BRITAIN’s contribution to NATO was praised this week by the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster. He questioned the Government’s commitment, however.
Speaking in a debate in the House of Lords on Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the alliance’s foundation, he reminded fellow members of Britain’s continuing support “in the form of people and often very expensive kit”.
He said: “We can be proud that our commitment is translated into cash, and that we can count ourselves one of the NATO members to contribute the requisite proportion of our GDP to defence.” He added, however: “I confess that, though I accept that the letter of our expenditure commitment is honoured, I remain to be wholly convinced that we obey the spirit quite so properly.”
NATO was not just a defensive military enterprise, he said: it was “a community of values” which represented “our recognition that we are best served when we act closely in concert with our friends who share our values. We do the most good, and serve our own interests best, when we act in communion,” he said.
“Even when we disagree, it is always better to continue to jaw-jaw and to differ well. That is nothing more than good, sound, practical politics — and, I might add, sound theology, too. I need hardly tell this House that we live in interesting times. That is true of the debates, divisions, and dissensions in the other place — and sometimes here.”
He quoted Ernest Bevin, the British Foreign Secretary at the time of NATO’s formation in 1949, who said: “The common people — who only want to live in peace — have been unable to follow their peaceful pursuits or to sleep safely in their beds.” NATO’s work, the Bishop said, meant that ordinary people were able to follow their peaceful pursuits and sleep safely in their beds. “I find it hard to imagine a better ambition for any public institution.”