Ukraine

– in the House of Commons at 5:47 pm on 20 May 2024.

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Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa) 5:47, 20 May 2024

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the situation in Ukraine.

All across the House condemned Putin’s invasion in 2022. The whole House has supported Britain’s actions to back Ukraine and galvanise the international community. Today, I hope the whole House echoes the words of the Prime Minister as he pledged £3 billion in military aid for Ukraine every year until 2030, and beyond if necessary. He said that

“Ukraine is not alone, and Ukraine will never be alone.”

The war has entered its third year. In the last few months, Russia has been eking out small territorial gains in the Donbas. Now, the Kremlin is probing Ukrainian defences north of Kharkiv. It is unlikely to take Ukraine’s second largest city anytime soon, but in recent days it has taken a dozen villages, so we are at a difficult moment, which underlines the critical importance of accelerating the delivery of vital military support to Ukraine.

Across the country, Russian missiles are raining down on Ukrainian power plants and the electricity grid. Ukraine continues to strike back, including with clear success in degrading Russia’s Black sea fleet and taking out military targets inside Russia. Increases in American, UK and European military aid are now arriving at the frontline, and the costs for Russia remain extraordinarily high. Some 465,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded since February 2022, with thousands of conscripts having their lives tossed away for the sake of only modest tactical advances. Meanwhile, Russia’s military now sucks up over 40% of Government spending, over half of Russia’s national wealth fund is gone, and Gazprom has posted its first annual loss in 20 years, to the tune of $7 billion. Every rouble that the Kremlin spends on a dodgy North Korean missile or Iranian drone is money that it is not spending on improving the lives of Russian citizens, on teachers, on pensions or on medicine.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

I have always been sceptical about the impact of sanctions when real warfighting breaks out, and that scepticism has recently been increased by the knowledge that so much Russian oil has been going to India to be refined there and then to be bought up by western countries that are sanctioning Russian oil. Can the Deputy Foreign Minister throw any light on this and on what we propose to do about it?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

My right hon. Friend speaks with knowledge and authority on this matter. He will know that the imposition of sanctions is a complex matter, that we have to continually ensure that those who break them are held to account, and that that is an iterative process—I believe that is the correct jargon. I can tell him that we have sanctioned over 2,000 individuals and entities, and that without sanctions Russia would have an extra £400 billion with which to prosecute the war.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

I concur with the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Sir Julian Lewis, when he says that this is not just about oil but about sanctions being broken. What more can we do to stop UK and European companies that are quite clearly exporting their products via other countries, particularly Turkey and the Stans, to bypass those sanctions?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

I refer the right hon. Gentleman to my answer to my right hon. Friend Sir Julian Lewis. This is a highly complex area and it must always be governed by law, including international law. We are working better all the time as we get better at it, and I hope he will accept my assurance that we are doing everything we can to ensure that we get better and more effective at it.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am going to make a similar point. I understood that, following Ed Conway’s reports on Sky about motor manufacturing and diversion through Azerbaijan, for example, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office was going to take action on this. Is the Minister able to update the House on precisely what actions the FCDO is taking to deal with this blatant sanctions evasion?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

I hope the hon. Lady will forgive me if I do not give those details across the Floor of the House, but at such point as it would be helpful and we are able to do so, I will assuredly inform the House.

President Putin surely knows that this is not sustainable. He will not be able to outlast the Ukrainians, who are fighting for their very survival, or Ukraine’s supporters who have economies 25 times the size of his.

The House will be aware that the situation on the frontline is difficult. Russia has numerical advantages in men and matériel, and we are acting now to help Ukraine hold the line and get back on the front foot.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

My anxiety is that all the Minister’s figures about what the Russian economy is doing indicate that Russia has put the production of ammunition and matériel on a war footing, while everything I have heard from our western allies says that we have chosen not to do that. It feels as if we give bits and pieces here, there and everywhere—all well intentioned—but it does not add up to us putting the whole of the western military armaments process on a war footing. That is surely what we need to do.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

I say to the hon. Gentleman, for whom I have a very high regard, that when I have finished my speech I hope he will be reassured specifically on that point.

Photo of Andrew Percy Andrew Percy Chair, High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill Select Committee (Commons), Chair, High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill Select Committee (Commons)

The Deputy Foreign Secretary has talked about the numerical advantage that Russia has over Ukraine. That is why it is so important that injured troops on the frontline in Ukraine are treated, cared for and recycled back into active service as quickly as possible. In Goole, we are proud to have provided over 150 ambulances, including armoured ambulances, which are being used at the front. The Deputy Foreign Secretary spoke about military aid. Can he assure the House that we are also doing everything we can to ensure that proper medical aid and support are being provided to those brave troops?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

Yes, and I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend’s constituents for the work that he described. Again, if he bears with me, I will be able to come directly to the point that he has made.

It is important to restate what is at stake. No one here in Britain, or indeed in the wider world, should be in any doubt: this is vital not just for Ukraine, whose determination to fight for its freedom is undimmed, but for us in Britain and beyond. This is the defining struggle of our generation. At stake in Ukraine are vital principles. These are not just words found in the United Nations charter—a charter signed by Russia but which she now flagrantly breaks and dishonours; they are essential foundations for the security and prosperity of the entire world. Sovereignty. Territorial integrity. Right, not might.

The war has brought with it the greatest atrocities on our continent in a generation: the death, rape, torture and deportation of civilians on a massive scale. We see the war’s impact spread across Europe, even to our own shores, with espionage, cyber-attacks, disinformation, suspected sabotage activity, airspace violations and GPS jamming, which impacts civil aviation. If Russia were to win in Ukraine, we would be back in a world where the most fundamental international rule—that countries must not seize land from others or resolve disputes by force—was in shreds. Success would only embolden Putin and authoritarian leaders around the world with designs on their neighbours’ territory.

The costs of supporting Ukraine now are far less than the costs we will face if it does not repel the invaders. That is why the Government have identified Russia as the most acute threat to British security, and why there has been enduring cross-party and public support in Britain for Ukraine since those little green men first appeared in 2014. It is why we have seen NATO only grow stronger since the Russian invasion, with Sweden and Finland joining an alliance dedicated solely to defending territory, not taking territory. It is why we saw the American Congress decide last month to approve $60 billion in further US support for Ukraine, and why the EU announced €50 billion in multi-year support. It is why, despite the different pressures some partners face, none but the most isolated and fanatically anti-western states seek to defend Putin’s blatant violation of the UN charter. This isolation is Moscow’s greatest weakness. Diplomatically, economically and militarily, the balance of advantage lies not with Russia but with Ukraine and her supporters, and we have to make that advantage count.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Minister for his positive attitude; we are very much encouraged by what he has said. It is important that Ukraine gets the military aid that it needs, but it is also important that the troops are rotated. I understand that that is one of the issues, because the troops who are on the frontline and under pressure all the time need a bit of respite. What discussions has the Minister been able to have with the Ukrainian army to ensure that there is help for it militarily and in respect of respite and relaxation?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

My hon. Friend makes an important point, and he may rest assured that British military advice in that respect, and on much else, is not lacking.

I was saying that, in regard to Moscow’s greatest weakness, we have to make the advantage count diplomatically, economically and militarily. We and our allies and partners need to out-compete, out-co-operate and out-innovate. Ukraine can and will win, provided that we support it enough, fast enough and for long enough. The key priorities are clear. Kyiv needs immediate military aid, particularly ammunition and air defence, to defend the frontline and protect its vital infrastructure. One month ago today, the Prime Minister announced our largest ever single package of equipment to help push the Russians back on land, sea and air. Much of this vital kit is already in Ukraine, including 1 million new rounds of ammunition. In April we sent vital spare parts to keep Ukrainian equipment in the fight, with more to follow in the coming weeks, including more than 20 mine clearance systems to defeat Russian minefields.

This year alone, Britain has given more than 1,600 strike and air defence missiles, as well as more Storm Shadow long-range precision guided missiles. We have given £245 million for artillery ammunition, a £325 million programme for drone production and procurement and £20 million of emergency funding to repair energy infra- structure. Since June 2022 we have trained 40,000 Ukrainians under Operation Interflex, and we are encouraging partners to join us in ensuring that Ukraine can counter the immediate threat.

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth

I absolutely support all that the Deputy Foreign Secretary is saying about military equipment, and so on, to support Ukraine in its efforts.

Going back to the previous question, surely there needs to be a two-pronged approach, with sanctions to put economic pressure on Russia, in addition to the military pressure. It cannot be just one on its own. Should we review the effectiveness of sanctions, and potentially extend them?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

The hon. Lady is right to say that we need to do both, and we are doing both. Sometimes it is frustrating that we are not able to talk directly to this point in the House, but she may rest assured that we are using the sanctions regime in every way we can, and that we are getting better at it as time goes by and events unfold.

As I was saying, we are encouraging partners to join us in ensuring that Ukraine can counter these threats. That means more ammunition and long-range missiles, more funding and munitions for air defence and more emergency support for energy infrastructure, but we also need to focus on the longer term, making our strength count in a prolonged war.

We will move to spending 2.5% of GDP on defence by the end of the decade, which is the biggest investment in defence in a generation. We will maintain current levels of military aid for Ukraine, £3 billion a year, until the end of the decade, or longer if needed, and we call on others to join us in this pledge. We have promised to double our investment in munitions production to £10 billion over the next 10 years, giving industry the long-term certainty it needs to build extra production capacity. We are also strengthening Ukraine’s own defence industrial base, with 29 defence businesses visiting Kyiv in April—our largest trade mission since Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

The Deputy Foreign Secretary is generous in giving way. The point he has just made goes some way towards reassuring me, but I think we will still need to go considerably further on producing arms for Ukraine.

Can I ask about the long-term future of Ukraine? Ukraine needs to rebuild itself, and it is making choices between spending money on armaments and spending money on rebuilding tower blocks that have been blown up. Why have we still not managed to give Ukraine the £3 billion from the sale of Chelsea football club? And why have we still not managed to get any of the Russian state assets that are sitting in European and British banks through to Ukraine to help it rebuild?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

On the hon. Gentleman’s second point, I very much hope that progress will be made at the G7 meeting later this week. Things are moving in the right direction, and we must hope for success by the end of the week.

The hon. Gentleman is right in what he says about the so-called Chelsea fund, and he reflects the immense frustration that many of us have felt over the last year in trying to get the fund up and running. The Foreign Secretary is absolutely determined that we will do so. It will be the second largest charity in Britain after the Wellcome Trust. Every sinew is being bent to get it to operate. It is mired in legal and technical difficulties, but the hon. Gentleman has my personal assurance that we are doing everything to try to ensure the money is used to good effect.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, The Cotswolds

The news that my right hon. Friend has given the House this afternoon on the amount of military equipment and money going into Ukraine is greatly encouraging. Britain has courageously led the world on co-ordinating the effort against Russia’s operation in Ukraine, supported, of course, by the Americans and, to be fair, the Germans, but we three nations cannot do it all. What is my right hon. Friend doing to encourage other rich nations and allies around the world to contribute their share?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to underline the importance of that. I think the position is a little better than he suggests, but he may rest assured that we are pressing everyone to give the support that Britain is giving, in whatever way they can.

We are continuing to ramp up the economic pressure on Russia and, with the US, we have taken decisive steps against the global trade in Russian metals. As I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East, we are bearing down on the circumvention of sanctions and, as the House knows, this was a major focus during the Foreign Secretary’s recent visit to central Asia. We are adopting new measures to target the shadow fleet that transports Russian oil.

We have also consistently said that Russia must pay the price for its illegal invasion. Ahead of the G7 summit in June, we have been leading international efforts to build consensus on a lawful route to use Russian assets to generate the maximum possible support for Ukraine. We are, again, working with our partners so that they join us in giving Ukraine the long-term support it needs to win this war by ramping up defence production, supporting Ukraine’s own industry and imposing more sanctions to undermine Russia’s military industrial complex and reduce its export revenues.

