaps we now realise it—that they can move in a direction that will help us, as well as us helping them.
So far, the response to the present situation on a world scale has been in adequate. What we in the West need is a policy which is as inconspicuous as possible but as consistent as possible, so that people will know that we are their friends, that we shall not rat on them and that we shall be there in case of need. We have to decide, first and foremost, who those people will be.
I want to see a united European approach. I believe that Europe is not pulling its weight at present. With great respect to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, when our summits concentrate on fish, lamb and budgets and ignore the state of the world, who can be surprised if the Soviet Union thinks that this provides it with the opportunity to extend itself still further? We should solve our internal problems speedily, with give and take, so that we can deal with the outside world.
My last point relates to the Atlantic Alliance. We should not allow Soviet activities to divide Europe from the United States. It is clear that many countries in Europe see the threat on their doorsteps perhaps more vividly. They are more reluctant to take firm action and want to see negotiation. If the Soviet Union can play that card to divide us, all is lost. It is absolutely vital, when considering the proposals that I put forward, that we hold Europe and the United States together, because the United States is our final safeguard in case of need.
It is the nature of a debate such as this that every hon. Member who takes part displays and compares a view of the world which is, in a sense, personal to him or her and certainly subjective. These views partly overlap, and others detect correspondences between them and what they themselves see as the real world. Three such global views have already been placed before the House, and I cannot hope that there will be more than a certain overlap between those views and the fourth which I wish to add.
When the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) reacted to the statement on Afghanistan last week, he said that we must tread
the narrow path between under-reacting and over-reacting".—[Official Report 24 January 1980; Vol. 977, c. 661.]
It seems to me that we have succeeded in doing both—we have over-reacted and also under-reacted.
During the weeks of excitement—I almost said of hysteria—that have followed the entry of Soviet troops en masse into Afghanistan I have been irresistably reminded of the character in Noel Coward's play "Cavalcade" who, on setting off for the Boer War as a volunteer, declared his conviction that unless we beat the Boers they would speedily be found in London, spreading fire, rapine and murder on all sides.
It is a century and more since Tennyson wrote the line:
If Russia breaks our Khyber bar".
When he wrote that line, it had reality. It was not, of course, the Khyber bar of the United Kingdom, but it was the Khyber bar of that Empire of India which
gave the British Empire its pivotal position in the world. It was as the power which was India that we, three times in the last century, did what the Russians have done now—with ultimate results which I suspect may be repeated on this occasion.
The whole background has changed since then. To me it seems utter delusion to suppose that Afghanistan is perceptibly related to the defence or the interests of the United Kingdom. Of course, the present development could be followed by others, though I agreed with the Leader of the Opposition when he said that those potential subsequent events appeared to him less than likely and when he described what has happened as the traditional reaction of a continental Power to a problem on its frontier; but those further events would have to follow one another to some considerable extent before the general balance of power would be so disturbed as to affect the safety and the future independence of this country.
I do not know whether it is because of our preoccupation with nuclear power, but in recent years we seem to have lost any sense of the significance of geography in military and, indeed, in political matters. The principle whereby military power and interest diminish with the square—or is it the cube?—of a a distance appears now to be forgotten or even ridiculed, although it was a rule which the United States has recently had to re-learn, and re-learn painfully.
But that rule still applies. The fact still remains that remoteness renders even the most overwhelming military power inadequate—that has already been said in this debate; I think that the adverb that was attached to it was "frustratingly"—and consequently renders political interest minimal.
Yet in the face of all this—in the face, dare I say, of the common sense of the irrelevance of Afghanistan and the Russian incursion to our defence—we have entered upon the largest professions. Last week, in the House, the Lord Privy Seal said that what the people of the region need is
a firm Western commitment to their security and independence."—[Official Report, 24 January 1980; Vol 977 c. 657.]
I wonder whether he really meant that. Those are very serious words. Are we really saying that this country—along with its allies, but still this country—is to be committed to the security and independence of the countries which border upon Afghanistan? If so, we are committing ourselves to something that we cannot carry out—even if we have any intention of carrying it out and even if we attach any solid meaning to our words.
It is true that when, in 1939, we made a pact with Poland it was equally evident that our actual power would be unequal to furnishing the defence we promised. But we understood very well why we did it. We did it to ensure that if, on our doorstep, in an area which overshadowed these islands, there was to be a further advance of German power, it would be at the price of war with us. Is that what we mean by what we are saying with regard to Afghanistan and its occupation?
I ask the same question of Her Majesty's Opposition. Last Thursday, the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar said:
What is needed is…above all, an assurance and guarantee against attack, of the kind that President Carter has enunciated in his State of the Union message today"—[Official Report, 24 January 1980; Vol. 977, c. 661.]
"An assurance and guarantee against attack"—do we seriously think we are in a position to offer "an assurance and guarantee against attack" to the countries that border upon Afghanistan?
Does the right hon. Member recall that until last year we were a member of the Central Treaty Organisation which was explicitly committed to the defence of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan and that that alliance fell apart at the wish of the local Powers and not ourselves? Can the right hon. Gentleman put forward any credible alternative to collective security for the interests of the small nations that border the Soviet Union.
I do not believe those arrangements had any reality or any serious intention behind them. They were, indeed, a bewildering display of initial letters upon the paper; but in most cases—at any rate, so far as this country is concerned, and in our typical way we understood it without saying so—they had no real intention behind them. Nor could they have had, because there was neither the power nor the directness of interest which would have given reality to words such as those.
And now we have a new Monroe doctrine—that is what it is—in the words contained in the President's state of the union message:
Any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States
repelled by the use of any means necessary, including military force.
I believe I am right in saying that this country has never yet accepted the Monroe doctrine itself—the corresponding declaration on the part of the United States in relation to the New World; but what insanity—I cannot avoid using the word—is it for the United States to describe the vital interests of that distant continental nation as being involved by
any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Gulf
and to assert that the United States intends to use
any means…including military force
to frustrate it! Yet that is the nation which, in circumstances much more favourable to it than those that prevail in the Middle East, learnt and taught the world a lesson in South-East Asia which should not have been forgotten so soon.
What insanity is it to allow the Russians to know that any incursion will not be met and that they can take over the vital interests and the oil of the West?
The judgment of the Russians depends not upon words or upon professions which have only to be examined to be seen to be hollow but upon their estimates of real power and real intentions.
The Prime Minister said that our practical reactions must be "neither synthetic nor short-lived". I ask the House to judge them by those criteria. We intend to extend to the Soviet Union no better credit than we extend to other countries. We shall not send the Russians any more subsidised produce of Western Europe than we are sending at present. We shall not have certain conversations with them, which we otherwise would have had. Our cultural links will be less actively pursued: no more Turgenev lectures, no more talks on Dostoevsky, no more subsidised classes to read Lermontov. That is all to be stopped.
On top of that, if we can—we have no legal power to do so, but we intend to do it by the sort of para-legal methods that are used by the Bank of England and other governmental authorities—we shall persuade the world's athletes not to go to the Moscow Olympics. What a daunting threat! What a powerful reaction to present to the greatest land power in the world which has just occupied an area on its borders!
Will these measures be short-lived? Of course they will be short-lived. The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) made exactly this point and put his finger on it. All these measures, by their very nature, are short-lived. One cannot continue keeping up grain sanctions. One cannot continue to say "We will not play"—whether one means it diplomatically or at the Olympics. Incidentally, I am not absolutely certain that in the circumstances of 1980 the holding of the Olympic Games in Moscow might not in the end have redounded more the the discredit than to the credit of the Soviet Union. But, be that as it may, these are all essentially short-lived measures. They are not measures which will show the Russians that they cannot act in this way with impunity—without fear of being punished—as the Lord Privy Seal said last week. What punishment! How likely is it that steps of this kind will turn back the will of those who have decided that the interests of the Soviet Union required this military action?
Let us take the other test of the Prime Minister—whether these measures are "synthetic". Of course they are synthetic. In the end the ultimate will, as well as the ability, to fight if necessary is what impresses and carries effect. Without that ultimate conviction, all else is synthetic.
Those of us of a certain age lived through the 1930s when there was a real and growing fear of war. Some of us lived through those years on the Continent as well as in this country. We shall always know the smell—the acrid, perceptible, unmistakable smell—of the rising threat of force. We know what happens in such a world. We know how nations behave when they believe that their vital interests are at stake and that they are living under the growing threat of force. Those countries arm. They arm, whatever else must be sacrificed. They arm on a growing scale. There are those, indeed, who argue that that interacting process is itself part of the slide towards war.
It is absurd to suppose that this is the state of mind among the nations of Europe and here in this country; and, after all, the nations on the Continent are nearer than we are to the threat. Judged by their actions, and not their words, to the question whether they consider that the force exerted by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan is one that presently and devastatingly will be brought to bear upon them, this is a tissue of illusion—not merely "short-lived" but "synthetic" as well.
We have both over-reacted and—if we meant what we said—under-reacted also. In reality, we should have done neither. We should not have reacted at all. The action and reaction which might follow from such an event as this could, in due course, develop to a point at which our own reaction would be invoked. But meanwhile this event is one that we have totally and unrealistically misjudged.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has touched on the need to react to the threat by the Soviet Union, but at the same time he has dismissed as ineffective President Carter's reaction to the threat in the Persian Gulf. But, if the Soviet Union should challenge the West by attacking the Gulf, the balance of world power would be altered dramatically in its favour. Therefore, it is right that President Carter should have indicated the enormous importance that he and the West attach to that area. The West has vital interests in the Middle East and is bound to go to extreme lengths to defend and safeguard them. I therefore believe that the Prime Minister was absolutely right in saying that Europe should clearly indicate its support for the United States in its response.
Our friends in the Gulf and in the Arab world are also understandably deeply
concerned about the blatant act of Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, and would like to join with us in ensuring that adequate measures are taken to protect both our interests and their security. But, as the Prime Minister of Jordan recently pointed out:
You cannot talk to us about security in Afghanistan as long as you deny us security rights here. For Jordanians, as for other Arabs, the Palestinian issue is all-pervasive and can be solved only by giving Palestinians self-determination.
It follows that the West must get its foreign policy right in the Middle East if its defence of the area is to be truly effective.
Saudi Arabia and other friendly Gulf States such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates must be helped off the Camp David hook upon which American policy has impaled them. The stability of Saudi Arabia was based on three main planks—namely, alliance with the United States, alliance with Egypt, and reliance on the stability of Iran. Iran is now in a state of some confusion. We hope that that will pass quickly. The alliance with the United States has been soured by Camp David. Also, as a result of Camp David, Egypt has, for the time being at least, completely withdrawn from its links with the rest of the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia.
If we are properly to safeguard our interests and to protect our friends, it is essential to re-establish the links and alliances to which I have referred. However, it will not be possible to do so unless an alternative policy to Camp David is found.
America and Europe have a choice. They are not caught in an inescapable dilemma where they have vital interests on both sides and where these are bound to conflict. The hostility towards America, and to a lesser extent towards the West in general, which has now exploded in the Middle East has been latent there for a long time. However, it is not irremediable.
In the Arab world especially, it would disappear rapidly once the West, and especially Washington, began showing a proper respect and concern for the rights of the Palestinians. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) remarked, that is the crucial issue. It is a pity that Europe and ourselves did not realise that fact many years ago. However, all that is required is a reasonable adherence to the United Nations charter, United Nations resolutions and a reasonable determination to see them carried out. Surely that is a small enough price to pay for peace in the Middle East and for safeguarding Western interests there.
How is that to be done? How is Israel to be brought to realise that its own long-term best interests will he served by a peace that is acceptable? What is needed is some firmness from Washington. Already there are certain indications of a greater awareness on the part of the United States of the need to show firmness. Camp David is almost dead, but it is not yet lying down. A presidential election is in the offing and there is little hope that Washington, if left to itself, will act quickly and decisively enough. Here should be an opportunity for Europe to intervene in its own and everyone else's interests, including the interests of Israel in the long term.
In the past, the Americans have not shown much disposition to listen to their friends in Europe on the form of a peace settlement in the Middle East. However, the United States is now seeking European support, and understandably so, in withstanding threats to the Middle East and the supply of oil to the West. Surely we should take the opportunity of bringing home to Washington as forcefully as we can the need for a radical change of direction in American policy. The justification for taking that line is not merely that American partisanship for Israel has been wrong. It has been dangerous and much to blame for the present Western predicament in the Middle East. A new and more honest attempt to tackle the Arab-Israeli dispute is a prerequisite to any long-term strategy for the defence of Western interests in the region.
It follows that the search for peace can be left no longer exclusively in Washington's hands. However, it is essential that America should play a full, active and principal role in the peace process. No one else can remove the main obstacle to peace, which is Israel's rejection of the sort of settlement which the international community considers fair and reasonable and which would command general acceptance in the Arab world.
What is needed is to keep the Americans actively engaged in the peace process while associating others with them in that process. A new and more broadly based peacemaking effort is not only necessary but urgent. Something must take the place of the Camp David initiative quickly when it peters out on 26 May. At that stage it will be no good looking to the Americans for a new effort, as they will be more and more preoccupied with their presidential election. Therefore, Europe should take the lead.
Possible European initiatives should include reviving the plan for a period of international control of the West Bank and Gaza, which was put forward in 1979. It proposed that after Israel had withdrawn from the West Bank and Gaza these territories should be placed under international trusteeship and administered for a transitional period. During this period the international administration authority would remain responsible for security, including border control, while other functions were handed over progressively to an elected Palestinian administration.
The final transfer of power to a fully independent Palestinian Government, who could he associated with Jordan, and the ending of the period of international trusteeship would be conditional on the new Government acceding to the peace settlement entered into by Israel and Other Arab States directly concerned.
Another possibility would be to consider afresh the United Nations Palestine Conciliation Commission. That is a proposal that I know interests the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds).
The commission is still nominally in operation. It still submits an annual "no progress" report. It has the right sort of membership—namely, the United States, France and Turkey. It was established by the General Assembly—not the Security Council—and possibly could be reactivated merely by agreement between the Secretary-General and the three members of the commission. Pending endorsement of its reactivation by the General Assembly, the broad instructions given to it when it was established in 1948 would suffice. These were:
to take steps to assist the Government and authorities concerned to achieve a final settlement of all questions outstanding between them.
Remarkable prescience must have dictated the use of the term "Governments and authorities concerned", because it so conveniently enables the commission to take cognisance of the PLO. Obviously, the commission would have to take cognisance also of other developments since it was established in 1948, especially Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, the recent peace treaty between Egypt and Israel and the framework for a settlement of the West Bank and Gaza negotiated at Camp David.
In practice it would not, presumably, concern itself with relations between Egypt and Israel as these have been settled by the treaty. However, it would deal with the Golan Heights as well as the West Bank and Gaza.
Finally, it is obvious that the PLO is the relevant representative body of the Palestinian people. That reality should be accepted and recognised by the European Powers. The United States is moving in that direction, and surely we should be one step ahead.
These are some ways in which Britain and Europe could now take the lead in promoting new policies and plans and reviving old ones which should never have been discarded in the first place.
Military initiatives and safeguards in the Gulf are essential, but these can be truly effective and of lasting value only if the political climate is changed. The best way to change the political climate in the Middle East is to bring about a genuine peace settlement—one that will last. An awareness of political realities will be necessary if that is to be achieved. Vision is also required so that those policies that are put forward will genuinely solve the problems. Britain and Europe could lead the way and they should do so now, while there is still time.
On hearing the Government's recent announcement, my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) asked an interesting and important question. He asked why the Minister thought that the several hon. Members have said, the Soviet Union is not in the habit of acting quickly. It is cautious in its attitude and for a long time it has tried to build up detente. We do not wish to destroy that detente by acting on a whim. There must be a deep-rooted reason for the Soviet Union's action.
Perhaps it was rather superficial of the Prime Minister to lecture us about the history of the Soviet Union and about its desire to expand. Many of us do not accept that her story is true. I believe that the Soviet Union is anxious to avoid war. It has suffered much more from war than Britain, and it would not precipitate another war without substantial reasons.
It is curious that Conservative Members have recently become quite attached to the regimes that existed in Afghanistan. They now refer to those regimes as having been in the "non-aligned camp". However, three or four months ago Conservative Members referred to those regimes—which had been in power since the revolution two years ago—as being "client States" of the Soviet Union. They called Afghanistan a "puppet State" of the Soviet Union. The Prime Minister and Presidents of Afghanistan were also referred to as "puppets". Suddenly those regimes have become members of the non-aligned group of countries.
Apparently we have some strategic interest in that non-aligned country. I do not believe that. I accept that on a number of occasions the Soviet Union has been approached by various Afghan Governments during the past two years. Those Governments requested military assistance under the agreement of friendship signed in 1978. My opinions have been reinforced by the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). He confirmed that to his personal knowledge such requests had been made and had been turned down by the Soviet Union.
Why has the Soviet Union now acted? Clearly, the reason for sending troops to assist Afghanistan had become more critical. I believe that the Soviet Union had become aware that Amin's regime was fast proceeding along the same lines as that of Pol Pot. If the Soviet Union had not stepped in, we would soon have heard the same stories about Afghanistan as we now hear about Kampuchea.
Hon. Members of all parties, and particularly those on the Left of the Labour Party, would have asked why that had been allowed to go on. They would have wanted to know why no one had stepped in. It was essential for the Soviet Union to take the steps that it took.
I am saying that the Russians had a reason for their actions. I do not believe that the Soviet Union acted for the naive reason that the Prime Minister gave. She said that it acted in order to expand its sphere of influence. However, we have been repeatedly told for the past two years that its sphere of influence already included Afghanistan. There must be another reason.
The reasons that I have given are not necessarily correct, but I am putting them forward as possible solutions. Equally, I assume that the Prime Minister believes that she is putting forward a possible reason for the Soviet Union's actions. She cannot know the exact thinking behind another Government's actions.
If the Soviet invasion was so beneficent, can the hon. Gentleman explain why the number of refugees in the frontier province of Pakistan has doubled since the invasion? One would have imagined that those refugees would have gone back to Afghanistan if they were feeling so secure.
I am not as well informed about the exact figures as the hon. Member for Ruislip—Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). However, even if those figures have increased, it would be a perfectly natural response to any disturbance. Perhaps there is another reason. I accept that the United States, Great Britain, China and Pakistan—and perhaps some other countries—have been actively engaged in financing, training and arming people. They have then sent them back into Afghanistan to overthrow the Goverment.
That activity has become so intense that the Government of Afghanistan repeatedly, and finally successfully, asked for assistance from the Soviet Union in order to keep them at bay.
If we are so naive as to believe that such things never happen, we have not learnt any of history's lessons.
Two or three weeks ago I read in The Guardian that the United States had decided to continue a payment of $1 million a month into the funds of Afghan rebels via Pakistan. How long had that been going on? Was it not an interference in the sovereign rights of another country? Are we to believe that the United States and Britain have only just woken up to the fact that we have such vital interests in that country? Are we to believe that we were unaware of those interests and that we have done nothing about them for the past two years? I find that incredible. I believe that we were actively engaged in encouraging subversion in Afghanistan.
Therefore, when we look at these possibilities more deeply than has been done in the House today, we see a perfectly legitimate reason for the Soviet Union to send assistance to Afghanistan. [HON. MEMBERS: "The hon. Gentleman does."] This may be a minority opinion in this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".] That does not necessarily make it wrong. When I first came here, one of my predecessors in Oldham, Leslie Hale, pointed out that, although at the time I was one of a small minority with certain views about Ireland, I could be certain about one matter in the House. It was that if the House was unanimous about anything, it was usually wrong. I remind the House that it is almost unanimous on this occasion, and I believe that it is deeply wrong.
I have said what I think about the situation in Afghanistan, and I had intended to say a little about the reprisals suggested by the right hon. Lady which were announced in the House last week. However, they have been demonstrated by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) to be nonsense.
It is suggested that SALT II will now be withdrawn from Congress. However, I can remember being in Atlanta more than a year ago when President Carter was presented with the Martin Luther King peace prize for the wonderful efforts that he had made in the Middle East. He devoted the whole of his speech to going over the heads of his audience to Congress in an attempt to convince it of the absolute necessity of ratifying the SALT II agreement. As long ago as that, he had grave doubts about whether he could get it through Congress. As the months passed, the doubts grew, and it became very clear long before Afghanistan that there was no possibility of SALT II being ratified by Congress.
I invite the House to consider another of the measures announced by the Prime Minister. She referred to the line of credit negotiated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) when Prime Minister. He negotiated a line of credit five years ago for £950 million. The Tory Opposition were against it from the very beginning. They argued against it. They said that it should not have been allowed, and they continually ridiculed the fact that it had been taken up on such a small scale. After five years, only £550 million of that credit had been taken. A little more than £400 million was left.
The right hon. Lady took the bold step which was headlined in one of our newspapers "Maggie stops Russian deal". The Russian deal which "Maggie" had stopped was to say on 16 February that when this line of credit ran out the present Government did not intend to renew it. Anyone who thought that the Government intended to renew it, bearing in mind their criticism of it over five long years, would have said that it was necessary for the Government to turn head over heels to consider extending it because they had been against it from the start. Why do we make the nonsensical claim that in some way this was connected with Afghanistan? It is just a little bit of window dressing.
We have the same sort of exercise with the Olympic Games. Attention has been focused so much on the Olympic Games that if they were abandoned, boycotted or moved from the Soviet Union one might be forgiven for thinking that we had won a major war, everything would be all right, Afghanistan could be forgotten about, as could the threat to Middle East oil, and the rest of it. It is an old trick when a Government can do nothing to try to persuade people that there is something which can be done. In this case the blame can be placed on the Olympic committee if the Government are unsuccessful. If they are successful, they can make a big claim of having brought off some wonderful coup. At the end of the day, however, nothing results from it. It is little short of nonsense for the Government to try to persuade people that they have a firm policy on this matter.
