tv Politics Public Policy Today CSPAN April 1, 2015 3:00pm-5:01pm EDT
so clearly, there was some -- there were feelings along those lines before recent events. and clearly there are -- russia has intensified them and has enabled them to be expressed and created a whole narrative that's amplified. but at the same time they haven't fully bought the narrative and the attitudes are strong enough that you should assume that it is something that is homegrown to some extent a something that was simply created from the outside. >> we have some evidence on this question in crimea where there was a referendum, they say and
according to the official results of the referendum it was what? 98% support for seceding and becoming part of russia and that was during a time when the russian army occupied crimea. and so it was not a free and fair election. but i'm prepared to believe that had it been a free and fair election in crimea at that time over half would have said the same thing. i would agree. there is clearly discontent in that part of ukraine. >> i would just like to add that this is spoken of a fan of usia in the past. i think it shows the effect particularly among the russian speakers who depend on russian television in those areas as a
source of information in their view of the world is a constant 24 hour of russian information policies. the effect of television particularly monopoly television and the fact that as the crisis started there was almost nothing comparable to the organized innovation -- information transmission that was going on in that part which was voluntarily chosen. it's possible to get radio and others but from russian speakers already discontented, this has been truly i think a study in how television and particularly the virulent images have been used, does affect attitudes. and i think it is something that we need to look at and think about what lessons that should have for us as a country and perhaps even just as individuals. >> excellent point. yes? >> what we see in the east is more resistance to moving westward than desire for some
kind of political restructuring in relation to russia. there isn't a desire to move closer to russia. there is more resistance. all of that implies. it is cultural. at its core it is a cultural phenomenon than a political phenomenon. >> let's go to the audience. i believe i see a hand right here. and of course, let's identify ourselves. >> thank you very much. this is very interesting. i wanted to follow up on christian's question to you, steve. and i see two additional biases in the diction suggested. one is that half the population here have fled. the best number i've -- half the population have fled from this area.
the best number i have who live in the rebel-held areas is 3.3 million people regionally. and we have now 1.6 million people have fled, 1 million are displaced in ukraine, half a million in russia, at least. and 100,000 in other countries. so you have everybody who's pro-ukrainian have left. they are in ukraine. and then the second bias is that you used land lines. all young people use mobile phones in ukraine. so you get an older age cohort or did you try to check that when asking the people are much more stalinist in this part of ukraine while the younger ones are more ukrainian in their outlook.
thank you. >> in the donbass it was weighted by age, so that factor was counted. and in various ways the institute seeks to adjust any kind of bias that comes from the use of landline phones. >> what about the refugee issue? >> yes, that is definitely a factor. my understanding is that 19% of the -- of the whole donbass region has left and you might well imagine those who have stayed behind have a different attitude. but so that tells you what is going on in the donbass region right now. and it also had the effect of decreasing the presence of the east in the national aggregate.
but, yes the data fact is that the east has a significantly lesser effect on the aggregate national numbers. >> but conducting a poll in a conflict zone is not the easiest. >> you have to have quotation marks around it. and you have to view them carefully. but, i think it's a good read of the people that are there now, that are responding. >> okay. so can we go over here, please, yes? >> thank you very much. it's really interesting to see folks and encouraging as the results. but i have to bring two points. first of all that what we see here it's -- it's position of people but we don't know how
possible, how the possibility. so the issue of -- and also in issue of meaning, what they mean by joining european union, that's one point. and second point, if we speak about joining the european union now mostly all people living in ukraine receive only 80% of their salary because of the economic crisis. you also speak about the issue of refugees where ukraine have very little capacity to deal with settlement and post-traumatic stress disof. if we look at bosnia, if you look at turkey, the frustration with joining the european union.
we know that membership is not on the table at all. it's just a discussion of association which will be frustrating for people when they realize but they have this perception we're going to european union and the european union will give us everything. that will not happen. it will bring more frustration. how do we sustain this particular positive relationship with european union which probably will change with ongoing processes. regarding unity of nation it's again a huge problem you just discussed here. there are a lot of issues resulted to but also this huge divide history play a huge role in history and culture of ukraine. >> let's have him -- >> yes second question. sustainability in this one. and what we see we really need to bring the issues of
reconciliation in ukraine. so my question for you, what should we do? we compare with bosnia and others where european union and international community left bosnia we see growing discontent there. what we do with ukraine to sustain the unity there. >> that's the kind of question we were trying to answer by going beyond the standard poll question and ask which do you favor? and asking if this happened how would you feel on this scale and this happen and this happen and this happen. we have in our way tried to find out how robust is the support? how robust is the resistance? what we see is if you look across all of the areas, the one where you get the least resistance, the most convergence
the most consensus is a kind of neutral position. you get a fair number who say that they could tolerate moving toward the eu. but there is also trepidation about it that shows up in numbers in a variety of ways which obviously, particularly in the east and very much in the rebel-held areas. so that is the kind of thing that we're trying to get at and yes, there are some pretty intense resistance. so these kind of decisions are not made simply by the referendum so that if you choose between the eu and the european customs unit more people would say that eu combined sorry, eurasian customs. but in other polls you do not have a majority favoring the eu either.
so i would quite agree with you that you'd need to not simply look at the top-line response and what is the majority but what are the levels of resistance in different parts of the country. because a small number of people, as we know can create a lot of trouble in the effort to create a coherent country and ukraine is already pretty precarious country and catherine can speak to this better than i with the mixed language the mixed religion and mixed links to europe and russia and so on. so it's not as coherent a nation as most european nations. >> i believe dr. kelleher wanted to address your point. you were at the defense department during the bosnian
war. >> right. at nato. >> at nato as well. so you might have an interesting perspective on that. >> let me say, the right to have questions about the future with, in an association with the eu and -- because, quite frankly when the choice was posed at any point in the last two decades, there are several european nations who steadfastly oppose any further expansion of membership, particularly to the ukraine. i think it's, in some case simple greed of the southern states who don't feel they have their share of benefit yet. and they fear ukraine as a compelling competitor in that way but there are also others who stress other themes particularly the religious question. the real problem though is, i think, it is a false analogy to
look at bosnia serbia, and croatia. that's a very different set of wars and leadership, and histories, than ukraine is. i think while ukraine is an amalgam, there is no question, out of various historical periods and backgrounds, what strikes me as encouraging, particularly out of the survey that steve has done, is in fact this enthusiasm for ukraine as a separate entity. as an identifiable entity. as one with which individuals identified themselves. i think the analogy is probably better made to germany where even in a divided country one that that's reinforced in every way that the leadership could, there still was the sense of fundamental germanness as a bound of unity.
i think to some extent it is also true in ireland of the so i think that at least is a competing model for what happens to divided societies. particularly divided societies that are divided by conflict or tension and i think whatever else you take from the survey you should take that sense that even after all the things that have happened there is the sense ukrainians belong together. and an interesting openness, to various forms of association, including perhaps more independence. you asked one set of questions that specifically addressed the idea of limited autonomy for some of the even and it is in fact, while people don't see it as the favorite alternative they're at least willing to look at it.
and that strikes me as, as opposed to bosnia war, the war of the yugoslav succession, if you will, is a very different attitude about what the future might involve. >> so i believe, ambassador taylor -- >> to your question about how to sustain the enthusiasm. first of all, now, there is a broad civil society enthusiasm that we saw in the maidon that we have not really seen before. so i think that is new. i think that is something that can sustain. some members of that civil society are now in rada. they have gone, they have been elected. they're part of the politics now. they can move that. the second thing about the point about there have been nations in the eu who have opposed expansion, both in the eu as well as in nato, it's going to take time for the ukrainians to
develop the capabilities, the characteristics, the norms the standards, required in order to be a real applicant, a real serious membership applicant for both eu and nato. and so, attitudes can change in europe. they have changed. so we don't have to worry, we should be concerned about what today's attitude is but it need not be that way forever. >> excellent point. so well -- this gentleman, please? >> hi. sorry i didn't introduce myself before. my name is ernie robison. this is kind of a technical question and kind of a policy question. where did karkov and mariupol
fall in the east, west, north, and south. if there was a center of russianism in ukraine it was karkov, although when the '91, '92 time happened there was a massive exodus back to russia. but still, you know, it strikes me that those areas that i'm asking about had strong leadership that was not interested in russia, and the others did not. and you can get to the passion part later. >> i'm sorry my answer will be very short. we just don't have enough -- [ inaudible ] clay ramsey is our director. >> excuse me, i'm clay ramsey, the research director. what you referred to are included in the region of the east as we have it demar waited. when you see numbers for the east, there is hardly ever any
difference beyond the margin of error between those and what you see for the whole region. >> the other point of this, is, that, herzon, also right in that area, odessa, farther to the east, was the target of these little green men, the russians attempted to move into herzon at about the same time they were going into donbass where they had already innovated crimea and the people resisted. the russians were pushed back. and, again we see, as you have indicated that people in harkiv have also not been eager to move in that direction. so again, this is indication, that is a real different herzon even when i was there in 2008 and colin clary was there. this is a different ukraine now.