Finally, we need to invest in Ukraine’s future security and prosperity by backing it not only in the war but after it. Last year’s London recovery conference raised $60 billion for Ukraine. In January, Britain was the first to sign an agreement offering bilateral security commitments to Ukraine following the Vilnius declaration. And now we are the first to commit to multi-year military support for as long as it is needed.

We are seeing encouraging signs of many partners making similar investments. The Americans and the European Union have agreed generous funding packages. Germany will host the next Ukraine recovery conference in June, and our main NATO allies and G7 partners are now following us in signing long-term security agreements with Ukraine. In July, at the NATO summit in Washington and the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace, we will urge our partners to underline once again our unity in standing with Ukraine, which I hope will satisfy my hon. Friend Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, who made a very good point.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

The Deputy Foreign Secretary lays out the plans for a war that will go on for many years. Can he explain how Ukraine, with a starting population of 41 million, which has now probably halved through emigration and people being killed in the war, will possibly succeed in a long-term war of attrition against Russia, which has a population of 144 million, without NATO boots on the ground? Is that the end game of this situation?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

The hon. Gentleman should reflect on what I said at the beginning of my speech. The gross national income of those who are united against what Russia has done in Ukraine very greatly exceeds all of Russia’s assets.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

I am not giving way again.

Earlier this month, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Edinburgh was the first member of the royal family to visit Ukraine since Putin’s invasion. She followed in the footsteps of Gytha of Wessex, an Anglo-Saxon princess who married the Grand Prince of Kiev. She was one of many figures in British history to have forged links with Ukraine over the centuries. Today we see a greater breadth and depth of co-operation than ever before on not only security, but areas ranging from English language training for civil servants to green technology.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale

I am pleased to hear about the co-operation that my right hon. Friend is setting out and, indeed, his positive message, but he has not acknowledged the important role of the Ukrainian diaspora in the UK, both in supporting those back home and in mobilising public opinion here in support of what this country and others are doing to try to ensure that Russia does not win this war.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

My hon. Friend is entirely right to make that point. The contribution of the Ukrainian community in Britain—those who have come here—has been immense in raising awareness. I remember with the greatest possible affection the concert that took place in Wylde Green in my constituency, where a young Ukrainian opera singer sang the national anthem. At the end of the concert, everyone who had the privilege of being there was fully aware of the dreadful suffering that Ukraine was experiencing.

During his recent visit, the Foreign Secretary launched negotiations on an enhanced 100-year partnership with Ukraine. Our friendship with Ukraine is not only enduring; it is growing stronger. We will stand with Ukraine’s people until they prevail in the war, and we are confident that they will enjoy a future that is secure, prosperous and free. Ukraine’s cause is just; it matters to Britain. The consequences of Ukraine failing are unconscionable. Our friends and enemies alike are watching to see if we have the necessary resolve to see this through to the end.

Let no one believe that if Putin succeeded in his illegal invasion and conquered Ukraine, he would stop there. He would be emboldened by victory, and the failure of the west, Europe, America and our own country would define our generation’s inability to deliver the collective security we have championed continuously since 1945. The cost to us all of that failure would be many times the financial costs we bear today in delivering the necessary military support.

The support must continue if we are to maintain that collective security, the rule of law and the international rules-based system upon which the stability and success of future generations depend. The people of Ukraine have shown extraordinary bravery and determination in resisting Putin’s vile war machine. We cannot—we must not—let them down.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs 6:13, 20 May 2024

I thank the Deputy Foreign Secretary for advance sight of his statement, and the Foreign Secretary for his help in facilitating my visit to Ukraine last week with the shadow Defence Secretary, my right hon. Friend John Healey. As Russia’s new Kharkiv offensive began, we visited Kyiv to show our solidarity with the Ukrainian people and their Government. They have shown incredible courage throughout the war. On both sides of the House and across the United Kingdom, we are united behind Ukraine.

I must tell the House how important it is to face down Putin for what he has done outside of the capital. I drove with the shadow Defence Secretary to Bucha and Irpin, where hundreds were killed and where mass graves were discovered. We spoke with children kidnapped from Kherson and sent to Russian camps—children who were told that Ukraine no longer exists. This is Vladimir Putin’s intention. More than 800 days on, Ukraine is still standing and still fighting. Ukrainian soldiers and civilians alike have shown courage and bravery that demonstrates a 21st-century blitz spirit. They have successfully taken back over 50% of Russian-held territory and destroyed a third of Russia’s Black sea fleet. This is more than Ukrainian resilience; this is Ukrainian success. We saw that in Kyiv. We saw innovation flourishing. Start-ups are flourishing, driving forward advances in defence, health and veterans’ support. I only wish our media covered more of what the Ukrainian people are doing on the ground, every single one of them. We met mothers and daughters whose fathers are at the front, doing all they can to help in the defence of their nation.

We had one simple message on our visit: if there is a change in Government and we are successful at the election later this year, there will be no change in Britain’s resolve to stand with Ukraine, confront Russian aggression and pursue Putin for his war crimes. We told Defence Minister Umerov, Foreign Minister Kuleba and President Zelensky’s head of office, Yermak, that this is Labour’s guarantee to Ukraine, and that is why we have fully backed the Government’s increased commitment for Ukraine this year and in the years ahead.

The conflict, as the Deputy Foreign Secretary has said, is at a critical moment, not only because of Putin’s new attacks around Kharkiv and across the frontline, but because this is an election year here in the United Kingdom, across much of Europe and, of course, in the United States. I have said this before at the Dispatch Box, but it is clear that Putin sees democracy as the weakness of the west and believes, frankly, that he can outlast us. We must show him that our democracy is, in fact, our strength and we do not give in to any short-termism in our approach, and that it is our determination to defend freedom that will keep us united with our allies and behind Ukraine.

As has been said, Putin’s war is not only a military one, but a diplomatic, economic and, most definitely, an industrial one. He has successfully moved his industry on to a wartime footing and is now spending 40% of his Government’s budget on defence. We have seen him deepening bonds in Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang, and China is increasing its support for the Russian war machine. China is coming perilously close to throwing its lot in with Putin’s coalition. That is the truth about Vladimir Putin and why I called him recently

“the ringleader of a new form of fascism”.

He will never make peace if he thinks that he can win on the battlefield, and he will never stop if he is not defeated in Ukraine. Now is the time for us to show our commitment to supporting Ukraine and that that commitment runs deeper that Putin’s commitment to invading it.

Is the Minister ready to join with Labour and take three immediate steps that Ukrainians asked us to take back to London? First, they said to us that, across the board, deliveries need to speed up and reach the frontline, especially the welcome packages of military aid from the UK and the United States that were promised in recent weeks. Ukrainians are especially in need of air defences, deep-strike missiles and ammunition—not tomorrow, next week or next month, but now. NATO allies that can send more, frankly should send more.

Secondly, does the Deputy Foreign Secretary agree that UK diplomacy should be accelerated to maintain unity for Ukraine and further isolate Putin? We are entering a vital period of diplomacy in the next few weeks, including at the G7, NATO 75, the UK-led European Political Community at Blenheim Palace and Ukraine’s peace summit, in which Ukraine is putting so much stock. At that peace summit, it is vital that we see members from the global south strengthening support for Ukraine, seizing frozen Russian state assets for Ukraine’s recovery and closing the sanctions loopholes, which many hon. Members from across the House have raised during the debate. These must be priorities for our Prime Minister.

I noted what the Deputy Foreign Secretary said about that peace summit, but will he confirm whether our Prime Minister has finally committed to attending Ukraine’s peace summit next month? He must not only attend, but use Britain’s diplomatic leverage to encourage the widest possible coalition of countries to join. It is important that countries such as India and Brazil are there in sufficient numbers.

Last June, Labour passed a motion in this House calling on the Government finally to set out, within 90 days, how they intend to seize, rather than just freeze, Russian state assets for the purpose of supporting Ukraine’s reconstruction. The United States, Canada and other countries are moving forward on that. The UK appears to be watching, so will the Deputy Foreign Secretary set out what steps are being taken, in concert with our G7 partners, to move this forward finally and make clear to the international community that we will hold Russia responsible for the perpetration of this illegal war?

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

My right hon. Friend will know that it is perfectly possible that if there is some kind of agreement at the G7, for which we are hopeful, we might need legislation. My anxiety is that we would want to get the legislation on the statute book as fast as possible, although, obviously, we would want to get it right. On the Labour Benches, we would want to do everything to help the Government, if necessary, to get legislation through before the summer recess, or certainly before a general election. I hope I am not speaking above my pay grade, from the Back Benches, but I hope that that is the position the Labour Party will adopt.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs

My hon. Friend is right to press this issue, as he has for many months, and it is why I press the Deputy Foreign Secretary. We as an Opposition would have thought that we would be further forward at this stage. We recognise that the G7 meeting is critical, and the Government have our undertaking to support that endeavour, but as we hurtle towards the recess and anticipate a general election later this year, we all understand that we are running out of time. That makes my point and that of my hon. Friend absolutely fundamental. I hope the Deputy Foreign Secretary will say a bit more about that.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

I thank the shadow Foreign Secretary for making a speech that shows the unity of the House. Quite rightly, he is pressing the Government on a number of issues. When the Opposition support the Government in a matter as important as this, it gives much added force and emphasis. On his specific questions, my hon. Friend the Minister for Armed Forces will respond when he comes to wind up the debate—I think the House has heard enough from me today—but if there are any remaining issues, the right hon. Gentleman and I will be able to speak behind the Speaker’s Chair. On all these points, particularly on sanctions and moving together with other countries to try to ensure we are able to impose very serious financial penalties on Russia, I give him my assurance that we are moving as fast as we can. It involves many complex legal issues and getting agreement across the G7, and wider. We are doing everything we possibly can.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that undertaking, which the whole House will have heard.

The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation website reflects that the latest financial penalty levied on any UK sanction target in the regime was in August last year. It is the only penalty issued on the Russian regime since the war began. I say to the Deputy Foreign Secretary, how can that be? Having just come back from Ukraine, it is clear that we have to do better than delivering just rhetoric and statements from the Dispatch Box; there has to be action. Just one penalty has been issued since the war began, so will the Minister address that point, which the whole House needs to hear about?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

It is not a surprise that the right hon. Gentleman is asking precisely the same questions that I, as the Minister, ask of OFSI. OFSI says that financial investigations take a frustrating length of time to deliver. It assesses every report of new complaints. However, I expect the first monetary penalties to come during this year. We must comply with the law, but as a result of my asking exactly the same questions that he asks, I am told that those financial penalties are in the mix and that we will hear shortly—in any case, during this year.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs

I know the Deputy Foreign Secretary is doing his best. On the issue of repurposing state assets, we are told, “Just wait, we will get there. We have a G7 meeting, we will get there.” I say to him very gently that we are the country of the rule of law; we do not wait for others to get there. With the City of London, we must be able to do better than this. I put him on notice that if we win the next general election, we will review these powers, because we are determined to see that enforcement happen. If our allies in the United States can do it at speed, this great country can do it at speed as well.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

It is clear from the evidence that many NGOs already have that exports from this country and other parts of Europe go through Turkey, Azerbaijan and China, for example, which are clearly not end-user destinations. Those exports are then being moved to Russia. For example, I am told that Bentley cars are still available in Moscow. If that is the case, where are they being exported through? Quite clearly, it will be places such as China and Azerbaijan.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs

My right hon. Friend conveys the loophole after loophole that countless journalists have pointed out, and that countless members of the public can see. The Deputy Foreign Secretary knows that it is rather embarrassing, when we are in Ukraine with people who are putting their lives on the line, that it is still happening. We have to crack it, we can crack it, and I hope that we will now crack it at speed.

