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Continuous At-Sea Deterrent

Part of Parental Rights (Rapists) and Family Courts – in the House of Commons at 5:20 pm on 10th April 2019.

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Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley 5:20 pm, 10th April 2019

I could wax lyrical about the deficiencies of George Osborne’s stewardship of the Treasury, but probably not within the time allowed. I move on to the broader issue. My right hon. Friend rightly drew attention to the view that the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the cold war rendered deterrence—and much of conventional defence—redundant. We had “Options for Change”, with huge dislocations. Frankly, when I came into the Defence Ministry in 1997, we were still dealing with the aftermath. If, however, we leave on one side any points about the issues then, it is now absolutely clear that a complacent attitude is no longer tenable. State and non-state threats have increased, are increasing, and need to be confronted and contained. Threats are a combination—are they not?—of capability, intention and doctrine. What we are seeing from Russia is a worrying and alarming increase in activity in all those areas. We are seeing the clear development of a nuclear doctrine in Russia, including in short-range, non-strategic nuclear weapons in the form of the Gerasimov doctrine.

The Defence Committee report, “Missile Misdemeanours: Russia and the INF Treaty”, goes into some detail about the several and continuing breaches of the INF treaty by Russia. Such breaches were agreed by all NATO states at the recent meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers, who made it very clear that, frankly, Russia is tearing up that agreement. Indeed, in response to the United States calling it out on this, Russia has also moved away from that treaty. I must say that that may have worrying implications for the strategic arms reduction treaty negotiations on strategic weapons, and we should be arguing—in NATO, but also in other forums—for maintaining those discussions. If Ronald Reagan could come to many such agreements, quite frankly, the United States should now be able to do so. Let us be clear, however, who is the prime instigator in breaching these agreements—it is Russia.

One of the things that worries me sometimes about these debates, including on the INF, is that for me they are very reminiscent of the time of the cruise missiles issue. People campaigned in this country against cruise missiles, and I always found it slightly perverse that they were more concerned with campaigning against the missiles pointing in the other direction than with campaigning against the SS-20s pointing in our direction. Those missiles were changing the strategic balance in Europe, which was why leading social democrat figures, such as Helmut Schmidt, were arguing for cruise missiles to maintain the balance and therefore to maintain peace in Europe, and were showing resolution in doing so.

We are also seeing such activities away from the nuclear field. We are seeing a preparedness to use force in Ukraine and Georgia, as well as cyber-attacks on the Baltic countries and massive exercises within the Baltic region. We have to be clear that, while nuclear is awful and almost unimaginable, conventional warfare is also awful. That was summed up by General Sherman in the 19th century when he said that “War is hell”. Yes, we all remember the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but that conflict also saw the firebombing of Tokyo, in which hundreds of thousands died, and the bombings of Hamburg and of Dresden, let alone the bombings on our own soil.