We have heard a great deal from Government supporters about retaliation. They wish to build detente in the future, to keep talks going and not to cut off the SALT talks. That is their claim. However, they started destroying detente a long time ago. They started doing that immediately before the special session of the United Nations on disarmament in 1978. I recall that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who was Prime Minister at the time, flew directly from a meeting of NATO in Washington to speak in New York. I heard him there. He made a very good speech. He spoke about how much he believed in disarmament and so on. However, the edge was taken off his speech a little by the fact that only two days earlier the NATO countries, meeting in Washington, had decided to increase their arms expenditure by 3 per cent.—the very same 3 per cent. as the right hon. Lady now claims is being spent as a result of what has happened in Afghanistan. It is about that 3 per cent. that she speaks.
A number of other matters came up as it were, on the way to Afghanistan. There were the very long delays in the Vienna talks. Now we are talking about trying to keep them going and the fact that the Soviet Union has not responded to certain offers that we made.
At the same time as the disarmament talks in the United Nations were going on, the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia placed on the table in Vienna certain far-reaching proposals which were described in this House by a Minister as being the most hopeful proposals for many a long year. I asked month after month how they were getting on and what response was being made to them. I remember asking the then Prime Minister "When are we likely to make a response to those proposals in Vienna?" He replied "The Russians always take a long time to answer any of our proposals, so we can do the same." That exchange occurred months after the offers were made. Who dragged their feet at that time on detente? That was long before we heard about Afghanistan and its strategic importance.
I have described already how the SALT II agreement was stalled for months in Congress. There was nothing new about President Carter's suggestion that he would do better to withdraw it. It is clear that if he had not withdrawn it, if Afghanistan had not come into the news in the way that it has and if he had left the agreement, it would not have been ratified.
My hon. Friend is being quite inaccurate about this. Until the events in Afghanistan, the general consensus was that Congress was moving towards a majority in favour of ratification. What happened, of course, was that the Afghanistan episode destroyed any possibility of a majority in Congress. My hon. Friend's interpretation is not borne out by that of most commentators.
My hon. Friend is entitled to his opinion about these matters. I go by what I see and what I read in newspapers. The fact is that the agreement has been before Congress for a long time, attempts have been made to get it ratified and Congress has been stalling. It may be that the persuasive powers of President Carter and others would have convinced Congress about the importance of supporting it. The speech which President Carter made when he came back from his meeting with President Brezhnev bears out strongly that it would have been advantageous to the United States to sign the SALT II agreement. Perhaps Congress did not believe him and that is why it stalled for so long.
I remind the House of another little matter. Proposals were made in Berlin on 6 October by President Brezhnev to hold further talks about nuclear missiles. At the same time, he made announcements—not proposals—about the withdrawal of troops and tanks. The right hon. Lady the Prime Minister brushed these aside with disdain as being of no interest. Long before Afghanistan, she was taking this attitude. Is it surprising that the Soviet Union begins to think that responses of the kind she has now made are nothing new and do not arise from Afghanistan? The decision made in Brussels on 12 December to go ahead with the siting of United States nuclear missiles in Great Britain and other Western European countries was a major setback for detente. It has been demonstrated that the missiles would be entirely within the control of the United States. That was long before Afghanistan.
Hon. Members on the Government Benches, and probably also hon. Members on the Labour Benches, who believe that the action of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan was sufficient to bring down the blind for a long time on any talks about detente should put themselves in the position of the Soviet Union, which viewed the decision by NATO members at Brussels to go ahead with the missiles as just as big a blow to detente and future discussions as we view the Afghanistan situation. It is possible that after NATO's decision to set up missile bases, the Soviet Union decided that detente and discussions were dead for a long time and that the bases could be regarded only as a direct threat to itself.
The Government's cold war hysteria began a long time ago. It did not simply follow the Afghanistan incident. One is reminded of what happened in the First World War when even a German dachshund dog was not safe walking the streets in this country because people were trying to take revenge. I can recall that stones were thrown through the window of the house of a lord provost in Aberdeen who happened to have a rather German name. One can easily stir up the sort of hysteria seen from hon. Members on the Government Benches. This is reflected in an incident last Thursday evening when the president of the World Peace Council, an Indian, came from Vienna to a meeting that had been organised here for a purpose, we are told, that must still be encouraged. These were talks about disarmament organised by trade unionists, Members of Parliament and people from other walks of life. But so much hysteria had been created that even the Home Secretary was galvanised into taking action and he signed an order preventing Mr. Romesh Chandra from entering the country. I am not surprised that Government Members say "Hear, hear." They are afraid to hear anyone else's opinion.
Viscount Cranborne: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think that I am right in recalling that last Friday the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) raised this point as a matter connected with leisure. How can it have now become—I seek your advice—a matter to do with East-West relations?
This would perhaps be an appropriate moment to say to hon. Members who have not yet been to see me in the Chair, although this does not help their chances, that there can be no 10-minute limit on speeches tonight because this is not a Second Reading debate. I think, however, that short speeches would be appreciated. In respect of the point of order, this is the Adjournment. On the Adjournment, this matter may be raised.
Thank you Mr. Deputy Speaker. I will not range much wider than this question relating to my good friend Mr. Romesh Chandra. I make no apology for saying he is a very good friend of mine. He has worked for many years in the cause of peace, detente and development. His work is recognised by the fact that he is chairman of the United Nations committee for non-governmental organisations, of which the World Peace Council is one. He holds a number of other positions in the United Nations. He was prevented from entering this country by the present Tory Government. It is an infringement on the liberty of the individual for which the Government profess to care. They should be thoroughly ashamed.
The hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) regaled the House for some time. I hope to limit my speech to 10 minutes. The main point of the Leader of the Opposition was to give the Russians the benefit of the doubt—as other Opposition Members have done—in terms of their intentions in invading Afghanistan. I propose, in the few minutes that I intend to allot myself, to deal with this matter from the military point of view. The military tends to transcend the political as diplomacy fails and breaks down.
The hon. Member for Oldham, East failed to observe that the occupation of Afghanistan was carried out by a coup de foudre in one of the most efficient airborne operations in recorded history. A division was landed in 24 hour by air. That is not the way in which troops are greeted with garlands by a welcoming Government. Even the late Adolf Hitler took three days to occupy Austria. I also remind Opposition Members that a few weeks previously another equally exceptional and remarkable Russian airborne operation took place. Near Christmas, 11,000 Russian troops were flown into what is now called South Yeman and removed within 24 hours. That is not exactly what can be called a specific action or one that would be likely to endear itself to those of us who are seeking world peace.
It is in these terms that I should like to make a few remarks about the Middle East situation, which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters), with whom I broadly disagree. It is important to consider what is happening in the Middle East this side of the Gulf. A situation of considerable turmoil and danger exists. I realise that people's hearts go out to the Palestinians. Mine also happens to go out to the Israelis in the difficulties that they face. One's hearts and one's tears should go out most to the Christian people of Lebanon, who have been hideously persecuted. If there is any question of emotion, it is about them that we should be expressing emotion rather than some of the other situations in that part of the world.
I put this question to my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury, who has now left the Chamber but who will doubtless read my remarks in Hansard. I also put the question to the former Prime Minister and to the Lord Privy Seal, who had talks with Mr. El-Kaddumi, of the PLO, when he was in Britain. I asked all of them whether security in the Middle East would be strengthened one whit if a PLO Government were recognised. Would there be more resistance to the probable Russian occupation by satellites or by surrogates of North Yemen? Would there be more objections by the Saudis if, night after night, their territory was over-flown by Russian aircraft without a challenge.
What my hon. Friend proposes is a world of total unreality. After leaving this country Mr. El-Kaddumi, the political chief of the PLO, said at a banquet in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 12 December that the action of the Russians in Afghanistan had been an act of pure liberation. Undoubtedly, the Habbash organisation, which is controlled by the PLO, was behind the assassination attempts in the Great Mosque at Mecca. To talk now of bringing the PLO officially into the counsels of Europe and Middle East negotiations would merely add more chaos to an already chaotic situation.
If there is increasing military tension, and clearly there is, the West should be grateful for the Camp David agreement, which has achieved something that seemed impossible three years ago—peace between Israel and Egypt. Any effort now by any hon. Member or by any well-meaning European so-called statesman to disrupt or shatter that agreement would be a positive action against the cause of peace.
The speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), as so often, contained many grains of truth, but I remind him that truth is a many-sided thing, and I often see different sides from those that he sees. A menace is now growing—and it is not just the question of logistics or the fact, as he rightly said, that hitherto threats have depended almost geometrically on the proximity of one army to another. A new dimension is emerging in the world—the struggle for raw materials and the use of long-range surrogate forces.
I agree somewhat with the right hon. Member that the challenge, if there be one —I believe that there is one—has not yet met an adequate response. If Europe does not offer an adequate response, the moment could come when the Americans will say "We have had enough" and will turn to other means of pursuing their interests. One minor way to upset the Americans is to attack the Camp David agreement tonight.
When it comes to surrogate forces, especially the Cuban attack on Angola—which denies the general premise of the right hon. Member for Down, South about the effective use of military power at long range—this country has an opportunity, if it is prepared to show the will, to use its residual power in Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere to resist those forces, which are attempting to destroy the Western world by the organisation of our loss of raw materials. That is the challenge, and that or something like it should be the answer and not footling around with attacking Camp David or backing the PLO. That would be a real contribution to the strength of the West, instead of courting its destruction.
The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) will, I think, agree that I have stood up in the House as fiercely and as strongly as any hon. Member for the rights of Israel. However, I do not think it possible, if one is absolutely honest, to say that the PLO should never be involved in discussions about the Middle East. We should remember that at one time we would have nothing to do with President Makarios, that Kenyatta was an absolute scoundrel and that Mugabe and Nkomo were never to be part of any discussions.
History means that at certain moments one must talk to one's enemies. Although I do not in any way support the PLO, we should be careful about taking such a strident attitude in this matter. We cannot reach an ultimate and enduring peace in the Middle East until, sooner or later, there are discussions between the Israelis and the PLO, and others, as part of a settlement in the area. That does not mean that I am urging that the PLO is the only legitimate organisation for the Palestinians. On the contrary, I am not saying that.
President Carter was absolutely right when he said that we were in a dangerous situation. I think that it is the most dangerous time that the world has known since the Berlin airlift. The tensions between East and West have developed on a horrifying scale.
I do not know the experience of other hon. Members, but on the streets and in the shops of my constituency people ask "Mr. Heffer, is there going to be a war?" Those who ask me this question are mainly of my generation—people who remember the horrors of the Second World War and who realise that the unleashing of a third world war will mean no victors and no vanquished: we shall all, particularly in Western Europe, be vanquished. It could end with our country an offshore island with no inhabitants.
The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) made precisely that important point. His speech and that of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) were in great contrast to the speech of the Prime Minister, who has long been belligerent towards the Soviet Union. We have a right to be belligerent towards the Soviet Union on many clear and specific issues. That is why I ask the right hon. Member for Sidcup what he had in mind on the subject of human and civil rights.
I take the view that one cannot have double standards on human rights. If the dissidents in the Soviet Union are subjected to oppressive administrative measures and are imprisoned because they disagree with their Government, we—particularly we Socialists—must tell that Government that they are wrong and that we oppose them. Equally, of course, we must say to the Chilean junta and the Brazilian Government, and all the oppressive regimes of the world, "If you oppress other peoples, you are wrong." In our own country as well, when—in our opinion wrongly—our Government moved into action at Suez, we had to have the courage and the guts to get up and say, despite the emotional feelings of the time, that the Government were wrong.
We cannot have double standards. It is therefore absolutely right for us to tell the Soviet Union that there is no justification—even had the Russians been asked in by President Amin, who was later killed—for going into another country with tanks and guns to make certain that the people of that country are kept down. There was no justification for the American presence in Vietnam. At the time I spoke out every day against American policy in Vietnam and American policy in Cambodia. We must not have double standards.
With some of my colleagues I went to see the Russian ambassador, Mr. Lunkov. We put our point of view to him very clearly and he gave us some unacceptable answers. I had to tell him that his answers were phoney. There was no reality about them.
I have made my position clear. It is also the position of my party and of the wicked national executive committee of that party. We passed a motion along those lines at our last meeting. But let us be careful that, in making our position clear, we do not go over the top. There are three possible responses that we can make to this issue. First, we can respond in such a way that we start a new cold war which ends as a hot war. That would be utter disaster for all of us. Secondly, we can do what the right hon. Member for Down, South more or less suggested: we can do nothing. I do not favour that response. Thirdly, we could say in a clear and principled way to the Russians that we opposed what they were doing but that we would try to make certain that we would continue with detente as far as necessary to keep peace in Europe and in the world.
The Observer put the position very clearly yesterday. The editorial said:
The caution shown by President Giscard and Chancellor Schmidt about writing off detente is not just a sign of anti-Americanism…It reflects a realistic appreciation that for Europe there is no alternative to detente. Its maintenance in Europe is not simply a Soviet trick to lull the West into insecurity while leaving Russia free to engage in adventures elsewhere. Whatever happens elsewhere, there is a Western as well as a Soviet interest to maintain in Europe a stable and limited arms balance and frontiers which can only be changed by peaceful agreement.
I think that that editorial was excellent. It completely sums up my own view about how we must approach this matter.
The phrase in The Observer is "whatever happens elsewhere." Surely, if the Straits of Hormuz are closed and the economies of France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are affected—with all the consequential unemployment and the rest—that is a matter that the Western European nations must deal with together.
I did not wish to quote the entire editorial. It went on to say:
Meanwhile, the Western Powers should also be exploring the possibility of an international agreement, including Russia, on freedom of navigation through the Hormuz Straits…
If the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmonds (Mr. Griffiths) had listened, he would have heard me say that I agreed entirely with that editorial. It seemed to meet the point of the argument that I was putting forward.
I do not believe that the Soviet Union went into Afghanistan for ideological reasons. It did not go there to spread its form of Socialism. I do not call the Russian system Socialism. The Russians are doing what they have always done in that part of the world. They are doing what we have always done in that part of the world. We have spoken of oil many times in this debate. Strategic oil is the basic reason why the Russians are in Afghanistan. They are there to safeguard what they consider to be their interests.
Along with the rehabilitation of Stalin, there has grown up the great concept of Russian nationalism. That concept—a part of Stalinism—is totally contrary to the concept of Leninist internationalism, which is the right of nations to self-determination.
If we were counting past invasions of Afghanistan by imperialist Powers, I think that the count would be four to one—four against us and one against the Russians. The invasion of that country is not a specifically new issue. I think that we must look at it in that way. The Russians are not merely concerned about their continental frontiers. They think in terms of a global strategy in relation to their imperialist interests, which are contrary to the interests of American imperialism.
I believe that it is time that we—particularly we on the Labour Benches—took an entirely new attitude to foreign affairs. We ought not to follow on the coat tails of either the Soviet Union or America. I do not want bureaucratic Communism as it exists in the Soviet Union. I want democratic Socialism. Neither do I want the unbridled, unfettered free enterprise imperialist system that operates in the United States of America.
If there is a future for us, it must, in my opinion, be based on the Socialist democratic forces in Europe. We should be fighting to extend what Edward Thompson called
The frontiers of positive neutrality.
That should be our objective. We should make certain that there is an extended buffer between the Soviet Union on the one side and the United States on the other. That buffer should comprise more and more countries that hold a neutralist position. If we ensured such a buffer, the dissidents in the Soviet Union would be helped to escape the bureaucratic control under which they now exist. The existence of that buffer would clearly mean that there would be a more powerful argument for rolling back the forces of militarism in both parts of the world.
That is how I see it. We have to stand up and be counted on our attitude to Afghanistan. On the other hand, we must develop an alternative strategy that is suitable for Europe and for this country.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has from the beginning denounced in robust terms the Russian aggression against Afghanistan. He did so again this evening, and we on the Conservative Benches certainly respect him for that. If he is right that oil is the main consideration in Russian strategic thinking, that is a particularly grave conclusion for him to have reached, because, so far as we know, there is no oil in Afghanistan. If the Russians have gone into that country in order to get within 300 miles of the Gulf, that would seem to justify the strength of American and British reaction.
I wish to express my dismay at the whole thrust and conclusion of the speech by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who concluded by saying, if I am not misquoting him, that the reaction of the West to the Russian invasion should be to do nothing. If he thinks that the invasion—the first invasion by Russia since the war of a country that is not a member of the Warsaw Pact—coming so shortly after the surrogate Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, has not fundamentally changed the international situation, and if he thinks that we should not react in any way to these events, his conclusion is, for a right hon. Gentleman of his experience and background, most astonishing.
I have always had a great interest in and admiration for the right hon. Gentleman's thinking on a whole range of topics, but his political evolution on international affairs has increasingly come to puzzle me. He started his political career as a strong believer in the exercise of imperial power by Britain for the benefit of the world and the maintenance of peace. It seems that once he had concluded that Britain was no longer able to keep the peace and resist aggression—and I regret that as much as he does—he formed the view that he was not prepared to let any of our friends or allies do it either. That, however, would be a most dangerous course of action for us to pursue.
It seems incontrovertible—here I agree with the hon. Member for Walton—that what has happened in Afghanistan is the most serious development since the Berlin airlift, because there is here both a major change of tactic by the Russians and an attempt strategically to change the balance of power. Therefore, unlike the right hon. Member for Down, South, I greatly welcome the robust and unequivocal response of the President of the United States. The statement of the new so-called Carter doctrine on the Gulf seems to me to be the most reassuring event in international affairs for some time. I strongly agreed with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) that the weakness shown by the West and the free world in international affairs in recent years dated from the American defeat in Vietnam. President Carter's response to the invasion of Afghanistan and, perhaps even more important, the strength of public support that he is receiving from the American people and Congress in that stand show that that phase of American history, which posed so much danger for the free world, is now behind us.
I believe that the Russians have made a major blunder by invading Afghanistan in this way. Before I visited Afghanistan about 18 months ago, just after Prince Daoud's regime was overthrown, I asked a wise friend what I should read before going. He told me to study Britain's three Afghan wars, which I did. Although I had read some history as a young man, I was astonished again to read the extent of the disasters that the British armies suffered in these campaigns at the height of the Raj. It seems a pity that some of the Russian leaders did not take, receive and act upon similar advice before launching their invasion. It is extraordinarily unattractive terrain from their point of view.
When I was reading I came across a dispatch that the Duke of Wellington had sent to the British Government before the first Afghan war. He had had some practical experience of warfare in the Indian sub-continent, and he strongly advised the British Government of the day against embarking upon the first Afghan war. He said that it was easy to get an army into Afghanistan but much more difficult to get it out intact. That may prove to be the Russian experience.
When I talked to the then Afghan President, Noor Mohamed Tarakki, in Kabul shortly after he came to power, I asked him whether he was a Communist. He replied that he had strong Socialist leanings, but added "First and above all I am an Afghan." I believe that the Russians will find it extremely difficult to discover anybody else in that country who does not take a similar view.
Since the hon. Gentleman is drawing parallels, has it in any way occurred to him that the Russians might have been sucked into the invasion as we were sucked into the situation in Ireland, which changed once we had got there?
Yes, I am very well aware of that possibility in Afghanistan. I do not wish, by anything I say, to appear to excuse the Russians, but one factor in the invasion was probably that even when I was there they had a considerable presence in terms of tanks and troops. I even received a smart "present arms" from some Russian soldiers.
One of the baffling questions is why Russia should have exposed itself to all this international hostility for an area that it already appeared effectively to control. I suspect that one part of the answer was that the Russian troops were beginning to suffer considerable casualties there, as were their families. I understand that a few months ago they had to fly out the wives and children of most of the Russian soldiers. They may therefore have felt that they were faced with the alternative either of withdrawing from the country and suffering what appeared to them to be an unacceptable loss of face or of seizing complete control.
Whatever the reasons that led them to take that step—and President Brezhnev has told us that they were varied—it was, I believe, a blunder. Conversely, it presents us in the free world with an opportunity that we must seize. We now have the best opportunity for many years to turn the tide in the struggle for world power. For a great many years the Russians have been making their influence felt in various parts of the world largely by supporting nationalist organisations and seeking to exploit poverty and hostility towards corrupt and tyrannical regimes.
Throughout my 20 years as a Member of Parliament, I have been a supporter of nationalist movements because I have believed nationalism to be the most powerful force in world affairs. I believe that Britain should be able to ally itself with nationalist aspirations in a way helpful to British self-interest in the same way as Canning, when he was Foreign Secretary, allied British interests with nationalist aspirations in South America. I have consistently argued that position on Central Africa, for instance, for many years, as a great many of my right hon. and hon. Friends know, some of whom have not always agreed with me.
Afghanistan is totally different, however. The position there already has a genuinely nationalist base. It is a historic, independent sovereign State, with the greatest pride in itself and its own culture. The Afghans certainly do not want to be occupied by the Russians, or anyone else.
Even on the economic front, Communism has nothing to offer Afghanistan. Traditionally, to a poor country such as Afghanistan a Communist regime offers land reform. That is usually the most attractive thing. Even the Shah introduced widespread land reform, which he called the White Revolution. But there is little scope for land reform in Afghanistan since there are already far more small landowners than there are large landlords in that country.
Moreover, Afghanistan is a country not only of small peasant proprietors but of herdsmen who traditionally, over thousands of years, have been free to take their flocks right across the country. There is, therefore, no major scope for redistribution of land.
What the farmers of Afghanistan want is water, because the land that they already own is virtually useless to them without water. The only way in which they can get water is by massive public projects, constructing huge dams and so forth, and they will get the capital for that only from the United States. Certainly, the Soviet Union will not spend the necessary amount of money on providing them with water.
Over and above their religion, their xenophobia and their strong sense of nationalism, the Afghans clearly recognise that Communism has nothing practical to offer them. I believe, therefore, that in their occupation of Afghanistan the Russians have embarked upon an adventure from which they will derive little benefit and many disadvantages.