Thirdly, does the Deputy Foreign Secretary agree that we have to boost defence industrial production? The shadow Defence Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth and Dearne, has returned to this subject over and over again. The £2 billion for restocking Ukraine and our armed forces must be fast-tracked. The UK’s defence industrial strategy must be rebooted to grow our defence base at home and drive collaboration with our allies. In particular, United Kingdom and Ukrainian defence companies should be launching new programmes at this time to jointly supply the most advanced technology to both our countries.

This election year, the Labour party is committed to taking the politics out of support for Ukraine. I push the Deputy Foreign Secretary and the Government on these issues in a spirit of working together, and we will remain determined to work together on this issue. He will have sensed that these questions are coming from both sides of the House. We will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes to win. That is our commitment from the Labour Benches. We are determined that Vladimir Putin will not get his way.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on National Policy Statements, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on National Policy Statements, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on Scrutiny of Strategic Thinking in Government, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on Scrutiny of Strategic Thinking in Government 6:31, 20 May 2024

It is deeply encouraging to hear what unites the two Front Benches on support for Ukraine. Whatever differences there are, those differences and concerns are expressed by people from all political parties and from no political parties. I very much welcome the tone of the debate.

The Prime Minister was right to warn that the next few years will be some of the most dangerous that our country has ever known, and to refer to an axis of authoritarian states—Russia, Iran, North Korea and China—as a direct threat to global stability and global peace. Whether we like it or not, war has returned to Europe. Our eastern NATO allies are right to warn that if Putin succeeds in Ukraine, they might be next. After all, Putin is explicit that his war in Ukraine is against NATO and the west.

The strategic situation is far from satisfactory, but we are at a turning point that hinges on how US policy now develops. That was something the Deputy Foreign Secretary did not address in his remarks; I would be grateful if it could be addressed in the summing up.

The Russian military may be running out of equipment more rapidly than we think, and its economy is more fragile than its hydrocarbon revenue would make it appear. However, Russia is still able to sustain massive casualties, and the Russian population still supports the war. Russia has accepted a subservient position in its relationship with China in order to ensure continued Chinese economic and technological support for the duration of the war.

The US and Europe are distracted from Ukraine by Gaza and other theatres, such as the Sahel and New Caledonia, where Azerbaijan appears to be manoeuvring against French interests. US domestic politics delayed aid to Ukraine by six months—a delay that Russia is exploiting, albeit with massive losses in personnel and equipment.

The delay has offered Putin an opportunity to gain an advantage on the battlefields of eastern Ukraine, but the biggest danger is that Putin will win the war on the diplomatic battlefield, which is more a contest of wills than of military supremacy. Putin still believes that he can wear down the west’s will to support Ukraine before the Russian will to fight fails. Ukraine is now under significantly increased military and political pressure.

However, the re-establishment of US aid and strong statements from the UK and others, coupled with the battlefield losses, have forced Putin to take domestic measures to enable Russia to continue fighting indefinitely. The appointment of the economist Belousov—I hope that I am pronouncing that correctly—as Defence Minister marks a decision to increase the level of militarisation of Russia’s economy, putting it further on to a war footing. The new Minister will have the job of doing that, and of ensuring that the measures do not destroy Russia’s economy, as they did in Soviet times.

Any change programme—and Belousov’s appointment indicates a significant change in Russia—creates a temporary weakness in the organisation being changed. Russia is compensating for that weakness by stepping up hybrid warfare attacks on the west, which could include assassination. I do not think that we should rule out some Russian involvement in the recent attempt on the life of the Slovakian Prime Minister, Robert Fico, who may be widely identified as pro-Russian but who is not.

Official US policy is still not robust enough. President Biden does not want to allow Ukraine to lose, but nor does he want to empower Ukraine to the extent that it could inflict a crippling and destabilising defeat on Russia. The US is treating this like a regional crisis that has to be managed, but war is war, not just a crisis, and this war is part of a global conflict. A war must be won, or far more than the war will be lost.

Ukraine rightly complains that the US will not allow the weapons that it supplies to Ukraine to be used to hit targets on Russian soil. I am sure that the shadow Foreign Secretary and the shadow Defence Secretary encountered that frustration when they were there. Before the recent advance towards Kharkiv, the Ukrainians had to watch the Russians build up their forces on the Russian side of the border without being able to use US weapons to disrupt them. The Russian advance on Kharkiv demonstrates—this is the elephant in the room—that the US policy of limiting weapons use is totally illogical. It puts into jeopardy President Biden’s own policy of preventing Ukraine from losing. It makes this a critical turning point.

During a visit to Kyiv on 15 May, US Secretary of State Blinken said in a speech that

“Ukraine has to make decisions for itself about how it’s going to conduct this war”.

Did that indicate a tacit change of policy? When my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary announced that Ukraine could use British weapons to hit Russian soil, it provoked a huge reaction from Russia, obviously designed to put others off saying the same thing. Blinken’s statement produced no reaction at all, except Russia’s advance stopped when it could have made further progress. Two days after Secretary of State Blinken’s statement, on Friday 17 May, the Ukrainians launched one of the largest drone and missile attacks on Russian targets in occupied territory and also in Russia itself, accompanied on the 16th and the 18th by massive attacks on Crimea.

Secretary of State Blinken’s statement could indicate the first steps towards a significant change in US policy to allow Ukraine to use US weapons against targets on Russian soil, reflecting the realisation of at least some within the Administration that Ukraine must be enabled to win in order to expel Russia from its territory. We do not know. I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Minister for Armed Forces could address that question in his reply. There could be other reasons, such as record daily Russian casualties in their recent attacks. If US policy is not changing, there will be a de facto stabilisation of the frontline, with Russia in a stronger physical and psychological position than before, despite having achieved little of operational importance in terms of territory, and at significant cost in lives and equipment.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

Nothing justifies what Putin has done, but what worries me about all this is what will happen if the most likely outcome materialises: namely, a stalemate. Many people in Europe, such as President Macron and others, will say that we have to start negotiations, so what will our attitude be then?

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on National Policy Statements, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on National Policy Statements, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on Scrutiny of Strategic Thinking in Government, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on Scrutiny of Strategic Thinking in Government

It is an unthinkable prospect. A stalemate would be a defeat. A stalemate would be a victory for Putin, who would be holding territory that he has claimed illegally. I thought the Deputy Foreign Secretary was very clear on that, supported by the shadow Foreign Secretary in the same terms. I do not think we should talk about defeat; we should be concentrating on how to ensure that we can expel Russia from all occupied Ukrainian territory.

If the Ukrainians’ hands are tied and they cannot use US weapons to strike targets in Russia itself, they will remain vulnerable to further Russian attacks. Russia will appear stronger than it really is, having obscured its growing deficiency in weaponry. Russia will be able to continue to keep up moderate military pressure on Ukraine, to prevent the Ukrainians being able to benefit from an operational pause—in other words, I say to my right hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh, the Russians will have the upper hand. Russia will also step up its information warfare and influence campaign in Europe, employing hybrid and grey zone attacks.

Worse, with the US’s failure to call Russia’s nuclear bluff—that is what this policy amounts to—other states, most immediately in the middle east, will increasingly see nuclear weapons as conferring invulnerability. In the last few days it has been reported that Iran is willing to share nuclear technology with neighbouring countries, proving that the nuclear non-proliferation treaty is ineffective. We should be more honest about that. Too many Governments in the west cling to the illusion that the treaty can lead to a world free of nuclear weapons, but even European countries beyond the UK and France may soon have to consider acquiring nuclear capability, or at least accepting US tactical nuclear weapons on their soil once again.

Gaza has put western influence in the middle east into freefall, while tying up western political attention and US military supplies and helping the Russian narrative to become dominant in the global south. Russia’s information efforts have played their part in making Gaza a debilitating issue for the west and interventions in other theatres, such as New Caledonia, keep the west on the back foot. The axis of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran is strengthening. The temporary stabilisation on the frontline in Ukraine means that western European countries have still not yet had sufficient stimulus to make them appreciate the importance and urgency of going on to a wartime footing themselves and increasing their own defensive capacities.

If the US is, in fact, changing its policy, as I indicated it might be, that is a serious game changer and we must encourage it. It gives notice to Putin that eventually he will lose the war; the US can re-establish the credibility of its leadership of the democratic world and of NATO; the Chinese will draw an important lesson about US resolve, which will have significant implications for Taiwan; the Russian model will appear much less attractive to the global south and Russian influence will wane; and the impetus towards nuclear proliferation will lessen. Sadly, some European countries will feel let off the hook, and it will be harder to galvanise a united European defence effort.

What can the UK do? Sadly, even in the UK we are still reacting too slowly. The Prime Minister told the Liaison Committee in December that the Ukraine war was

“existential for Euro-Atlantic security”,

but there is little sign of that understanding in our day-to-day politics. The Defence Secretary has said that the UK defence industry must be put on to a war footing, which means that the whole of Government must be mobilised for that effort, and our voters must understand that the sacrifices to fund victory in Ukraine will be far less than the costs of defeat for Ukraine in the longer term.

The UK should build a cross-party assessment, which I think has already been built in this debate, of what needs to be done to move the UK by stages on to a war footing and to increase defence capability and capacity, rather than just talking about increasing the defence budget.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on National Policy Statements, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on National Policy Statements, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on Scrutiny of Strategic Thinking in Government, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on Scrutiny of Strategic Thinking in Government

I am going to bring my remarks to a close, if that is all right.

Even if we do not have enough kit to send to Ukraine, we could help the Ukrainians to make more kit themselves and significantly improve our training effort, which we now know is not providing the Ukrainians with the breadth or depth of training needed to win this war—I hope the Government will respond to that point. We must press the White House to understand that Ukraine must be enabled to win this war, or the war is lost. We must also keep encouraging our European allies to follow suit. We can all learn from the way that countries such as Finland and Poland have moved on to a war footing and are building much increased military capacity at less cost.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy Security and Net Zero) 6:44, 20 May 2024

I would like to begin by reinforcing the parliamentary unity that is enjoyed on this issue. We have discussed it between the Government and official Opposition; well, the same applies to the third party in this Chamber. The SNP stands fully behind the Government’s actions with regard to Ukraine—and that is really something. We do not agree with the Government on very much, so when we do, it is obviously an issue of significant importance to our constituents in Scotland. Even more important is the message that that delivers to international stakeholders, not the least of whom are in Kyiv and Moscow, about the United Kingdom’s position on this.

Consensus is important, but I am certainly no British nationalist, as I have gone to some effort to demonstrate to the House over the last four years. As an impartial observer, perhaps, of the UK’s ambitions and activities in Ukraine to date, I would summarise them as follows: a strong start, but flagging and showing some limited ability to endure. Not all these activities are financial. I point to some tremendously effective decisions that were taken by the former Defence Secretary, Mr Wallace, to issue Challenger tanks to Ukraine. They were of very limited tactical use, but tremendously important to the message sent out. I would like to see the UK Government —whichever Department—manifest equally important signals into this conflict that do not command particularly huge budgetary sums.

The war continues to be central to Putin’s narrative that Russia is under threat, as he seeks to divert attention from his failing economic and social policies. We should expect no let-up in that rhetoric from the Kremlin—to the bitter cost of Russian and Ukrainian civilians alike. Russia has violated almost all significant agreements with Ukraine and NATO; if the war were to end on unfavourable terms for Ukraine, there is every likelihood that Russia would subsequently be emboldened to use force where it sees fit elsewhere. It therefore remains essential for European and western security that Russia’s war of aggression fails.

With the current state of the war set as broadly stalemate, with neither side able to attain air superiority, both struggling to carry out mechanised manoeuvres at scale, and challenges in artillery ammunition supplies, Russia’s wholesale war footing and mobilisation of its industrial base should be a cause for growing concern. We should be concerned that the combined industrial might of the west cannot keep pace with Russia’s ability to manufacture and distribute artillery shells.

