Arms Exports (Belarus, Ukraine and Russia)

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 12th March 1997.

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Photo of Jim Cousins Jim Cousins , Newcastle upon Tyne Central 1:45 pm, 12th March 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the republics of Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation on arms and armament exports. [18307]

Photo of Sir Nicholas Bonsor Sir Nicholas Bonsor , Upminster

We last held bilateral discussions on these issues with Belarus in April 1996, Ukraine in December 1995 and the Russian Federation in February 1997.

Photo of Jim Cousins Jim Cousins , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

The Minister will be aware that the spread of Russian military technology means that this country is contemplating the purchase of a staggeringly expensive anti-missile defence system. He will also realise that the countries of the former Soviet Union have on the arms markets of the world long-range sea-skimming missiles and cruise missiles, and are contemplating the sale of long-range anti-aircraft missiles to Cyprus. Can the Minister assure the House that we have actively under consideration as a high priority a mutual ban on missile technology—whether it is skim, cruise or ballistic, and whether the targets are naval, aircraft or on the surface? That is essential to the defence of this country.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Bonsor Sir Nicholas Bonsor , Upminster

I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman means by a "mutual ban", but we have no plans for a bilateral treaty of that type between ourselves and Russia. We are looking towards the possibility of a widely agreed rundown of arms of all types, particularly weapons of mass destruction. We last had discussions with Russia on arms sales in February, and we have specifically expressed our concern to that country about the missile sales to Cyprus and Iran. We keep a close watch on everything going on in this matter.

Photo of Peter Viggers Peter Viggers , Gosport

Has my hon. Friend been briefed on the fact that some 234 out of the 450 members of the Russian Duma have joined a new anti-NATO group in the Duma? Does he think that this reflects a feeling of uncertainty and instability resulting from the present expansion of NATO? As NATO expands, will my hon. Friend undertake to keep very much in mind the fact that Partnership for Peace offers a good forum in which all issues, including arms control, can be discussed, and that it can help to assuage the concerns of Russia?

Photo of Sir Nicholas Bonsor Sir Nicholas Bonsor , Upminster

The Government are well aware of the concerns in the Duma and elsewhere in Russia regarding the expansion of NATO. We feel that it is important for security in central Europe, the west and the world generally that NATO expands, but we are conscious also of the legitimate concerns of Russia. We are hoping to take forward a Russian-NATO charter at the same time as the Madrid summit, and I hope that that will be put in place. I agree with my hon. Friend that the strengthening of Partnership for Peace and other security associations is a necessary part of the continuing trend towards a safer world.