Although it is difficult to consider any matter other than the middle east today, will my right hon. Friend bend his mind to the conventional forces in Europe treaty that, just two months ago, seemed to offer so much hope for peace in the world? As all 22 signatories are required to ratify that treaty, does my right hon. Friend believe that that will happen, after the brutal repression in Latvia and Lithuania and the undermining of the treaty's spirit by some elements in the Soviet military?
I very much hope that that treaty will be signed. Clearly, there are a number of serious problems that need to be resolved, particularly the Soviet Union's transfer of a large number of tanks from the army to the naval coastal command with the intention of bypassing the treaty—which has the absurd effect of ensuring that the Soviet navy has more tanks than the British Army.
Is not it the case that Saddam Hussein must be held responsible not only for the present war and tragedy, but for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi soldiers who lost their lives during a totally useless, futile war against Iran? Who is this criminal dictator to lecture us about the loss of innocent lives?
Will my right hon. Friend accept the praise of Conservative Members for the way in which he has handled the situation so far? Will he also accept that considerable congratulations should be given to the Leader of the Opposition and to the leader of the SDP both of whom have unified behind the Government? [Interruption.]
I agree with my hon. Friend that those initials are very difficult to remember.
I have been very pleased and heartened—but more importantly, our troops will have been pleased and heartened—to see the uniformity of support given to them by the House.
Following the decision of the Soviet Union earlier today to reject the call of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe for an international conference on the position in the Baltic, the first death in Latvia yesterday, the appearance of militia men with their black berets and President Gorbachev's attempt to extinguish a free press in the Soviet Union, does the Prime Minister agree that, if we are to be even handed in our treatment of human rights abuses and the right of self-determination, it is now time to convene a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the position in the Baltic states? Does he agree with Boris Yeltsin who said that we are at the beginning of a mighty offensive against democracy?
As I made clear to the House in Question Time earlier this week, I deeply deplore the actions in Vilnius and I very much regret the reports that a Latvian civilian has been killed by Soviet security guards. We have made our views crystal clear to the Soviet Union. The Soviets can be in no doubt about the way in which we view that and we have also made it clear that the continued health of the European Community will depend on the Soviet Union pursuing a path of reform, not of repression.
The thoughts and prayers of many of my constituents will be with the sappers from Medway towns serving with our troops in the Gulf. Will my right hon. Friend seek to reassure them in their anxiety that the courage and superb professionalism of all our troops will contribute to a swift and satisfactory outcome to this conflict, which many of us had hoped would never happen?
I have no doubt that those qualities will contribute to a successful outcome. However, we should be under no illusions about the scale and potential might of the Iraqi forces and, while I am confident about the success, I cannot yet be confident about the speed of that success, and I think that we should prepare ourselves for that fact.