The Assembly currently has a key role. Many Members have spoken today of the need to connect people in this country with defence and help them to understand what our relationship with our allies is all about. We have the job of holding NATO to account, informing our fellow parliamentarians—with whom we can discuss many of the issues that we raise in the various committees on which we sit—and also enabling people in this country to understand this great alliance, its values, and its vision for our security. In 2019 we will welcome hundreds of NATO parliamentarians to London, and I look forward to that.
The Royal Air Force was created 100 years ago, as a result of a new technology which had created the first new battlefield for millennia. Today we face the same scenario with the cyber threat. At a recent meeting in this building, we heard from Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and a renowned Russia expert. He worked with my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Seely), who produced a fascinating paper entitled “A Definition of Contemporary Russian Conflict: How Does the Kremlin Wage War?”
As others have pointed out and as we know ourselves, conventional wars are expensive in terms of both blood and treasure. We know that the cost of one missile that we fire at a building in Syria can run into seven figures, and we know that we are not alone: Russia, too, suffers from unrest as the coffins come home. Cyber is a cheap war to wage, and an effective means of attack: we saw the impact of the NotPetya attack on Ukraine. It is important for us to look at our defence posture in this day and age, and to consider how we respond to this new battlefield. We have defined our defence in sea, land and air, but we now need a very clear cyber posture as well. We should also follow the advice of Lord Hague, who, in a recent article, referred to a re-evaluation of article 5 of article 5 of the NATO treaty. That might be something for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to take to the Brussels summit.
We need to look carefully at infrastructure as well. Those of us who were cold war warriors will remember that the infrastructure in West Germany was constructed around moving troops very fast, and we know how difficult it has been to establish the Enhanced Forward Presence because of simple factors such as bridges, road widths and border controls.
In the few minutes that I have I want to touch on burden-sharing. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir Michael Fallon) made a very important point. The United States is far and away the biggest supporter of the alliance, and we must help NATO-friendly members of Congress by saying precisely as the Secretary of State said earlier: that we recognise that Europe has to step up. We have the benefit of the commitment made at the Wales summit and it is a disgrace, frankly, that some countries are not stepping up to that. My figures are that six countries now do spend over 2%, which is good, and the virtue of that certainly lies with the United States, Britain, Romania, Poland, Greece and the Baltics, but there are laggards and I am going to name them, particularly Belgium and Spain. Belgium has cut its defence spending to below 1%, and I think that is wrong.
Mr Mark Francois (Con, Rayleigh and Wickford)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, given the circumstances that he has outlined so clearly, there is an even greater responsibility on us in the United Kingdom to try to up our spending to show the Americans that some of the Europeans are playing the game?
It is very useful that we have accepted in this debate that the 2% is a floor—not a flaw, I add to help my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax)—and that as the threats change we may have to raise it.
We must be a critical friend of NATO. In terms of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Sir Hugh Bayley’s voice is in my head when we talk about trying to hold NATO to account for its failure to produce decent, sensible audited accounts. We have a strength in that regard because we are a significant contributor to the alliance; it enables us to do that.
May I finish by paying tribute to the shadow Secretary of State and those Labour Members who are committed to defence? We must work with them on a bipartisan basis, because I do not want to go into an election in which a party that could enter government does not believe in the value of our alliance, does not believe we should keep our nuclear deterrent, and does not believe that article 5 means what it says. Article 5 is the greatest security that has been delivered to our peoples rich and poor, old and young, down the ages since the horrendous carnage of the second world war. That bipartisan nature of our defence debate is very important now, and I hope we can continue to value NATO now and in the future