We must make sure that that proves to be so. The first result of the Russian invasion has been that, for the first time, really, since the end of the Second World War, a large part of the Third world, and especially Islam, now sees its interests as lying very much more closely with those of America and Britain than with Russia. That is a most significant development, and it is one of which we must take the fullest opportunity.
I speak here of Islam and, in particular, of the Middle East, the part of the Third world that perhaps I know best, and I have not the slightest doubt that, in almost every Islamic country, if the people have to choose between Mahomet and Lenin they will choose Mahomet.
We have therefore an opportunity, if we handle the situation correctly, to ally ourselves with the Third world, but if it is to be properly taken not only must aid also be used but—this is where I disagree with the right hon. Member for Down, South—we must have a military capacity, for no amount of good will on the part of tribesmen, however brave, hiding behind rocks with their 1890 Lee Enfield rifles, will stop a modern Russian army if it wishes to continue its advance to the Gulf.
We must have a military capacity to support the new stance of the West, in which we stand with the Third world. But, given that we embark on a combination of intelligent diplomacy, rearmament and an imaginative use of aid, the Russian act of brutal aggression against Afghanistan may very well turn out to be a major setback for them and a great opportunity for us.
Some years ago John Foster Dulles, then United States Secretary of State, laid down the basic guidelines for warmongers in this infamous statement:
In order to make the country bear the burden, we have to create an emotional atmosphere akin to a war-time psychology. We must create the idea of a threat from without.
Having listened to this debate and the debates last week, I think it obvious that John Foster Dulles has many apt pupils on the Government Benches, and very dangerous people they are. We must resist their message and oppose them with all the power we have.
The right hon. Lady the Prime Minister leaves us in no doubt about where she stands. This is clear from her speeches today and on other occasions. On 12 November, at the Lord Mayor's banquet in London, she declared with regard to the Soviet Union that
they choose to arm themselves for offence. We look only to our defence.
I suggest that the right hon. Lady is attempting to delude the people, and it is necessary to expose her Government as one of the worst warmongering Governments in the world today. This is the right hon. Lady who is on record as personally advising the Japanese to rearm against the Russian threat, whose Government move to assist the rearmament of China against the same enemy, whose Foreign Secretary pushes India to buy battle tanks, and who herself eggs on her
NATO allies to spend more and more on armaments.
The right hon. Lady and her acolytes have thus run the course in a great arc around the Soviet Union, from Japan to Europe, frenetically stirring the pot of tension and trouble. The Secretary of State for Defence, when asked whether he was prepared to increase military spending regardless of whether other NATO countries did, replied, according to the magazine Now!
If necessary, yes. I do not believe this will happen. The Americans seem determined, and while there may be doubts about some members of the Alliance, we will do it.
As we all know, on 12 December the Government took such a decision.
Clearly, the right hon. Lady and her right hon. and hon. Friends need to be reminded that Britain is in a deep and growing general crisis and is no longer a front-rank Power in any real sense, and that our individual role needs to be related to our true circumstances and the needs of our country.
In Britain this year, we shall spend twice as much on military preparation as we shall invest in British manufacturing industry.
Does my hon. Friend recall that the warmongers on the Government Benches have always maintained that the Warsaw Pact countries had a superiority in arms, but will he acknowledge that the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in a publication called "The Military Balance", has made clear that the view that the Soviet Union is armed to the teeth is part of the campaign which the warmongers continually wage in order to build up the industrial-military complex of the West, and that in fact the military balance is no more than even?
I thank my hon. Friend for that timely reminder. The International Institute for Strategic Studies, in its pamphlet "The Military Balance 1979–80"—I remind hon. Members that this is from a NATO supporter—has said that
something very close to parity now exists between the theatre nuclear forces of NATO and the Warsaw Treaty organisation.
Those are the institute's words, not mine.
As I have said, to make their policy possible the Conservative Government are applying cuts to everything good and healthy in our society, including our children's education. How can they argue that we can win our way out of our present crisis unless we have an educated society?
That is the background against which we have to look at the situation in Afghanistan. We must look also at the role of our Government and of NATO generally. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) that the regime in Afghanistan was moving into dictatorship and was suppressing the people. Plainly, it was correct for those who had initially participated in the revolution to replace someone who was himself becoming a despot and a dictator.
The hon. Gentleman can make his speech if he is called. I contend that, if we allowed Afghanistan to become another Kampuchea, hon. Members on both sides would be on their feet demanding that we take action.
I hope that Soviet troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan as quickly as possible. However, we must consider what crisis—the internal and external forces acting in Afghanistan—suggested to the Soviet Union that intervention was required. While deployment of Soviet troops would assist those elements—especially on the Conservative Benches—opposed to peace and detente and those seeking to stoke the cold war fires, I argue that the fires have been stoked by the United States Defence Secretary and Lord Carrington's promises of military and technical support to the Chinese and Pakistan regimes. Hon. Members' response when China invaded Vietnam was very quiet. What was their attitude when Pakistan—which is now demanding military aid—was cutting off hands and carrying out executions? One listened in vain for the screams of anguish about the despots. The promises are an obvious bid to gain strategic superiority in South-West Asia. They are a dangerous escalation of the arms race.
It is the height of hypocrisy for NATO and the Governments of the United States and the United Kingdom to cry out in protest against the violation of the territorial integrity of one State by another State when history is littered with their illegitimate interventions in the affairs of nations in every part of the globe. Almost without exception, the interventions have been to install by force reactionary and brutal regimes that have caused untold misery for those subjected to their diktat. When we are discussing the Afghan crisis, it is a disgrace that hon. Members should sit calmly and cheer the announcement that in Chile, where human rights have been denied and British subjects have been tortured, we are re-establishing ambassadorial contact. We shall watch the progress of Conservative Members in trying to pressurise the Chilean Government to release from prison those who have been locked up and to discover what has happened to those who have disappeared without trace.
Before there is any more snide comment from Conservative Members, ought they not to bear in mind what happened in the case of Diem and the present position in Pakistan where Mr. Bhutto's family, and others, are locked up in appalling conditions?
My hon. Friend is correct. When Lord Carrington spoke to General Zia and promised aid, whether military or economic, why did he not suggest that General Zia might allow Mr. Bhutto's family—it is too late to save Bhutto—the simple basic democratic freedom of speaking and participating politically? Why are Conservative Members not demanding that, before any aid is given to Pakistan, basic human rights are given to Mr. Bhutto's family?
NATO is misleading world opinion by saying that it is the Soviet action in Afghanistan that is responsible for its increased military spending and arms build-up. It was long before events developed in Afghanistan that NATO and the United States took a series of measures, all of which posed a threat to detente. They included the decision taken at a NATO meeting in December 1979 to site 572 cruise and Pershing II nuclear missiles in Western Europe, the formation of the United States fifth fleet to patrol the Indian Ocean in a bid to coerce bordering States of a dissident inclination, including Iran, and agreement that its cruisers could use, with the British Government's wholehearted approval, the British island of Diego Garcia as its main base. There has been no firm denial from the Government that the United States intends to use the position to increase its participation in Diego Garcia. Conservative Members, knowing full well the opposition that will come from neighbouring States if that is al lowed, are not on their feet demanding that it should not take place.
The Pentagon's plans, announced in November of last year, for a massive increase in military spending, estimated to be in the region of $8 billion in 1980–81, provides the background against which Conservative Members are suggesting that events in Afghanistan are so serious that we should be making—as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) called them—synthetic responses. We cannot justify our actions in other areas of the world.
The world must move away from the escalation of the arms race. There is no acceptable alternative to peaceful coexistence and co-operation. The gains in Helsinki, the SALT agreements and the various bilateral and multilateral treaties have together made a significant contribution towards moving the world away from the brink of the cold war abyss. The advances that we have made are precious and fragile and must at all times be protected and strengthened by the United Kingdom and the world, whose property they are and whose interests they serve.
It does not serve our interests to talk about synthetic responses. We become confused and involved in the presidential election in the United States. That is what lies behind President Carter's imagined indignation about Afghanistan. His failure to demonstrate his strength on foreign policy is shown in the way that he attacks the Afghanistan position. Along with other external forces, he has acted to create a position in Afghanistan where the Russians were forced to take the decision to intervene.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) that in the one area where President Carter's foreign policy seemed to be making progress it has suddenly disintegrated. That is why we are hearing the shouting and screaming from the United States. The Camp David accord is failing because one vital ingredient is missing. There can be no resolve of the Middle East problem without the involvement of the PLO—the only responsible and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Unless it is involved, all the supposed threats and the supposed action or inaction that we intend taking on Afghanistan will not protect our oil interests. Our oil is not in Afghanistan but in the Middle East. If we wish to protect our oil, we must think seriously about resolving the Palestinian problem.
If we continue to support the Camp David accord, we will not protect our oil interests. If Conservative Members are concerned about oil, they should be demanding that the Palestinians are brought into the debate on the Middle East. There is no way in which Conservative Members, or anyone—and certainly not President Carter—could justify the role of Israel in Southern Lebanon. Its attempt to justify its existence by establishing a series of confessional States with support for Colonel Haddad is clearly not in the interests of Conservative Members. We wait, expectantly, to hear how many will support the right hon. Member for Sidcup and the hon. Member for Westbury in their comments today.
If we are to move to a position where world peace is obtained, we must suggest measures tonight. I suggest that it would make sense for the House to press for the convening of some form of world disarmament conference at which major issues affecting peace could be discussed, such as halting the manufacture of nuclear weapons, proposals to strengthen the existing non-proliferation of nuclear weapons treaty, and proposals to create nuclear-free zones such as those in Latin America. In that way the debate would make a real contribution to East-West relations, especially on the position in South-West Asia.
If I understood him correctly, the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) suggested that it was quite normal for the Afghan Communist Party or the Russians—I am not sure which—to replace one leader with another when the former leader became a despot. No doubt the Leader of the Opposition will take note of the hon. Member's opinion.
More seriously, I believe that Mr. Brezhnev was greatly surprised by the sense of shock and outrage with which the Western world received the invasion of Afghanistan. The attitude of the West in these matters has varied a good deal over the years. In the old days—in the 1940s and 1950s—we tended to respond pretty strongly to acts of aggression. When Stalin collared Czechoslovakia in 1948 and drove President Benes out of power, we formed NATO and in a few years went on to rearm the Germans.
When there was the Berlin blockade, we had the Berlin airlift. When North Korea attacked South Korea, we met force with force, and in due course the Americans went on to make the American-Japanese defence agreement. When the Russians tried to put missiles into Cuba, President Kennedy forced them to back down. We did not just talk—we did things.
It has been rather different in President Brezhnev's time. When he invaded Czechoslovakia, we had an emergency sitting of the House of Commons and we expressed our indignation. When Hanoi took over Saigon, Laos and Cambodia, we accepted it as almost an inevitable consequence of the American defeat in Vietnam. When Angola was invaded by Soviet and Cuban forces, we rebuked South Africa for presuming to interfere and queued up ourselves to recognise a puppet regime that was in no sense in control of the country. When Ethiopia and Aden were taken over by the Soviets, there was not even a debate in the House of Commons, and when the Taraki coup took place in Afghanistan 14 or 15 months ago it was accepted with hardly any official reaction.
Instead, the leaders of the West gabbled on about detente and provided credit and sold food to the Soviet Union. Some of them even made excuses. We were told that the Cubans in Africa were a stabilising element. But there was one honourable exception—that of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who, in Opposition and, more important, when she held the responsibilities of office, never ceased to warn against the threat of Soviet imperialism to our survival and to world peace.
Of course, the moral guilt for what has happened in Afghanistan rests squarely on the shoulders of the Politburo and the Kremlin. But the political responsibility rests almost equally on the leaders of the West. Burke's quotation is not amiss:
He trespasses against his duty who sleeps upon his watch, as well as he that goes over to the enemy".
Churchill once said that the only point of recrimination was to prevent the repetition of error, and that is the only reason why I rake this up now. But if there is hesitation about standing up to Soviet imperialism in France and Germany today, and if there is hesitation in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries, it is not only for the reasons that they advance but because they do not yet have confidence that the West means business. We had the same phenomenon in 1939. When Hitler occupied Prague, Neville Chamberlain shed his illusions about appeasement, but it was difficult to persuade the world that he had shed them or that he meant business.
Why are the Soviets in Afghanistan? I do not believe that they went as missionaries or to look for gold in the Hindu Kush. Nor is there any reason to think that they had any reason to fear for their own interests, from a security point of view. We must face the fact that Afghanistan is the Clapham Junction—if I may use that phrase—of Southern Asia. With respect to the hon. Member who represents Clapham, very few people go to Clapham for fun, but every day thousands go there on their way to better places, such as my constituency.
Afghanistan is the gateway to the subcontinent of India and the Persian Gulf. We should know, as we fought three wars to prevent the Russians getting control of it. Moscow would not have taken on such a thankless commitment unless the stakes were very high. A glance at the map gives us an idea of what it is all about.
The Gulf is the vital treasury on which the industry of Western Europe, the United States and Japan depends. If it were denied to us, we would practically be driven to surrender. To the south, the Soviets in Ethiopia and Aden control the choke-point of the Bab-el-Mandeb—the exit from the Red Sea. They go right up to the edge of the Gulf in South Yemen. To the east, Afghanistan brings them to within 300 miles of the Straits of Hormuz and Bandar Abbas. To the west they have facilities in Iraq as well as an alliance, albeit an uneasy one, with Baghdad. They are all around this treasured area, and having won this key position they will not pull out of it by mid-February, or for a long time to come.
There is a first lesson that we must learn. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has said that subversion is a great danger in the Middle East, and it is. That is one of the weapons in the Soviet armoury. But it leads people to conclude that the proper means of meeting the threat is by rectifying political, social or economic grievances. I am afraid that that would be a mistake.
Subversion is the trigger—it is the excuse that is fabricated—for military intervention. The real threat throughout has been military. Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Angola, Ethiopia and Afghanistan have all been military operations, brought about with tanks, aircraft and formed units. They have not been subversive in the ordinary sense, or even guerrilla operations.
Against that threat, I would not oppose sanctions. They might produce another interesting Bingham report. The boycotting of the Olympic Games would be an expression of what we ourselves feel, but when one is up against a virtually irresistible force the only thing that will stop it is to produce an immovable object in its way. That is the lesson that we have to learn in NATO and in the Pacific. There we have set up military organisations, and the Soviets cannot advance further against them without killing GIs. I do not say that one day they will not run that risk—perhaps they will—but it is a political-military barrier of great importance.
However, in the vital area of the world about which we are talking there is a vacuum. A heavy responsibility rests on us in this House—on both sides, although mainly on the side of the Labour Party. A little more than 10 or 11 years ago we had facilities in Aden, Sharjah, Bahrein, Masira, Gan, Singapore and Simonstown. What a huge network for the defence of the Indian Ocean and Gulf area that was! What a contribution it would have made to our American allies had we been able today, when the threat is upon us, to offer that to them.
There is an urgent need to reconstruct something of the sort. It will be much more expensive than any money that we have saved from pulling out. It will be difficult to achieve diplomatically, and there will be a high risk element. The main burden must fall on the Americans, but Europe can help. The French retain a military presence in Djibouti, and we have special relations with Oman and Kenya. I pay special tribute to the Sultan of Oman, who has shown extraordinary resolve both in supporting the Camp David agreement and in making clear that he was prepared to join in any measures to defend his country and the Arab world as a whole against Soviet imperialism. Indeed, he has reason to do so. He fought a long insurrection in his southern province of Dhofar. The same is true of President Siad Barre, of Somalia. He was allied to the Russians for a time and, like President Sadat, he knows what imperfect allies they are.
We can help because of our relations with Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Kenya and because of our traditional association with Somalia and Pakistan. Also, we can help because of our relations with Singapore and South Africa, both of which will have to play a part in any major Indian Ocean strategy that may be determined.
Let us not underestimate the importance of Egypt and Israel. They are able to provide vital facilities and represent the strongest local military forces. We are all aware of the influence of Jewish opinion throughout the world. However, we should not forget that Egypt is by far the strongest cultural and political influence in the Arab world. The "Voice of the Arabs", in terms of modern radio, and the influence of the Azhar university in religious terms were a sharp thorn in our side in Nasser's day. Thank God that that thorn is now being pushed into the side of our enemies.
Let us do nothing to undermine the axis that is growing up between Israel and Egypt. Of course, the Camp David agreement is not perfect, but the best can be the enemy of the good. On the question of Palestine I part company with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), the former Prime Minister. Of course, the Palestinian problem is immensely important, and we are all aware of the sense of injustice under which many Palestinians labour. However, the Soviets have the edge in the Middle East. The PLO is not an organisation, although it claims to be; it is a movement. A large part of that movement has links with the Soviet Union.
Apart from Jordan, Syria is the other country that should be brought into an agreement. At the moment it is virtually a Soviet satellite. I do not believe that it is possible to find a formula for Palestinian self-determination in the present Middle Eastern context. But if we can establish a Westernpresence—particularly an American presence—in the area that will provide security against Soviet imperialism, the climate could change. Then we could look forward to finding a solution to the problems of the West Bank and Gaza—whether in the context of a federation between the West Bank and Jordan or a confederation of Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. To try to do that now would be to put the cart before the horse and it would not buy off the PLO or Syria.
I shall not try to argue with the hon. Gentleman about the details of the best way to proceed. If we, Americans and Europeans, want to contribute to a solution to the problem, the first thing that we must do is to bring stability and security to the area. I believe that that requires a Western military presence and an understanding with both Egypt and Israel. From that, many things could flow. Until we have established an element of security, to try to propose solutions is to put the cart before the horse.
I doubt whether the credibility of the West can be based on a purely defensive posture. For years we accepted that it was normal for the Soviet Union to support national liberation movements—the Patriotic Front, SWAPO, the PLO, the PDRY and Polisario. We have had to think in terms of paying the Soviets in the same coin and of giving support—without too much shame of employing subversion—to the forces in Angola, Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Ogaden that are fighting against Soviet colonial domination. Above all, we must give support to the rebels of Afghanistan who are defending their country's freedom with the same gallantry as Marshal Tito's partisans and the Chetniks of General Mihailovich who fought in Yugoslavia during the war.
On the question of Iran, it may be possible to place hope in the new president, Mr. Bani Sadr. I do not know whether he will be stronger than the Bazargan regime. But the disintegration of the country is far advanced. In 1953 the friends of the West took over the country only 48 hours before the friends of the Soviet Union had planned to do so. President Carter recently said that "an attempt by an outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force". I applaud that statement. However, in an age of nuclear parity, whoever gets his blow in first is likely to remain master of the field. If we wake up tomorrow to find that the Soviets have driven from Herat to Bandar Abbas—about an eight-hour drive—it will not be easy to dislodge them. President Carter's pledge will not be easy to fulfil.
Five years ago, the problem would not have been too difficult to resolve. If we had acted upon the question of Angola, I believe that today's problem would not have arisen.
Today, we are faced with a different situation. I am convinced that further appeasement of Soviet imperialism must lead to catastrophe. We have run out of space to trade for time. But we should be under no illusion that the risks of resistance to Soviet imperialism are grave. The Soviet military and industrial complex is dominant in Moscow. Today, there is no Stalin to shoot the generals and maintain the authority of the civil power. The internal tension, whether economic, social or national, is acute. The shortage of raw materials is making itself felt. There is a prevailing cynicism against Communism; and the hierarchy is trying—as in Rome—to tighten up orthodoxy.
Worst of all, the Soviets know that time is not on their side. They know that if the West begins to rearm, the parity that they enjoy will vanish. It has been said that the bear is a cautious animal. I am not sure about the Russian bear, on its track record. Angola and Ethiopia were very daring operations. We shall need grim resolve to rearm on a scale that Whitehall has not begun to contemplate. I suspect that there will have to be nothing less than a 40 per cent. increase in the defence budget in order to meet the need. We shall have to make sacrifices of cash, convenience and comfortable illusions. There will be setbacks. There is always a price to pay for the mistakes that have been made, and there will be a high price to pay for the appeasement of the last decade.
In the past, Britain's role has never been that of a super-Power. But in the struggle against Spanish, French and German hegemony we were the architect of the alliances that maintained some freedom in Europe. Today, the challenge is a global one and the response has to be global. We have to mobilise the United States, Europe, China, Japan and as many countries of the Third world as will join us. This will call for very skilful political leadership.
It is the strength of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that from the beginning she has assessed the dangers ahead—since, so to speak, 1974. She is the only one of the Heads of Government in the Western world whose record is entirely untarnished on this basis. No one is better placed to inspire and animate our allies in the task ahead. She has also the great task, which is well within the compass of her imagination—although it may mean, as with William Pitt in his day, sacrificing some of her aspirations—of mobilising and exploiting the technological resources of our own country and healing the social divisions that we cannot afford in the crisis that lies before us.
Ten or 15 years ago I would have approached and perhaps listened to a debate of this nature with rather more hope than I do today. I say that not just because of Afghanistan but because I have come to feel in recent years that we are sliding steadily into a war. Now, it is no longer a question of whether there will be a war but rather a question of when it will take place, where it will take place, whether nuclear weapons are used, and, if they are used, how extensively, and whether the war will be limited to one geographical area, such as West Europe or the Sino-Soviet border. It is a fairly pessimistic stance to take, and perhaps I should give some reasons for thinking that.
There are three primary reasons, although underlying them there are a host of minor ones which, when added together, cause me even greater concern. The first is the rapid and dramatic increase in the arms race. I know of no example in history of any significance where an arms race has not ultimately led to war. I do not see how we can continue as a world to spend on arms as much as we are spending without drifting into a war.
The second reason is related to the end of the bipolar world which existed primarily, I suppose, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the world was divided fairly clearly into two clear-cut camps, both of which had very clearly identified headquarters, one in Washington and one in Moscow. What has happened since then has been inevitable. There has been the relative decline of the United States—a decline which had to take place, because no great Power can avoid that for ever—and the relative increase in the power of the Soviet Union.