>> it is -- could i just? there is also just a considerable difference. let me take the military. many of the military who served in my time, namely the first decade in ukraine were retiring in place from the russian army. they were russian. no question a major form of communication was in the russian language. everyone thought that was fine. that is not the case today. there may be individuals. but it's an entire change of generation. it has been 20 years. it has been this long period, not a peaceful period, certainly, and with lots and lots of turbulence and change. but in that process, the formation of the identity around language in part, but mostly about the way in and the nation
has operated on the -- even on the individual level, i think has changed what was true in the '90s, playly the early '90s to a quite different profile at the moment. here. >> so we had a hand up over here. and then over there. >> thank you very much. thank you very much. i also found it fascinating, professor kelleher's reference to germany, that despite all the years separately there was this sense of being one nation. the question though arises, what kind of nation does donbass area believe they are? is there a sense after everything that has happened remaining russians? that brings me to the, huge difference from what i see between the opinions of non-occupied areas and occupied areas as to what to do next because people are there, being
bombed, dying, lost all their property. many of them, so that actually explains the outlook i guess to a great extent. it would certainly for me. and i see that 55% would not mind even being annexed by russia. in the donbass rebel-held areas. page 19. 65% would love to secede from ukraine in the donbass rebel-held areas. on the other hand, if you look at it, 41% of the same people say that, russia does not have the right to interfere to protect the citizens. so you think, and they disapprove of what putin does in
the area to a great extent. so i think there is a great confusion in the minds and i guess russian propaganda in the country to a great extent of this and the reason i think so, because on page 20 it says that the east believes the most and the fact that the west will support ukraine in transformation. >> okay. >> to translate it into russian, they are sold. they sold themselves to the west. >> so the question is? >> so the question is, do we know what indeed these areas want and, on a more like chechnya or germany or bosnia, who are they? really very unclear. is it clear to them? that's what i don't understand. >> well i would emphasize that i think even in the eastern part of the country the notion of the nation still being -- still obtaining, still existing still
being a -- and even an expectation that it will continue, i -- the signs to me are that they are -- that that is present. it is more that there's an insistence on some changes and greater autonomy for these regions and again i see this more culturally rooted rather than a desire for secession. sort of i see it, looking at all the numbers, if you look at them as totality that any talk about secession is more of an expression of the intensity of feeling and wanting that sense of autonomy and a resistance to this whole westward movement than it is a formulated desire to really secede which could be a really complicated thing for such a small little area and
annexation by russia, the numbers that people, that even the rebel-held areas express about russia are not overwhelmingly positive. so it's, i don't read it that the nation has, has essentially fragmented as much as there is within it intense conflict about which way to go. and, i think it is very important to keep it in mind that the, you know, we did, there were these swings, you know. that yanukovych was elected. if i may, i wanted to show one other number that thought might come up. how people feel about the ending of yanukovych's presidential term and you can see that majorities in the south and a larger majority in the east disapprove of yanukovych's departure. in overwhelming majority in the rebel-held areas.
what yanukovych represented isn't simply dead, it isn't like, oh, now everybody is ready to move east. so it is still alive but, when i put up all the factors together i still, i see a readiness to assume that there is some way this can be, ultimately be pulled together. >> way it is pulled together is through having a regular set of elections in that part of the country. they haven't had elections in that part of the country that in any way serious. and once they do, once they elect people, to make these kinds of decisions then that kind of negotiation can go on with the government. >> i would also say, perhaps referring to my earlier comment this is one of the talking points that has been most strongly emphasized in, on russian television. a drumbeat. this is possible.
this is desirable. you find this tracking of the points of russian propaganda. >> wait? what's desirable? >> secession. annexation to russia is desirable. i would only like to draw, if you will permit me an example from my own home city, which is boston. after the revolutionary war they lost 25% of their population who went either back to england or to canada because they didn't like the result. and there is always voting with your feet. i think, though and this is where i feel it's closer to the german example. very few east germans went any place else. they did not leave. they did not go en masse to other places because ultimately they felt this was, their homeland.
>> a lot of them went west, of course. >> yes, but within the country. within the country. you don't see massive outmigration. you don't see people even changing their address within the european union. >> one other point, the support for the minsk agreement being large majorities in every region i think is a very strong indicator that they're still trying to work it out. >> let's try to get as many questions as possible. you, sir. we have a lot of questions. we'll try to get through them because i think there are still a lot of questions out there. >> thanks. >> can you identify yourself. >> i'm chad nagel. i'm an attorney. and a blogger. i was going to ask this question in the first round but i decided it probably didn't qualify. you had one question about the opinion of ukrainians toward putin but it related specifically to his handling of the war.
and i was wondering, i mean although in a vox popular type exercise where you're asking ordinary people most concerned how they will pay their next utility bill this might not qualify but maybe it would be interesting to someone, perhaps you did get a sense of opinions towards the russian political regime. as opposed to putin, and he is the center of it. and by that i mean, the concept of what's come to be called the power vertical. so that it seems that putin's popularity within russia, if we're to believe their official published results, is not, is not in spite of but because of this perception that there is this strong man who ultimately is ultimately responsible for the fate of the whole nation. in ukraine's history, ancient history but post-soviet history has been sort after pendulum
swing between these two phenomenon. you had yanukovych -- >> i don't mean to interrupt you. we're having very long questions today. we need a question. >> sorry. do you get a sense of the extent to which ukrainians favor dispersal of power in their political system that where there are checks on the power of a leader like you see with poroshenko, many of the checks are informal from the street as well as formal and constitutional, or whether they do pine for this strong man? >> thank you very much much. the negative attitudes towards putin certainly suggest to the contrary and rejection of his claim of a right to intervene to protect russian speakers speaks to that as well. by the way, russian speakers, we pulled them out reject the idea as well. as for views of russia more broadly, we did have the question about russia's role in
influence in the world more broadly and russia did not do very well, except in somewhat of the rebel-held areas. so overall we, the overall finding of the survey is that we're not seeing a clear attraction to russia as much in the east as much as a resistance to -- to moving westward. so the idea that they look over there and say, oh, what they have over there in russia is strong leader and so on that's appealing, i do not -- i do not excerpt interpret it that way. >> so can we go over here to the gentleman in the blue tie? >> hello. i'm a visiting fellow at ctr. my question is actually, there has been a lot of talk about criticizing russia's actions
but, is, do you know, in what way, western ukrainians are already sacrificed themselves or their loved ones in eastern ukraine? thank you. >> i'm not sure how to speak to that. certainly there is a strong desire to move western but, many questions, particularly in the north, we find a readiness to have, neutrality, only, if, 48% in the west were, so that wasn't acceptable. so, would that translate into readiness? well there is, there is not a lot of enthusiasm for using military force to regain territory. more so, in the west and north but still, trepidation, not overwhelming and the support for
minsk agreement which implies, has built into it some accommodation to provide greater autonomy in the donbass realms. and so, i think, putting that all together there is, i see stronger signs of a desire to find some agreement then, than a readiness to use force to get a max mall outcome. >> okay. so this lady here with the glasses. then after here we'll go to the gentleman there. >> hi. i'm teresa hitchens, senior research scholar at the university of maryland center for the studies at maryland. quick question. given all the attitudes you found for direction of ukraine what are your recommendations for u.s. policy? >> thank you very much. short question. >> so i have some
recommendations. i think we should support ukraine very strongly financially. i think we should support ukraine very strongly militarily. i think international community should do both of those things. she knows better than anyone about the financial problems ukraine faces. we along with the imf and others should be there supporting them. we should also defend and beef up the defenses in the nato nations that border russia. so that is an important -- if we're trying to deter the russians from doing what they have been doing, that is, first invading crimea and then invading the southeastern part of ukraine, and we don't want to do that more, then we need to push back. we need to push back reinforcing militarily the countries that are in nato on the periphery. we need to support ukraine and we need to provide them the ukrainians weapons in order to resist. >> there you go. >> yes. i'd like to add in addition to bill's prescription a different perspective.
