Continuous At-Sea Deterrent

Part of Parental Rights (Rapists) and Family Courts – in the House of Commons at 4:10 pm on 10th April 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Chair, Defence Sub-Committee 4:10 pm, 10th April 2019

I could not disagree with anything that the hon. Gentleman says. Those of us who are on the Defence Committee are very aware of that threat.

Russia has revamped and reoccupied seven former USSR bases in the Arctic. This is important to its ability to project power down through the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap. Access into the north Atlantic and the ability to disrupt or control the sea lines of communications between North America and Europe would have a huge impact on the global economy, as well as preventing reinforcements from reaching Europe in the event of hostilities or crisis.

Russia has new capabilities, such as the Kilo SSKs, which are armed with dual-capability Kalibr missiles, which are very fast. The Yasen—SSBN—and Kalina-class subs are extremely long endurance. Russia has about 40 combat subs, the balance of which are in the northern fleet. Added to those impressive new subs are modern patrol boats, frigates, and destroyers, all joined by a new ability to deploy submarines by stealth, explore underwater cables and exercise electronic warfare jamming.

Russia has also done something else: it has withdrawn from the 1987 intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty. The US and NATO argue that Russia has violated the INF treaty by testing and deploying a prohibited intermediate-range cruise missile. Russian officials deny that the missile in question—the 9M729—can fly that far. We tend to forget that the INF treaty banned all US and Soviet ground-launched missiles of intermediate range—that is, between 500 and 5,500 kilometres—and it resulted in the destruction of some 2,700 missiles up to 1991. There is a simple way of resolving this conflict: the special verification commission, established as part of the INF treaty, could be used to work out procedures for Russia to show that its missile does not fly that far. Russia has refused to do so. However, this is not just about new missiles and whether a treaty has been broken. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has made it clear that these missiles are hard to detect, mobile and nuclear capable, and they can reach European cities. They are a direct threat to NATO.

Equally, China is not a signatory to the INF treaty. It has deployed intermediate-range missiles on its territory. It has also begun to turn its attention away from land forces and towards the sea. Since 2013, there has been a marked acceleration in China’s investment in naval resources. In 2017, it overtook the US as having the world’s largest navy, whose reach goes beyond traditional strategic interests in the South China sea. That navy includes an impressive number of submarines—about 60, according to the United States Congressional Research Service. Not all of them carry nuclear warheads, but China is reported to be seeking to diversify the structure of its nuclear forces and to have a credible deterrence.

Alongside its fleet, China has opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti, and continues to develop interests in bases across the Indian Ocean. It also has an ambitious strategy of investment in commercial ports around the world. The Hudson Institute estimates that 10% of all equity in ports in Europe—including ports in Ukraine, Georgia and Greece—is now owned by Chinese companies. Much of the strategy is economic, but it brings with it defence threats.

For 50 years, this deterrent has kept us safe. We owe a huge debt of thanks, not just for the past but for the future, to those men and women in the silent service—in our industrial base—who continue to provide peace, security and stability, and who have prevented nuclear war for all those 50 years.