The third reason is the dispute over territories, borders and spheres of influence, which has become increasingly acute in recent years. That feeds into a war psychosis, which builds up slowly. Perhaps the term "war psychosis" is an unfortunate one. It suggests thought disorder, and wars rarely come from thought disorder. It is more a matter of finely balanced international relationships getting out of the control of the people who have previously been able to control them. The technology of the day controls that even more than we at first realised.
The First World War was a war in which people were impressed with the new technology that was available, and it was used to awful extent. We have a similar position today. I took note of the late Lord Mountbatten's view that tactical nuclear weapons could not be used without an escalation into intercontinental exchange sooner or later. It is worth noting that the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons is in some ways equivalent to mobilisation prior to the First World War, and that again gives me cause for concern.
Britain has had a constant fear of Russia through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. That fear has been at least partly, if not very largely, irrational. There are three points to bear in mind when talking about the Soviet Union. The first is that in many respects it is still a developing nation. We tend to think of it as European Russia; in fact, it reaches far beyond that area. It has been resisted by the West during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But perhaps the most important matter in recent years has been its political defeat at the time of the Cuban missiles crisis, because that defeat at that time led very clearly to the Soviet decision to become a major world Power, able to intervene at any point of the earth's surface. The Soviet Union therefore developed particularly the naval and air strategy with which to be able to do that.
A further significant factor is the conflict with China. That is really crucial in this issue, because, however we look at the question, the Soviet planners in the last 10 or 15 years, presumably, have had to face the possibility of fighting a war on a front which extends from Japan through to Norway and includes the Arctic areas as well. Any country which has to do that must be prepared at all levels.
That makes some sense—although it does not justify it—of the Soviet decision to deploy the SS20 in Europe. By doing that, the Soviet Union presented the West, with its technological superiority, with what the Soviet Union would regard in its terms as a deterrent, while at the same time having to face the Chinese threat. It can face the Chinese threat in only one of two ways. The first is by escalating into a nuclear war very quickly; the other is by becoming involved in a manpower-absorbing war. That is why the SS20 makes so much sense to the Soviet Union in Europe, although to us, of course, it appears as a terrible threat.
The latest crisis in Afghanistan illustrates the problem. I start from the point that any intervention of this type is basically from self-interest. I do not believe that nation States intervene predominantly from an ideological point of view. They do it from narrowly economic purposes and what they see as their interests.
I asked the Prime Minister during her speech how she differentiated between the intervention of the United States in Cambodia during the Vietnam war and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In her answer she dealt with the Vietnam war without dwelling on the question of Cambodia. But we are concerned with Cambodia, because if it was all right for the United States to bomb Cambodia back to the Pol Pot regime, there is nothing in principle which prevents the Soviet Union from taking over Afghanistan. We might not like it, we might not agree with it, we might not want it to happen, but we have no cause for complaint if we are to adopt a consistent moral line on this issue.
That is why the West appears so grossly hypocritical to the non-aligned countries. They remember our interventions, both recent and past, when we have sought to impose our will when we have considered it in our interests to do so.
My guess is that the Soviet Union wanted one of two things in Afghanistan. Preferably it wanted a stable client State, but, perhaps as a second and less acceptable objective, it would have accepted neutrality—as long as it could be guaranteed. But I suspect that, like the United States in Vietnam, it got sucked in, and my fear is not that the situation in Afghanistan will spark a war—I do not think it will for a moment—but that a succession of events similar to Afghanistan, and perhaps spreading out from Afghanistan, will result in our sliding into a war. It will not be of the 1939–45 variety. The situation will be like that at the start of the First World War. It will be a drift into war and not the more conscious, predetermined course that took us into the Second World War.
That is why we must be very cautious when we criticise so readily. Virtually none of the non-aligned countries regards us as having clean hands. We intervened in Suez in 1956 because we saw it as being in our interest to do so. The United States intervened in Vietnam and Chile because it saw it as being in its interest. The Soviet Union intervened in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan because it saw it as being in its interest.
That is the problem. The difference now is that the instability in the world system, consequent upon the collapse of the bipolar system, is so much worse as to make it difficult to avoid the slide continuing.
At this stage it is worth asking why the continental European reaction to the Afghanistan invasion is so different from that of the United Kingdom and the United States. I am struck here by two things. One is the question of appeasement and the other is the experience of military defeat. I am impressed by the fact that the talk of appeasement has primarily been heard in the United Kingdom and the United States.
I can well understand that any hon. Member or anyone outside the House whose political education took place in the 1930s and 1940s had the question of appeasement stamped with brutal clarity on his political consciousness. But we are not in a 1930s situation; the USSR is not Nazi Germany; and Brezhnev is not Adolf Hitler. There is no indication that there is one individual trying to pull us into war and to expand his influence in the way that Adolf Hitler did. I emphasise those last words.
It is significant that France and Germany, which both know the meaning of appeasement but also know the meaning of total military defeat, are much more cautious in their reaction, because they appreciate the dangers of the present situation. It is interesting that, from what one can make out of the Yugoslav position, the Yugoslavs seem more concerned about the ability of the super-Powers to avoid war than about the dangers to themselves, because they think that they can handle them as long as the super-Powers can handle their own problems. I think that that is right.
My fear is that we are reacting in a dangerous way and that we are feeding the war psychosis. What we should be doing is to involve the Soviet Union much more with our interests than to exclude it, which is what we try to do when we try to boycott the Olympic Games, cut economic support or whatever.
If we must have analogies, let us think again of the analogy with Germany, defeated in the First World War. We learnt that it was a mistake to do what we did after the First World War, which was to try to emasculate Germany, and knew that after the Second World War we had to involve her with the West. We did that. Should we not do something similar with the Soviet Union?
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that a genuine attempt to involve the Soviet Union with the West was made in the Helsinki accords, in the many efforts at agreement on trade, communications and all those other items in the Helsinki basket? Yet we still have Afghanistan.
I think that the Helsinki declaration was a good move, and for those reasons, but that at the same time we were doing things that were not in the Soviet Union's interests. But it had an understanding of the Helsinki declaration that enabled it to defend what it saw as its interests. Afghanistan, on its border, which it was already getting involved in, sucked it in, I suspect, against its will. One could also say that the American involvement in another nation, whether Chile, Vietnam or whatever, would be justified in the same way, even though I am sure that each side would say "This is not in accordance with the Helsinki declaration."
I turn to the SALT II treaty, which is perhaps the main casualty of, and the main problem in, the present war psychosis. I cannot think of a clearer example of what should not have been done than the refusal to ratify the SALT declaration. I looked today at a pamphlet produced by the United States Department of State, entitled
SALT II—The Reasons Why",
in which I read the following passage:
A SALT agreement in no way limits our right and responsibility to promote our interests"—
I ask the House to note those words—
and respond to Soviet behaviour which adversely affects those interests. If we reject SALT, however, that inevitable competition will grow even more dangerous. Each crisis, each confrontation, each point of friction, as serious as each may be in its own right, will take on an added measure of significance and an added dimension of danger. For each would occur in an atmosphere of unbridled strategic competition and deteriorating strategic stability.
That is precisely my fear—that we shall drift into this situation.
I repeat that the late Lord Mountbatten said that he could not see tactical nuclear weapons being used without their escalating into intercontinental weapons. I have one reservation about that belief. It relates to war breaking out in Europe and tactical nuclear weapons being used there but at the same time negotiations continuing between the United States and the Soviet Union on how to bring about peace. In those circumstances, not through any brutality, thoughtlessness, wickedness or whatever by the United States or the Soviet Union, but simply because of their interests, they would continue negotiations while war continued in Europe, in exactly the same way as has happened throughout history.
That is a sobering thought for us in Europe. It is a matter that we should think about very carefully. It perhaps puts the appeasement question back into context. I do not think that we are talking about appeasement in the 1930s sense. I do not think that in the present situation talking of appeasement makes sense or is even a valid argument.
I should like to give a brief indication of the direction in which we should move. I have already said that, rather than separate ourselves from the Soviet Union, if we are serious about living together on one planet we need to involve the Soviet Union, and to as great a degree as possible. The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) gave the example of involvement at Geneva in the Middle East question. That was a good example.
We must make a much more careful assessment of the effect of our actions on other countries. The right hon. Gentleman referred to that, using different words from mine, when he talked of having a clear strategy. I am aware that when this country takes a decision about cruise missiles it is perceived very differently in Moscow from the way in which we perceive it, just as when the Russians deploy the SS20 we see that decision differently from the way in which they see it. If I am right about their reasons for deploying the SS20—their fear of fighting a war on a frontier stretching from Japan to Norway—that decision makes much more sense. We need to ask that question of ourselves.
Is not the hon. Gentleman suggesting nothing less than the Finlandisation of Europe and grave inhibitions on our foreign policy? Is he willing to admit that the USSR should be allowed to veto our independent actions or to be a major influence on what we may or may not do? Surely, that is the train of his argument.
I do not accept that; it is not implied in anything that I have said. What I am saying is that when we take certain actions the Soviet Union will assess them on the basis of what it sees as its interests, and act accordingly. That puts on us the onus of trying to see our actions from that position. It is not a question of accepting, as one must if one is in a Finland-type situation, the realities of power and the fact that one cannot take certain actions against the Soviet Union. It does not mean that we must do the same; it does mean that we must question what we do very carefully before we do it.
I do not favour the deployment of cruise missiles, basically because of the Lord Mountbatten argument, not for any other reasons. It is certainly nothing to do with the Finlandisation of Europe, as the hon. Gentleman calls it.
Another matter that concerns me very much is the language of war. It is significant that before wars break out the language becomes heated. In our day and age people talk of Soviet intransigence, the danger of the Russian bear, or whatever. If one is on the other side, one talks about United States imperialism. The war psychosis builds up. We, particularly in this House, have a duty to avoid slanging matches of that type.
We need to pay attention to the question of arms expenditure. If it is right that there has never been an arms race of any significance which has not led to war, it is imperative that we cut that down as soon as possible. The mutual and balanced force reduction talks are one obvious way of doing that. But they are likely to be—as the United States document points out—held up because of the failure to ratify SALT II.
Not only must we ratify SALT II. We must also start thinking seriously about not exporting arms to Third world countries, or at least those countries outside the NATO Alliance. To do so must destabilise the world. I say that bearing in mind the economic instability on which all subversion feeds. That relates to what was said by the right hon. Member for Sidcup. Subversion is a two-way process. The Russians subvert—I am sure of that. So do we, and we have done in the past. We should not be too embarrassed or too blind to admit that. The CIA and British Intelligence have involved themselves in subversion when it has been in their interests so to do. Anyone who denies that denies the fact that we live in a harsh world where political power is often determined by the ability to bring pressure and influence to bear. There are no ground rules for that.
One needs only to read the recent revelations of spies acting on behalf of Britain and the Soviet Union to see how we used subversion not so long ago and how the United States uses it at present. I could also give examples of how the Soviet Union has used subversion.
Finally, I wish that we could give as much study and thought to the causes of war as we give to the preparation for it. If one reads "The Peloponnesian War" written 2,500 years ago, it is frightening because it could almost apply today. The technology is different and the language and the names slightly different, but otherwise there are terrifying similarities. My fear at present is that at best a war would be conventional and at worst it would be nuclear. Unless we take positive action to avoid that, future generations, if there are any, will not have much for which to thank us.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) frightened me with what he said, as did several other Opposition Members who have spoken during the debate. They are so capable of seeing every side of the argument that I fear they will still be in the House debating when the Russians are at the gates of Westminster.
The speed with which the Russians struck in Afghanistan should indicate to every hon. Member not only that time is not on our side in facing up to the reality of Soviet aggression but that the Russians have, over the last decade, introduced into their armoury vast new capabilities of moving forces by land and air at a fast rate and with a power which can devastate a country within days. It proves to me that, if the Russians can get into Afghanistan as quickly as they have done, they could also do what President Carter expects them to do—and what, I think, the House wants them to do—which is to get out of Afghanistan just as quickly.
The parallel use of armoured and airborne forces in the invasion of Afghanistan has shown that the Russians are quite willing to take military action as and when they wish. This debate is taking place after the action. During my brief contribution I hope to demonstrate that we need to get ahead of the problems which the Russians pose by facing the reality of what that country can do to us.
Recently some British newspapers have referred to "tiny Afghanistan". I am sure that it is appreciated that the land area of Afghanistan is equivalent to the whole of he land mass which NATO seeks to defend in Western Europe. What happened with the penetration of relatively limited Russian forces—the 105th Russian airborne guards plus the 40th army headquarters air-lifted straight into Kabul across 200 miles of what could have been hostile territory—is surely a salutary demonstration of what the Russians can do in a hurry when they want to.
Furthermore, the subjugation of most of Afghanistan was achieved by relatively small forces acting amongst a hostile population. Besides the airborne units that went into Kabul, it has been made clear that the Russians crossed the border at only two places—Tamez and Kushka—and with only three motorised rifle divisions. They were very small groups, by world standards, to conquer such a large territory.
I know that the loyalty of the Afghan army was divided, which caused it to be of no worry to the Russian invaders, but the alacrity with which such a small force could occupy such a large land mass must cause glee in the Kremlin and, I hope, some sleepless nights at NATO headquarters.
As we concentrate our eyes on South-East Asia and the consequent threat to the oil for the West, let us not fail to recognise what the salutary lesson of Afghanistan can be for us in Western Europe. I regret that the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) has left the Chamber, but the Warsaw Pact nations outnumber us by two or three to one in most of the important categories of defensive material.
What it amounts to is that the United Kingdom, left by the previous Government with only 74 operational fighter aircraft, can no longer take up the challenge of another Battle of Britain. I am delighted that the present Government are seeking to do their best to rearm us. I remember meeting some delegates from the Frunze military academy in Moscow and asking them what they thought about Western technology and the ability of NATO to defend itself in Western Europe. They said that they admired NATO tremendously and, as amicably as they could, they said they thought that if they ever had to make war against the West they would have to fight a war of attrition which could last as long as five days until we ran out of sleep.
The reality of Afghanistan and the demonstration the Russians have given us there of swift and decisive mobility mean that Russia could capture the prize of Western Europe—this country—by swift attack overnight. That is no longer a theory; it is a possibility. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) conveyed the impression that Afghanistan was a long way away and we could do nothing to defend it. We must be sure that we tell the Russians that there is a line beyond which we are not prepared to allow them to step if they want to avoid a world war.
I shall now mention briefly what I believe could be some of the motives for the Russian aggression. First, it is essential to cast out of our own beliefs thoughts that the Kremlin leaders think as we do about the future of world power balance. It has become almost a tradition of our thinking about Russian history of the twentieth century in the West that successive leaderships have turned towards the warm waters in the Indian ocean. One can go back even further and see that it has been a tradition for even longer in Russia that the rulers have sought to turn the eyes of their people outwards and away from the problems of their own country and to make them believe that forces outside can strike at the standards, poor as they may be, within Russia.
Over the last 60 years, the appalling failure of Communism in action in Russia, in terms of living standards and personal freedom, has merely become a demonstration of how the Russians at Government level must look outwards to contain their own people. At present in the Kremlin the reign of Mr. Brezhnev is drawing to a close. But the gerontocracy of the Kremlin is steadily reforming its ranks. Mr. Yuriy Andropov, the head of the KGB, has been waiting in the leadership wings for a long time, supported by that dialectical materialist, Mikhail Suslov. I think that the pair of them are prepared to give Russia and the West a very hard time in the years ahead.
I believe that the Russians are behind schedule in moving outward from their frontiers to secure objectives other than those which have been accepted and identified in SALT's perambulations. SALT was about the neutralisation of one form of offence by a similar form of offence. The Russians' need, which has been identified by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), is access to oil, and access in a hurry.
Since the first Communist coup in Afghanistan, the Russians knew that they were losing the battle to hold that country. About four-fifths of the country had fallen to rebellious forces opposed to the puppet regime. I believe that the Russians simply could not hold back and watch that land disappear from their grasp. They felt that they were losing the chance to look down from the high ramparts into Southern Asia.
One must doubt, even in Olympic year, that the Russians really wanted to frighten the West and the world generally. But I believe that they are behind schedule in getting to the oil that they must have. In three years the Russians will start to become net importers of oil. The oil resources of the world will not grow in that time. Without oil, Russian Communism will collapse and the country's economy will wither from within. SALT I and SALT II have now been replaced by Oil I.
In Yugoslavia there was a clear statement on 4 January in one of the smaller newspapers, Delo, which illustrated the way in which the non-aligned nations felt an agony of conscience and reality of fear over the invasion of Afghanistan. That paper said that Russia's invasion had
destroyed the balance of forces in the crisis crescent from Somalia to South- East Asia.
Afghanisation has shown the non-aligned world that nobody is safe from attack and that non-alignment is merely an open invitation to Red aggression. It is a pity that the non-aligned nations did not read their history earlier. Not only was it well known that the Russians had this outward-looking foreign policy, which mounted aggression as opportunity arose, but there was some handy reading as far back as 1919 from Mr. Trotsky, who, in a secret memorandum to the Russian Communist Party's central committee, said:
We have up to now devoted too little attention to agitation in Asia. However, the international situation is evidently shaping in such a way that the road to Paris and London lies via the towns of Afghanistan, the Punjab and Bengal.
For too long we have failed to face up to the fact of Russia's long-laid plans. We have reacted after Russian actions. It is time we got ahead. If we did not believe it before, we all know now that the Russians really seek world domination. We can thwart them by keeping ahead, but we need to do this by using the talents that we have in the West. We must develop our defence and improve living standards for everybody in the world. We must deploy the talents of our technology, in which we have years of leadership.
I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister tell us that she proposed to limit Russian access to our science and technology. I hope that this will include the removal from this country of the many Russian students who are here, sponsored by the British Council.
Faced with an oil crisis of gathering dimensions, the free world must receive from the prime technical nations of the West the technology to provide new fuel sources, the ability to replace scarce traditional raw materials with new ones such as carbon fibres, and the development of new resources of pharmaceuticals and food, derived from genetic engineering. We have not yet used our talents to look after the interests of freedom. We can and we must prove that brain is superior to brawn.
The future of freedom is once more at the gates of decision. Our courage is needed to sustain freedom in the West and, above all, to sustain those who seek freedom but who cannot speak for themselves behind the Iron Curtain.
As a believer in short speeches and remembering that many hon. Members wish to speak, I shall confine myself to asking a few questions of the Minister.
First, however, I reiterate the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who referred to people in our constituencies who have butterflies in their stomachs and who have asked us over the weekend whether we are now sliding towards some kind of war or Armageddon. I do not think that we should discount the very real worries of a large number of people.
What reply will the Minister of State give to the right hon. Member for Sidcup and others who have dissented about the issue of maintaining contacts with the Soviet Union? Having heard the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, I wonder whether the Prime Minister believes that we should cut contacts as a matter of long-term or short-term policy. If it is short-term, how short? If it is long-term, does not this mean sliding into another cold war?
On the question of the Olympic Games, many of us believe that these should go ahead in Moscow. What is the difference between the Government's attitude to the Olympic Games and the attitude of many Tory Members to the South African rugby tour? One cannot have one's cake and eat it too.
I should like to question the Minister about something that has caused a great deal of difficulty—the blocking of the Iranian accounts. I know better than to ask for confidential memoranda of the British and American Governments, but this has caused great difficulties for us in the Muslim world and among the Arabs—far further a field than the Iranian border itself. This is a problem that faces the West and not just the Americans.
The hon. Member compared the attitude towards South Africa with policy towards the Russians and the Olympic Games. Surely he is mixing attitudes that relate to an internal policy, as in the case of South Africa, with those that relate to external aggressive policies, as is the case with the Russians.
I do not think that there is any confusion.
This brings me to the Prime Minister's remarks that Afghanistan is a warning. In one sense it may be a warning. Is it or is it not true that before the Russians went in more than 58,000 Afghans, under the Amin regime, lost their lives in the fighting, or in what the Leader of the Opposition called "the troubles between rival factions"? Is this not a case of a puppet regime that had gone sour and tragically wrong? Perhaps the Russians felt that they had to do something in the same way as a number of hon. Members in this House felt that they had to do something about Northern Ireland in the late 1960s. I know that that is not an exact parallel, but I believe that Governments can make tragic mistakes, and with hindsight they might not act as they did. It is easy to be wise after the event. It is not a matter of giving the Kremlin the benefit of the doubt. The real dispute is whether Soviet action in Afghanistan is part of co-ordinated global aggression or whether it is a one-off incident in difficult circumstances.
What is the Government's view of the argument that an element in the Soviet Union's action was the considerable concern of the Government of Mother Russia about minorities in the USSR? Whose tribes straddle the Afghan border? Is it not a fact that there are now between 40 million and 50 million Muslims in the southern area of the Soviet Union? Is it not also a fact that on average the families of the Muslim sector of the Soviet Union are expanding at the rate of roughly five children per family whereas in the Moscow and Leningrad area the birth rate is now at about one and a half children per family? Is it not a further fact that, on any sensible projection, by the year 2000 about one-third of the citizens of the Soviet Union will be Muslim?
Governments are not always wonderful at handling the problems of minorities. Mistakes can be made. Is it not possible that the argument within the Russian Government became emotional when they saw the spectre of a militant Islamic republic developing in Afghanistan, when they had considerable potential problems of their own where Muslim elites had developed in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and elsewhere?
Those who have taken a different side of the argument to the one that some of us advance have referred to some of the tensions. For example, the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) referred to internal tensions in the Soviet Union being acute. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is right about that.
Therefore, should we not draw a distinction between global aggression and acute internal problems that may have had a good deal more to do with Soviet actions in Afghanistan than we imagine?
The proliferation of nuclear weapons bothers many of us. In reply to an intervention, the Prime Minister said that she recoginised that a cause was being pursued that had been pursued for a long time. She continued "We naturally do not wish Pakistan to obtain nuclear weapons. I should like to make that clear."