and here i think my position is somewhat like that of angela merkel. we have to realize what has happened is the undermining of the european security system. it isn't just ukraine. it is the question of all of the agreements that have been broken, all of the solemn commitments and quite frankly, a lot of the ease with which we've lived in the last 20 or 25 years have led to the expectation to this will continue forever. we have to realize this is a political problem that is enormous significance and that will only be solved when we come to a political solution. and that so far as i can see, is the moment, if not, on the horizon. so we better think very hard if only because we will have lost an enormous amount of effort and we may in the process destroy the economy of both ukraine and
russia after we have spent 25 years trying to bring them into the community of nations. >> so this gentleman here on the aisle please. then we'll go over there. >> my name is -- i'm a student at the elliot school. bring it back to the points the lady from george mason had, sustainability and reform of progress in the nation. the ue and us, kind of as nato and the european union as a total have been using a carrot stick in the balkans, the eu membership to push for reforms and things like that. my question is how do we -- and in those countries there have been backsliding with regard to those situations. how do we avoid that with regard to ukraine and reapproach that situation in the balkans? >> i think just perhaps to just continue my earlier, my last comment, what we did, was we relaxed.
we thought enough money they would simply in their prosperity do what we wanted them to do sort of naturally. it doesn't work like that. and nobody has spent either the time or quite frankly, the commitment of their own defense budgets or their overseas aid budgets to the extent that was necessary to sustain the commitments that we made. and until we do that we can't be surprised at the results. >> so ukrainian reforms are difficult. very difficult for the ukrainian government to undertake. they're exactly as you say, there needs to be something out there. there needs to be a carrot out there. one thing that could be out there which europeans don't like to hear is eu membership. another thing that could be out there for military reform is nato membership. so those two things if they are real, if we seriously have them as something out there, not immediately because as we say earlier it will take a lot of time for them to the meet the standards, that was a motivation for a lot of the east europeans
to do the very difficult economic reforms in order to get into the e.u. ukraine can be offered the same. >> so, over here. >> sam, international institute for strategic studies. question for professor kull. how strong in a regional and global context are the regional divides that you demonstrated to us today? i mean, is this, do you see divisions like this based on regions of other countries on big issues that countries are facing? is ukraine particularly regionally divided looking on your regional or global context based on your experience working in other countries? >> we have done surveys around the world as part of the world public opinion.org network and ukraine has been part of that network and surveyed over 20
nations and as we were going along, we were always surprised how heterogeneous ukraine was. so this is very unusual. if you go look around the united states you'd be amazed how homogeneous the united states is. people have this idea of all those heterogenity in many parts of country but that is very normal. this is extremely unusual. it has always looked to us like a precarious state and so it is really not surprising that things are breaking out the way they are. and that, i, we can only underscore in terms of policy implications that should be understood how precarious it is and just getting a majority or something like that isn't -- that is probably not going to
create consensus because, across the nation as a whole because of their different parts of the country, chunks of the country where majorities are really opposed. then you have real potential for instability. >> excellent point. so, this gentleman on the aisle please. >> -- hoover institution. question for steve i think mainly. in that the numbers you have shown us suggest to me that the most likely outcome is a frozen conflict. like all those others we've seen before around a borders of the russia. so why isn't the model something more like moldova, something more like ukraine -- like georgia and all those other places where these frozen conflicts are going on and on without any real resolution? of course the implications of that are fairly clear. you don't need to be sketched out. >> i think, others here may be able to better comment.
yes, the majorities across the country supporting the minsk agreement suggest that this is going to be some kind of framework and the emphasis in the eastern regions on having some kind of autonomy along the lines that are referenced there. i don't know if you need to think of it as strictly frozen. there are, i see the elements of basically some kind of agreement, not necessarily full-scale federalism but, just some kind of greater autonomy so that, one of the key questions, why do people in the east, what is it they're really afraid of, right? and i understand we haven't fully defined that. but the numbers to me suggest they could get to comfort with
that and those, in the west could get to comfort with this greater autonomy. so that, the elements are, here, of some agreement that isn't -- that is organic that there are some people who could get to something to feels like normalcy. >> i would agree. it doesn't have to be a frozen conflict. i mean just as steve says, the minsk agreement. if fully implemented would not lead to a frozen conflict. that is, there would be some additional autonomy not yet defined not just for donbass by the way. for all in the country would have additional and mr. poroshenko talked about that. and there have been those kind of discussions but also in the minsk agreement is the withdrawal of foreign forces and that means russian forces. if that happens then there
could also be the osce controlling the border monitoring the border between russia and ukraine so that the russian forces can't continue to come in. that means then that the government in kiev could control the entire area. and then you can have the elections i talked about earlier. so it doesn't have to be a frozen conflict. there are questions whether the misnk ii agreement would fully last but nonetheless if implemented it wouldn't have to be completely frozen. >>. [ inaudible ] . >> he said the point is there will be continuing russian interference. >> jim, this is what i mean about the political solution. there has to be an overarching political solution that perhaps would give to take bill's scenario osce powers or to be backed by a different consensus
than it is at the moment. but it is going to take a long time. but i think this theme of ukraineness which i mentioned before, which is different moldova transnistra. that is barely acknowledged. that it is a russian outpost as far as most inhabitants can returned. i also think in the ossetia question you're talking again about enormous religious and cultural differences that have been there and recognized for a very long time. this isn't the case. this isn't that kind of huge walls that have been there for three centuries. it's, i think we have reason to be more optimistic but we'll have to work at it. >> okay. nobody seems to be rushing for the exits. i think we can get away with one more question. how about here on the aisle. >> hi.
u.s. mission to the osce. going along this point i completely agree. i have a little bit more pessimistic view on this in that russia's goal to have federalized ukraine where they can de facto influence the east to use as a veto to control the region. what do you think about that? >> that may be russia's goal but that doesn't mean they get there. >> when i view these statistics that is actually why i am a little pessimistic. i'm not sure where people want to go. i feel there will be lack of will in the west. where they also say they don't know where they're going to go and russia can use this and leverage this to influence the country. >> i would emphasize that the more ukraine moves westward, the greater the opportunities are for russia to try to influence the eastern part of the country because you will have more alienated people in the eastern part of the country.
to the extent that people in the east have assurances that they're not going to be pulled kicking and screaming into europe the less russia will have a source or means of leverage. >> well, thank you very much. i think we'll probably leave it at that. we've gone a little bit over the time but not too much. thank you very much for coming today. i think we can all agree that we've learned a great deal, a great deal of very substantive information about this situation and i thank our panelists for giving us a very, very solid and informed view. and please, we welcome your comments on social media and, any feedback you want to give us. thanks very much for coming. [ applause ] .
