Negotiated Solution To End Russian Aggression In Ukraine

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): I agree with much of what the Foreign Secretary says, including that President Putin is a calculating, ruthless and lethal authoritarian. Does not the whole crisis spring from the failure after the cold war ended to establish a common European security system to which Russia felt attached? Instead, there has been a kind of cold peace. Surely the way forward is a negotiated solution, or an attempt at one, in which there are limits to NATO expansion and European Union expansion in return for an end to Russian aggression.

Mr Hammond: The situation is that, after the cold war, when 19 ex-Soviet republics, or whatever it was, liberated themselves from the Soviet Union and became independent countries able to set their own path in the world, we sought to build a normal relationship with Russia—one in which Russia would join the community of nations and become richer and more normalised, and one in which the Russian people were able to become more prosperous. President Putin has chosen to set his face against that future and to hark backwards to the Soviet Union or perhaps to the Russian empire. We should remember that he is on public record as saying that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the worst disaster of the 20th century. Many of us would think it was one of the great achievements of the 20th century.

I do not think we can compromise with somebody whose avowed intention is to exercise control over independent neighbouring countries in such a way that they cannot determine their own future, whether that is a future aligned with the European Union and NATO or a future aligned with Russia and other allies. That must be for those people in those independent countries to choose for themselves.

Iran

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): I welcome the general tone of the Foreign Secretary’s comments, but is it not time to stop treating Iran as a pariah state and to treat it instead as a proud nation which plays a key role, if a nefarious one, in so many middle east conflicts? Should he not press for direct engagement with Iran on Syria and on Israel-Palestine? Now that its people have voted directly to engage with the west on the basis of respect, even if their Government have policies with which we bitterly disagree, it is surely essential to press that engagement. Unless we do, I see no prospect of the middle east, which is in one of its most unstable and dangerous situations ever, stabilising. Iran holds the key to that.

Mr Hague: It has to be recognised that Iran has brought its isolation and economic sanctions upon itself, through its own actions. However, the British people have no quarrel with the people of Iran. Our dispute is over Iran’s nuclear programme. It will be difficult to create the atmosphere to address constructively with Iran all the other issues in the middle east that the right hon. Gentleman has quite legitimately mentioned without settling the nuclear issue. That is the central point. That is not just the view of the UK; we must remember that the E3 plus 3 include China and Russia, and our negotiating position is agreed with them. We are all agreed that the Iranian response has not been adequate or realistic so far. A change in that situation would unlock the opportunity for us to work together on other issues, and for Iran to be treated with the respect that the world would owe it as a major nation in its region. That is all there for the taking if we can resolve the nuclear issue.