As there are many hon. Members who wish to speak in the debate, I shall not ask the questions that I was lucky enough to be able to put on Thursday during the debate on nuclear matters. However, I ask the Minister carefully to consider the nuclear guidelines of the 1977 London group of countries. They appear in Thursday's edition of Hansard. I ask for an assurance from the Ministers of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that they will consider them carefully to ascertain whether each of the guidelines is being observed. Each guideline has been put forward with a view to preventing precisely the type of proliferation that most bothers so many of us. There is a danger of an Iraqi bomb.
It may be said that there is no purpose in pursuing the Prime Minister and hav- ing a great campaign when the milk is already spilt or when the bird has already flown, whatever analogy one cares to use. It is my understanding that it may not be too late. There may be a number of key inverter-type units and a number of key materials that have not yet found their way to the Middle East. If that is so, is it not doubly important that whenever we talk about the need to strengthen Pakistan we ensure that everything is being done as it was before—indeed, rather harder than it was before—to prevent crucial finishing touches to nuclear weapons in the Middle East getting through?
I shall resume my place, but before doing so I ask for the assurance that the guidelines of the London group of countries will be examined as carefully as they were before the events in Afghanistan took place and that in no way will our guard be dropped against further proliferation.
I trust that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) will forgive me if I do not take up all his remarks. I shall not do so, in the interests of brevity. I shall refer more to the remarks of the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley), namely, his belief that the 1930s and 1940s were very different decades and dissimilar from the events of today.
I disagree entirely with that part of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. If we look around the Chamber, we see three age groups with different memories of the last war. Indeed, there is one age group that has no memory of it. There are those who were old enough to fight in the last war. I see a number present who did so. There are those who grew up during that war. There are others here who were not born at that time or who are too young to remember it. I fall into the middle category.
I remember VE day in 1945, about 35 years ago. There were great rejoicings that the horror that was revealed to us at Belsen and Buchenwald after the defeat of Nazi National Socialist tyranny had been brought to an end. Today there is an equally great tyrant in the world. All the talk of detente and of being cosy-cosy with the Russians is the sort of talk that we heard in the 1930s.
In 1938 we had the Munich agreement. Following that agreement Britain began to rearm. It did so reasonably seriously, but not as seriously as it should have done and not to the extent that it should have done. However, we took heed from the lesson of Munich and from the seizure of Prague by Adolf Hitler. In 1939 even Chamberlain realised that there was to be no agreement with Hitler and that the only way in which he could deal with him was from a position of strength.
In 1936 in Berlin there was an event similar to that which is about to happen in Moscow, namely, the Olympic Games. In 1936 Hitler made tremendous propaganda use of the Olympic Games. We have been told by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House that the Moscow Olympics should proceed. We were told so in serious vein by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and somewhat more flippantly by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell).
I contend that the Games should not proceed, or that Britain should not take part in them. That is the only way in which we shall be able to get the message of the Western world's disapproval across to the ordinary citizens of Russia, because of the way in which their media is controlled, because of Pravda, Izvestia, Radio Moscow and all the other organs of propaganda of that dictatorship.
The only way in which we can tell the 200 million Russian people that we disapprove is by cancelling our role in the Games. I am convinced that not even the great Russian propaganda machine would be able to explain to the Russian people why virtually all the nations of the world were boycotting them. How would it explain that the sportsmen of the world wanted nothing to do with them because of Russian aggression in Afghanistan in 1979–80?
There is much similarity between the present and the 1920s and 1930s. The House will recall the signing of the London and Washington naval agreements. The agreements that were signed during the years between the wars contributed to Britain's near downfall. By reason of signing two naval agreements, we nearly lost the battle of the Atlantic. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said today that the talks will continue with the Russians about various matters of disarmament She said that she hoped that in the fullness of time the SALT agreement would be signed. I ask her to remember the lessons of the 1920s and 1930s. I ask my right hon. Friend to sign nothing that will possibly give away our capacity to defend ourselves against any future form of aggression.
I turn from the 1920s and 1930s and the absolute similarities and parallels that I see with the present. I shall take a brief look at the actions of the West so far. Various criticisms and light-hearted remarks have been made about the use by the United States of the grain weapon. I have believed for a long time that the West—America and Canada especially—has been foolish to supply our enemy, for that is what Russia is, with the means of feeding its cattle.
Unlike the developing countries of Western Europe, the Soviet Union has a remarkably inefficient agriculture industry. It is the height of stupidity that we should bolster the agriculture industry of our enemy. We thereby enable Russia to divert resources to the production of guns, missiles, helicopters and other sophisticated weapons of war, so that it can destroy all that we stand for. I therefore welcome President Carter's statement.
However, I am not so happy about the conduct of our European partners during the past month. The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North said that the French and Germans would take a different view of appeasement, and of the action that should be taken, because of their memories of the last war. During that war both countries were totally devastated. If those memories mean anything to them, one would expect them to be firm and strong, and to stand up to the aggressor. In 1940 France was defeated. Sometimes one suspects that France has never forgiven Britain and America for the liberation of 1945.
Germany was devastated and totally destroyed by the Second World War. Surely that country remembers the horrors of Nazi tyranny. Germany should be in the forefront of the free nations and should stand up to Russian aggression. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup said that there should be a strategy for the West. He made various criticisms of the West and of its provisions for defence during the past few years. It is not unfair to say that none of those errors was made before 1974. I assume that the actual date was 28 February of that year.
I agree that we should have a strategy for the West and that we can take a leading part. I was pleased when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister reaffirmed the Government's commitment to increase defence expenditure by 3 per cent. next year. I was under the impression that the NATO commitment was to a 3 per cent. increase per annum for the next five years. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Minister can clarify that point.
I believe that the Government have made a good start during this crisis. They have given a fine lead to the Western world. Only the other day there was a letter in The Times from an American citizen pointing out that Britain was the only ally that had really stood firm. I counsel Her Majesty's Government to "beware the Bear". We must not disarm, and any negotiations with the Soviet bloc must come from strength and not from weakness.
What a sad and depressing evening we have had as we look back into the miseries of the past. Many of the speeches have been unrealistic.
The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) said that we should not deal with dictators. Perhaps he might think a little about Chile, because we are starting to deal a little with that country. The hon. Member for Louth said that we should not sign agreements with dictators. What about President Zia, whom we are about to rearm without considering the problems of India and its new Government? What about the Ayatollah Khomeini? We are now saying that we will help him as much as we can. We have told him that we did not like what he did to the hostages but that we will help him. What about President Assad of Syria? Perhaps Britain prefers to support the feudal monarchs—such as the gentlemen of Saudi Arabia—because they are more to our way of thinking.
In the unpleasant world in which we live, we unfortunately have to do business with some of those with whom we disagree. We dislike their systems but we draw on our own limits. I would not have drawn the limit that the Government have drawn for Chile. It is wrong to deal with Chile. I say that not because of Chile's outward behaviour but because of the way that her Government too often behave inside their own country.
There are two dimensions to the problems surrounding the Soviet Union. The main source of our discussion has been Soviet activity outside Russia. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a clear act of aggression of the worst kind. There has also been mention of aggression inside the Soviet Union and of the way that it treats its people. I shall briefly discuss the latter point as little mention has been made since the exile of Sakharov was discussed.
Again, two questions are involved. The first is the treatment of those who wish to change the way of life in that system. We are fortunate in Britain because we can speak our minds without fear. We can breathe in the air of argument and let out the wind of discussion. We disagree, but we do not shoot those with whom we disagree in order to make sure that such disagreements are not made public. However, it is not the same in the Soviet Union. Those who seek to change the regime in the Soviet Union are under constant attack. They live in fear and misery.
The most outstanding man, the greatest patriot of the Soviet Union and that most tremendous Nobel Peace prize winner, is Professor Sakharov. All hon. Members should pay tribute to him. I have a letter that has been signed by more than 70 of my hon. Friends. It is addressed to the Soviet ambassador and asks him to see us about this disgraceful behaviour. A cross-section of my hon. Friends are united. I am not always in total agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), but he analysed the situation well. The Soviet ambassador is not well known for his letter-writing ability. Those of us who have addressed letters to him in the past have not been particularly excited by the swiftness or availability of his reply. It will now be known—as this letter will be taken tomorrow by hand—that we have written to the ambassador. If he does not reply, many people will want to know why.
Although we disagree on many matters, the vast majority of hon. Members are united about the treatment of human beings. We are not concerned only with the treatment of British people. We care about the way Soviet dissidents are treated. It is not just—as they believe—the enemies of the Soviet Union who are upset, but also its friends.
Secondly, there are those who are not seeking to change the internal state of the Soviet Union but who are asking only to get out. I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will allow me to pay tribute to those right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who for the last 10 years, whatever their party, their background or their religion, have come together in the all-party parliamentary committee for the release of Soviet Jewry and who have, partly through their efforts, helped to secure the release of many people and to save many important lives.
When we talk about what happens inside the Soviet Union and when we think of policy, of course, we think primarily of ourselves and also about what is happening in Afghanistan. But we can pause for a moment to ask ourselves what would happen to people inside the Soviet Union if various courses of action were taken. For example, it is probably common ground that most people would prefer to move the Olympic Games. There have been one or two exceptions during this debate. On the other hand, there are those in the Soviet Union who would prefer to have the Olympic Games there because they would like to keep the doors open. They hope to come out through doors which are open, and they will never emerge if the doors are slammed shut. The people who will suffer most from the return of the cold war are those who live in the USSR and who can only hope that, as a result of an improvement in the situation, they may be able either to get out or to change circumstances there. That does not mean that it is right that the Olympic Games should stay there, but it is a factor which people should take into account.
I cannot help feeling that some hon. Members who spoke from the Government Benches seemed rather glad that the cold war was back. They seemed to welcome the fact that at last we could recognise what was happening and return to the charge knowing that the battle was joined. I have nothing of that feeling. It is sad for us and for people in the Soviet Union that we return to the cold war.
Equally, there was an element of unreality in the speeches of some of my hon. Friends. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) said that we must have constant discussions and create new opportunities for contact and understanding. However, although it takes two parties to make an agreement and two parties to attend a conference, it takes only one to start a war. What is more, it takes only one to start a cold war. We face one party that has started a war in Afghanistan and recreated the cold war without our help. In the circumstances, our reaction has to be careful and thoughtful.
In all this gloom and misery, there is in the world one shaft of light and peace. Only one hon. Member in this debate has spoken of it with any delight. I refer to the situation in the Middle East between Egypt and Israel. There, at least, the two main protagonists in a war have come together and are making peace.
During the recess, I was fortunate enough to visit Egypt. It was something of a realisation of a personal dream and a little of a miracle. The Bible that we share talks of going out from Egypt. It says nothing about going back. It was a privilege and a delight to receive the warm welcome that was bestowed upon me. I spent several hours with President Sadat. I believe that he and Mr. Begin, for all their faults, deserve support in their peace-making efforts and that they should receive praise for them. It is better for us to welcome what has happened than to carp at what is not happening.
Today on the front page of The Times, which is not a paper which normally takes rejoicing in its stride, there is an account of an improvement in the normalisation process. We should rejoice in this for its own sake because the people in those countries are not killing each other and preparing to destroy each other's homes. We should also rejoice because that is the one place where we have a real buffer between the Soviet Union and the rest of that part of the world.
The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said that there were many other countries in the Arab world apart from Egypt. However, Egypt's population exceeds that of the rest of the Arab world, and if Egypt is removed from the jigsaw the rest of the puzzle falls apart, which is why the people in the rest of that puzzle are inclined to get so cross.
We now have a position where these two great countries are involved in a peace process from which neither can withdraw easily. We should be glad about that, and we should be helping them in that process. Although it is, of course, correct that nothing can be permanent and universal in that area until the Palestinians are brought in, we must also recognise the difficulties of doing that, and, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, the difficulties of bringing in the Palestinians in a way that we all want are not rendered easier by the fact that anyone who happens not to agree with the PLO and to be in a position of Arab leadership in that area is likely to be killed, as a number of them have been. Of course we want peace in that area. We want it for their sakes, and we want it for our sakes. But perhaps it is good for us in this House to look through the darkness surrounding so much of the world today and to see that we have at least one beacon of light and decency where two peoples are looking for ways to make peace.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are trying to find ways to contain the making of war by Russia and to indicate that we care about what she does outside and, I hope, about what she does inside. We in this country are able to bring considerable influence to bear on the Soviet people through their contacts with us and ours with them. Neither side of this House is seeking to break off those contacts. However, the Russians should understand that, if they wish to be regarded and treated as part of the civilised world and to have those contacts in the future, they cannot continue, as at present, to mistreat their own people or wage war on others.
The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) spoke of gloom and darkness. I confess that, for me, the dominant emotion in recent days has been one of surprise. I confess to feeling even a little sorry for the Russians. They are entitled to feel puzzled. After all, Afghanistan has been a Soviet protectorate at least since April 1978, when Noor Mohammad Taraki and the Khalq deposed and slew Sardar Mohammad Daoud, who was the Kerensky of the process. The West did not stir then. The West did not stir when Taraki, in his turn, was replaced and done away with by Hafizulla Amin. Yet, under both these dictators, Afghanistan was in effect part of the so-called Socialist commonwealth and subjected to the Brezhnev doctrine of limited sovereignty.
I happened to be in Pakistan at the time of this third revolutionary coup. It was nothing to do with me. I just happened to be in Pakistan. At Torkhama, where the Durand Line crosses the Khyber Pass, the red flag was fluttering behind the Afghan frontier guards. Soon afterwards, Soviet helicopter gunships were butchering tribesmen of the national and Islam resistance to the alien, atheist domination. The West remained completely inert until Christmas, when Moscow decided that Afghanistan had got out of hand. It had got out of hand. The resistance went on. Then Mr. Babrak Karmal, of the Parcham wing of the People's Democratic Party, who had been in convenient exile in Czechoslovakia, became the precarious beneficiary of the direct Soviet invasion.
I said, half in jest, that I could feel a little sorry for the Russians. Indeed, they could be forgiven for having supposed that the West had conceded what for a century Britain in India had denied to Russia in Asia. Then President Carter found Kabul and Kandahar on the map and began to say what had long been said about Soviet imperialism by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Can one also feel a little sorry for Soviet soldiers now ringed by the hatred of a nation? In Pakistan, I visited the well-known garrison town of Mardan, in North-West Frontier Province. There, two things are cherished—an English church and a Mogul-style monument called the Hamilton memorial. It commemorates the escort provided by the Corps of Guides who, almost a century ago, fell to the last man defending the British residency in Kabul established after the Treaty of Gandamak.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) described a visit that he and some of his hon. Friends paid to the Soviet embassy to express their strong feelings against the Soviet intervention. I accompanied some of my hon. Friends to the Soviet embassy. I think on both sides that we were equally dissatisfied with the explanation of the Soviet ambassador. As we left, I was in conversation with a member of the embassy staff. I said that we British, in the past, had had some experience of intervention in Afghanistan and it had not ended well.
No Russian in Afghanistan can feel safe. But, unlike the British and Indians, the Soviet occupation makes use of tanks and air power. One must assume that the Russians, as far as can be seen ahead, will hold what they consider to be logistically essential. For seven years they have been building roads in Afghanistan, including the two-mile Salang tunnel, north of Kabul, and the four-track highway from Mazar-i-Sharif to Kabul.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren) mentioned the road that runs from Kushka through Herat to Kandahar. That could serve to move tanks and troops to the Khojak Pass, which leads to Chaman and Quetta, in Pakistan's restless province of Baluchistan. The Leader of the Opposition, who himself visited Pakistan not so long ago, discounted the likelihood of further military adventure by the Soviet Union. He may be right. It may well wait for the West to go back to sleep, but thereafter, or even before, it may try to subvert Pakistan.
Long ago, I served in Pakistan at the transfer of power and after independence. On returning from my recent visit I turned up in the India Office library some notes I made when I was serving a different Pakistan, under Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in the Punjab-Baluchistan borderland at Dera Ghazi Khan. In those old notes, I found reference to the assertion by the Communist Party of India—then an undivided India—in 1941 of the right to self-determination of the Sindhis, the Baluchis and the Pathans, three of the nationalities of Pakistan spoken of by those who would either loosen or break up the Pakistan federation.
The fourth nationality, of course, is the Punjabis, whose dominance is resented in some quarters and is associated in Sind with the execution of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Those old notes also mentioned the attractions of the warm waters of Karachi in Sind. To Karachi now we must add the new port of Port Qasim, which is being built and to which the United Kingdom is making the largest single financial contribution.
What is to be done? This debate has traversed much of the world. I shall confine myself to the threatened country that I have known since its independence and a region where Britain has left a name behind and where we still have some influence. On the North-West frontier of Pakistan I met a number of the refugees from Afghanistan. At that time they were indirect victims, but those who are coming now are direct victims of Soviet imperialism. Some of them were in a permanent camp, for example, at Warsak, and were well off compared with those huddled in tents in a frontier winter. Some were Kirgiz nomads, who had come a long way from the Wakhan strip of territory, which lies between Pakistan and the USSR. Some were deserters from the forces of the Afghan Democratic Republic, who had arrived in Pakistan with captured Soviet weapons. There were Mohmands and other Pathans who had taken refuge in Pakistan and had returned to fight for freedom, having enlisted fellow tribesmen in the unadministered frontier areas in their jehad.
For Muslims, this is a holy war. The Soviet Union is a persecutor of Islam. We have and must hold the moral ascendancy in this matter. It is not we who have denied self-determination to the colonised or freedom of conscience, but these are causes that the Russians trample beneath the tracks of their tanks. All through this period of detente the Russians have never ceased to claim that it is their right and duty to support wars of liberation as they define them.
But let them have a care. They can exploit Baluchi and Paktoonistan irredentism, but Islam is as militant as Communism. By way of comment on what was said by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), according to Soviet statistics fewer than 10 million of the 17 million inhabitants of Afghanistan are Afghantsy or Pathans. Then there are Tadzhiks, Uzbeks, Turkmen and others. Some Afghans live across the Soviet border. Across that border can be found 9 million Uzbeks, 2·1 million Tadzhiks, 1·5 million Turkmen and 1·5 million Kirgiz. There are more than twice as many Tadzhiks in Afghanistan than in the Tadzhik Socialist Soviet Republic.
There has been talk of human rights.
It is possible to be naive about these matters, but is it not a fact that one broad faction of tribes in Afghanistan pleaded with the Russians to come in? It may well be that once the Russians had gone in many of that faction decided that they did not like it and became great Afghan nationalists. Is it not a fact that the Russians were asked in, possibly against their better judgment, and, having arrived, found that many of those who had asked them in changed their view about having the Red Army in their homeland?
I have no knowledge of that, but it is true that there was an element that supported the Soviet occupation. I have no knowledge of a direct appeal for Soviet intervention.
Are not self-determination and religious liberty—if we believe in them as principles—applicable also to the Central Asian nationalities, and are they not more immediately applicable to Afghanistan? Why should it always be left to the Kremlin to decide which struggles are liberation struggles and which fighters are freedom fighters? The Russians talk of the Socialist commonwealth, but there is no dominion status within it. I do not believe that the Soviet empire alone will remain immune from dissolution.
What aid should be given to the resistance fighters in Afghanistan? This issue was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and it is a matter for very prudent counsel among Governments, including the Governments of the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent.
A sense of humanity alone prompts the interest of this House in the refugees. When I was with them not so long ago they numbered 150,000. Today we are told that they number 500,000. Perhaps we might hear whether Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that everything possible is being done for their relief. The United States is to provide Pakistan with military equipment and other assistance to help it defend its independence. Even before the Foreign Secretary visited Pakistan, Britain had rescheduled Pakistan's debt. That assistance was gratefully appreciated.
I have always regretted that Mr. Bhutto took Pakistan out of the Commonwealth and I hope that it will be possible for Pakistan to come back. Pakistan has had a very bad press. Some of the information that we have lately received about Pakistan seems to me like disinformation. I say that as one who knows the country a little and one who, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Horn castle (Mr. Tapsell)—who made an admirable speech—was foremost in pleading clemency for the former Prime Minister.
To find a way back from martial law to parliamentary government is never easy. It will not be easy now. Mr. Bhutto himself ended his political career as the chief administrator of martial law. Local body elections have, at least, been held, but military rule and theocracy are both suspect in a secularist West. Nevertheless, the two unifying forces in Pakistan are Islam and the army. Without them Pakistan would not have survived the Bangladesh conflict or even the partition which gave it birth.
So, whatever we may think of some of the aspects of that regime, it is certain that the unity and integrity of Pakistan is a vital Western interest. Empires rise and fall and geographical realities persist. It is not for nothing that Pakistan joins hands in the northern mountains with China and that together they build 500 miles of highway in the Karakorum.
The crux of the East-West problem is simply that the East knows what it wants and the West does not. The decisions involved in the containment of aggression by a democracy or democracies acting together are infinitely more difficult than
for an autocracy making war. The Observer printed an editorial yesterday which was headed
We Still Need to Talk.
That is true; we always will need to talk. However, aggressors do not necessarily need to talk, and often they do not want to, except, perhaps, to secure what they have already achieved or to pave the way for further advance.
It is in that context that I want to examine Afghanistan. There are many misunderstandings in this country about these matters. Not only is Afghanistan not remotely democratic, but it never has been democratic at any time. We are therefore not rescuing anyone for democracy or watching the USSR do away with democracy.
There seem to have been elements almost of gloating speculation in the media—though it has not come out in the House today—that Afghanistan might become the USSR's Vietnam. That is a dangerous and inaccurate parallel. It is inaccurate because of the very divisions within Afghanistan to which hon. Members have already referred. The Pathans who have dominated Afghanistan, while being fiercely independent, are unlikely to seek to do battle for non-Pathans whom they tend to despise. However, it is dangerous because it may tempt the West, particularly the United States, to try to involve Russia in a debilitating colonial war by fuelling Afghan insurgence. If that happened, and particularly if it happened through Pakistan, the danger of the collapse and disintegration of Pakistan would be considerable.
