As the Minister said, last week President Trump announced that the United States intends to leave the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty, which was signed by the US and Soviet Russia in 1987. At that time, the threat of nuclear war brought the two great powers together at the negotiation table. The result of those negotiations was the elimination of all short and intermediate-range nuclear missiles, many of which were placed in Europe. Worryingly, however, nuclear war seems more tangible and real today than at any time since Reagan and Gorbachev signed the INF. Yet instead of realising this very real threat and its implications for global peace and security, the United States has apparently decided unilaterally to pull out, offering no alternative proposal or replacement. That is why I very much welcome the Minister’s comments.
What we are seeing at the moment is the erosion of the rules-based international order that underpins global peace and security. I must point out that the US was at the forefront of painstakingly creating such a system over the past 70 years. Leaving the INF is a dangerous unravelling of part of the architecture of trust and understanding that has prevented nuclear conflict. That system began exactly 50 years ago with the signing of the non-proliferation treaty, and certainly Labour Members—and, I am sure, those on both sides of the House—strongly support it.
Many experts have concluded that we are now entering a new arms race that has the potential to be more unpredictable and dangerous than at any time during the cold war. Have the UK Government consulted the United States on the implications that an arms race might have for European and United Kingdom security? I ask because this has deep implications for European security. In 1987, Europe was at the epicentre of the cold war and the arms race between Russia and America. Today, events in places such as Ukraine, and even here at home in Salisbury, have shown that Europe is at the forefront of a new conflict between east and west.
Withdrawal from the INF brings back the spectre of Pershing missiles being stationed in Europe and here in the United Kingdom, which I remember vividly from the 1980s. If such a nuclear conflict was to happen between the two major nuclear powers, the UK and our European allies would probably be the first to be hit. Finally, have the Government been given assurances by the United States Administration that we will not see a return of the deployment of short and intermediate-range missiles in Europe?