tonight on american history tv a ford theater's symposium on abraham lincoln's life and legacy. steven goldman discusses union troops and lincoln's assassination. and mourning abraham lincoln. also lincoln's assassin, john wilkes booth. all of this is tonight on american history tv on c-span3. the most memorable moment was hearing cory gardner say you need to be firm in your
principles but flexible in your details. it reflects the harsh polarization we are seeing in the country and a methodology if all the senators and congressionmen and women we can come together as a country and solve the pertinent interests. >> my favorite quote came from julie adams. she said remember to be humble and have a strong work ethic. >> i think in particular in congress itself, oftentimes we have a lack of true statesmen as much as i disagree with him, john mccain did something impressive last year he committed to the veteran affairs reform bill and reading the torture report and staying away from torture is essential to the democracy. the people who are making decisions with people they may
not often agree with that's what we need to maintain the security, the integrity of our nation. >> high school students in the top 1% of their states were in washington as part of the united states senate youth program. sunday night at 8:00 eastern and pacific on c-span's q and a. british foreign secretary philip hammond testifies about uk foreign policy. he talked about the role the uk would play in the ukraine/russia conflict and other foreign affairs issues. order.
can i welcome members of the public to this sitting of the foreign affairs committee and what i strongly suspect will be the last opportunity to question the former secretary and his team on world events. foreign secretary, welcome. good to see you here today. >> thank you. >> foreign secretary, this committee published a report a couple weeks ago on the finance performance and administration of the foreign office. which we rather felt that the foreign office was at bit of a crossroads. in our judgment, it had done a good job over the last five years but it is spread rather thinly. and the choice now is whether or not we maintain that spread but deepen it, which requires extra resources or we narrow the
bandwidth of the foreign office of the foreign office and tailor our aspirations accordingly. which direction do you think we ought to be going? >> it is certainly the key decision, threat versus debt, and this is not a new discussion i have asked -- i asked the lead on executive to conduct a review of the network shift policy that was introduced, changing the allocation of resources and opening some new posts, and in the course of doing that piece of work, i discovered that actually this debate has been going on in the foreign office not just during the course of this parliament but for many years about the tension between breadth, coverage, and depth, intensity of resources. clearly -- and by the way, that review suggested that the network shift decisions that have been taken had been broadly
the right decisions, and it had broadly satisfactory outcomes. i think as we -- when we know what our resource envelope for the next parliament is after the next spending review, i think this is a discussion that the foreign office needs to hold once again between breadth of coverage, footprint, and depth of coverage, and also around the balance between the resources devoted to the core bilateral and multilateral relationships and what i call the theme -- thematic resources around the diplomatic themes in london. when i came to this debate, i started with a slight prejudice that perhaps we were thinning ourselves too thinly and we
needed to put a little bit more depth in some places. i think the evidence suggests that actually we've been quite successful in most places, managing to maintain a high proportion of output, even where we have taken out resources in the interest of broadening the footprint. so i think the jury is still out. i think that it's the right question to ask. i don't think from my perspective i've got a definitive answer yet. i don't know whether either of my colleagues has any more to add to that. >> as you say -- for a long time. as you always say, a lot will depend on the resources we have to deploy in the next parliament. i don't think i can say more than that. >> clearly f there were a substantial reduction in ú÷z resources, i think the option of just thinning out the current
footprint of overseas posts would be challenging. i think if we were talking about a substantial reduction in resources, we would have to look to footprint. >> given the foreign office has had frankly quite a pounding in the last five years, i hope it won't come to a reduction in resources. have any preliminary conversations taken place with the treasury on any of these aspects? >> no, the discussion on the next spending review cl(gaiky will be a discussion for the next parliament. and there's been no discussion about that as yet. >> if you had to pick a reform that you'd like to, you know, commence in the foreign office, what's the area you'd most like to pick on? >> well, as i've said -- and you'll appreciate i've been there a relatively short time and we have had quite a lot of other things going on. but if i were looking to start a big new piece of sort of
inward-facing work, it would be around the balance between the resource that's invested in bilateral relationships and the resource that's invested in subject matter expertise. sort of cross cutting versus vertical agendas. i slightly have the perception that the department in the past has had too much of its resource in the cross cutting thematic areas. that balance has been redressed somewhat over the course of the last five years. but i'm not sure that we've got that exactly right yet. we may need to put more of our resource into the -- what i regard as the jewel in the crown, which is the bilateral and multilateral relationships, which the foreign office manages. >> i think as far as the present membership of this committee is concerned, we'd probably agree with you. before i hand it over to my colleagues, could i just bring up the subject of defense
spending. you said on the program over the weekend that you remain committed to the 2% figure. is that the government's position? >> well, as you know, what i said, i think, on the andrew marsh, to get him in the record, the prime minister led the process of urging our nato members to commit too sign up to 2% of gdp. we're one of the very few nato countries, certainly one of only two large nato countries that are currently spending 2% of our gdp on defense. now, i can't second guess the outcome of either the strategic defense and security review or of the next spending review. but clearly we have signed up to that target at newport and not
only passively signed up to it, we actively sought the adherence to the target of all our other nato partners. >> so it would be pretty inconsistent if we -- if a future conservative government had a figure below 2%? >> well, we're clearly committed to maintaining strong defense, maintaining britain's armed forces. as again i said on the show on sunday, during my nearly three years as defense secretary, the prime minister was absolutely consistent in making clear to me that he had no appetite for any further cuts in the size of our regular armed forces. the cuts that we had to decide upon in 2010 because of the black hole in the defense budget that we inherited were extremely painful. and he's been very clear and consistently clear that he
wasn't prepared to see any further cuts. >> thank you very much. >> i want to move on to the ukraine crisis and the u.k. role vis-a-vis that general richard, sheriff, who serves as supreme allied commander in europe, just on the record saying that we appear to be absent from the negotiating table. why do you think the u.k. has not been more directly involved in negotiating a diplomatic solution in that crisis? >> well, firstly, i'm afraid i don't accept the arguments that are being made. i don't -- general sir richard sheriff has said several things starting on the day he retired from office. i never heard him say anything
while he was in office. but he's been quite vocal since he left office. i'm not sure that he's in the right position to comment on this. he was a military deputy commander in nato. this is a diplomatic discussion that's been going on. we agreed amongst ourselves last summer that the best way of trying to explore the opportunities for a peaceful solution to the ukraine crisis was an approach led by chancellor merkel simply because she is, of all the european leaders, the one who has the closest thing to a working relationship with vladimir putin. the discussion took place at the normandy commemorations, and for no better reason than that became known as the normandy process. it included the french president equally, for no better reason than it started off in normandy at an event hosted by him.