That danger would be exacerbated because of the inflexibility of the rule of General Zia. I am concerned more about the external threat than the internal threat to which the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) referred, and I think that we might witness the emergence of independent, Soviet-dominated Pathan and Baluchi States. One could even foresee some development in regard to the Kurds, involving not only Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran but Iraq.
Therefore, it seems that the logic of the Soviet action—it depresses me to say so—can be perceived only in terms of the potential for chaos that it creates in a region where democracy is mostly non-existent. Therefore it creates a very great difficulty for the West in defending against attack and for the countries that produce the oil which fuels Western democracy.
I have no clear answer to all this, unfortunately. That is the enormously perilous and depressing aspect of it. I suspect that in realpolitik terms—there has been a lot of realpolitik flying about—the only presence in Pakistan which would actually deter the Soviet Union would be a Chinese presence, but, even if such an invitation were acceptable, heaven knows what it would entail in the long run.
I believe that realpolitik is inadequate. What the West must do is to achieve some sort of clear consensus on the consequences of its moral position in the first place and then face up to the Military consequences of it. I thought that the inadequacy of the Prime Minister's response was that she concentrated exclusively on the realpolitik: forget about General Zia and let us rearm Pakistan—she did not specifically say that, but let us aid Pakistan, forget about Cyprus, help to tighten our connections with Turkey, God bless the Iranian revolution, and so on.
I do not deny that realpolitik can be forced on a country or on an alliance, but I think that the West needs much more than that, as was made clear in the speech of the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath). Democracy needs a coherence of attitude which allows it, for example—I take just one example—to condemn without fear or favour such an incident as the execution of 67 people in Saudi Arabia the other day. The West hardly uttered a cheep about it, and we know why.
Neither was the reaction of the Labour Left adequate. Hon Members associated with the Labour Left sit round about me, and their cry was "What about Cambodia?" It is about time that some people simply accepted that when Russia invaded Afghanistan she did something wrong. "Wrong" is an old-fashioned word in politics but still a potent one, and what is wrong is not made any less wrong by what has gone before. It is important to say that.
In what I thought was otherwise a reasonable speech, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) put forward the strange concept that Europe could somehow be a buffer between America, on the one hand, and the Soviet Union, on the other. I believe that to be an unacceptable prospect. Whatever criticism we may from time to time make of the United States, there are no Sakharovs in the United States, and we should remember that. Democracy needs to develop a coherence of attitude towards external threat which it does not at present have, and Europe cannot cut away from the United States.
We now have to ask ourselves some questions which we thought that Helsinki had postponed, perhaps into the endless future. We have to ask not only what we should do about Afghanistan but what happens, for example, if the Russians seize West Berlin. What would we actually do then? What about Yugoslavia, and so on? Such questions have defence consequences which we debated last week and on which I shall not enlarge now, save to say that detente is not about agreement; it is about peace.
As the Leader of the Opposition said, SALT is a favourite with the whole world, and likewise MBFR is. But equally means that we must face up to the defence consequences of our position, and it means also that we must at some time face the necessity to ask ourselves questions about the circumstances in which we might use weapons which we do not want but which are forced upon us.
In conclusion, I make three points. The Prime Minister said that we should take on the USSR in the struggle of ideas. I sincerely hope that that will mean that the BBC external services will from now on receive the genuine support which they have not had, either from this Government or from the previous Government. To take but one example, I think that broadcasting in Persian five years ago amounted to 26 hours in the week but now amounts to two.
Second, I consider that the same argument applies with equal force to aid, to educational assistance and the like. This point was made by the right hon. Member for Sidcup, who picked out Jamaica, although one could mention especially India.
The Prime Minister only touched on the Olympics. I hope that we shall hear more about that when the Minister winds up the debate. I understand that the legal position is extremely difficult, far more difficult than many of us who took an early view on the matter realised. It has been suggested to me that the Prime Minister, before making her statement, had no consultation with any of the athletics associations involved.
Finally, the right hon. Member for Sidcup said that the West was glad to wash its hands of Vietnam and Cambodia. Not until the boat people and the genocide of Pol Pot did we pay any attention to the problem. We have done very little since. On the question of American refugees, the Prime Minister said that we would support President Carter. What have we done? We have done virtually nothing. There is also the problem of Palestine that was referred to by many hon. Members.
The tragedy of the present position is that the West does not know its mind at the very moment when the threat to its survival is sharper than at any time since the Second World War.
Over the past decade, and especially following the American defeat in Vietnam, East-West relations have illustrated the essential difference between the active strategy of Russia and the passive strategy of the capitalist West—so passive and so flexible that even our nuclear strategy is one of flexible response. Our strategy is so flexible and so lacking in basic will that it is unclear to us, to our allies and to the Russians. In short, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said, it lacks credibility. That in itself gravely increases the risks of war, because with a lack of credibility there is a real risk that Russia may unwittingly overstep the mark—a mark yet to be established by the West—possibly in the hysteria following some Russian adventure that itself may be calculated by the Kremlin merely to be brinkmanship.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister appears to be the only Western leader with a clear idea of where we stand and where we must stand in future. I also agree with him that the Russians may have been amazed at the West's reaction to the recent events in Afghanistan.
When an active strategy is matched merely by a passive strategy, the initiative lies with the active partner. Since 1945, the West has increasingly merely reacted to Russian initiatives. The result has been a move decisively against the West. The nuclear and conventional arms gap has been closed, and in part reversed. Spheres of influence have changed dramatically and at great cost to the West. Until Afghanistan few, if any, Russian uniformed soldiers had been killed on active service outside the Russian empire. The hundreds of thousands of allied military graves testify tragically to the pathetic weakness of the West's defence strategy. When we have fought, we have tended to do so on Russian terms. To be successful, our defence strategy must once again become active—but active against what? What is the Russian strategy that we have to meet?
I humbly submit to the House my analysis of the Russian strategy. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition that Russia has global aims, using every facet of total strategy, subversion and military threat, including the use of third parties such as the Cubans and the East Germans. Russia will always fish in troubled waters, but not, not to trigger a damaging nuclear response from the West.
Russia has global aims, but its immediate aim is to re-establish its own continental security. It is that immediate aim that is now theatening world peace because it strikes at the oil of the Arabian Gulf.
To achieve continental security, Russia had first to break up the apparent encirclement of its borders by the United States and her allies in the form of NATO, CENTO, SEATO and the other American bases in the Far East.
Secondly, Russia had to achieve nuclear and conventional parity, not only with the United States but with all peoples siding with capitalist America. To appreciate this Russian strategy, we must remember that the West not only effectively encircled her but that, to a growing extent, Russia was faced by China as an ideological and expansionist military opponent with possible claims on Outer Mongolia. China's invasion of Tibet, therefore, posed a new threat to Russia. Russia quickly concluded a treaty with India—a treaty that is still valid and important today.
I believe that Russia must then have realised a key fact which is critical to her present threat to the Middle East. That was that Russia faced two enemies on two fronts—the West, relatively well armed but passive and uncertain, especially under a strategy of flexible response, and, secondly, China, which was relatively weak but more provocative and aggressive. Observing the classic strategy of first eliminating the weaker opponent, I believe that Russia adopted its present immediate strategy to encircle China in preparation for a pre-emptive strike, while at the same time seeking every opportunity to weaken the West mentally through subversion and by making unacceptably dangerous to the West any allied war response in support of China. Russia's thrust to the Gulf oil is part of that strategy.
Russia already controlled the northern borders of China, from Vladivostok to Gilgit. Her treaty with India formed the southern part of the containment. Her support for anti-American forces in Vietnam and Indo-China effectively eliminated SEATO, leaving Thailand and Pakistan today as the only gaps in the Russian plan of encirclement.
The development of a nuclear device by China must have forced the Russians to consider the urgent need for a pre-emptive strike upon China. Indeed, I believe that the visits of Mr. Ping and Mr. Hua to the United States and Europe, with their constant underlining of the Russian menace, point to China's own expectation of a Russian attack. While successfully completing its encirclement of China, Russia had to take steps to ensure that the West would not interfere in any Russian attack upon China. That could be achieved only by creating a situation in which unilateral action by the West would result in certain and unacceptable damage to the West.
The year 1973 starkly revealed the West's utter dependence upon oil. It was, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister so aptly described it, the lifeblood of the West. Furthermore, the heart was the Arabian Gulf and the carotid artery the Straits of Hormuz. I believe that Russian support for the Arabs indicates that they saw this years ago and that they have never swerved from their goal of control of the Gulf. Aden was indeed a valuable prize, but real control of the Gulf would be gained either from Iran or Pakistan, both with land communications with Russia. Here, Afghanistan is the key, because Afghanistan lies between both Iran and Pakistan, providing Russia with options in either country.
Furthermore, both Iran and Pakistan are torn by dissident groups, providing great scope for Russian subversion. For example, Russia could by threat, either of support for India or of support for one of the dissident groups, induce Pakistan to provide by treaty the use of Karachi as a Russian base. Today, the same pressure is not so easily brought to bear on Iran.
Pakistan, therefore, is critical to the West. And in that respect it is interesting to note that China is now offering support to Pakistan, despite General Zia's execution of her friend Bhutto. It is also interesting to see that, at last, America is offering China significant military aid.
In the meantime, the Russian encirclement of China is all but complete. By its threat to Gulf oil it is well on the way towards achieving the effective neutralisation of the West in its China problem. CENTO and SEATO are in ruins.
If we are to re-establish true East-West relations, I believe that the West must face reality. We must forget our internal differences and re-draw the lines of vital interest. We must let the world know exactly where we stand.
Our heart of oil lies almost totally exposed to our enemies, and I ask my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal to encourage our NATO allies to adopt two courses of action. First, we should extend the boundaries of NATO to include our vital interests and extend NATO membership—even associate status—to areas and to nations of the world where our vital interests lie—for example, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and South Africa. If that was done, would it not meet many of the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup about the profiles of Arab and Westerner in Middle East Defence?
Secondly, I ask my right hon. Friend to seek to establish NATO bases with new local members in areas of vital interest, such as Osman and Karachi, and encourage our NATO allies to replace the present NATO strategy of flexible response by the reintroduction of a tripwire strategy with clearly drawn lines. In that way, we, our Middle-East friends and the Russians will know exactly where we stand, both physically and morally.
If that is achieved, I believe that we shall not have short-term peace through appeasement but there will be long-term peace through mutual strength and mutual understanding.
Like the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne), I wish to concentrate my remarks on a reference to the motives for Russian foreign policy. However, I should like to preface those remarks with a brief comment about the Olympic Games because there has been a difference of opinion in the debate. Judging by the history of the past 30 or 40 years, if a gesture of non-participation in the Olympic Games can contribute to making the Russians pause and, thereby, avoid a world war, that will be worth while. Indeed, it could be argued that if the free world cannot agree on such a minimal response, the outlook is bleak.
I turn to the question of Russian foreign policy, which is at the heart of our anxieties and those of other nations with which we are associated. There is a fear, as has been mentioned in the debate, that the Russians are still concerned with either world revolution or world domination. I doubt whether that is the main objective of their policy. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to disregard it because it is an important thread in Soviet foreign policy. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) quoted from the revealing letter that Trotsky wrote in 1919 to the central committee of the Russian Communist Party. The fact that Trotsky had fallen out of favour with the Russian leadership does not gainsay the fact that he was the founder of the Red Army with an acute understanding of inter national realities.
Despite the denials that Mr. Gromyko issued yesterday, one cannot therefore safely assume that Russia, in regard to the action that she has taken in Afghanistan, has no more expansionary aims It is quite possible that what she intends is a move into the oilfields. But in my view the main consistent thread in Russian foreign policy—this has been pursued with very great ruthlessness and sometimes cynicism, both under the Czar and under the Communist dictatorship—has been a defensive one, namely, to ensure the security and inviolability of the territory and the regime The trouble, of course, is that Russia's defensive posture, because of her geopolitical situation, partly in Europe and partly in Asia, leads her into policies which can scarcely be described as defensive.
In Europe, the Russian State, conscious of the invasions of 1812, 1914 and 1941, has sought to create a buffer zone so that any fighting would be miles from Russia's territories. That is the justification—and one must never forget this—of the presence of the Red Army in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and East Germany and of the annexation of the Baltic States.
Much of this policy has been deplored in the West, but there has been acquiescence in it—for example, the Red Army moved against the workers of Berlin in 1953, against the Hungarians and the Poles in 1956, and against the Czechs in 1968. But, despite considerable moral revulsion and protests, it has been accepted, because it has been felt, perhaps, that underneath it all there were certain reasons of national self-preservation for the Russians seeking to create this cordon sanitaire in Europe.
I do not think that the same excuse—and it is a very hard-boiled and cynical excuse—can be put forward in respect of Russia's Asian policy, because history is very different here. To many Asians—and we are apt to forget this—the Soviet Union is just another Western colonial Power. Just as Britain, France, Portugal, Spain and, indeed, the United States have been forced by nationalist movements to withdraw from Asia and Africa, so, too, the people of those areas resent the Russian presence. In particular, two very important groups in Asia distrust the Soviet presence and motives. I refer to the Chinese and the Muslim population.
It was my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) who mentioned the minority problem in the Soviet Union—the fact that the Asiatic minority communities are growing far faster than the Russian population. Many of the inhabitants of Soviet Asia are of Mongol or Turkmen stock, and there are very many Muslims among them. It is not difficult to foresee ever-growing tensions between the Asiatic peoples and the Russians.
Perhaps I take comfort from the fact—it depends how we argue this—that time is not necessarily on Russia's side. The pursuit of peace for the West will be very difficult and perilous and it will require some regional arrangements to ensure stability. I should have thought that our duty in this country lies absolutely clearly in Europe, for we have to keep Europe safe. That means that we must ensure above all that Germany remains within the European comity. I foresee Russian blandishments to try to safeguard the Russian back door by offering Germany a new form of Rapallo agreement.
In Asia we must use our influence to ensure that the peoples are left free to sort out their own destinies without interference. It seems to me that in their time the Russians will have to come to terms, as we had to in our time, with the new world which they are only now beginning to understand.
I followed with keen attention the speech of the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr.Ginsburg), in which I understood him to make clear that in his view our priorities should lie in Europe. I am fully aware of the vital importance that we should attach to our European commitments. However, it seems to me to be of overriding importance torealise the nature of the Russian power that confronts us, to which we are addressing ourselves tonight.
Many parts of the world have been treated to a curious spectacle during the past few weeks, over Christmas and since. It is a spectacle that people in many quarters, some in this country, have been able to witness—that of doves darkening their feathers and sharpening their claws and transforming them into talons. Some may find it an enjoyable spectacle, but in me it arouses a touch of unease.
I am sure that the whole House unreservedly condemns the Soviet aggression in Afghanistan. How could we do anything else? It was carried out ruthlessly, efficiently and in complete disregard of the very world opinion that so many hon. Members, notably sitting on the Opposition Benches, have told us has so much influence on our Russian friends. Of course, we should condemn it, because it is a ruthless invasion of a sovereign State and because of the brutality that the Russians have been able to get away with, simply because they operated in a closed society, whereas the rather less brutal Americans, as I saw in Vietnam back in 1965, were unable to get away with even half such brutality. Above all, we should condemn it because of the signal threat that the invasion poses to our own interest and, therefore, to the peace of the world.
Why should we protest so vigorously about this latest Soviet aggression? How does the invasion of Afghanistan differ substantially from the invasion of Czechoslovakia, the crushing of the Hungarian rebellion in 1956, the ruthless exploitation by Cuban mercenaries of insurgent peoples in Ethiopia and Angola and the stationing of Russian troops in Conakry—the actions that we have heard catalogued so ably and so frequently today?
Why does Afghanistan differ so signally from all those previous blatant acts of Soviet aggression? I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) that there is cause for sympathy with the Russians. What arguments were advanced for doing nothing in the past? In the case of Czechoslovakia and Hungary, one of the principal arguments was that both countries were already securely within the Soviet sphere of influence. Is this not equally true of Afghanistan? Did not the American Administration signal as clearly as they could in the muted language of the cold war that when the Taraki regime took over they would do nothing to impede rapid Soviet colonisation of Afghanistan? When one of the Soviet client regimes proves unsatisfactory and the Russians go in, surely they are entitled to be surprised that that invasion should provoke such a unanimous and shocked reaction from the West, and also from 104 countries at the United Nations in New York.
It seems equally surprising that the Russians should be blamed, or that the West's reaction should have been so strong in view of what happened in Africa and the countries of the Third world in which the Russians have been dabbling for the past 30 years. After all, the West did nothing in Angola. It tried to give support to Dr. Savimbi but it failed because the American people and the American Congress thought that it was not worth provoking the Russians. The West also tried in Ethiopia and elsewhere, but public opinion was heavily against it.
Why had things changed so dramatically by Christmas 1979? What was so different that a chorus of protest was raised by the old hawks and the new hawks? I suggest that there is a clear reason: the sheet under which many people in the West had managed to hide for years has finally been torn to shreds. Self-delusion about Russia's real intentions is no longer possible. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) that this is a sad debate because of the recurrent myopia or disease of the eye suffered by so many Labour Members.
The hon. Member for Dewsbury was right—we are now talking about Russia's true intentions. I have never been under any delusion about the nature of Russian power. I believe, as does the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), that there are gigantic centrifugal forces at work in the Soviet Union. The hon. Member mentioned very clearly, and with knowledge, the enormous rate of increase in the population of the Asian minorities in the Soviet Union. We could equally mention the centrifugal forces engendered by the dramatic failures of Soviet industry and agriculture.
Where I differ from the hon. Member for West Lothian is as to the conclusion to be reached as a result of observing these phenomena. In order to survive, the Soviet State needs more than a buffer zone to defend itself against a repetition of the terrible depredations we all realise it suffered from over the last 50 years. Rather like Henry V's England, Russia needs to lead its troops in foreign adventures to distract them from the appalling realities of life at home.
I suggest that if we are to deal with the enormous accretion of Soviet might and the extraordinary weakness in which the West finds itself in 1980, it is no good relying on hysterical reaction. It is no good representing ourselves as weak men who, when they realise that they have been deluding themselves, hastily react to prove what everybody has never doubted they possessed—their virility.
For that reason, I unreservedly welcome the strong response by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) so clearly pointed out, she alone of all the Western leaders has been consistent in her analysis of the Russian threat. Some of us may disagree on points of detail, but in general her perception has been strong and accurate.
If we are to avoid the hysterical reaction that makes me feel so uneasy, we must accept that Soviet Russia should be faced with a coherent and consistent strategy. Here, surely, the House cannot dissent from the point so clearly made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath). We need a coherent strategy which envisages making it perfectly clear to the Russian imperialists what our reaction would be in the light of certain circumstances and to contain and emasculate Russian imperialism. We can do that only by employing methods and weapons which safeguard peace—which is what we all want—and which work. If we merely utter empty threats that we cannot carry out we make ourselves look ridiculous in the eyes of the Russians and confirm our friends in their rapidly gathering opinion of our own feebleness.
We must welcome the determination of my right hon. Friends in the Foreign Office to seek unity among ourselves and our allies and friends in Europe, to obtain a coherent strategy in our response to Russia and to ensure that the measures which we take are powerful and effective rather than the acts of a man trying to swat a fly.
On 14 December 1979 the General Assembly of the United Nations debated a resolution on hegemony, which is a rather ugly word for a disagreeable
phenomenon. The preamble of the resolution states:
hegemonism is a manifestation of a policy of a State, or a group of States, to control, dominate and subjugate, politically, economically, ideologically or militarily, other States, peoples or regions of the world.
The General Assembly, not surprisingly, rejected that proposition by a majority of 111 votes to 4 votes, with 26 abstentions.
One might have thought that that was a tailor-made resolution for the Western world to support. For instance, it could have quoted it following events in Afghanistan. However, the United States, Canada and two other States of the four that objected to the statement of policy voted against it, and the United Kingdom and most West European countries abstained. Why that curious unwillingness to support the resolution? As I have said, it appears to have been tailor-made for the West to have at hand to condemn the Russians for their exercise in Afghanistan.
No, I shall not give way. A number of my hon. Friends wish to take part in the debate, as well as Conservative Members.
The reason for the lack of support might have been a somewhat uneasy conscience on the part of the West about its own exercises in hegemonism, to use that rather disagreeable word, over the past 30 years.
We are rightly engaged in the condemnation of the military invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. However, it is not many years ago since a member of NATO carried out an even more brutal, savage and barbaric attack on a small, non-aligned country.
Did the West object to that attack? Did we start employing sanctions? Were financial pressures put on Turkey? There was some token activity, but Turkish troops are still occupying Cyprus and Turkey is still a member of NATO. We are now talking about giving full economic and military support to Turkey without any suggestion that first Turkey should withdraw from its aggression against Cyprus. The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was right to draw attention to that anomaly in Western policy.
What is the position of Palestine? Over the past 30 years the West has connived by military and financial support in the virtual genocide of the Palestinian people.
I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has expressed concern about the consequences of that policy and the need to recognise the rights of the Palestinians. I am pleased that that view has been echoed from the Government Benches. However, the fact remains that it was an exercise in hegemonism, to use that disagreeable word once again, of which the West can scarcely be proud. That is now seriously complicating the policy of the Western world in the Middle East.
Another example is complicity with South Africa. We are objecting to the presence of foreign forces on Afghanistan soil. That is right. I object to that presence, too. However, for 10 years there were South African military forces on British soil in Rhodesia. Did we object to that presence? Did we demand the withdrawal of those forces? We did not. Nothing was done about it. There are South African forces on Rhodesian soil now. The Government say that those forces are there with our approval. South Africa invaded Angola. Did the President of the United States suggest that we should deploy sanctions against South Africa? Did he advise that we should break off sporting links and other economic relations? Not at all.
Because of the extreme situation in Namibia, we have at last brought ourselves to an arms embargo. However, trade and relations with South Africa continue as usual, despite that invasion. Several hon. Members have mentioned the disastrous involvement of the United States in Vietnam and Cambodia. The French have also made military interventions in various parts of the African continent.
