Russia

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 3rd November 2008.

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Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 2:30 pm, 3rd November 2008

What assessment he has made of the military implications for NATO of recent developments in Russian security policy.

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Photo of John Hutton John Hutton Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence, The Secretary of State for Defence

NATO Defence Ministers have met twice since the conflict between Russia and Georgia to consider the evolving security challenges facing the alliance. NATO will continue to provide collective defence for the territory of its allies. The flexible military capabilities and structure that NATO is pursuing are the right ones to enable it to respond to any security threats, wherever they arise.

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Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

How does the Secretary of State rank Russia in terms of the threat that it poses to British national security?

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Photo of John Hutton John Hutton Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence, The Secretary of State for Defence

The Russian action in Georgia was totally unacceptable and disproportionate, so there cannot be any question of relations as normal as long as the Russians fail to implement the understandings reached in August and September, which they have not yet done. NATO continues to conduct effective and proper contingency planning to deal with a range of different security scenarios, but we have also made it very clear that Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO. NATO presents no security threat to the Russian Federation; it is a purely defensive alliance. Who is, and who is not, a member of NATO is a matter for NATO members and no one else.

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Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Shadow Minister (Defence)

In view of Russia's massive rearmament programme and its naked invasion of Georgia, will the Secretary of State assure the House that Britain retains the ability to conduct key tasks such as anti-submarine warfare and Arctic warfare, and that other NATO members are also being pressed to maintain these skills? Will he also assure us that those skills have not been neglected in favour of meeting the immediate requirements of Afghanistan and Iraq?

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Photo of John Hutton John Hutton Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence, The Secretary of State for Defence

I can absolutely give the hon. Gentleman, and the House, the assurance that he is seeking.

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