we were not included. the americans were not included. our view always was that the russians wouldn't have agreed to have the conversation if we and/or the americans had been included. and we think our german and french colleagues have done a good job in very difficult circumstances in trying to take forward a negotiated, diplomatic solution. meanwhile, we have played a very significant role in, if you like, playing the bad cop role. we've focused on stiffening the resolve of the european union on sanctions, working using the resources of our own intelligence agencies to identify targets for sanctions, and we've played a very large role in that process within the european union. using our diplomacy to encourage our partners in europe to remain robust on sanctions and to make the argument for sanctions and using our relationship with the
united states to make sure that the european union and the u.s. sanctions regime remain well alive. they're not exactly synchronized, but they are well aligned, and the u.s. is looking now, i believe, at making some adjustments to their regime so that we are more clearly in lock step. and that requirement will continue of making sure that while the minsk process is taken forward, and we all wish it well, the resolve of the eu to maintain the pressure on russia is strong and unbroken over the coming months. that's the role we've assigned to ourselves. >> and just on sort of good cop, bad cop, did you as bad cop have any relevant conversations with both france and germany about the second minsk agreement before a deal was reached, or did you find out about the deal
after it was agreed? >> well, we had continuous conversations with french and german colleagues, including meetings, but i have regular telephone conversations with both my french and german colleagues, particularly at political director level. they're very close on regular contacts. on this and on a range of other issues. we're talking to them about the iran negotiations, the minsk process, and many other -- you know, the isil challenge, many other things besides. so we have very close working relationships. i met all european union colleagues on friday and saturday. we had a quad meeting in paris on saturday afternoon at which we discussed again all of these issues. by the way, i was in kiev on thursday discussing with president poroshenko and the prime minister where we are at
in the minsk process and how we can be helpful to ukraine in discharging its obligations over the next weeks and months. >> so channels of communication were open all the way through -- >> channels of communication were open at my level, at the prime minister's level, and at the senior official levels. >> you mentioned the sanctions regime and our role in that. do you think you have enough support within the eu to secure, a, early extension of the existing tier three sanctions and, b to the commitment of immediate expansion of sanctions if violence re-ignites? >> on the latter point, i think there is a very clear acceptance across the european union ranging from enthusiastic in the case of the hawks to reluctant but understanding in the case of the ducks, that if there is a significant breach of cease-fire, an assault, the european union would have to respond and respond immediately
with significantly increased regime of sanctions. beyond that, if we look at the scenario where the minsk process rumbles on, more or less, albeit there have already been significant breaches of it from the russian separatist side, but if it more or less rambles on, there is, i think, a broad acceptance that the logic of minsk is that the sanctions regime would need to be extended to the end of the year because it is only at the end of the year that we'll reach the point where russia has to comply with the most onerous requirements with it handing back control of the border to ukraine. the timing of extension of the existing sanctions for that period is going to be a subject of discussion within the
european union and there is certainly some appetite for waiting to see what the level of compliance would be obligations under the minsk implementation agreement is before we discuss that issue. i'm sure it will be discussed. there will be other opportunities at foreign affairs councils and subsequent european councils. a decision doesn't need to be made on extension of sanctions until the end of june, early july. >> and you mentioned a moment ago the alignment between the united states and europe on the existing sanctions. what discussions have you had with the government of the united states about coordinating the potential expansion of sanctions? as you say, if things rumble on. >> we have had such discussions. if we decide to extend -- to expand the range of sanctions,
we would, the eu would expect to agree the broad shape of the package with the united states. there might still for very specific reasons be differences at the margin between the two packages, but we would expect them to be broadly aligned. we would certainly expect to act in tandem to make maximum impact. >> my final question for secretary, on the supply of equipment, the prime minister has said that the u.k. is not at the stage of supplying lethal equipment to the ukraine but did not rule it out completely. at what point would the u.k. consider supplying lethal equipment to the ukrainian government, do you think? >> well, to answer your question precisely, i think we would consider it again but not necessarily do it if the circumstances on the ground materially changed. if we found the ukrainian army was crumbling, for example, or if we saw clear evidence that the ukrainian army was being --
was under sustained attack and was not holding the line because of inadequacy of equipment and weapons, then we would certainly want to consider again. the prime minister has made clear we want to keep our options open here, but we don't believe there is a military solution to this conflict, and we're very wary of giving the misimpression that we perhaps do think that, if we were to focus on supplying lethal equipment to the ukrainians. equally, we can't afford to see the ukrainian armed forces crumble. >> john stanley. >> foreign secretary, the committees on arms export control, of which of course the foreign affairs committee is part, in the latest information which it received from the business secretary a couple months ago on the extent arms export licenses to russia, in other words the existing export licenses were in place, so that
there were actually a total of 248 arms export licenses to russia and the value of those -- and that's only the standard individual licenses. it doesn't include the open individual licenses. was 169 million pounds. why is the british government still in this situation with the russians engaging in sequential territorial annexation, quite apart from the human rights dimensions in russia, still carrying out such a very extensive arms export trade to russia? >> and i'm not sure that i'm going to be able to answer technically the question why are those licenses still. they are the extent they relate to military or goods to military users. they will be superseded by the sanctions, the arms embargo.
so the answer to your question -- but i don't have it written down here. i'll have to write to the committee. the answer to your question may well be a technical one, that it isn't necessary to cancel the licenses because they've actually been superseded by the embargo. but if i may, i'll -- unless miraculously the answer to that question should come to me during the course of this hearing. in which case i'll inform the committee. if not, i will write. >> foreign secretary, all i can point out to you is you've said superseded by the embargo. this is information provided by the business secretary on the 15th of december last year and the 21st of january. so either you're saying that the secretary's information is wildly out of date or possibly you're not fully informed as to the scale of licenses today to russia.
>> i'm simply making the point that it may be that the extent licenses simply sit there, effectively extent but ineffective but no goods can be exported due to the embargo, which as it were a superior instrument to the licenses. but i believe that we may be able to find the answer to this question during the course of this hearing. >> i'll wait for the answer. but i have to say, in the extensive correspondence we've had on extent licenses, they're licenses which are still up and running, and they do not include licenses which are either suspended or of being revoked. and that is -- >> i understand that. and i don't think it would be necessary -- i think it would be -- in fact, i'm certain it would be the case that if you were an exporter of an item for which you held a relevant license but that item was now subject to an embargo, notwithstanding your license, you would not be able to export that item.
>> i await your letter, foreign secretary. is it still the government's policy to stop exports of equipment to russia only that which might be used in ukraine? >> can you be more specific about equipment? do you mean military equipment? >> the totality of arms exports. previous statements that have been made by ministers is that the block of arms exports to russia is in relation to both military goods which might be used in ukraine. in other words, a very significant geographical limitation applying to that policy. >> no, the eu embargo is a ban on the export of jewel use goods to military end users and for military end use in russia. >> thank you.
can i turn now to the issue of exports to ukraine. you said in answer to the previous question that the government's policy remains to export only nonlethal equipment that being the case, when the government gave export license approval in december last year, relatively recently, to the 75 saxon armored personnel carriers, was not the government fully aware that they were going to be armed once they got to ukraine? >> no, we had no knowledge of the intention, which has been announced but i understand not carried out, to fit light machine guns on these vehicles.
but since we have become aware of that, we've reviewed the license in respect of these vehicles against the consolidated criteria and have concluded that there are no grounds to revoke the license on the basis of that information. >> well, foreign secretary, you'll be aware that mr. tetshiniov has stated publicly -- these saxons have arrived without any armament. surely the british government was aware that that was the intention of the ukrainian defense ministry. >> no, the government was not aware when the original license was granted. we're clearly aware now. but this would be no different for supplying land rovers and discovering that they intended to mount machine guns on the roofs of the land rovers. the assessment was made that supplying the vehicles would not increase the offensive capacity
of the ukrainian army. nor would it offer the balance of military force. that is the relevant criteria against which we have to judge this export. so the position is that the export of these vehicles without any weaponry on them is licensed and will be permitted to go ahead. >> the crucial point in terms of the government's policy, that mounting a weapon on them turns them from being nonlethal to being lethal. >> no, i think -- >> sorry, can i just continue? is it not a matter of genuine concern to you and should it not be that the foreign office and the british government are clearly so ill informed about intentions of the ukrainian government that they were apparently in the december of
last year apparently wholly oblivious as to what was the clear intention of the ukrainian government in respect to the sanctions. >> with respect, we now know it was the clear intention because they've now told us it's their clear intention, and we are now apprised of all the facts. they didn't make this clear at the time when they originally contracted to make this purchase of vehicles. and the -- i don't need to tell you as chairman of the committee on armed exports that the point at which the assessment is made of the capability of the equipment is the point of export. and we judge that the -- applying the consolidated criteria to this second batch of 55 vehicles does not change the decision that they are still eligible for export licensing, none of the consolidated
criteria is engaged on the basis that the vehicles carry no armaments. >> thank you. >> foreign secretary, last week just before your foreign affairs council meeting, i was at the parliamentary meeting. and we had a lot of discussion there about the concept of hybrid warfare. can i take you to your remarks yesterday where you said, quote, there is a hard red line protecting the baltic states. and you also said any russian incursion would entitle the baltic countries to seek to invoke article five of the washington treaty. you were asked which is war, and you said, and mr. putin knows that very well. can i put it to you that article five of the nato treaty is not
necessarily clear in the sense that it refers to an armed attack against one or more of the allies. if you are damaging the electricity grid, if you are undermining the infrastructure of a country, if you are using special forces in covert activities but not openly attacking, is it not hard to determine at which point there is an armed attack on a nato partner? >> yes, it is. and that's a subject, as you well know, of a lot of discussion on both sides of the atlantic about how hybrid attacks are to be treated and indeed attributed because it isn't always that straightforward to be clear
about the attribution of such attacks. and i think our position is that we are not clear that being completely unambiguous about this is necessarily helpful. a degree of ambiguity can be strategically advantageous. we're also clear that, as committee will know, that the response in any case to any attack to be lawful in international law has to be proportionate. and therefore, this might go as much to the nature of the response that would be made to a hybrid attack, if it were attributed to a particular state as to whether or not there should be a response. i think there's a really very interesting intellectual debate about when and whether it would be appropriate to respond kinetically to a nonkinetic attack, however serious. that's not just a question of international law. it's also a question of political reality, public opinion.
