President Yeltsin

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1992.

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Photo of Mr Roger King Mr Roger King , Birmingham, Northfield 12:00 am, 5th February 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his last meeting with President Yeltsin of Russia on matters relating to United Kingdom relations with the former Soviet republics.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

In a long meeting with President Yeltsin in Moscow on 20 January I discussed economic reform, security questions including non-proliferation, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and relations between Britain and Russia. On 30 January I took part in the Prime Minister's discussions with President Yeltsin, following which the British-Russian joint declaration and an agreement on consular posts were signed. In the words of the joint declaration, the two countries have opened a new page in their relations.

Photo of Mr Roger King Mr Roger King , Birmingham, Northfield

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, had this country adopted the supine, innocents-abroad foreign and defence policies of the Opposition parties, the reforms and changes that have taken place in the Soviet Union would not have resulted in President Boris Yeltsin being the president of Russia? Does he also agree that only by standing shoulder to shoulder with our American and NATO allies have we been able to win the war against communism in the Soviet bloc? Does he agree that we must now win the war of economic survival by those countries and that this country is well placed to meet that objective?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

There are kind and unkind ways of making that point. The kindest way is to say that, had we followed the advice so loudly and frequently given by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and his colleagues seven or eight years ago, it is highly probable that the hammer and sickle would still be flying over the Kremlin and, more importantly, that the Soviet armies would be massed in Europe. I agree with my hon. Friend that perhaps a moral can be drawn from that.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson, Shadow Spokesperson

Does the Secretary of State share many people's concern about the fate of some 100,000 Soviet or ex-Soviet nuclear scientists who seem to be voting with their feet, particularly those who appear to have the skills to dismantle the 27,000 or so warheads, and the possibility that those skills may be lost? What discussions has he had with Mr. Yeltsin about that serious matter, and what steps will Europe and the United States take to try to secure the services of those nuclear scientists in the Soviet Union?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

We discussed that point with President Yeltsin and it is very much on his mind. He takes the understandable view that it is for him to take the first steps in Russia, which he is doing to keep the scientists in Russia. The same is true of the other republics. However, he knows that several countries, including Britain, are willing to help in that process.

Photo of Mr Peter Temple-Morris Mr Peter Temple-Morris , Leominster

During my right hon. Friend's discussions, did he have a chance to discuss the appalling slaughter that is going on between Armenians and Azeris, not least over the Armenian conclave of Nagorny-Karabakh? What can the United Kingdom do to help, and in what context does President Yeltsin's pronouncement about some form of United Nations' supervision offer good news for the future?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The Russians are certainly trying to bring the two sides together for talks and end the fighting, but, so far, they are finding it a hard row. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State who went to the conference on security and co-operation in Europe meeting in Prague last week was able to take an initiative and arrange for the CSCE to send a human rights team to the two republics to see whether it can help matters. The fighting is extremely worrying, and anyone who has listened to the comments of my noble Friend Lady Cox on the subject must be deeply worried by it.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

What is the Secretary of State doing about nuclear non-proliferation? Instead of indulging in childish comments about the number of nuclear weapons, what does he say to the 140 non-nuclear nations who signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty? Does not he have some regard for them? Why does not he tell Russia and the other former Soviet Union countries that we want them to get rid of nuclear weapons? Would not it be a good idea if the United Kingdom, instead of embarking on the Trident programme, abandoned it and withdrew Polaris to demonstrate our solidarity and support for the vast majority of the world's nations which are signatories to the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is so far behind the evolution of his party's policy. It is now in favour of three Tridents, but Opposition Members do not seem to have got that point yet. The hon. Gentleman draws attention to the non-proliferation treaty. The right answer is that all those who have signed the treaty should abide by it, the safeguards in the treaty applied to signatories such as Iraq should be strengthened, and countries that have not signed it should be encouraged to do so.