Russia therefore continues to press Ukraine along the frontline. Ukraine has made strategic gains in the Black sea, causing the withdrawal of the Russian national naval assets there and opening up western Black sea grain routes—doubtless positive, but of limited impact on its territorial defence in the east of the country. Ukraine’s recently passed mobilisation law, which came into effect yesterday, makes it easier to draft conscripts and provide financial incentives, and does not include provisions to demobilise troops that have served for more than three years. That law should be instructive to us in the west about the pressure Ukraine foresees in the months ahead.

As I said, Russia has significantly mobilised its defence industry, increased labour capacity and expanded production lines of existing facilities, and has brought back previously mothballed plants. That is a statement of intent if ever we saw one. Russia’s defence spending in 2024 is expected to consume 30% of Government spending—very instructive indeed. That has led to significant increases in production output, where Russia is delivering approximately 1,500 tanks to its forces per year, along with 3,000 armoured fighting vehicles. Those are figures many of us in the west could only imagine being able to stand up. According to the Royal United Services Institute, 80% of those stocks are refurbished and modernised; nevertheless, that is an extraordinary undertaking for an economy apparently under sanction. The number of systems held in storage means that Russia can maintain consistent output through 2024 and into 2025, but it should be subject to inventory attrition over the period thereafter. It would be interesting to know whether the Government are factoring that into their thinking.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

This is a very realistic speech. The trouble with this war, as with Russia’s previous wars, is that early incompetence has now been replaced by a ruthless authoritarian determination to win at any cost by mobilising the entire economy and being utterly impervious to the loss of human life. I put to the hon. Gentleman the same question that I have put to the House: although we may breathe fire and brimstone about how we are determined to win, what is actually happening is stalemate, and we have to work out how the west will navigate itself around a possible peace negotiation with Russia. I am not saying that I want that—it is thoroughly unpalatable and not a very popular thing to say—but we have to be realistic.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy Security and Net Zero)

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his contribution, but I do not share the logic that he applies to the potential outcome in Ukraine. I began in a position of consensus, and I do not think that the Deputy Foreign Secretary would join the right hon. Gentleman in his summation—and nor would I. Whatever the size of the bite that Russia takes out of Ukraine, if Ukraine does not get it back, that is a Russian victory whatever way we cut it and whatever wrapper we put on it, and where Russia prevails, aggression and the tearing up of the rules-based international system also prevail. We cannot allow that to happen.

The strides that Russia has made in regenerating its heavy armour should serve as a wake-up call to UK and western partners. To counter that, Ukraine must have serious supplies of anti-armour weapons. I note that Russia’s missile capabilities are being regenerated at significant cost to Ukraine, and that raises serious questions about the efficacy of sanctions, which I will come to shortly. We must ensure the most accurate calibration in the reconciliation of that which Ukraine needs and in how the UK and NATO allies can satisfy that unmet demand.

Ukraine’s key foreign military aid requirements are air defences, long-range missiles and artillery ammunition. Its shortages in air defence over the past weeks have allowed Russia to conduct a destructive missile campaign against national infrastructure, civilian populations and military targets, including the largest thermal power plant in the Kyiv region. Long-range missiles are required to strike Russian supply depots, command-and-control centres and military infrastructure, and artillery ammunition is essential for offensive and defensive action on the frontline, but they remain in short supply.

The United States Agency for International Development package passed only on 23 April, as we all watched months of delay take their toll on the war effort. The battle to pass that Bill has sparked fresh fears that a Republican election victory—a matter, of course, for the US electorate—could significantly reduce essential US aid to Ukraine, so it is important that the UK, along with the rest of Europe, has contingency plans in place for a potential reduction in the US footprint in aid to Ukraine. That also highlights the need for long-term planning in the military aid pipeline, as opposed to pulsing batches.

Are sanctions working, and who is suffering? Russian oil products are getting through to the UK despite the UK officially banning the import of Russian oil from 5 December 2022. A loophole in the legislation allows Russian oil to continue to flow into the UK provided that it has been refined into fuel in a third country, after which it is no longer considered to have originated in Russia. That is deeply disingenuous to domestic and commercial energy bill payers across the UK, who are facing huge increases in their energy bills because of the rise in gas prices caused by the conflict, while aviation fuel and other distillates from Russian oil continue to pour into the UK’s economy unabated. What do the Government say to UK taxpayers, who are funding billions in military aid to Ukraine so that it can defend itself from a Russian aggression that is, if we follow the money, part-funded by UK purchases of fuel refined from Russian oil? It is desperate stuff, Madam Deputy Speaker, and you do not need to be a forensic accountant to figure it out.

UK purchases of fuels from China, India and Turkey—much of which originates from Russian oil—have increased considerably since the sanctions regime began. From 2021 to 2023, purchases from India went up from £402 million to £1.5 billion, those from China rose from £30 million to £663 million, and those from Turkey from £1.8 million to £60 million. How do the Government explain that loophole? Will they close it off and, in so doing, close off the revenue to Putin and his war machine?

Not unrelatedly, UK businesses continue to see record growth in exports to Russia’s former Soviet state neighbours. That manifold spike coincides precisely with the introduction of sanctions on goods to Russia. Are the Government even interested—let alone concerned—by that patent economic blip and reality? They should be, given the possibility that such exports could contain important components for military purposes. That matters, because although Russian missile production has increased since the war began, Russia faces a serious vulnerability: its most complex weapons, such as missiles, are heavily dependent on western-sourced components. Against the backdrop of a 1860% increase in the export of UK-manufactured vehicles to Azerbaijan, is anybody in the Government really under any illusions about what is happening there?

Russia has maintained a steady supply of the necessary components to make high-end missiles because of the incoherent approach to sanctions adopted by western states. A less laissez-faire approach to countering the Russian defence industry will help to disrupt Russian military supply chains and, in turn, Russian supply lines. That must be a strategic priority for all of us who care about the integrity and future of Ukraine.

Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke 6:56, 20 May 2024

This is day 816 of Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces have grown increasingly capable in the months since October. They are now frequently striking high-value targets at depths of 120 km behind the frontline. Operationally, they have demonstrated some success in engaging Ukrainian vehicles that were recently moved to Kharkiv. Overall, the Kharkiv offensive is likely part of a broader effort to stress the entire line. It is unlikely to yield a decisive breakthrough, but it will ease the pressure on Russian units fighting in other areas. If that trajectory continues, it will become increasingly difficult for Ukraine to stabilise the front and prevent further territorial losses and casualties.

Russia has deployed precision-strike assets with greater regularity and confidence, typically with reconnaissance from a long-range drone that is closely integrated with missiles such as Iskander, Tornado-S and, occasionally, D-30 SN air-launched missiles. That is called a “reconnaissance-strike contour” in Russian military parlance, and it is clearly having a significant impact on Ukraine’s air defences and command-and-control structures. It is coupled with more tactical elements, such as the widely covered use of guided glide bombs, laser-guided artillery and the Lancet loitering munition.

The shift seems to have occurred because Russia’s reconnaissance drones are able to fly longer and further as Ukraine lacks the air defence missiles to shoot them—and close air support—down. To give an example, Russia’s use of the Lancet loitering munition has expanded significantly in the past three months. There were 178 strikes in March and 140 in April, but there have already been 157 this month. Many of those strikes will have disabled or destroyed key Ukrainian systems such air defence platforms and artillery.

Alongside that, Russian units are adapting to the use of first-person vision drones in various ways, there are more electronic warfare systems for vehicle protection, and the turtle tank concept is proliferating, which indicates that it is a successful counter measure. FPVs have also provided Ukraine with a powerful and cost-effective form of firepower until now, and have largely served to ameliorate the lack of artillery ammunition. However, if Russian units become more effective at countering them, Ukraine’s lethality will decline significantly.

Russian activity should be expected to peak around the G7 summit in June and the NATO meeting in July. The Government therefore have a window of opportunity to maximise their activity and help Ukraine. The UK has been the driving force in supporting Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion and before. It has stood shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people, delivering the kit that the Ukrainian military needed most and when it needed it, quite often over the initial objections of our allies. The UK was the first to offer training, to provide NLAWs—next-generation light anti-tank weapons—to ship 155 mm artillery shells, to provide tanks, and to supply Ukraine with long-range missiles.

Ukraine must win this war; as has been said by other Members, its failure to do so would result in severe consequences for NATO and the rest of the world. If Ukraine concedes one inch of land to Russia, then Putin, as well as our other enemies in China and Iran, will draw the inevitable conclusion that the west simply is not up to the task of defending our freedom and protecting our way of life, or does not have the willpower to do so. We have trained some 40,000 Ukrainian troops since the invasion began, in addition to our commitment to train Ukrainian jet pilots, but the question remains: how does Ukraine win this war? How does it fully expel Russian forces from its territory? Ukraine needs the right weapons to defend against Russian attacks, but also weapons to support its campaign to liberate its land.

Throughout the war so far, Ukraine has used ammunition and artillery at an astonishing rate: approximately 6,000 artillery rounds per day on average over the course of a two-year period. To put that into perspective, during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the ground war was concluded in just four days, using 15,000 rounds per day. Estonian analysts estimate that around 2.4 million shells will be needed for Ukraine to mount an effective counter-offensive against Russian forces, or against Russian-backed separatist forces such as those in Donetsk. That target of 2.4 million artillery shells is achievable eventually, but only with additional American support. However, the American capacity for manufacturing 155 mm high explosive artillery stands at 28,000 per month, and an anonymous American defence official has said that the inventory of 155 mm military artillery shells has fallen to an “uncomfortably low” level. As a consequence, there is a target to ramp up production to 100,000 per month by the end of the year.

A discussion paper published by the Estonian Ministry of Defence notes that 4,800 anti-air missiles are required on an annual basis. However, meeting that target would exceed all NATO production capacity at the current rate, with current American levels standing at 3,600 and the rest of NATO’s standing at 1,000. Of those anti-air missiles, Ukrainians have been asking for Patriot missiles; according to the Heritage Foundation, US army stockpiles have stood at approximately 4,410 from 2005 until now, with a production capacity of 240 per year. However, with instances of Ukrainians firing 30 missiles in as many seconds and employing around 10% of annual global production last year, it is clear that the production of air defence missiles has to be stepped up. Companies such as MBDA in my constituency are a key part of that effort.

The manufacturing of Storm Shadow missiles will make a tangible difference on the battlefield. That long-range, conventionally armed, deep-strike weapon is designed to be used in pre-planned attacks against high-value stationary targets with pinpoint accuracy. Those missiles have proven invaluable in targeting Russian positions in Crimea, and the use of those munitions has been highly effective in containing the Russian onslaught. I am glad that our Government agree that Ukraine can use British weapons to strike any targets it deems necessary for its defence. I would like to see our allies in the US and others follow our lead in allowing the Ukrainians to use the long-range missiles that the Americans and others have given them against Russian targets in Russia itself, which would be an absolute game changer.

The facts I have outlined demonstrate that all our NATO allies should follow our example by putting their defence manufacturing on a war footing, especially when it comes to artillery and ammunition. Alliance members must meet NATO requirements, such as the requirement for all members to have a 30-day stockpile of wartime munitions. Only half of members met that requirement prior to the invasion, which is brought home by the fact that by November 2022, 20 NATO allies had significantly diminished their stockpiles. We should be in no doubt that Russia will remain a belligerent neighbour even after it has been thrown out of Ukraine. NATO members, including the UK, will need to maintain war levels of equipment reserves well into the medium term.

The UK was also the first major ally to sign a long-term defence security partnership with Ukraine. That alliance foresees helping Ukraine develop a sustainable defence industrial base while at the same time expanding and fortifying our own. The UK has ringfenced £350 million to forge collaboration and partnerships between UK and Ukrainian drone companies, in order to marry technologies and scale up production to get thousands of drones to the frontline within the next six months. That type of practical co-operation is a win-win for both of our countries and an example to our allies. Both of our countries benefit from the sharing of technologies, the real-time battlefield testing of equipment, and the further iteration of technological development and collaboration that will help defend this country. That form of practical collaboration should be expanded into other areas of defence manufacturing, and we must assist the Ukrainians to start producing their own equipment in-country, or as near as damn it.

