Nato

– in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 30th October 2001.

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Photo of Peter Viggers Peter Viggers Conservative, Gosport 2:30 pm, 30th October 2001

If he will make a statement on the dialogue with Russia about the expansion of NATO.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

NATO and Russia regularly discuss a wide range of issues, including NATO enlargement. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will visit Moscow tomorrow for talks on the campaign against terrorism and on other issues including co-operation between NATO and Russia.

Photo of Peter Viggers Peter Viggers Conservative, Gosport

Does the Minister agree that the relationship with Russia seems to have moved on to a new and better footing recently, but that there is much scope for co-operation, not least in restructuring the Russian armed forces, which is much appreciated by Russia? Does he agree that it is in Russia's interest for its neighbours to be democratic, prosperous and members of NATO, and that the present preoccupation with terrorist concerns should not delay the expansion of NATO, but rather that it should be the basis of a new initiative?

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with the hon. Gentleman. There has been a sea change in relationships between NATO and Russia since 11 September. Some productive talks have taken place between the Secretary-General of NATO, Lord Robertson, and President Putin, and we hope that that will help to ease Russian concerns about NATO enlargement.

Photo of John McFall John McFall Chair, Treasury Committee, Chair, Treasury Committee

Does the Minister agree that the events post-11 September have shown Russia in a positive and encouraging light, particularly in areas such as terrorism and security? On NATO expansion, will he keep in mind the comments that the Russian ambassador made in this Palace last night, when he said that unilateral decisions do not make for long-term security, so the need for co-operation and contact with Russia on such issues is extremely important?

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Yes, that is why we are engaging in the dialogue. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Long before 11 September, Russia had suffered from some horrendous examples of terrorism against its own civilians, but Russia should not have a veto over the enlargement of NATO.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

Will the Foreign Secretary raise with the Russian Government recent events in Abkhazia? Will he especially point out that, although armed conflicts on the Russian borders, particularly involving Chechens, as such events apparently did, are deeply unwelcome, a repressive response from Russia would be equally unwelcome and might cause a serious conflagration across the Caucasus and trans-Caucasus?

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary tells me that he will be happy to raise that matter when he goes to Moscow tomorrow. We are well aware of the problems that Russia has to face in Chechnya. We talk to the Russians at every opportunity about human rights, but we recognise that they have a legitimate right to protect their citizens against a terrorist threat which we know is linked to Osama bin Laden.