The Third world has now decided to use "hegemonism" as its slogan. Apparently, all that previous hegemonism was tolerable, but Russian hegemonism in Afghanistan is not. I do not in any way support Russian action in Afghanistan. However, if such behaviour against a non-aligned member of the Third world—or any member of the Third world—is
unjustifiable, unwarranted and to be condemned",
we should look at some of the policies that have been pursued, and are still pursued, by the West.
The principle of hegemonism must be taken seriously, because the Third world takes it seriously. The most interesting phenomenon about the debate in the General Assembly was the protest by the Third world—in alliance with the West—against Russian behaviour in Afghanistan. We should remember that Western Asia and the Middle East are not just playgrounds for the quarrels of super-Powers or for European interests.
There are many people in that part of the world. There are millions of wives, husbands, babies and villagers—as well as oil. We should pay some attention to their interests. We should also pay attention to what King Hussein has reportedly said, namely, that Palestine and Jerusalem are of equal, if not greater, importance to Arabs and Muslims as Islam's cause in Afghanistan. We may not see it like that, but the people of the Middle East do.
There is a danger that by pursuing the quarrel in Asia we shall find an ugly polarisation between China and Pakistan on the one hand and Russia and India on the other. That will do no good to the interests of the Western world or to the stability of Asia. I conclude that we should take the United Nations' system of diplomacy and security more seriously. I therefore praise the efforts of President Carter in initiating discussion in the Security Council and in taking those discussions to the General Assembly.
It is important that pressure upon Russia should be sustained within the United Nations. It is also important that Britain should use its connections with Western Europe and the Commonwealth. Indeed, there has been remarkably little reference to the Commonwealth tonight. We need to use our influence in those alliances and links in order to ensure a better settlement and greater stabiliy in the Middle East.
However, we should be warned by the General Assembly's resolution. Although—for good reason—the countries of the Third world may be on our side about Afghanistan, we must make sure that they are also on our side in issues of profound importance to them—such as those of South Africa, Palestine and Cyprus—if we wish to make progress.
We all associate ourselves with many of the latter sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley). However, he has a touching faith in the efficacy of the United Nations which some of us, much as we should like to, cannot share.
We are really seeing the product of a post-Vietnam, post-Watergate paralysis on one side and a new determination on the part of the Soviets. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) gave the House a very shrewd analysis of the situation when he said that it was the West's lack of response to recent aggressive actions as much as anything else that had led the Soviets to suppose that they could get away with this aggression and this invasion.
I am mightily relieved that we have a Prime Minister and a Government who at long last have been able to speak out with a determined resolve and to make it quite plain that we do not flinch from taking the initiative on behalf of defending Western interests.
Although the Leader of the Opposition gave muted support to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, his speech was a disappointing one. He did not seem prepared to face two crucial facts. They are facts that we should all bear in mind. The first is that never, in any negotiations—Helsinki is the prime example of this—have the Soviets conceded anything. The other fact, although the right hon. Gentle- man sought to refute it when I intervened, is that from no territory that the Soviets have annexed have they ever withdrawn. There have been adventures—the right hon. Gentleman cited Egypt and Somalia—but when once the Russians have gone in with their full military might they have stayed. Let no one in this House delude himself; they are there in Afghanistan, and they are determined to stay.
To recognise these facts is not to be a warmonger, as one or two less balanced Opposition Members seemed to indicate; it is merely to recognise the realities of international power. If detente—a word that is bandied around and seems to have a different meaning for everyone who uses it—is to mean anything at all, it can be a concept worth considering only if we are able to demonstrate our own united resolve.
In a remarkable speech, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said that we must indicate to the Soviets that we have no intention of threatening their supplies of oil. Indeed, we must; but we must also show that we are not prepared to tolerate any threatening of ours. That is the essential point of this debate. A message should go out from this House that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House are behind a Government who put the national interest first and are determined to give a lead in Europe and to back up our American allies.
Although it is a sadness to many of us that over the past three or four years there has been a lack of leadership from the White House, we are now delighted that at long last the President seems to have woken up to the realities of the international situation, and he deserves our fullest support.
The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) said that the former President Nixon had an appreciation of international affairs. So he did, and some of us would say that, much as we deplore a great deal of what we read about the Nixon era, in the last three years we have slightly regretted the absence of the sense of realism that inhabited the White House at that time.
One of the matters that we have to consider is exactly how we respond. I was baffled and dismayed by the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who seemed to indicate that we should do nothing and that when the President delivered his state of the union message last week he was whistling in the dark. It seems to me that there are occasions when the leaders of great nations have to make it abundantly plain where they stand. One must say "Thus far and no further". It seemed to me that the President was seeking to say that. If so, he deserves the fullest support of this Government and the House.
What is to be done in response to this naked, brutal and horrible act of aggression? It is, of course, right that we should show the Soviets that we are not prepared to behave as if nothing had happened. As it is my wish that hon. Members on both sides should have an opportunity to speak, I shall concentrate my remarks on the Olympic Games. I believe that insufficient attention has been given to this subject during the debate.
It is a real and proper gesture to say that it would be a mockery of the Olympic ideal and all that the Games are supposed to embody and personify to allow or encourage athletes from this country and the rest of the free world to parade, with all the panoply of ceremony and flag-waving, in Moscow in July. I say this for two reasons. First, it would indicate that we do not view with the abhorrence, disgust and dismay that we do the events in Afghanistan. Secondly, it would be a body blow to those within the Soviet Union and behind the Iron Curtain who, with tremendous bravery over recent years, have sought to fight for freedom in those countries.
Some of us have had contact with the dissidents, as they are called—the patriots, as many of us would call them—in Russia, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere. Many hon. Members in all parts of the House were deeply moved by the letter from Czech dissidents that appeared in The Times a week or so ago in which they stated that the one thing that would demonstrate the abhorrence with which this act was viewed and bring about the ostracism that the Soviet Union deserved would be a boycott of the Olympic Games. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is to be congratulated on her firmness and initiative and her support for President Carter in this matter.
The Soviet Union, like any non-democracy, is able to think in decades. When one is not answerable to an electorate every four or five years, and when one does not have to woo voters and convince them that one's actions are right, one can plan a global strategy in decades or even longer. In the 35 years since the end of the last war, we have seen a consistent policy of encirclement. It is a policy designed to command the strategic routes of the world and to leave the Soviet Union poised to command the great producers of raw materials.
We have also seen the suppression within that enormous country, that great empire, of all movements of freedom which are taken for granted in this country—freedom of worship and freedom of everything else. We have to say to those within the Soviet Union, who are beginning to stir, who are rebelling against the repressive policies of the regime, that there is something more worth while than exists behind the Iron Curtain. We have to say that we deplore the actions of their Government and that we are not prepared to give them a propaganda shop window at the Olympics in July.
Although this is one small action that can be taken by the West, I suggest that the House would be well advised to support my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and to appeal to those on the Olympic committee and elsewhere to boycott Moscow and to stay away. In so doing, we shall help to recognise and sustain that groping towards freedom that one sees in parts of the Soviet Union and other countries of the Warsaw Pact.
I believe that, at last, President Carter has woken up to the realities of the global situation. He is right in saying that this is the greatest challenge to the peace of the world since the Second World War. If we allow the Russians to get away with this as if nothing had happened, if we allow them the full accord of international acclaim in Moscow in July, if we behave as if this country were on a par with the United States, the other great super-Power in the world, we shall be doing a disservice not only to ourselves, our own cause and our own people, but to those in the Soviet Union who valiantly grope towards a freedom that we know and enjoy and so cavalierly take for granted.
This is the first time that I have dared to intervene in a foreign affairs debate and I do so briefly, first because, like one or two other hon. Members, I have actually been to Afghanistan and, second, because I am secretary of the Anglo-Polish parliamentary group—the chairman, the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) is in the Chamber—and, therefore, I believe strongly in good East-West relations.
As one or two hon. Members have said, over the past 20 years or so Afghanistan has come more and more into the Soviet sphere of influence. Over 20 years ago, they were already beginning to build the road from the Russian border to Kabul across the Hindu Kush. That process of penetration has continued. What happened at Christmas was a brutal military invasion, which was quite different. That is an action which will be, and is being, bitterly resented by a proud and independent people—as we in Britain know the Afghans to be. It has been condemned not just in the West but by the majority of the Third world.
It is interesting to note that most of the major Communist Parties of the West have also condemned the action—except, of course, the French Communist Party, which is slipping back into a primitive Stalinism. It is also interesting to note that some of the countries of the Eastern bloc, particularly Poland and Hungary, have been much less than fulsome in their congratulations to the new regime.
The question that everybody has been asking is why the Russians did it. We can see the defensive reasons for the invasion, if one can use the word "defensive"—the fact that they felt that the situation was going against them, their worry about the Muslim minorities within their own borders and the possi- bility that Muslim religious rebels or freedom fighters would defeat an anti-religious regime.
But it is a measure of our distrust of Russian motives in recent years that some people have also talked about the possible offensive reasons behind the invasion—the fact that perhaps Russia has designs on a warm water port or on Middle Eastern oil. That is the reason why we are now concerned about the situation in Europe, particularly of marginal countries such as Yugoslavia.
The truth is—I have to accept this, as a strong believer in detente—that there have been growing misgivings about Russian intentions over the last few years. Whatever the West has done—I accept many of the strictures of some of my hon. Friends—we cannot ignore the explosive growth of the Russian military machine in the 'seventies. We cannot ignore the Russian intervention in Africa, even if it is done by proxy with Cuban mercenaries. We cannot ignore the suppression of dissidents, about which my hon. Friends have spoken movingly this evening. Perhaps in the past it was right to characterise Russian foreign policy as cautious opportunism, but the trouble now is that it looks more opportunistic than cautious. If so, the whole concept of detente must be in doubt.
To put it bluntly, I do not always agree with Henry Kissinger, who was briefly my professor at Harvard, but I cannot help recalling his queries in "The White House Years" about Brezhnev's motives at the time of Kissinger's visit to Moscow to prepare the 1972 summit:
Was he (Brezhnev) ready to begin a true period of co-existence? Or was it all a tactical manoeuvre to weaken our vigilance before the next round of pressures would be exerted with growing power?
These are the questions we have to ask ourselves. We have to decide, in the light of Afghanistan, what our response should be. I join with the Government and with my own party in condemning the Russian invasion, but I do not think that condemnation is—
As I was saying when I was interrupted, I do not think that condemnation is enough. We have to remind the Russians in a calm and non-hysterical way that they cannot get away with similar behaviour elsewhere without paying an unacceptably high cost. It does not matter whether such behaviour is in Europe, Asia or Africa.
I sympathise with the call for a boycott of the Olympic Games, but I do not think that such a boycott is likely to be effective. I think the Games are a matter which, in a free country, should be left to the athletes.
Given the economic problems of the Eastern bloc, a ban on grain or on the import of technology is likely to be far more effective as a means of bringing pressure to bear. Such bans, of course, carry costs for us as well, as the West Germans and the French know. I hope that we will manage to draw a distinction between our treatment of Russia on the one hand and our treatment of other East European countries on the other, particularly countries like Poland and Hungary with which we have good relations and with which we have a lot of trade.
We must look at our own defences in NATO, and I support the modernisation of theatre nuclear weapons. There is also a case for increasing our conventional forces. I think it is right that we consider offering assistance to Asia and the Middle Eastern countries. However, that should not mean that we back dictators and it should not mean that we forget human rights. I hope we shall not do that, for we shall not win the battle for hearts and minds if we do.
Above all, we must re-examine and re-negotiate detente. I believe strongly in detente in the sense that agreement to coexist, to relax tension, to widen contacts and to increase trade is far better than tension and far better than the continuance of an unstable arms race. However, detente must be a two-way affair. It must be a comprehensive affair that applies not just in Europe but in other parts of the world. It has often seemed that the Russians have too often used detente so that they could be free to turn their attentions to other parts of the world. We must make detente more comprehensive.
I deplore the Russian action in Afghanistan, but if it results in a more realistic appraisal of Russian intentions—not only in the West but in the Third world—and if it leads to a more cautious and constructive approach by the Russians and to a more comprehensive and less one-sided system of detente, its consequences will not be all bad.
I seek to make one point only. The Soviet action in Afghanistan represents a serious threat to the interests not only of that country, but of the Middle East and the West. It also represents a challenge and an opportunity that we must seize. In order to seize that opportunity we shall need to show courage and determination, as demonstrated today in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
It also requires a major rethink in the chancelleries and Foreign Offices of the world. They, however, are not prone to do that, because essentially such instituations are reactive. They get engrossed, understandably, in the day-to-day responses that their work requires of them.
However, once in a generation there comes a time for a major conceptual shift, and I suggest that that time is now. It is analogous to the situation in 1947–48, when the late Ernest Bevin recognised—contrary to what was imagined by the then Labour Government—that Left could not speak to Left. He instituted a firm foreign policy on which were based the Western alliances that have created and maintained peace in Europe over the past 30 years.
Sadly, since then the position of the West has been steadliy eroded by an attack throughout the world, not only of a territorial and military nature but, much more important, a political and propaganda attack. That is the significance of the present juncture. It gives us an opportunity to analyse that propaganda attack.
The Soviet Union used brilliantly the concept of the cold war so that no democratic politician conscious of the needs and aspirations of his own electorate dared risk being called a cold war warrior. The Soviet Union then discovered a much more effective means—the concept of detente. It used once more the feelings that we all have that there must be a way of relieving tension in the world, of preventing the peoples of the world living under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust. These are feelings that the Russians exploited and continue to exploit.
Sadly, many Western leaders allowed that exploitation to be successful because they were not ready to face the realities of the Soviet performance. I refer to only three of them. They are the Soviet arms build-up, the Soviet qualities and performance in human rights, and the Soviet action over the Helsinki agreements. The significance of what has happened in Afghanistan since Christmas Eve is that so many people in the West, including the President of the United States, are now allowing to fall from their eyes scales that were not there before.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren) referred to Trotsky and the march through Afghanistan. That, as most of us now recognise, has remained Soviet policy. Steadily over these three decades the interests of the West have been under attack, politically and territorially. We now have an opportunity to counter-attack in both those senses, but particularly it is the ideological, political counter-attack that we must launch. That is where the Foreign Offices of the free world must recognise the new challenge facing them.
We must seek the maximum common ground with the non-Communist world so that our values prevail, and so that there is a climate that is favourable to our values and inimical to the aggressive, expansionist values that Moscow has now manifestly revealed to an extent that it is difficult for anyone to deny. Many advantages are now offered to us—the attack on an Islamic nation and the attack on a non-aligned country, coming only weeks after the Havana political declaration, when all the leaders of the non-aligned movement declared that the violation of the principle of non-intervention was unacceptable in any circumstances.
The Soviet Union's use of the Cuban puppet in the non-aligned movement has been seen through by many non-aligned countries, and the manifestation of that was the failure of Cuba to be nominated as a member of the Security Council. There is also the restiveness shown at Havana and the dismay and suspicion that Cuban troops are to be found in 14 nations in Africa.
Here is the chance to launch an attack and make common cause. We share with the non-Communist nations the absolute determination that there shall be no interference with national sovereignty and integrity. No Western nation seeks to place its puppet in some foreign capital. We share an interest in economic growth. Of course there are economic difficulties, but the progress made in the Tokyo round points to the achievements that are possible in that direction. Above all, we share a common interest in peace.
I have spent 20 years dealing with other countries and I know that it will be difficult, but the real problem that we face is the defeatism in the establishment of the West which will take a cynical and defeatist view, saying that the countries of the West cannot be expected to work together because they will all pursue their own selfish interests. "How can one expect the Third world to forget the hypocrisy and double standards that have applied in the past?" those defeatists will say, and they may well be right. But, if we accept that now, we throw away our future and the future of our children.
We have many assets in our favour. The Soviet Union makes many mistakes. If we do not challenge the Soviet Union now, the hawks in its leadership will say "This is the way forward. More aggression brings us more success". But if we are firm, that will be the way to safety, and that will be the way to peace.
I listened carefully to the Prime Minister today, and we have all had the opportunity over the weekend to reflect on the Lord Privy Seal's statement last Thursday. We are not now on the morrow of the invasion of Afghanistan. In the four weeks that have passed since that event, there has been time to think, time to consult allies and friends in the forums of NATO and the EEC, time for innumerable bilateral meetings, and time for the Foreign Secretary to make his extended tour of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Oman. Pakistan and India.
I must say that I found little evidence in the Prime Minister's speech today that the Government have yet made a considered analysis of this new and ominous turn in Soviet policy, little evidence of a concerted view among our friends in NATO, Europe and elsewhere on future strategy, and every little evidence of effective action, either taken or proposed.
What was evident—I think that this came out clearly in the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas) and the right hon. Lady's response to it—was the Prime Minister's extraordinary inability to connect the economic problems of the world, which are so destabilising and politically threatening, with the whole question of the challenge of Soviet power with which we are faced. I believe this to be the greatest single failure in her whole approach.
I start with a point made by my right hon. Friend the leader of the Opposition—that the Soviet Union is now clearly a global Power. It follows, therefore, that the careful policies of deterrence, detente and arms balance which have been pursued cannot be confined to the European and Atlantic area but they have to be developed in a way appropriate to the far less stable areas outside, and it is in those areas, as the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said—he has notified me of his inability to be here at this stage of the debate—that there is a danger of our stumbling into a third world war. That was a theme picked up in many subsequent speeches on both sides of the House.
This is the area where, in the Soviet analysis, peaceful coexistence is supposed to prevail—in other words, where the ideological, political and economic struggle is to be waged, out of which, again in the Soviet belief, its system is destined to triumph.
The truth is that there are few ground rules in this contest, and because they do not exist the dangers of unpremeditated conflict and the escalation of events to the point of conflict are real. Where I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Sidcup is that I do not think that on certain issues—he mentioned quite a few, such as Turkey and Cyprus, Pakistan's nuclear policy and our advocacy of human rights—we can afford to abandon our stance in order to cement anti-Soviet alliances. Nor do I agree with the conclusion of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that, because of distance and impotence, we should not have reacted to events in Afghanistan at all.
On one point we can be clear. By its crude and violent intervention in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union has sent a signal of alarm throughout the world community. That reaction has not been confined to the nations of Asia and the Middle East, those geographically near to the Soviet Union, or to the nations of the democratic West. It has included the great majority of the non-aligned nations. In fact, it has been a worldwide reaction. The General Assembly voted by 104 votes to 18, and the minority comprised, basically, the Soviet bloc and Soviet friendship countries. That was an event of great political significance.
The General Assembly listened to the Soviet Union's public version of events and was wholly unconvinced. The Soviet Union claimed that its forces entered Afghanistan at the invitation of the Government of that country. As President Amin was shot 24 hours after Russian troops arrived, and was subsequently described as an agent of the United States, the General Assembly's rejection seems hardly surprising.
What are the Soviet Union's real motives? Surely, what was happening in Afghanistan was the crumbling of the Communist PDP Government. That Government had seized power by a coup in 1978 and, in spite of massive Soviet aid, weapons and a large body of military advisers, had lost internal coherence, had alienated any support and was in danger of collapse in the face of defections from the armed forces and tribal revolt.
The clumsy fabrication of events was merely a public gloss on the taking of a stark and crucial decision. Rather than see a Communist regime overthrown by internal resistance, the Soviet Government decided to intervene with massive forces to prop up the regime.
Unhappily, it can hardly be said that such Soviet action is without precedent. In Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968, Soviet armed forces swept away Communist regimes that the Soviet Union thought were either losing control over their peoples or diverging from the Soviet version of the true path to Communism.
What has shocked the world is that it has taken action this time not in Eastern Europe, where Soviet power since 1945 has been established, but in a country where Soviet military power, as distinct from Soviet influence, had not previously been exercised.
In his state of the union speech last Wednesday, President Carter asserted that the destruction of the independence of the Afghanistan Government and the occupation by the Soviet Union had altered the strategic situation in that part of the world in a very ominous fashion. It had brought the Soviet Union within striking distance of the Indian Ocean and even the Persian Gulf. It had eliminated a buffer between the Soviet Union and Pakistan and presented a new threat to Iran. These two countries were now very vulnerable to Soviet political intimidation. If that intimidation were to prove effective, the Soviet Union might well control an area of vital strategic and economic significance to the survival of Western Europe, the Far East and ultimately the United States.
I do not quarrel with that as a description of the changed situation that has followed the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. If it is also the purpose of the Afghanistan takeover, it is a threat of major importance. But is it? We are in the utmost difficulty. The Prime Minister said that we cannot prove it but indicated that the implications of the Soviet action are clear—that we are faced with a major and direct threat of military action against vital interests of the Gulf.
I am not convinced of that. The more probable interpretation is that we have witnessed a major extension of the Brezhnev doctrine, namely, the claim by the Soviet Union that it has a privileged position in relation to other Communist countries, that their sovereignty is limited and that in the journey to a Communist State there is a one-way ticket only.
If that is a reasonable assessment—and the Soviet Government's evident surprise at the world's reaction gives it some additional force—it in no way reduces the gravity of the Soviet action or the need to work out an effective response. It points to certain specific areas of danger.
How can we respond to the Soviet action? It would be entirely wrong to abandon detente, and we should not do so. We should consider again its different components. We need to be quite clear about those arrangements with the Soviet Union that are beneficial to it and that could be changed to our advantage. We need to be equally clear about those aspects of policy in which our joint interest remains.
There is no question but that the Soviet Union has found it beneficial to engage in a great expansion of trade with the West. In entering into long-term con tracts with the United States and other suppliers of animal foods, it has been able to avoid the large expenditures that it would otherwise need to improve Soviet agriculture. Therefore, there seems little doubt that with the sharp reduction of maize exports the Soviet Union will be compelled to divert resources to its own inefficient agriculture.