We need to be clear that the money we spend in engaging in this type of co-operation is not aid: it is an investment in the United Kingdom’s long-term defence and security. The defence of Ukraine today is the defence of the United Kingdom tomorrow. Over and over again, I have heard at first hand from senior members of the Ukrainian Government their frustration with the bureaucracy that is slowing down that co-operation. I call on our Ministers to work even closer with their Ukrainian counterparts to identify and eliminate those obstructions. I have met representatives from Ukrainian small and medium-sized enterprises; just today, somebody told me that they want to talk directly to their British counterparts in order to develop technology together. I want to see the Ministry of Defence facilitating those conversations, not merely directing them to the big prime contractors.

On Monday 15 January, in response to a question from me, the Prime Minister said in this House that he agreed that we must place defence manufacturing on a wartime footing. We are now in mid-May, and in my view, that process has to be accelerated. We do not have the luxury of time; this cannot be business as usual. We must work with our Ukrainian friends to build the arsenal of the free world together.

Photo of Dan Carden Dan Carden Labour, Liverpool, Walton 7:07, 20 May 2024

I am grateful to be able to participate in this vital debate—a debate full of parliamentary unity, as colleagues have said—because in the past two years, I have been able to meet Ukrainians who have been forced from their home country and have come to the UK. In the early months of this war, I was able to visit refugee camps in Poland, and through the Inter-Parliamentary Union, I have been able to work with MPs from Ukraine on a regular basis at assemblies and elsewhere. The UK’s resolute and profound support for Ukraine is one of the few areas in which this Government have acted with consistency and honour, and it is vital that the next Government deepen and intensify our relationship with Ukraine, as well as Poland, the Baltic and the Scandinavian states, which understand the scale of the threat and are ready to act decisively. I welcome the 10-year and 100-year agreements with Ukraine, committing us to a covenant that will endure through time and begin to outline a post-Brexit foreign policy that will define us for the next century.

That reaffirmation of our commitment to Ukraine comes at a critical time. We must all face the credible possibility that the United States will scale back its support for Ukraine after the presidential election. We can no longer expect Washington to take on the mantle of European security, and it is therefore more important than ever that European states hold steadfast in their support for Ukraine. We must recognise that Russia is stronger now than it was at the beginning of this war. The UK’s sanctions have proved less effective than predicted, and Russia has succeeded in strengthening its relationship with China, in which there are, in their words, “no limits”. Russia is deepening its relationship with Iran, North Korea and India, through which Russian oil and gas make their way on to the open market. Russian power grows stronger, not weaker in Africa. The news from Kharkiv indicates that the balance is shifting decisively on the battlefield. Russia’s military capacity is intensifying as it shifts to a war economy, funded by its sale of precious metals and natural resources, overwhelmingly to China. In doing so, it is creating a Eurasian economic sphere on which it can depend to access the raw materials necessary for its defence and industrial production.

While we have tended to think about this war in terms of values—of democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law—we have thought less about value and how our relationship with Ukraine must be a productive partnership. Ukraine has the largest titanium, lithium, uranium and graphite reserves in Europe, and we must also understand this war as a battle over the raw materials required for modern defence and industrial production. Titanium is essential for aircraft, helicopter and drone production, and lithium for the batteries that will fuel the vehicles of the future. If Russia is allowed to gain control of this critical resource endowment, the continent’s security prospects will be in even greater jeopardy. We must prevent Russia from seizing Ukraine’s natural resources, and we must secure them for Ukraine. These are the materials required for the renewal of our common defence capability.

The balance of power is shifting throughout the world. Globalisation has not delivered what it promised, a point made by the shadow Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend Mr Lammy. The spread of democracy, human rights and the rule of law has been proven not to be inevitable. We can only defend these values if we are able to defend ourselves. Our alliance with Ukraine is part of that defence, and it must include the renewal of our collective industrial and defence capabilities. We must ensure that it works because we are defending our liberty and sovereignty as well as Ukraine’s. The foundation of our partnership with Ukraine must be one of enduring value as well as shared values.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, The Cotswolds 7:13, 20 May 2024

I think this House is at its best when we get serious issues of this kind, and those on all sides of the House are in agreement—broad agreement—about what needs to be done. We have heard some excellent and informed speeches from both sides. I think the announcements made at the beginning of this debate by the Deputy Foreign Secretary are very welcome, particularly the £3 billion this country is going to give Ukraine this year and every year thereafter, while some of the significant sums—for example, on artillery and drones—are very welcome.

We have reached a critical point in the Ukraine-Russia war when we, along with our allies, need to decide how far and for how long we can take our support. In recent weeks, Russian forces have made slow but important advances in the area of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, compounding their advances by stretching the Ukraine army along a wide front. Opening up new fronts as well as widening those in the south-east Donetsk and Luhansk regions will stretch Ukrainian forces in a battle of resources, as Ukraine awaits the delayed US aid and equipment.

The UK and US have provided strong support for Ukraine, but there have been limitations and critical delays, as others have said, in providing the weapons and equipment needed. We are at a point where this war is dragging on, with limited and slow advances on both sides. The west has provided enough support for the Ukrainians to defend themselves, but not enough to make decisive advances, let alone enough to end the war. We must decide with our allies whether we will step up this support to persuade the Russians to withdraw from Ukraine. What we should not do is allow a war in Europe to drag on for many years and become a frozen conflict. That would cause an increased death toll, damage Ukrainian infrastructure and impact on our own and other western economies. Not only would it continue to prolong the suffering of the brave Ukrainian people, but it would make the job of rebuilding the country in the longer term much more difficult.

There is a strong possibility that, if we are not sufficiently determined to oppose Russia now, its aggression will not cease with Ukraine. We have only to look at what is happening in Georgia at the moment. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the demonstrations against the foreign agents law, it is clear that the majority of people in Georgia want a closer alignment with Europe and NATO than with their historical ties to Russia. That will be a cause for thought in Moscow. I use those words carefully.

In Europe, there is the possibility of risk to a Baltic state or Moldova. What would it mean if a NATO state were targeted next? Estonia’s Prime Minister urged NATO allies at the security conference in Tallinn to follow their response by stepping up support for Ukraine, while Moldova has recently defied Russia with a EU security pact deepening defence co-operation. Of course, one of the outcomes, whatever happens in the war in Ukraine, is that both Sweden and Finland have become members of NATO. Those deeply independent, non-aligned, neutral countries joining NATO must be a real slap in the face for the Russians. European countries have a huge vested interest in continuing to provide considerably more equipment and training. As I have mentioned, some countries such as Germany and Poland are to be commended for what they have done.

As I have said, the UK is sending an extra £500 million on top of the £2.5 billion in military aid that it had already pledged to give Ukraine in 2024. In February, the EU agreed to a further £42 billion package, but by March it had failed to meet its targets on sending shells to Ukraine. After the US and Germany, the UK is the third largest supplier of weapons and equipment to Ukraine.

As I said in my intervention on the Deputy Foreign Secretary, who made an excellent speech, I think we must do much more on the diplomatic front to encourage a coalition of the willing. As my hon. Friend Sir Bernard Jenkin said, the consequences of the Russians winning in Ukraine are huge in the longer term. I think it would mean that a number of non-aligned nations will decide that they are perhaps better off with the coalition of Russia and China, rather than with the west, which would be an utter disaster. It is important that we try to build that coalition of the winning, and I am not just thinking of Europe and America. There are countries in south-east Asia and in the middle east that we should be trying to persuade to join this coalition.

The US has been a huge supplier of arms and financial support, and its contributions to the war have far outweighed what has been sent by all other countries put together. In a recent visit to Kyiv, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, pledged ongoing US support for Ukraine after Congress approved the $61 billion aid package. Arriving at the frontline, as my hon. Friend Jack Lopresti has said, are the ATACMS—army tactical missile systems—which are long-range precision-guided missiles. Of the $61 billion-worth of aid being provided, about $8 billion will be used to resupply Ukraine with missiles and ammunition. That is a crucial point, because these missiles are absolutely critical.

The US has also been stepping up its own arms manufacturing, as we heard on the Public Accounts Committee visit to the Pentagon two months ago. That is critical. Europe needs to step up its arms manufacturing, which it has pledged to do, but it seems to be doing that far too slowly. This is not, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex said, just about manufacturing. Huge volumes of hardened shelters are required to store the shells. There is a lot attached to building up this capacity, and my hon. Friend was right to indicate those figures. Furthermore, after that first year, the step-up in the second year will be even greater, which is good news.

As the Prime Minister said, we are facing some of the most dangerous and yet transformational years to come. Others have mentioned that the Ukrainians must be free to make decisions on how they use the arms that we supply, and they should not be hampered by conditions imposed by us. It is utter nonsense to watch Russian troops massing on the border near Kharkiv, and then to expect the Ukrainians not to use the vital weapons we have supplied to prevent that from happening.

An important area that has not yet been discussed is that, as any military tactician knows, to win a ground war air superiority is needed. Therefore, if the west really wants to help Ukraine, it must be far more generous in providing fighter aircraft, complete with trained Ukrainian pilots and anti-aircraft missiles. Ukraine has consistently asked the US for fighter jets to counter Russia’s air superiority. In May 2023, the US agreed to let other nations supply Ukraine with US-made F-16s. However, the US has hundreds of those aircraft, which are being rapidly superseded, and it could well afford to donate some of them. Instead, it says that the F-16s must be supplied by Denmark, the Netherlands and other nations, and we must train those pilots in how to use them. As others have said, our missiles have been very effective at deterring Russian ships in the Black sea.

I am not really criticising, but Dave Doogan slightly dismissed the fact that grain was getting out of Ukraine. It is not only good in itself, but important—others have touched on this—that small businesses are able to flourish in Ukraine. It is important that they are able to generate profits, and even more important that they are able to employ people who are not able to fight in the war, such as women who are not at the front. It is important that the Ukrainian economy is beginning to flourish again.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy Security and Net Zero)

I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman at all. I was very specific in what I said, and I talked about a “tactical advantage”, which is minimal.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, The Cotswolds

I entirely accept what the hon. Gentleman has said.

As Russian advances were being made in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin was making a state visit to China, in a show of strength. China is the largest investor in Ukraine after Russia, and it is propping up the ailing Russian economy by buying a significant quantity of Russian oil and gas at cheap prices. China could have a significant influence on Russia to settle the war if it chose to do so. A group of colleagues visited China the other day and made those points, but I do not think we had any impact on the Chinese. Surprise, surprise some might say, but we have to go and we have to engage, otherwise we certainly will not have an impact.

Putin has been making recent changes, dismissing his Defence Minister who had been in charge since 2022—the beginning of the war, when Putin expected Russia to take Kyiv in days—and replacing him with a very different person in Andrey Belousov. He is now overseeing the $117 billion defence spending that Russia has embarked on, and building up a Russian war machine that is reminiscent of what they did in world war two, by turning the entire economy to a war footing, which suggests that Putin is preparing for a long war with Europe. In addition, Russia’s allies, China, Iran and North Korea, have huge manufacturing capabilities that could replace a significant proportion of the Russian arsenal if it wished. If we and our allies are unwilling to provide more decisive support, there will inevitably be a political settlement between the two countries, which will leave Russia in a far more powerful position.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex indicated, we do not know what the US position will be after the elections in November. That is why I say to my hon. Friend the Minister that it is imperative that we engage with both sides in that election—Republicans and Democrats—so that whatever happens we strongly make the point that it is vital that the Americans continue on their course. Otherwise there is a danger that we will not be able to win this war.