and i think this is a very interesting and real debate that we need to have. >> is there a consensus amongst the nato ministers as to when article five would be triggered, or is there an ongoing intellectual debate, as you put it? >> well, i'm sorry to answer the question i suspect rather technically, but i think any member state can seek to invoke article five. article five is only considered invoked if all member states by consensus agree that the member state seeking to invoke is under armed attack. i think that's the correct -- that is the position of the washington treaty. so consensus is required for there to be deemed to be an armed attack on a member state. >> but can i put it to you for a
country like latvia or estonia with a substantial russian-speaking minority amongst its population right on the front line with russia, facing a president who has shown that he is actually repaired to admit that he planned the annexation of the territory of ukraine and who has said that the collapse, the ending of the soviet union was the greatest disaster of the 20th century, that there is understandably deep concern about not having clarity from the united states, united kingdom, france, and the other big nato partners about under what circumstances article five would be invoked. >> now, i'm not sure that's right. i was with you until the last ten seconds. of course, we understand the concern that there is in the baltic states. nato members and the u.k.'s been
leading among them have sought to reassure our baltic partners. for example, by offering strike aircraft for the baltic air policing mission, by taking part in military exercises in baltic countries and poland. we'll continue to do so. but i think the interest the baltic countries are best served by a degree of strategic ambiguity around the asymmetric warfare question and by a very clear and unambiguous distinction between nato countries and non-nato countries. one of the challenges i think we face around the management of the ukraine crisis is that ukraine is not a nato country. while we want to show our clear support for the ukrainians in their struggle to defend their sovereignty, we must be always clear that there is an air gap
between the kind of support that we can offer to ukraine as a non-nato country and the kind of support that we would and should offer to a nato member if it faced a similar kind of challenge. >> secretary, we're coming up to a general election, and after march the 30th, the house of commons is dissolved. and there is a convention about parliamentary approval for military action, which has seemed to develop over recent years with regard to syria, with regard to iraq. if a crisis developed in the period after march the 30th and before a new government is formed, whenever that is, it could be several months, how are we going to handle that situation if there is a case of clear intervention of the united
kingdom alongside nato partners or even unilaterally in terms of defense interests? >> well, the convention that's grown up, and it was established by de facto by the last government and we've confirmed that we acknowledge it, is that where it is possible in terms of time and in terms of the need for secrecy to consult parliament, parliament will be consulted. and where parliament is not sitting, it clearly will not be possible to consult parliament and in no circumstances would it be right to postpone military intervention that was required for the safety and security of britain or the alliance because we were unable to consult parliament because it was dissolved at the time. so in compliance with that convention, my understanding is that it would require the government to bring that issue
to parliament as soon as the new parliament was formed for what would be retrospective endorsement. >> would there be any plan to consult with the opposition? >> i mean, that depends on the circumstances, but when matters of great importance and certainly military intervention would always be a matter of great importance, where the circumstances allow, it would be usual in any circumstances, even while parliament was sitting, to engage with the opposition on privy council terms. >> okay. well, hopefully it won't be necessary, but -- >> let's hope. >> can i take you to the position with regard to wider relations with russia. russia is a permanent member of the security council. it's part of the quartet with
the middle east process. it's part of the e3-plus-3 negotiations with regard to iran. are you confident that we can still cooperate effectively with russia on those issues and on afghanistan and other matters given the way that russia is now behaving with regard to breaching the helsinki agreement and breaching the budapest memorandum and other international agreements it signed up to? >> it is more difficult, but we've made a clear decision that our approach will be to engage with russia where our vital national interests require us to engage on a case-by-case basis. many of the examples you've given are such cases where our national interest requires us to engage. and the russians have given pretty clear signals that they
want to compartmentalize and treat the dispute we have over their behavior in ukraine as separate from the not necessarily terribly deep relations we have over things like syria and the quite sensible relationship we have inw8ñ the iran nuclear negotiations. i think it suits both sides to maintain practical working ízy relationships where it suits both sides.apeñdqçmjyúd(>> do you think it's a fair summary to say that we're witnessing the emergence of iranian militias as one of the main forces in the country, particularly trying to recapture territory.
>> okay. i think iranian-aligned, or broadly iranian sympathetic shia fought militias have been for a long time probably one of the most if not the most significant forces in iraq. and that's part of the problem that the government of iraq has. and i think there is evidence in some of the military action that's been going on around in tikrit of a little bit more than iranian-aligned militias. we are seeing iranian forces engaged in the conflict around tikrit playing a direct role, iranian regular forces. that's another step. of course, while one can understand that the government of iraq, facing the challenges that it does with the iraqi security forces and anxious to make some progress in recovering
control of territory, is tempted to welcome any assistance, we have always been clear that iraq will only be a successful state if it manages to develop a form of governance that embraces all three of the main communities, kurds, shia, and sunni. and to the extent the iraqi government appears to be allowing itself and its authority to become dependent on interventions by iranian regular forces, that is likely to make that much more challenging, much more difficult. >> there's nothing new -- >> there's nothing new on the shia militias. >> sections of them have been fairly close over long periods of time. >> yes, there is nothing new about this, and the presence of the shia militias and the role of the shia militias has been established for many years. >> do you perceive it as a
problem in the long term? >> it is potentially a problem. in an ideal world, the government would be raising sunni forces to balance the shia militias and integrating them together in a new iraqi security forces. but we don't live in an ideal world, and the reality is probably going to be less perfect than that. but the government will have to show that it is not beholden to direction from tehran enforced by the power of the shia militia. if it can't show that, it will not gain the trust of the sunni population, who are present in large part in the areas which are occupied currently by isil and will have to be part of the
process of evicting isil from that territory. >> relationships between the krg and baghdad seem to be a bit fragile again. what do you think is the reason for that? >> the oil price, principally. i think last autumn the major progress was made, but a deal was done that was predicated on $100 oil. when oil is the currency of deals, suddenly the value of the currency is virtually halved and you get a problem. there isn't enough to go around to do what everybody thought. if the kurds deliver the oil they said they were going to deliver to the baghdad government, their own budget will take a massive hit because the residual oil they're able to sell is worth half what it was. equally f the baghdad government doesn't get the oil it was promised from kurdistan, the hit to its budget of -- from the falling oil price will be amplified by the reduction in
supplies from kurdistan. so i'm afraid that is at the root of the problem. i'm visiting both iraq and kurdistan in the next couple of weeks. i will have discussions with both sides as to where they are on their private discussion about how to try and solve this problem. >> is the fco on the ground in iraq trying to mend fences? >> we have a good representation in erbil. i monitor that regularly, and i hear good things about the role that our people on the ground in erbil are playing. and i have been able to cross-check that with members of the krg administration, that they are getting the access to and input from our mission in erbil they seek.