The United States has already taken action in this regard. We all heard the statement of the Lord Privy Seal on Thursday that the EEC has agreed not to make up grain supplies which the United States has decided to withhold. That, indeed, is the bare minimum. What I find remarkable is the prospect of a continued supply of substantial quantities of barley from the EEC and the extraordinary continued sales of reduced and cut-price surpluses in the year ahead. Those sales were never in our interests in the first place, and we should certainly put a stop to them now.
I hold many views on Britain's membership of the Common Market and the advantages that we are alleged to have gained, but I shall not pursue those now. Instead, I want to go over the whole question of trade with the Soviet Union, especially non-food trade. All of us who have had experience of trade deals will know that Soviet trade policy has consistently sought the transfer of technology from the West, particularly favourable credit terms and, wherever they can be achieved, counter-purchase arrangements to pay for the investment itself. Thus, in the worst case, the West supplies crucial technology on subsidised credit terms and accepts payment by agreeing to absorb in its own market the output of the plants which it has built.
As we all know, these arrangements have been developed due to the single-minded purpose of the Soviet Government and the rather insane efforts of Western Governments to compete with each other in order to get the highest share of the Soviet market. Here there is every reason for concerted action. It is wrong that the Soviet Union should enjoy specially favourable trading conditions. I can think of many underdeveloped countries that deserve them far more. This is a real test of where we can achieve even minimum co-ordination of policy among the countries of the West.
Beyond measures on trade, the Government have told us that they intend to reduce the level of cultural and other exchanges and to continue with their efforts to secure the transfer of the Olympic Games. If a significant number of countries and their athletes were to agree to hold alternative Games on other sites, that indeed would be a good way of communicating to the Soviet people the feelings of the outside world about the actions of their Government. But the question is—and the whole House must know it—whether it is feasible in terms or organisation and whether the athletes themselves are prepared to co-operate. That question remains unanswered.
I turn now to the central areas of detente which in all circumstances I believe we should seek to retain. First, and most important, is the goal of arms balance and arms limitation. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition quoted that striking passage from President Carter's address indicating his vehement insistence that SALT II is in our mutual interest and that it is the most important bilateral accord of the decade. We agree. A nuclear arms race would be a pointless and absurd response. Indeed, we must go beyond SALT II and as soon as may be initiate SALT III talks.
NATO made its offer of arms limitation in the context of the decision on theatre nuclear weapons on 12 December, and that offer was repeated in NATO's statement last Friday, on 25 January. I believe that that is right. It is not only in arms control limitation that we have a common interest. We also have a serious joint interest in respect of the non-proliferation question, and the INFCE study, which is soon to be published, will, I hope, indicate how we can further carry forward that joint interest.
My last point on detente is about political contact. When I reflect on Afghanistan and the decade of detente that has preceded it, I am still struck by the tenuous contacts that exist between East and West. I believe that there is a need to maintain a dialogue. I agree with the right hon. Member for Sidcup that it is not in our interest to cut off meetings at a high political level with Soviet leaders. We need not necessarily think of holding great public and formal occasions, but there is a need to exchange viewpoints and assessments. If that is possible, it is sometimes better done out side the glare of publicity.
Our greatest need is to think through policies and problems in the large area of the world outside the Atlantic and European areas. The crudest error that was made in the days of the cold war was to see problems in the Third world exclusively or predominantly in East-West terms. We failed to take account of the North-South dimension or the major regional problems. In Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, there are a vast range of problems that arise from such diverse causes as religious and racial intolerance, colonialism and its aftermath, political tyranny and the repression of human rights. In addition, there is the pervasive problem of poverty and population growth in so much of the Third world. Where conditions of real injustice, poverty and exploitation exist, there is bound to be political instability.
The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) argued the contrary point of view. Nevertheless, it is precisely those conditions that provide the opportunity for revolutionary movements of all sorts—whether Communist, as they often are, or non-Communist. If the Soviet Union, for its own reasons, appears to be the only ally against repression, we should not be surprised if regimes in favour of or dependent upon it are established.
The greatest weakness of the West is that the prospect of successfully tackling the basic economic problems that are so destabilising and debilitating has lament ably diminished. After a remarkable post war period which brought a new prosperity to many nations and kept food production and growth ahead of the population increase in most regions of the world, there has been a serious recession. We have totally failed to meet, individually or collectively, the challenge presented by the massive increase in oil prices since 1974. We seem to be losing the will to overcome those problems as well.
If the West is to respond to every in crease in oil prices by deflation, the consequences for the Third world will he disastrous. As I said last Thursday, it is here that there is a great failure in the thinking not only of our own Government but of many other countries of the West that it is abstract and remote from the problems of security. It is not; it is wholly relevant. When the Foreign Secretary embarked upon his recent odyssey I am sure that in his first port of call, Turkey, the main point that was put to him was the great danger of Turkish economic and political collapse. I doubt that Turkey needs arms, but I am certain that it needs substantial economic aid. Surely, it is not in dispute that the IMF's recent demand for the deflation of the Turkish economy will only weaken and not strengthen Turkey's already pre carious democracy. Surely, this is not the time for Ministers who are addressing the United Nations industrial development organisation conference in Delhi—it is taking place this week—negatively to lecture the Group of 77 and other Third world countries on the lack of realism in their programmes for seeing to achieve a modern shift in the world's industrial output from the developed to the developing nations.
The second great danger in the West's reaction to the fact and its fear of Soviet power is to embrace politically those who are not worth embracing. The old cold war should have taught us the folly of investing in those who are doomed to fail. Corrupt, cruel and oppressive regimes create their own internal enemies. They are not reliable partners for the West.
I have mentioned Pakistan before in exchanges in the House. I have said that it is right to give assistance to the refugees and that additional economic and even some military help may be unavoidable. But a Government who have denied elections to their own people and who are known to be pursuing the objective of an independent nuclear weapon are not one to whom it is sensible to give other than minimal support. They must reform themselves if we are to do more. In my view a far more certain defence of the Indian sub-continent, if it turns out to be threatened, will be found in a democratic India than in an autocratic Pakistan.
Similarly, in seeking to frustrate Soviet influence in the Muslim world, we should not be jerked into ill-considered new policies in relation to the long-standing problem of Israel's security and the achievement of the proper rights of the Palestinian people.
Finally, we must understand that the Soviet version of peaceful coexistence involves a major struggle and competition—a competition that is in the first place political, economic and ideological. We cannot afford to ignore military power, but there are other instruments of policy that the Government need urgently to develop. In the whole area of expenditure in which we can hope to influence in both the short term and the long, the attitudes and the friendship of people in the Third world, the Government have embarked on policies of retrenchment.
It is folly to seek to reduce now the number of intelligent young people from these countries who can study at British institutes of learning. It is ridiculous to reduce our overseas aid programme. It is an obvious lunacy—if I may refer to a debate that we held here not very long ago—to allow the BBC's external services to continue to transmit but not to be heard.
We shall have to make a great and sustained effort, and I believe that we have to make this effort in all these fields of policy. But we should not be too fearful about the outcome. The conditions of the 1980s are very different from those of the cold war of 25 years ago. There is a great schism in the Communist world. It is not now the vast monolithic force that it wits before the Hungarian repression. Soviet Communism has become, over succeeding decades, increasingly unattractive both to minorities in the West and more widely throughout the world.
The West must and can match the Soviet Union in power, but if we are to win this larger struggle—which affects the destinies, after all, of two-thirds of mankind—we shall have to take new economic and political measures that give those peoples the prospect of a better life. That is part of the challenge to which we have yet even to begin to respond.
The debate has made clear that the Afghanistan crisis has for many cast a different light on relations with the Soviet Union. There was much talk initially about a return to the cold war, as if this Government were responsible for the events which have shaken world confidence in the meaning and progress of detente. But we have made abundantly clear that we do not wish to reverse the Helsinki process; rather we wish it to be carried forward, but on a genuinely reciprocal basis. If it has now dawned upon people in the West and in the non-aligned world that this has not so far been the case, that, as the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice) pointed out, may be a slight gain from what has happened.
Throughout the 1970s the smiling face of Soviet defence policy was often paraded. Despite the vast expansion of their forces, the Russians said that the West greatly exaggerated their strength and missile numbers. The SALT II agreement was signed with the United States. The Russians announced reductions—though pretty minimal ones—in their troop and tank levels. They proposed that nations should abjure the use of force. They published suggestions for arms control and confidence building.
The reality was always very different, and in the past month it has become more visible. The Russians have rejected the NATO offer to negotiate limits on theatre nuclear forces. They have threatened to take counter-measures in response to NATO's programmes. They have shown their contempt for human rights by the arrest and exile of Professor Sakharov.
And, of course, the Russians have invaded Afghanistan. If anything were needed to confirm our view of Soviet motives, to justify the measures which the Government have taken to improve our own defence capability or to bring home the soundness of NATO's decision—which we firmly supported—to proceed with modernisation of its ageing nuclear forces, it can be found in this latest Soviet action.
The reaction on some parts of the Opposition Benches to this new situation is to deplore the breach that has opened up in East-West relations and to urge that we should move instantly to heal it. The hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) staunchly defended the Soviet aggression in Afghanistan. Referring to TNF, he invited the House to place itself in Soviet shoes for a short time. He seemed to me to be placing himself in Soviet shoes throughout his speech.
Despite the hon. Gentleman, we must demonstrate to the Soviet Union that its conduct has violated the rules of detente and the understandings on which the post war peace has been based. With the help of like-minded countries, we must seek to persuade it to heal the breach itself by withdrawing its forces.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has obviously profoundly undermined stability in the region. There is now a palpable threat to the integrity of the neighbouring States and a prospect, if the right action is not taken now, of unrest spreading throughout the Gulf.
The violation of the territorial independence of a sovereign, non-aligned State has shattered the myth of Soviet altruism in the Third world. Its effect on world opinion was clearly demonstrated by the vote in the United Nations General Assembly. Our first indications from the Islamic conference in Islamabad are that the reaction of the Muslim world to the invasion is equally emphatic.
The repercussions of the Soviet action are felt at different levels in different parts of the world. It is inevitable that not all countries will perceive events in the same way. But the responsibility of Western leadership is to convey a true understanding of the situation that has now arisen, and to articulate the response. If we are to bring about the necessary firm response, we must be prepared to assist, but we must also respect the sensitivities of the non-aligned.
My right hon. Friend is talking about the response. He has also talked about the violation of a sovereign, independent nation. Would the response include the provision of arms, such as machine guns and mortars, to the freedom fighters in that sovereign nation, should they require them of us?
No. I think that we are not engaged in that form of rearmament. I am coming to the response that we hope to make.
The House was grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for making a reasoned and balanced speech. He made a strong criticism of the invasion of Afghanistan and said that our nuclear forces should be modernised and that at the same time there should be continued progress on non-proliferation and arms control.
However, I did not follow the right hon. Gentleman's arguments about the lack of well-understood rules about the conduct of the super-Powers and the exercise of military strength outside Europe. I certainly agree with him that having detente in Europe and ad venturism elsewhere is not acceptable. But he said, if I heard him aright, that the invasion of Afghanistan was the traditional response of a continental Power to trouble on its borders. If that is an excuse, I certainly do not accept it. In addition to the delicate framework of detente, there is a very clear and robust framework in the Charter of the United Nations. There are very precise rules in that Charter about the conduct of States, non-violation of the sovereignty of independent States, and so on. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a violation of all those rules and was fortunately recognised as such by the 104 nations which supported the General Assembly resolution to censure the Soviet Union. What is needed, therefore, is not a new set of rules but the observance of the rules that we already have.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who explained why he could not remain here tonight, made a notable speech suggesting that the West had failed to develop a strategy to deal with the expansion of Soviet power and influence. We are conscious of the need to develop a coherent response and we have taken a lead in NATO and European consultations with this objective. A cohesive strategy to cover such a multitude of situations as my right hon. Friend mentioned certainly cannot be conjured up overnight. A defensive strategy is more difficult to evolve and is likely to be less consistent than an aggressive one, if only because the defenders do not know from where, or in what form, the next attack will come.
It may well be that the West now needs a new strategy of the sort that Mr. George Kennan evolved some 30 years ago. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) made that suggestion. However, the problem today is a good deal more complicated, because it is worldwide and because of nuclear parity, than it was then.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup argued that, faced with the Soviet challenge, we could no longer afford to link our support for our strategic allies to insistence on their following certain domestic policies which we thought to be right. I do not share his implied criticism of American action in Iran, but in some ways my right hon. Friend may have a point, though not one that can be taken very far. The non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in Pakistan remains a task of paramount importance and it remains our strong hope that no country on the sub-continent will build nuclear weapons.
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) asked for an assurance about the safeguards on nuclear supplies. I can assure him that our application of the 1977 guidelines is scrupulous and unaffected by the Afghan crisis. Governments in the area are well aware of our views. At present it is vital to assure the people of Pakistan that they can look to us, and other friends in the West, for assistance against any Soviet threat. I believe that the two objectives are compatible.
We have been advised that we should be relying on democratic India rather than dictatorial Pakistan. If that doctrine were taken to its logical conclusion, we would have very few allies in the world. We should not have won the Napoleonic wars, and we would not have had the assistance of Czarist Russia in the First World War or Stalinist Russia in the Second World War. We cannot choose our allies according to whether they are democracies. Merely because a country is an autocracy does not mean that it should be vulnerable to invasion by another country and not supported by the West.
I do not think that Pakistan would be so silly as to use that argument.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that we lacked a sense of geography, but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) pointed out, his own geography is a bit old-fashioned. The vast Soviet airlifts to South Yemen and the even more spectacular one of heavy military equipment to Ethiopia show that the world has shrunk.
The right hon. Gentleman doubted my statement last week that countries far away from Europe such as Pakistan and the Gulf States actually looked for and needed material Western assistance and a firm Western commitment to their security and independence. They do, and I have that on the authority of my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who was in those countries only a few days ago.
The right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood. I was not disputing that those countries had asked for our assistance. I was asking whether the noble Lord had given it and how we could possibly give a firm commitment to their security and independence, which, presumably must mean that we must be capable of intervening militarily to defend them against an attack.
The right hon. Member has simply repeated the point that he made in his speech, when, with his usual eloquence, he enunciated the complete isolationist doctrine. He said that we should not have reacted at all to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In saying that, he is like the famous owner of the Chicago Tribune, Colonel McCormack, who said in the 1930s that it would be completely wrong for America to get involved in Europe. In my view, the right hon. Member is as wrong about the Middle East as Colonel McCormack was about the United States in Europe in 1940.
At the other end of the spectrum, my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) suggested that the only effective response is to meet might with might and that a military presence in the area must be restored. But we must not forget that the manner in which we respond cannot ignore the views of those who live in the region. I am not convinced that many would see a major increase in the West's military presence, even now, as necessarily the right answer. Britain has not been asked to send forces back to the Gulf. It is for the Gulf States as well to review the position. If they identify ways in which we can assist, we will do what we can to help them.
In the process, Britain has an important role to play. We have already informed the House of the action that we have taken and propose to take. We are considering measures of assistance and ways of improving our links with the countries most immediately affected. We have already provided aid to Pakistan to help with the flow of refugees—the number is now up to about 500,000—and have offered increased military training assistance this year. We are now looking into the possibilities of meeting some of Pakistan's needs for defence equipment and shall be considering, with our allies, further measures of economic assistance.
We shall aim to strengthen our co-operation with Turkey, India and the countries of the Arab peninsula. We shall continue to contribute to the security of our friends and allies in the area through the provision of defence equipment and military training assistance and advice. Periodic deployments of naval, air and land forces to the area will be maintained.
We also look forward to developing closer contacts in all fields with China. We welcome the decision of the EEC Foreign Affairs Council on 15 January to work for an early and satisfactory conclusion to negotiations on the EEC-Yugoslavia agreement and will do all we can to ensure that this comes about. We are delighted with the progress that President Tito is making in recovering from his operation.
The Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup, and my hon. Friend the Member for West bury (Mr. Walters) all emphasised the importance of solving the problem of Palestine. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone broadly disagreed, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion, although, I think, with some qualifications.
My right hon. and noble Friend was left in no doubt on his recent tour of the vital importance that the Arab States attached to a settlement of the Palestine problem. Islamic and Arab reactions to Soviet intervention in Afghanistan have been affected by their view that the West should do more to promote a settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict and to end Israeli occupation, particularly in East Jerusalem. We fully recognise the urgency of the need to find a just and comprehensive settlement, and will consider with our partners how we can help the peace process forward.
It is not surprising that events in Iran have produced instability and confusion, not only there but elsewhere in the area. We have no quarrel with Iran or its new leaders. We do not question that Iran may choose its own means of government. We welcome the election of a first President of the new Islamic republic, Mr. Bani-Sadr, and look forward to the restoration of the full and friendly traditional relationship between the United Kingdom and Iran. However, that cannot come about until the Iranian Government have shown their willingess to comply with international law.
The occupation of the American embassy and the continued detention of American diplomatic and non-diplomatic staff as hostages, now in its eleventh week, stands in the way of good relations between Iran and a large part of the outside world. The Iranian refusal of all attempts to arrange the release of the hostages, including appeals by the United Nations Security Council, a judgment of the International Court of Justice and a mission by the United Nations Secretary-General, is unacceptable.
We have given the United States our wholehearted support in all its efforts to secure the release of the hostages. However, the Security Council resolution which would have imposed mandatory sanctions failed because of the Soviet veto. We have been considering, and shall continue to consider, with our European allies and the United States what further steps might be taken to secure the release of the hostages.
A number of Iranian Ministers have spoken out strongly condemning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. We profoundly hope that the situation there will soon be stabilised and that the Iranian people will realise where the real threat lies.
International law is very explicit about the inviolability of diplomatic personnel. The Helsinki Final Act is not liable to interpretation in any international court, though I am glad to say that there are still groups in Eastern Europe monitoring the progress of its implementation. But there can be no doubt that the deportation of Dr. Sakharov into internal exile is a deliberate affront to the international community. It is a depressing slap in the face to those of its own citizens who set their hopes on that agreement. We lost no time in making our views known to the Soviet authorities. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs called in the Soviet Ambassador last week as soon as we heard of Sakharov's arrest.
On behalf of the Nine, the Italian presidency made a demarche to the Soviet Foreign Minister on Friday 25 January. The response was that the demarche constituted
a most violent interference in the internal affairs of the Soviet Union, an attitude which was always considered unacceptable by the Soviet Union.
The protest was rejected and the meeting abruptly terminated.
I need not say more to emphasise the extreme insensitivity of the Soviet authorities on matters of human rights, which may legitimately be raised under the terms of the Helsinki Final Act, as well perhaps as their apparent sensitivity—as shown by the terms of their response—to a unified and unmistakable voice of protest from Western Europe.
It is against this background that one has to examine the case for and against any change in arrangements for the Olympic Games. The Government respect the views and responsibilities of the sporting authorities, and keenly appreciate the wishes of our young sportsmen to compete in this year's Olympics. But, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said the other day, the magnitude of the Russian action has made it impossible to dissociate attendance in Moscow from official approval of Soviet actions. We have therefore concluded that every effort should be made to move the Olympics to a new site or sites. I was glad to hear the remarks of the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore)in that respect. I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South that this is a futile endeavour. In the last few days world opinion has moved increasingly towards our view. I hope that the momentum will continue and that, despite the practical difficulties, which we all recognise, another site or sites will be found.
Before leaving the question of human rights, will the Lord Privy Seal assure us that the Government will give a pledge to oppose oppression in countries such as Chile and China? The Government have just sent an ambassador to Chile. I am in favour of protesting about Sakharov, but what about the other countries? Have we not got double standards on these issues?
We have sent an ambassador to Chile and we also have an ambassador in Moscow. Of course we are opposed to the suppression of human rights, wherever that occurs. However, the hon. Gentleman will remember that there is a clear distinction to be made. As far as I know, Chile is not a world Power. It does not have a doctrine that impels it towards world domination. There is, therefore, no comparison between Chile and Russia. Of course we condemn any violation of human rights in Chile. I am sure that the hon. Member will agree that the best way to carry out inter national relations is not to keep ambassadors away. Of course they have to be removed in protest, but they must be returned at some time.
I am not suggesting that the Government think that the removal of the Olympic Games from Moscow will deter the Russians from future agression. Of course this is overstating it. But the point is that the Russians should not be allowed to enjoy the prestige and international recognition that the Games would bring them when they have just violated all the rules of international behaviour. As my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) and the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Gins burg) have pointed out, would anyone argue that it would not have been better if the 1936 Olympic Games had not been held in NaziGermany?
In times such as this, it is vital that those of us who care deeply about individual and collective freedom should stand firm and united. We have given our wholehearted support to the United States in its efforts to secure the release of the American hostages held in Iran.
However, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan raises an issue with far wider implications. We are not now faced with a question of supporting or not supporting the United States. As I said earlier, that is a problem that affects us all, and we must act together. That is why during the past few weeks we have been in continual discussion with our partners in both the Atlantic Alliance and the European Community in order to determine how best we should respond to the new situation.
What will be the effect of recent events on the future of detente? There will, of course, be a perceptible change in the tone and content of relations between the Soviet Union and the West. We shall continue to work for realistic, balanced and verifiable measures of arms control which promote international security.
We are as concerned as ever to reach concrete agreements that genuinely promote stability in Europe. We shall there fore continue to work towards a successful outcome of the MBFR talks and to prepare for next November's CSCE meeting in Madrid, even though we clearly cannot do so though nothing has changed. The Soviet Union has disregarded its commitments under all 10 principles of the Helsinki Final Act. It has demonstrated the vulnerability of the Helsinki agreements if certain signatories choose to exploit detente in Europe in order to pursue aggressive national interests in the Third world.
While the Helsinki Final Act is essentially a document about security and co-operation in Europe, it includes a declaration of intent by signatory States to conduct their relations with all other States in the spirit of the Final Act's declaration of principles.
All the major arms control initiatives launched by NATO in December remain on the table. The Soviet bluff has there fore been called. If they are interested in controlling, as well as brandishing, arms, they should show it by making a positive response. But it must be genuine. Western public opinion will be more than ever on its guard against—