MIDDLE EAST, UKRAINE & SECURITY – 10 September 2014

Dr Julian Lewis: I apologise to colleagues for having missed some of the Back-Bench speeches earlier due to an unbreakable commitment related to the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.

As was observed earlier, when my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Bernard Jenkin) is thought about in defence terms, the one word that will be associated with him will be “strategy”. When my political epitaph comes to be written, I guess most people would think that the one word that would be associated me would be "Trident" – or, if they were feeling kinder, it might be "deterrence". Actually, a different word ought to be associated with what I am trying to outline in terms of strategy today: "containment". Containment is the key to what we need to do in the two very different scenarios of Russia’s behaviour and ISIL’s behaviour. Containment sometimes has to be done by means of a Balance of Terror, as when dealing with a nuclear-armed state such as Russia. On other occasions, it has to be done with the more traditional concept of the Balance of Power, as when dealing with states such as those of the Middle East. Containment by means of the Balance of Power often means active intervention.

Let me refer briefly to two scenarios. In the case of Russia and Ukraine, what Russia is doing is not new, as the hon. Member for Preston (Mark Hendrick) observed in his interesting speech. In fact, it is based on a model of what it did in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, when countries such as Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Hungary were first subverted and then taken over. I have previously mentioned the important work of Professor Anatol Lieven in analysing the situation in Ukraine. Time prevents me from doing more than pointing out that he has consistently said that the only way in which a disaster will be averted is for some considerable degree of autonomy to be awarded to the Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine. If we try to egg on the other parts of Ukraine to win militarily, Russia will simply step up its military effort and the overall effect will be disastrous.

Helen Goodman: The hon. Gentleman is making a very powerful point, and I agree with him. Did he agree with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood), as I was somewhat alarmed to discover that I did?

Dr Lewis: Sadly, that is one of the Back-Bench speeches that I missed.

I am grateful, in any case, for the hon. Lady’s intervention, as it gives me a little more time to refer to the important point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth). There is a huge difference between NATO members that are covered by the Article 5 guarantee and other countries, no matter how sympathetic we are towards them, that are not. When I was 16, Czechoslovakia was invaded. I thought what a shame it was that while Czechoslovakia was temporarily free we did not scoop up this poor vulnerable country under the protection of NATO. But I was 16 then – I am not 16 now, and I know the realities. I know that what was done in the aftermath of the Second World War was nothing more than a recognition of the reality that the West could band together to protect itself by means of NATO, but it could not, at that stage, protect the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Russia had to be contained by means of the Balance of Terror involving nuclear deterrence.

Let me quickly move on to ISIL. We are not in a situation where we have a choice of good outcomes. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Pat McFadden) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) set out certain conditions in hoping for a good outcome in relation to the choices that face us. I hope they are right, but the likelihood is that there will be no good outcome in these confrontations – that no good guys are going to come out on top, but only somebody of the stripe of an Arab dictator, on the one hand, or revolutionary jihadists on the other.

That is where we move on to containment by means of a Balance of Power, whereby sometimes there is no ally to be helped and all we can do is try to ensure that no one of a bunch of undesirable actors on the international stage gets to be dominant. That is what we have to do in this case. That is why I gently disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex about the vote that we had last year. I am absolutely delighted to look back on the fact that I was one of the people who made sure that we did not intervene to drag down Assad, atrocious though he is, because the upshot of that would have been similar to that of dragging down Gaddafi. The effect of the latter was not to further Western strategic interests but the interests of our deadly enemies on the jihadist front.

Richard Graham: Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the crucial things in some of the recent military adventures in the Middle East is, perhaps, a lack of understanding that once a dictator goes there is no Government structure or stability and that, therefore, the rule of law and everything else we love are not possible?

Dr Lewis: Absolutely. As always, my hon. Friend, with his Foreign Office background, makes the pertinent point. Thanks to his courtesy of giving me more time, I would like to quote a recent editorial from the Spectator:

"Such is the march of Islamic fundamentalism that if you remove a dictatorship in the Arab world and you don’t end up with a western-style liberal democracy, you end up with a snake pit of competing religious factions, the most malign of which tends to dominate."

What we are up against is a choice of the lesser of evils. Sometimes we will have to strike down one element of an evil choice, and sometimes we will have to suppress another. We should not, however, climb into bed with the enemy of my enemy on either occasion. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend; the enemy of my enemy can be my enemy as well. That is why we have to contain and control them and intervene from time to time, but we must not delude ourselves that there will be any perfect outcomes.