they told me they're very satisfied. >> and there was a lot of publicity over the yazidis, a continuing subject for documentaries on television. i was very unclear when i was asking questions about the plight of the yazidis what we did to try and protect them, what we are doing now to try and protect them, and in fact, all the religious minorities of iraq who are under threat. >> i think in the case of the yazidi, going back to when they were trapped on mt. sinjar, we were involved with the united states and others in air drops of food and emergency supplies to them. and supporting krg forces in trying to secure and escape route from the mountain for them. and it became clear over time that the overwhelming majority
of those that wanted to get off the mountain had been able to do so. and i think in the north, certainly, our engagement with krg forces, the leverage that engagement gives us, the anyway quite generous instinct of the krg forces towards minority communities in the north is the best support to offer to those minority communities. but of course it remains the case that those who belong to religious minorities in areas controlled by isil can expect a horrendous fate to await them. as the iraqi government eventually rolls back isil control, i have no doubt that we will uncover atrocities that we are not currently aware of.
i'm afraid that's a horror that awaits us in the future. >> we also know that the position of yazidi women and the fact that many of them have been sold into slavery. we've had accounts from some who managed to escape, talking about the horrors of their existence under isil. are we actually doing anything on the ground to try and rescue some of those women? >> i don't think there are any -- we don't have people on the ground in any numbers. we have trainers supporting, and technical advisers supporting [s> krg forces, but we do not have w x' significant boots on the ground. neither do any of our western allies. not least because neither the kurds nor the iraqis want outside fighting forces on the ground. so we are dependent on what, in this case, the kurdish peshmerga forces can do.
they are seeking as a matter of urgent priority to liberate isil-controlled certificate. but i'm not aware of any sort of specific rescue missions or raids being planned. it is a systematic program to roll back isil control and retake territory that has been lost to isil. >> is -- >> only just, if i might, add at the other end of what's an absolutely ghastly spectrum. we're doing what we can to provide a number of other countries sort of counseling services for women who have been brutalized in the form you describe. it is happening on a horrendous scale, as you said. there will be a lot more to be done. the issue is access. >> i know the pyd were active along with the peshmerga in taking part in some of those rescues and that they've also
helped the peshmerga in other situations. they're still the prescribed organization in this country. is that still our view? if so, why? >> they are still prescribed. at the risk of sounding bureaucratic, we don't go into -- can't get into sort of who is being considered and who isn't being considered for prescription. they nonetheless continue to have a difficult relationship with turkey. so it's not an entirely sort of straightforward government. >> it's also a matter for the home secretary, of course. >> yes, i've had the answer from
the home secretary. the iraqi kurds didn't attend january's anti-isil conference in london. and this caused considerable hurt to them apparently and also annoyance. we were aware they would not be part of the delegation. did we ever have any responsibility to persuade the iraqis to take a more inclusive approach? >> well, we did -- clearly we couldn't invite them in their own right. it was a conference of nations. and we did encourage the iraqis to include kurdish elements in their delegation, and we will encourage them to take an inclusive approach. >> thank you. >> on that inclusive approach point and around the operation
that's currently ongoing in tikrit, would you say that's for the coalition certainly one that's a test to see the intentions of both, actors like iran, of course the militias themselves, as to how they win the peace in tikrit when they eventually drive isil out and it would actually signal to the co-kigs asco- coalition as to the intent from baghdad as to how they are going to behave towards both with the sunni population and with kurdistan as well. >> i think that's right. it will be a test case, and it's very important that it's handled correctly. one of the messages i will be wanting to reinforce with the prime minister when i go to baghdad shortly is precisely that. there is always the danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. and the engagement of iranian
regular forces in the battle for tikrit is a further complexity in this question. >> foreign secretary, because you've had to cut your stay here with us short for half an hour for perfectly understandable reasons, and i'm tipped off there may be a vote coming as well. i'd be grateful if colleagues could truncate their questions and perhaps the answers could be nicely focused. andrew. >> good afternoon, foreign secretary. could i turn to syria. the prime minister said at the liaison committee last month that it was the policy of the government to build up forces of moderate opposition to bring about transition whereby syria moves away from assad to something better. in what way are we doing that? how are we helping the moderate opposition in practical terms? and are we actually dealing with the same people that we were dealing with a couple of years ago, or has it all changed?
what is the current position? because i think for most of us it's confusing as to where we are today. >> i was going to say confusing is the current position. the moderate opposition is a broad coalition of a large number of often very small groups. it's not a fixed firmament. the political leadership is not necessarily well aligned with the leadership of the principle military groups. we have provided -- we've allocated 46 million pounds of nonlethal assistance to the moderate opposition this year. mainly to help them to manage areas that they are in control of, to make sure there are proper public services and policing and rescue services and
so on provided in those areas. but we expect to make our main impact through a commitment to engagement u.s.-led training and equipping program for the moderate opposition. you'll remember the u.s. congress last autumn allocated $500 million as an initial tranche of funding for that program. it has been quite slow to get going, not least because of the difficulty of setting up mechanisms to vet candidates for training and equipping, but the program is now beginning to get into place, and the u.k. remains committed to playing a role in that training, which will take place outside syria in -- probably in a combination of turkey, jordan, and saudi arabia. >> we all know that assad is leading a very bad regime. we'd all like to see him go. but in the short term, is it the right policy to work so closely with opposition when you consider the main opposition to
the west is now isil and actually not assad? >> well, we've got -- it's inconvenient, but we've got to fight both enemies. >> is that sensible? should we not be focusing on isil? >> there's a moral reason why we shouldn't do that, and there's a practical reason. the moral reason is that assad has killed 200,000 of his citizens. he's barrel bombing them on a regular basis. his conduct is completely inexcusable, and it would be wrong of us to align ourselves with the regime. we wouldn't do it anywhere else. we wouldn't say, as a matter of convenience, we'll work with this brutal regime that's killing its people, and we shouldn't do it in syria. but there's a practical reason as well. assad and his brutality is what gave birth to isil and gives
sa ka to eye till. and any sense that we were aligning ourselves with the regime would kill stone dead the attempts, particularly in iraq, to win over moderate sunni opinion to the government of iraq and the coalition effort to roll isil back. so i'm afraid we're stuck between a rock and a hard place. we're dealing with bad and worse, and i'm not quite sure which one is which, but we have to tackle both. and we can't make compromises with one in the fight against the other. >> how about the kurds in syria what are they expected to do if they don't protect themselves and defend themselves from all the chaos and the violence that's going on? how are the curds meant to proceed if we don't give them some recognition for what they're trying to achieve? >> well, the kurds have the potential to be an important part of the moderate opposition in syria, fighting against the
regime and fighting against isil. historically, they have occupied, i think it's probably fair to say, a somewhat ambiguous relationship with the regime where the regime left them alone and they left the regime alone. i hope that we're moving into a phase where the kurdish forces in syria will play a more engaged part in the broad syrian moderate opposition and help to liberate syria as well as defending it against isil. >> on a completely separate subject, if i may, you'll be aware that yesterday was commonwealth day. >> indeed. >> is there any reason why the foreign and commonwealth office was not able to fly the flag of the commonwealth for that important occasion? >> we're often asked to fly flags by various organizations
and to support various causes. it's a little bit like the wearing of emblems by individuals. while any one single request may seem imminently sensible and worthy of support, looked at in the round across the entire range of requests to provide support, to be looked at in the round across the entire range of requests to provide such support, there ha be some kind of order, some kind of rules. and the rule that we have in the foreign office is that the union flag flies every day on the superior flag pole and flags of the overseas territories and the the year which is most important to them, usually a national day or a saints day. we do not fly flags of other organizations or to commemorate other events. >> but that of course is a new rule that the government brought in to fly the flags of the
overseas territories and indeed the four nations of the united kingdom. so why not the commonwealth? it is after all the foreign commonwealth office. if i may say so, isn't it also the case that we fly the flag at the european union from british embassies and high commissions? if we're going to be consistent, shouldn't with instruct embassies and high commissions to not fly the flag of the eu if they can't fly the commonwealth flag? >> on that last question, the position is that outside of european union countries, british missions overseas are able to fly the european union emblem alongside the union flag where there is a case for doing so in terms of the local environment, local traditions, local culture, or where we are, for example, sharing an embassy compound with another eu member state. but ambassadors or heads of mission have to make a business case for flying that eu emblem.