Hotbeds of tension that could unravel in the years to come in the middle east and in east Asia around Taiwan and China are being carefully managed at the moment. Eyes are on the west and how we deal with Russia. The more Russia succeeds in Ukraine, the more co-operation between Russia and China seems to be strengthening, and the old enmity between them is reducing. That is incredibly dangerous. Urgent concerted and positive help must be given to the Ukrainian people in their hour of need for as long as it is needed, to deter Russia from taking any further offensive action in the rest of Europe.

Photo of Marie Rimmer Marie Rimmer Labour, St Helens South and Whiston 7:25, 20 May 2024

For more than two years Ukrainians have been fighting this war on behalf of us all. The brave Ukrainians are fighting for our shared values. They are fighting for our democracy, for our freedom, and indeed for Europe’s freedom. Many of those brave Ukrainians have made the ultimate sacrifice. Women and children have paid with unspeakable suffering and death. We are not dying each day to defend Europe from Russia. Our job, and the job of other European and NATO countries, has been to support Ukraine. That has been through military aid, sanctions, and cracking down on dirty money, yet too often we are playing catch-up, and delays in vital support getting to Ukraine have cost them dearly.

The delay in American support for months has given Putin a new-found optimism, which could prove catastrophic to our Ukrainian allies. Who knows what will happen in the US presidential election? Our country and Europe need to be ready. Our support for Ukraine needs to step up. Any sign of weakness or hesitancy inspires Putin. The result of this war will have a greater impact on Europe than it will on America. It is ultimately our war—Europe’s war—and we need to make sure that Ukraine wins.

When armaments are supplied, too often restrictions are placed on them. Limiting the use of long-range missiles is asking Ukrainians to defend their country with one arm tied behind their back. Russia has gone all in to win, and Ukraine being able to fire missiles slightly further will not change Russia’s already barbaric behaviour. The massacre of Ukrainians in Bucha shows how the Russians will behave if they win. Ukrainians know that they are fighting for their survival.

There is $300 billion of Russian central bank funds sitting in the Euroclear exchange, and our Government should be pressuring the EU to use it to support Ukraine. Money seized here should also be used to support Ukraine. China has given Putin a blank cheque; it is supplying him to win. It is also time for talks on Ukraine joining NATO and the EU to begin, and to be hastened. That is what they are fighting for—to be part of the free and democratic world, and ideals that many have fought and died for. Denying them that in the hope of appeasing a ruthless dictator is pointless. History teaches us that trying to appease a bully does not work.

Ukraine is backed by the free and democratic world. Putin is backed by dictators and despots. If Putin wins, every authoritarian regime across the world will be emboldened. Whether we like it or not, there is a war in Europe. There will be a winner and a loser. It is essential that Ukraine wins this war, and we must ensure that it gets what it needs. Ukraine must win, and Europe and NATO must do everything in their power. Ukraine must win, for if not I really fear that Europe and NATO may not survive in the future.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 7:29, 20 May 2024

Nothing I will say in this short speech in any way approves of what President Putin has done—he is an appalling man; a tyrant who has caused massive damage to infrastructure and countless deaths—but we have to be realistic in these debates. We cannot just will what we want. There is a mismatch between our determination, our interest and our will, and those of the Russian state.

Let us go back in history. When people in the west discuss Ukraine, they often assume this is a simple case of a large state invading a small country that has always been independent. That is not the view of the Russian state or most people who live in Russia. Ukraine means “borderland”, and for centuries, since Catherine the Great, Ukraine was effectively part of Russia. Even under the Soviet Union, Crimea was part of the Russian Federation, and it was only willed to Ukraine by diktat in the 1950s. Not a single Member of Parliament objected to that and the Crimean people were not consulted.

I am not in any way defending the Russian position—what they have done is appalling—but from that historical reality, and it is a reality for the Russian state, they are absolutely determined to pursue their objectives, as wrong as they may be. As we have heard, Putin is a tyrant. He has put the entire Russian economy on a war footing. He is apportioning a part of the economy to defence that we have not been spending since the second world war. Although we may want to win the war, we have to be realistic. Given the mismatch in resources between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, and given all the difficulties that the Ukrainian state has been trying to cope with in the management of its economy for many years, with corruption and many other issues, it is extremely unlikely, sadly, that Ukraine can win this war.

As I said earlier, this war is following the pattern of earlier wars that Russia has engaged with: early incompetence replaced by an utter determination to win that is completely impervious to the loss of human life.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

Does the right hon. Member not agree that if the battle in Ukraine is lost, then it will go to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and eventually the whole way back to us? The battle in Ukraine has to be won. It is not a matter of giving in; we have to win it.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

If we are going to win this war, we have to be prepared to give the resources necessary to do so. The truth is that such is the overwhelming predominance of the American industrial military estate that it could have won the war by now. America could have armed Ukraine to such an extent that it could have won. America could have allowed the Ukrainians to use its weapons to bombard Russian forces within Russia. America does not want Ukraine to humiliate Russia and win this war. America does not want Ukraine to lose the war. America could have won this war by now, as it won the second world war, but apparently it is not prepared to will the resources. We may not agree with that or like it, but that is the reality. We all know the strength of the American economy, and we all know that for months weapons deliveries were delayed.

All that I am trying to do is inject a note of reality into this debate. We cannot keep having these debates, saying, “We are determined to win this war. We must win this war”, when we are not willing the resources. I therefore ask the House these questions. Are we determined to put our own economy on a war footing? Are we determined to spend less on health, education, justice, and all the other good things in which we believe, in order to win this war? Are we prepared perhaps to put our own troops into Ukraine? Are we prepared for our own young men to die, or are we just prepared for thousands of young Ukrainian men to die and not have a single casualty ourselves? Those are the realistic questions.

The most likely outcome is that there will be horror and stalemate, and eventually somebody in Europe—President Macron or that sort of statesman—will then say that we have to conduct peace negotiations. What do we do then? Will we be part of a movement to have peace negotiations? Will we reward Putin for his aggression? Will we accept that there is a stalemate, and therefore Russia is enabled to grab part of Ukraine? What is our attitude? Nobody yet in this debate so far has seriously addressed those questions. All they have said is that we will win this war.

Members should look deep down into their hearts. Is there anybody sitting in this Chamber—I mean not what they say publicly, but what they think privately—who actually thinks now that Ukraine will win this war? [Hon. Members: “Yes.”] They say that, but how? Given the huge mismatch in resources between Russia and Ukraine, and given the fact that America is not prepared to furnish Ukraine with sufficient armaments to ensure that we win, how will we? I am with you all. I am prepared to put our own economy on a war footing. I am even prepared to send our own troops to Ukraine. I am prepared to spend less on all the things I value, such as health, justice and all the rest. But we have to be realistic, and at the moment we are not being realistic. As a result, Europe is trembling in a sort of arthritic way, neither pursuing the war with full vigour, which is how we won the second world war, nor prepared to conduct peace negotiations. The result is a stalemate, which is deeply damaging to our reputation, our economy and everything else.

I just pose the question. I am not saying that we should give in or that we should have peace negotiations, but I ask those on the Front Benches to be realistic in this debate.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Labour/Co-operative, Leeds North West 7:36, 20 May 2024

I had prepared a speech but will now have to make a different one, given that last speech from Sir Edward Leigh. I think he is an outrider for his own party in his view. First, I want to take on this idea that Ukraine historically is just some sort of outcrop of Russia. I will start and go backwards.

My father wrote his PhD on the Viking incursion into Slavic lands. The Varangians created Kyivan Rus’—the Kyiv empire. It was an empire centred not in Moscow, but in Kyiv. Kyiv predates Moscow as the predominant city of the Slavic lands. If anybody wants to make a claim, it should probably be the people in Stockholm, because it was Swedish Vikings who settled those lands and established that kingdom—I do not think the Swedes now have any such ambitions.

If we move back even further, the Scythians settled Crimea and created the agricultural breadbasket that we know today in southern Ukraine and Crimea. They supplied the Greek empire with its grain. That established Athens and other republics in Greece and fostered the democracy that we know now, because the Greeks could rely on the Scythians for grain. That is the ancient legacy of Ukraine. It is not Moscow or the tsars, but the Scythians and then the Varangians. My first point, therefore, is that the Ukrainians have a clear and historic right to a nation. It is straight out of the Putin playbook to try to denounce the legitimacy of the Ukrainian state.

Secondly, I agree with the right hon. Member for Gainsborough that the UK, the United States and every European nation need to go on to a war production footing. We need to increase our production of basic military equipment, such as artillery shells and bullets—the Minister for Armed Forces knows how many times I have questioned him about this issue. We then need more advanced military equipment too. Actually, the most advanced anti-drone manufacturer in the world now is Ukraine. We have much to learn from that, and in future we can do many things in joint ventures for our own defence. But we now need to ramp up our own military production. We have underutilised factories here, in the US—they have promised to increase production by the end of the year—and in Europe. To be fair to the Germans, they have done exactly that, particularly in shell production.

It is estimated that the Russians are expending 10,000 to 15,000 artillery shells a day, while at the beginning of the war that figure was over 50,000, so they have depleted their reserves and are just using their current production. It is inconceivable that 30 or so countries in Europe and North America could not match that level of production if we went on to a war production footing.

I had not intended to talk so much about military production. I had intended to talk about how it has been my honour to be the co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Ukraine since December 2022. In that time, I have organised three humanitarian aid convoys to Ukraine and three parliamentary delegations—I see hon. Members in the Chamber who have been on them.

The people of Ukraine owe us nothing, but we owe the people of Ukraine everything. The sacrifices I have seen—towns and villages destroyed; schools obliterated; men without legs or arms who still want to contribute to their country’s war effort. We cannot abandon those people. They did not ask for this situation; it has been meted out to them by a violent, brutal autocrat. I will not call him a dictator—I am not sure whether we are quite there yet—but the last Russian presidential election was not legitimate; it was a stolen election.

We are now in a situation where we are a bit weak minded —I agree with the right hon. Member for Gainsborough on that—and Putin’s mind is like a ball of steel. He will stop at nothing. We need to take that same attitude and stop at nothing. He will back down only if he sees strength; he will not back down on weakness. That is an issue not just for the United Kingdom but, as I said, for the whole of Europe and North America and the rest of the democratic world. We need to ensure that we are doing everything.

I will finish shortly, because I know that others want to speak, but I want to make a few points. It is still not that easy for humanitarian aid to flow across the UK border and EU borders into Ukraine. We are still seeing issues with people from Ukraine gaining visas to travel here. It is not acceptable that people have to travel to Warsaw to get a visa. We need consular services. If they cannot be provided in Kyiv, they should be provided in Lviv.

We also need to look at how the funding that we have raised has been spent from end to end. A large proportion of the money raised by the Disasters Emergency Committee from the goodness of the British people has been spent outside Ukraine, because it has been deemed too difficult to spend it inside Ukraine. However, there are small aid charities, such as those that we have been working with, which are willing and able to spend money in Ukraine but have no supply of funding. We need to open up the books of all the charities. DEC will open up the books only for the money that it has collected, not for each individual organisation. We need to see more money being spent in Ukraine.

We have €300 billion sitting in Euroclear. We need to see that money not just frozen, but seized and then utilised for that war effort. Then we will see a change in the front. The biggest difference that could be made to see a swift conclusion to the war and no more Russian troops on Ukrainian territory is in air superiority. The Ukrainians are losing the war because, owing to the Russians’ air superiority, they cannot defend their troops on the ground. We have done a good job in training the first tranche of pilots from Ukraine, and now other countries are also training them, but they need the planes now. We had a setback following the election in Slovakia—we were about to see planes go, and subsequently they have not. We need other countries, and particularly the United States, to supply F-16s. We also need both variants of the Storm Shadow missile made in the UK to go to Ukraine, not just the export variant, which Jack Lopresti expertly spoke about earlier. Finally, we need the resolve and long-term commitment to support Ukraine; not just to see this as something that happened two years ago and is slowly sliding off the agenda.