>> last question. briefly, please. >> that is surely not consistent with your previous answer, foreign secretary. but on the day her majesty is here for the commonwealth service at westminster abbey, surely we should now make it a tradition that the foreign commonwealth office flies the flag. would you make that change before the general election? would you consider doing that? >> no. we've made a decision about flag flying for this year, and we will look again at the end of the year as we always do, for flag flying rules in 2016. but i know that a number of people are disappointed that the commonwealth flag wasn't flying. but if we were to fly the commonwealth flag on commonwealth day, i can promise you we will be inundated with requests to fly other flags and other emblems in support of other causes and other organizations. >> thank you very much.
mr. foreign secretary a number of committee members were in tunisia recently. we met with the ambassador with responsibility for libya. that briefing left us incredibly depressed. are there any grounds for optimism about the u.n. mediated talks between the parties in libya? >> yeah, i think there are some grounds. if you'd asked me probably in early january what the chances of getting the two sides together around a table were, i would have said pretty slim or even nonexistent. when i met the special representative, i have to be candid. having listened to him, i wished him good luck, but i didn't expect him to succeed. and i think he's done a pretty remarkable job, aided by the prime minister's own special representative, who's got some
very good contact with some of the players. so we have at least got people talking. we have at least got a focus now on a catalytic event that the growing presence of isil in libya, which is i think focusing the minds of people on both sides of the civil war. >> the division bell has gone. >> i can still just about hear. >> which is a nuisance, to say the least. i'm grateful colleagues could hurry back as soon as they've voted. thank you. foreign secretary, you were being quizzed on libya. >> thank you, foreign secretary. do you agree with the u.n. special envoy that peacekeepers will be needed in libya? and if so, has the u.k. government made any commitments to a peacekeeping force?
>> no, we haven't made any commitments. we discussed this at the european union foreign ministers meeting on friday, saturday. and if there is an interim government formed, and there is a peace to keep i think we recognize discussing this in european union that there would be a strong expectation that the european union would take the lead in providing peacekeepers. that is not to say a military force to subdue the warring factions but more of a police is force to maintain a peace that had been established. and libya is very much europe's doorstep and europe's business. most of -- very significant proportion of the people trafficking and trafficking of arms, drugs and other things in to europe is now coming through
libya, which is basically one large ungoverned space with roots through to the gulf of guinea which is the source of many of these things. and ensure that the sovereign coast of the mediterranean is properly policed all the way along. >> and so clearly there is some concrete steps and discussions around peacekeeping force? >> not yet. because there is no peace to keep at this stage. i'm afraid we're still quite a long way away i think from that being the case. but all i'm saying is that i think there is a recognition across the european union that it would be to europe that the world looked to provide such a force if there was a peace to keep in the future. >> so that element was discussed, were there any other element that were discussed last friday around concrete steps of libya to win the peace?
>> we -- there are a number of strands, there are outside players involved, of course, in supporting both sides. and seeking to apply diplomatic pressure on outside players to seek to minimize rather than fuel the conflict is always important. i shall be traveling later this week to egypt and i hope to be able to discuss this matter with president assisi directly. there are concerns about the protecting the assets of the libyan people in the form of the assets of the central bank to ensure that they don't get acquired by either side in the civil war. so there are a number of strands of work that the international
community is focused on. >> thank you. you mentioned, foreign secretary, the role of the special envoy to the libyan political transition from power. how much time has he spent in libya, since his appointment? >> well, i can't answer that question off hand. i could write to you, i'm sure. i think it is not simply about how much time he spends in libya, though. some of these meetings are taking place outside libya. most of them are taking place outside libya, meetings in rome, meetings in malta, rabat, meetings in tunisia, meetings in cairo. i think that would understate what he's doing to look only at the time spent in libya. time spent in libya is restricted by security considerations. >> and talking to other states involved like the ua and so
forth. >> it does make it challenging to be able to forge meaningful relationships. but you're confident -- >> the point about his appointment and the reason he's been able to play important contribution is he already has those established relationships. he's been able to provide significant support early on by acting as a liaison with the groups that -- where he has good established relationships, trying to persuade them to take a constructive part in the dialogue that they are launching. >> worth adding if i may that our ambassador is also very closely involved and he was working with those people on the ground for a number of years before he took up this position. the links are there. >> you touched upon the issue of libya being on the doorstep of europe, do you consider this the migration issue to be a serious threat to uk security and if so, how would we contribute to the
international levels to counter this threat, specifically on the migration issue? >> the migration challenge from libya is a threat to the whole of europe, not just the uk, but to the extent that travel is facilitated within europe. obviously irregular migrants arriving in italy are potentially a threat to the uk. and we're all mindful of the terrible loss of life that has occurred through illegally trafficked people meeting dreadful fate in unsuitable and unsafe vessels crossing the mediterranean. and we believe that the only way to stem this is at source, to tackle the traffickers, the smugglers, the extortionists who prey on these people along the way. and to seek to work in their countries of origin, fairly focused group of origin to try
to improve conditions there and to reduce the impulsion to travel as it were, among that group of potential migrants. >> foreign secretary, last week he said, i quote, we need a policy on dealing with isil in libya. it is still the case that the government does not have a policy on dealing with isil in libya? or if it does have a policy, can you tell us what it is? >> i mean, policy, the policy, the desire is to establish a government of national unity behind which the international community can then get in the fight against isil. and one of the -- one of the offers on the table early on is that the international community is willing to take some risks
now in getting early behind a government of national unity to help it to tackle the threat to libya from isil and other extremist groups, which are becoming established in that country. >> do you think there is any -- >> so if i can elaborate. i am aware that that's, you know, sounds slightly wishful thinking, we would like to be there a nice government of national unity and we would support it to deal with the isil problem. we have also discussed in eu foreign ministers the obvious fact that we can't wait forever for a government of national unity to be formed and that if the initiative does not succeed or the talks break down, or we see no progress happening within a reasonable period of time, we will have to look at alternative counterterrorism strategies to deal with the specific terrorism
threat from those isil-related groups in libya. >> and do you think realistically there is any real prospect of forming a government of national unity in libya which appears to be in a semi or more than semi state where the people with the guns are basically running the country while it is going bankrupt? >> i think there is cause for some moderate optimism, but i wouldn't put it any higher than that. i don't plan to be an expert on libya. but those who are tell me that the principle protagonists in this civil war are not motivated by ideology. they're motivated by old-fashioned motives, territory, tribal loyalties, economic interests. and i take that as a positive. very difficult to reconcile
people who are fighting each other on ideology, but if people are really fighting over territory and money and oil, it is easier to find solutions which divide the -- divide the riches and this is a rich country. so i would be moderately optimistic but no more than that, cautiously optimistic that there could be a chance of a government of national unity. i do think that the presence of isil in the country, the inevitability that there will be continued intervention by outside patterns against isil in libya, if a libyan government is not formed, that is able to deal with the problem itself, i do think those are helpful points of pressure on the two sides in the civil war to think very hard
about whether it is in their collective best interest to try and resolve their differences and work together. >> okay. can we turn to iran and the nuclear negotiations going on at the moment. quite clearly they're very sensitive point and you're not in a position to divulge anything, that's understandable. do you think the step by the u.s. congress is a dose of healthy skepticism or is it a spanner in the works? >> it could become a spanner in the works. i think as we come towards the endgame, over the next few weeks, the congress actively moving forward with its proposed sanctions bill could have an unpredictable effect on leadership opinion, public opinion, in tehran. just to set the scene, then i'll ask simon gas, who is leading
our delegation in the direct talks with the iranians, to say something, but just to set the scene, there has been some movement over the last few weeks. we have seen some movement. there is reason for cautious optimism, signals coming out of tehran there is a desire to try to find a deal. but there is still difficult issues in which there is no movement at all. and you have to make heroic assumptions to get to the point where it is all agreed in the next two or three weeks. but i think compared to where we were when we left vienna in november, i think actually we have made quite significant progress over the last few weeks. but still very challenging. >> well, firstly, on the intervention, i think it cuts in both directions.