Photo of Richard Foord Richard Foord Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence) 7:44, 20 May 2024

It is an honour to follow the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Ukraine, Alex Sobel. It was interesting that Sir Edward Leigh brought some dissent to the Chamber. The consensus that exists can sometimes stop us thinking freely and thinking of alternatives. It is sometimes helpful to have the sort of devil’s advocate approach that he brought.

To the point that the right hon. Member made about the stalemate, as he observes it, we need to think not entirely about the situation on the ground but about what makes us different and what makes Ukraine different from Russia. What we have seen in Ukraine from Russia is chauvinism, as the term is understood more broadly. There is a tendency in the Russian mind to regard itself as superior, as nationalist and as imperialist. That is why we cannot simply talk about an accommodation at this stage. Diplomacy? Yes, of course, diplomacy must go on as the war goes on—the war is but politics by other means—but Ukraine needs to be negotiating from a position of strength, and certainly from a stronger position than it sees itself in now.

The Deputy Foreign Secretary started his speech by talking about the £3 billion that the Government have announced for Ukraine as annual military aid, and he asked whether other political parties will support it. The answer is yes, absolutely. The Liberal Democrats, as other parties have already set out this afternoon, certainly intend to support £3 billion annually for Ukraine. I hope that support for Ukraine does not serve to be a party political issue in the run-up to a general election. Let us look at things differently, but let us have a consensus as we have up to now. The UK has been pretty exceptional in Europe in having consensus across our political parties; let us hope that continues.

The Liberal Democrats develop our policy at conference. We are very democratic; it is voted on by our members. Last autumn, we hosted Kira Rudik, the leader of Ukraine’s liberal party, Holos. She gave an emotional speech from the platform, which resulted in a standing ovation that was both instinctive and heartfelt. I think that explains why in my party—I know this is also true of other parties—there is a real determination to stand with Ukraine until the end. But it is also necessary to think about endgames, endpoints and how the war might end, so I will address that in my closing remarks.

I would like to talk about how the war in Afghanistan ended for the Soviet Union as well as how this war might end given the amount that Russia is spending on defence at the moment, and, finally, about what role China might play in any conclusion to the war. In 1988, the Soviet Union withdrew its troops from Afghanistan. It did so after 15,000 Soviet soldiers were killed. Many people attribute the withdrawal to the fact that, back home in the Soviet Union, many families were mourning the loss of those soldiers, so there was pressure on the Government in Moscow to withdraw. We will plainly not see that situation here.

In Afghanistan, the motivation was about communist ideology and economic models; for Russia, this is much more a war of religion, of culture and of spiritual questions. The amount of money that the Soviet Union expended on that war was huge. Post 1989, we saw the break-up of the Soviet Union because of the amount of money spent on that war, to keep up with the expenditure of the United States and NATO.

We should give some thought to the popular support for the war in Russia. We know that Russians are following the propaganda pretty closely. An independent polling organisation called the Levada Centre asked the question, “Who initiated the aggression in eastern Ukraine?” Some 48% of Russians thought that it was the United States and NATO; only 20% thought that it was initiated by Kyiv; 14% said that it was difficult to say; and 4% said Russia. I accept that it is a brutal, authoritarian regime where people are scared to give their opinions, but Russians are fed daily on that propaganda about the eastward expansion of NATO after the second world war—it is very much in their minds. We should try to get in their minds. Sun Tzu said centuries ago, “Know your enemy.”

I listened to a fascinating interview on BBC’s “Ukrainecast” on 7 May, with Alexander Goncharov, a former Russian military officer who, when asked why the war started, talked about Ukraine prohibiting the Russian language and bombarding civilians in Kursk, Bryansk, Belgorod and Crimea. That is the mindset of Russians who support the war, and we should pay careful attention to it, particularly when thinking about the restrictions imposed on Ukraine for the use of British weapons and how they might be used over the border into Russia.

Finally, thinking about how the war might end, I want to talk about China. Putin visited Beijing last week. At the outset of the war, I supposed that it might end after the intervention of Chinese diplomacy. Instead, we saw a sham of a peace plan from Beijing in March 2023, although on the positive side it encouraged Russia to stop nuclear sabre-rattling. Unfortunately, China is condemning unilateral sanctions and criticising the expansion of collective defence treaties—a euphemism for NATO. Although I still think that Chinese diplomacy could be helpful to us in bringing the war to an end, it will not be on the terms suggested by Beijing last year.

We have talked a lot today about putting the UK economy on a war footing. We should think more about how we encourage our allies in Europe and beyond— including some of the neutral states that have yet to show skin in this game—that this is a war of liberty against chauvinism.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham 7:53, 20 May 2024

Let me begin by echoing the sentiments across the House for those supporting the fight in Ukraine against Russia’s unjust and illegal attack on that sovereign nation. I also pay tribute to the work of our NATO allies to support the people of Ukraine and, above all, to the tenacity and dedication of the people of Ukraine in resisting this totally unjust invasion.

We must remember that this is not the first invasion of Ukraine. In 2014 Russia annexed Crimea and was engaged in a proxy war for nearly eight years in the Donbas to try to weaken the territorial integrity of Ukraine. This invasion is clearly a war of choice by Vladimir Putin, though we can have all the excuses under the sun why he undertook this reckless action. What we sadly heard from Sir Edward Leigh was basically straight out of the Putin playbook. My hon. Friend Alex Sobel eloquently spelt out the truth of the ancient history of the integrity of Ukraine as a nation, and debunked the Moscow-centric nonsense that Russia has a right to dominate and dictate what goes on around its borders.

If the right hon. Member for Gainsborough wants to be brought a little further up to date rather than hear the ancient history eloquently portrayed by my hon. Friend, let me tell him that when the Soviet Union was disbanded, Ukraine had a third of the Soviet arsenal of nuclear weapons. It declared itself a state in 1990, joined the non-proliferation treaty and signed the Lisbon pact in 1992 to give up those nuclear weapons. The United States, Russia and ourselves, in the Budapest memorandum on security assurances of 1994, guaranteed the integrity of Ukraine’s borders. The present Russian leadership may get into the semantics that it has always been part of Russia—clearly it is not—but it gave an assurance in 1994 that Ukraine was an independent nation. I ask people to read the history rather than listen to the podcasts. If there is one thing that it demonstrates, it is how effective Russia’s propaganda machine has been. We saw that in the 2014 invasion of Crimea when, suddenly, even people who should know better in the national newspapers in this country were writing that Crimea had always been part of Russia. I ask people not to fall for the propaganda.

Can Ukraine resist? Yes, it can. It has had a fantastic, valiant fight so far, but it can do that only with our assistance and that of our allies. Russia has had some 450,000 personnel killed or wounded since 2022. Ukraine liberated Kherson in November 2022, but there has been continued pressure. Russia will go to lengths to put itself on a war footing and to ensure that it keeps chipping away at territory, but at a huge cost to itself. Our strategy must be not just to supply weapons but to crack down on people who are breaking sanctions. We only have to look, not just in this country but in Europe, at the amount of goods being shipped to China, Turkey, Azerbaijan and other countries; clearly, that is not the end destination—they are going into Russia to help the war machine, as has been outlined. It is only with collective will that we will succeed in resisting that aggression.

I am a vice-president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and we—not just the national delegations but the individual Members of Parliament who make up the assembly—have been united in our support for Ukraine since 2022. We first agreed an arrangement with Ukraine as far back as 1991. We have the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council, which has met on a number of occasions and will meet again this weekend in Sofia in Bulgaria. We are united in our support for Ukraine’s military fight. We are unanimous in our support for its defence of its democracy, and in supplying humanitarian help. This weekend, we will pass another unanimous resolution in support of Ukraine.

To those who say, “What happens if we fail in Ukraine?” I suggest they talk to our fellow parliamentarians in the Baltic states, Poland and the rest of eastern Europe. They are fearful that if Russia gets its own way in Ukraine, they will be next. I had the honour of visiting the three Baltic states last year. Each one is conscious that they are a heartbeat away from their democracy being snuffed out by a Russian invasion, so it is important that we contribute.

On the United Kingdom, I agree with the Deputy Foreign Secretary that there has been cross-party support in this House. That is very important in sending a clear message of support to Ukraine, and a clear message to Russia and others, that we will stand firm against this type of aggression. I have been a little concerned, I have to say, since we got the new Defence Secretary. He is now trying to play politics with this issue, which is a bit sad. A few weeks ago, he challenged the shadow Defence Secretary, my right hon. Friend John Healey, on what he would commit to after the election. He should just grow up and stop playing politics with this issue. It is far too important for that; likewise, the political football kicked around about the £75 billion increase in defence expenditure.

Let us be very clear—I have certainly been very clear in the 23 years I have been in this House—that we do need more defence expenditure, not for the sake of it but to ensure that we work with our NATO allies to help them to resist, and to act as a deterrent. People say, “If you support more defence spending, does that mean you are a warmonger?” No, it does not. I work on the very clear principle that conventional deterrence is just as important as nuclear deterrence. We need to keep arguing that. Someone asked what would happen if we get a new American President next year. I will still be arguing—we should continue to argue—for the importance of the transatlantic European alliance. Ukraine may be a long way away from the United States, but the US has found before that if it does not act early, the cost to the country, including in human life, will be 10 times more, if not more, if it has to defend it in a hot war.

It is important that we work closely with our NATO allies and our European allies, too. I see people pointing fingers around Europe, saying, “This country’s not doing that, that country’s not doing this.” But just look at what Europe as a whole is providing for Ukraine. It is a huge contribution that is certainly on a par with what the United States is giving. It is very important that there is no disruption to the flow of military equipment and humanitarian aid.

Is this a fight for the rules-based order? Yes, it is. I have no doubt about that. If Putin gets his own way in Ukraine, it will be a green light to others who want to use force to inflict their will on the world. We are approaching 6 June, which is the 80th anniversary of D-day. People died on the beaches to preserve the democracy that we all hold very dear. I think we sometimes take that for granted. What has happened in Ukraine has put into clear focus that the democracy and freedom of speech we value is very delicate, but it is certainly worth defending.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 8:04, 20 May 2024

Hear, hear to that, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I am very pleased to speak in this debate and to add my support, and I thank all Members for their constructive contributions. With everything going on in the world, it can sometimes be easy to forget—even if we see it on the news—the ongoing devastation in Ukraine, because we are not there and we do not see it every day.

I have to start by saluting the courage, tenacity and strength of character of Ukrainian men, women and children. When the war started, I remember one thing impressed me greatly: women in school canteens were making meals for the troops at the front; those who made clothes, whether they were wedding dresses or whatever, were making uniforms for soldiers. That showed me the courage and commitment of the whole nation together. Men, women and children were saying to themselves, “This war is our war,” and every one of them, in their entirety, was committed to supporting their troops at the front. I remember saying to people in the House that if only we, in this country, had the same commitment and understanding of the war, what we could do as well. But our Government and our Ministers have shown very clearly their commitment, so with that in mind I congratulate them. Last week, I asked the Minister an urgent question on Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the situation in Georgia. That day, the Minister reinforced the Government’s commitment.

It has been some 815 days since Putin’s operation and still Ukraine is subject to aggressive military operations, so it is important that we do more to assist. Sir Edward Leigh, who is not in his place, asked the question, “Who believes Ukraine can win?” Well, I tell you what, Mr Deputy Speaker, I believe it can. And I think everyone on the Opposition Benches thinks it can win. Members on the Government Benches believe it can win. There might be one or two who are doubters and who are not sure about the future. Perhaps—I say this with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, because he is a friend of mine—Chamberlain lives on in this House with some people. Thank goodness that that particular individual opinion is one that is singularly held and is not held by everybody else. What a blessing that is.

I want to speak up on human rights and on the religious persecution in the eastern Donbas region. As a member of the Baptist church, I know that many Baptist pastors went missing in eastern Ukraine when Russia came in. They have never been heard of again. They have never been accounted for. Their families grieve for their loved ones. So I ask the question again: where is the justice? The ongoing Russian threat has completely undermined human rights and democracy in Ukraine, and in Georgia, too. Only last week, Russia launched a new offensive in the Kharkiv region. Our support to Ukraine to combat that has been monumental. It is so important that we continue to support Ukraine in the future, whether it be with missiles, air defence systems or ammunition. What we need—Ukraine has asked for this—is a dome-type self-defence system to combat Russian missile attacks. Our supplies must be central to helping Ukraine in its plight against Russia.

Why do I believe, and why do Opposition Members and some Government Members believe, that Ukraine can win? Well, just last week the British Army was on manoeuvres in a NATO exercise, showing its strength and showing what it can do. If we combine the military might of all NATO countries, it far outweighs what Russia has, so do not for one second think that we cannot, as western countries and as NATO, combat Russia. We can not only equal, but beat what Russia has. I believe that in my heart.

Poland has just announced that it will build a defensive wall or barrier on the border with Russia. That shows its determination, and its understanding of where the threat lies. We should recognise the strength of the combined NATO countries, including the United States. Yes, they were slow to provide the military aid that was needed; there was a wait of perhaps a year and a half for it to come through; but it is through now, and the commitment is there. When all this is added together, it cannot be ignored. The strength of NATO is in the nations that are involved. It is in their outgoing military activity, and their resolve to combat Russia as best they can.

Only yesterday it was revealed that Russia had been using an increasing number of “glide bombs”, which are cheap but highly destructive. More than 200 are thought to have been used in a week to attack Ukraine’s northern town of Vovchansk. Furthermore, 3,000 were dropped in Ukraine in March alone. It has also been said that Ukraine is struggling to combat the bombs. It is therefore imperative that we step in: I know that our Ministers do that, and our Government do that—I never criticise our Government for a lack of commitment, and the support of all parties in the House has made their commitment easier—but we need to ensure that we retain the ammunition and the defences that we need in order to fight back.

I am always mindful of Russia’s army. It is an army of monsters, an army of criminals who have sexually abused and raped girls as young as eight and women as old as 80, with violence and brutality. You and I, Mr Deputy Speaker, and many others in the House, believe that there will be a day of reckoning when Russia, and all those who have committed these despicable crimes, will be made accountable and amenable in this world. The violence carried out against Ukrainian soldiers has been terrible as well; some of the things that have been done are unprintable.

Mr Jones spoke about why it was so important for us to beat Russia—as, indeed, did I, in an intervention. We should focus on the positivity of beating Russia, because if it is Ukraine today, it will be Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and us tomorrow. Failure is not in our psyche. This is about defeating Russia, and we must be clear about what we are trying to achieve.

This month, UNICEF reported that nearly 2,000 children in Ukraine had been killed or injured amid ongoing and escalating war. However, the overall tally of children’s deaths is likely to be higher owing to displacements and deaths that have not been recorded. Mr Lammy spoke of children who had been displaced—who had been told that the battle in Ukraine was over, and had been taken away from their parents and their families. That report comes after Russia escalated its attacks in the Kharkiv region, where several children were killed and hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of infrastructure was ruined and destroyed.

According to Save the Children, 2.9 million children in Ukraine are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The two years of the war have taken a devastating toll on the people of Ukraine; more than 10,000 civilians have been killed since it started, although again I must emphasise that the real numbers are likely to be much higher, and will continue to rise. More than half the number of children who are enrolled in schools in Ukraine are missing in-person schooling. I know that education is not the Minister’s responsibility, but I think we need to focus on not just military and humanitarian aid but educational aid for those children. I also know that our Government and our Minister have not been found wanting in that regard, but nearly 1 million children across the country have no access to any in-person learning opportunities owing to the current insecurity. In 2023 alone, UNICEF is said to have given 1.3 million children formal and informal learning opportunities, which is fantastic; but it is important for us to send Ukraine that educational assistance, because for those children so many months without learning will need to be replaced.

The United Kingdom has been a good friend—an excellent friend—to Ukraine, and to Georgia and other countries threatened by Russia. We will always call for resolutions, on all sides, and our deep and long-standing partnership with and support for Ukraine has been unwavering. However, in the interests of freedom, of liberty, of democracy, of justice and of decency, we must stand by one of our partners when it needs help, and more needs to be done to sustain a sovereign and democratic partnership. Today I look to the Minister, and to my Government, to provide an update on our ongoing assistance; and perhaps the Minister can tell us what assessment his Department has made of the impact of the war on young people’s education in Ukraine.

Photo of John Healey John Healey Shadow Secretary of State for Defence 8:15, 20 May 2024

I welcome the debate, and I thank Ministers for making time for it. My right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary and I wanted to respond to it together rather than delegating the task to others, in order to underline the importance that we attach to the United Kingdom’s support for Ukraine. This has also given us the opportunity to draw some lessons, as my right hon. Friend did earlier, from our visit to Ukraine last week. Like my right hon. Friend, I thank the Foreign Secretary for his help in facilitating that visit. We would be grateful if the Deputy Foreign Secretary passed on our thanks.

While my right hon. Friend and I were in Irpin, we met three Ukrainian teenagers. We talked about their families and friends, about possible careers and about their hopes for the future—but these young people had been through something so horrific that it belongs in the 1940s. After Putin’s full-scale invasion began, they were kidnapped and sent to camps in Crimea and Russia. Every morning they had to sing the Russian national anthem, and they were sent into isolation if they did not do as they were told. One, a diabetic, was refused insulin and became very sick. Those who were running the Russian camps told those Ukrainian children, “No one cares about you”, “Your families are dead”, and “Ukraine no longer exists”. I want to praise the work of the Ukrainian charity Save Ukraine, which is doing vital work to rescue the stolen children, reunite them with their families and help the survivors to deal with their trauma.

Despite those young people being told “Ukraine no longer exists”, more than 800 days on from Putin’s full-scale invasion it is still standing, and civilian and military alike are still fighting with huge courage. We toured a factory and spoke to the wives, mothers and fathers who had fled from the east to Kyiv in the face of Putin’s invasion, and are now working together to support the Ukrainian war effort. While their loved ones are on the frontline, everyone in Ukraine is fighting to defeat Putin.

The shadow Foreign Secretary and I had one simple message to convey during our visit: the UK continues to be united for Ukraine. If there is a change of Government after the election this year, there will be no change in Britain’s resolve to stand with Ukraine, confront Russian aggression and pursue Putin for his war crimes. We told the Ukrainian Defence Minister, President Zelensky’s chief of staff and the parliamentarians whom we met that this was our Labour guarantee to Ukraine. That is why we have fully backed the Government’s increased military aid to Ukraine, for this year and the years ahead.

The Deputy Foreign Secretary said that in his speech the shadow Foreign Secretary had shown the unity of the House. He was right, and all the speeches tonight have shown the unity of this House. In fact, this House has shown a unity behind Ukraine that goes beyond the debates in this Chamber. As UK parliamentarians, my hon. Friends the Members for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel) and for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin), and Kevin Foster, have all been involved in gathering aid and driving it to Ukraine over the past couple of years. Other Members have taken in Ukrainian families. Like tens of thousands of big-hearted Britons, we have offered, through the Homes for Ukraine programme, shelter, refuge and a life in this country to over 140,000 Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s invasion.

I turn now to the contributions to the debate. Characteristically, Sir Bernard Jenkin made a deeply reflective speech with a wide sweep that recognised that, as he said, this war is part of a global conflict. He quoted Secretary of State Blinken, who, as he rightly said, was in Kyiv on the second day that my right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary and I were there, which was 15 May. The hon. Member quoted Blinken as saying that

“Ukraine has to make decisions for itself about how it’s going to conduct this war”.

In fact, the rest of what Blinken said is important. He said that Ukraine is conducting the war

“in defence of its freedom, of its sovereignty, of its territorial integrity. And we will continue to back Ukraine with the equipment that it needs to succeed”.

Dave Doogan, who speaks for the SNP from the Front Bench, added the SNP’s voice to the all-party consensus, although I was puzzled when he described himself as an impartial observer of the UK’s activities in Ukraine. However, he was dead right when he said that it is essential for western European security that Putin’s full-scale invasion fails. If he prevails, he will be tearing up the rules-based system. That is why it matters so much to us, as well as to the Ukrainians, that they win.

Jack Lopresti has so many innovative defence companies in his area that he speaks as someone with quite a lot of technical expertise. He described how, and with what kit, the Russians are stepping up their rate of successful fire on the frontline. He said that defence of Ukraine today is defence of the UK tomorrow, and I liked that argument. It is an argument that I consistently put in different terms in saying that the UK’s defence starts in Ukraine, and we need to do more on both sides of the House to convey a sense of importance and urgency to the British public so that we can help reinforce their continuing support for the war.

Characteristically, my hon. Friend Dan Carden made an argument as well as a speech, which I always like to hear. He said that we think about this war in terms of values, sovereignty, territorial integrity and democracy, but that we think less than we should about making the long-term partnership with Ukraine valuable to the UK. That seems especially important, as a successful Ukraine will become, in partnership with the democratic west, central to wider European security and prosperity in the future.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown rightly urged, as I will in my remarks, more attention and effort on the diplomatic front to build what he called the “coalition of the willing”, and he pointed the attention of his own Government and the House towards countries in south-east Asia and the middle east that should be part of such a coalition. Like the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex, he also warned about the increasing co-operation between China and Russia.

My hon. Friend Ms Rimmer reinforced the argument that my right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary made in his speech: we in the UK are still too often playing catch-up on sanctions, and on tackling the dirty money of Russian oligarchs in our country. She urged the Government to demonstrate more action and greater leadership in directing frozen Russian state assets towards the much-needed reconstruction help for Ukraine.

Sir Edward Leigh said that he wanted to inject some realism into the debate, and he was right to say that we cannot just will what we want. He said that if what we want is a Ukrainian victory, we must will the resources. However, I say to him that the Ukrainians can cope with what he described as the mismatch with Russia, as long as we and other nations maintain our backing for them.

That point was picked up immediately by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North West, who said that the importance of our ramping up production lies in the fact that if we and other allies of Ukraine provide ammunition and weaponry, Europe and the US can, between us, easily counter the levels of increased Russian production. He showed a really extraordinary grasp of the history of Ukraine and of the reality of Ukrainian history, rather than the Russian revisionism that we sometimes hear. I pay tribute to him and the other officers of the all-party parliamentary group on Ukraine for their work.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on National Policy Statements, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on National Policy Statements, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on Scrutiny of Strategic Thinking in Government, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on Scrutiny of Strategic Thinking in Government

Would it not also be sensible to emphasise that if we want this war to go on forever, we should allow Russia to stay in control of sovereign Ukrainian territory? If we want to have a clean and clear end to this conflict, the only way to do so is to expel Russia from illegally occupied territory.

Photo of John Healey John Healey Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

I will come to some of the military challenges faced by Ukraine in a moment, if I may; the hon. Gentleman made that point very powerfully in his speech earlier.

Richard Foord echoed what we have declared as Labour’s intent: to try to take the politics out of the UK’s support for Ukraine in the run-up to the election. I trust that the Government will respond in the same way. Like the hon. Member for The Cotswolds, the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton said that more diplomacy is required with countries that he described as having yet to declare their position, alongside the military aid that the UK is supplying.

I think my right hon. Friend Kevan Jones was the only one who reminded the House that the Ukrainians have not just been fighting Russia since February 2022; they were fighting it for over eight years before that, after proxy forces invaded parts of the Donbas and Russia seized Crimea. One of the things that my right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary and I found most moving about both of the visits we have made to Ukraine is the wall of remembrance for fallen heroes, which has the photographs and details of all those who died before February 2022. Over 13,000 Ukrainians lost their lives through fighting the Russians on Ukrainian soil. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham also reminded us, in his role as a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, that the Parliamentary Council at NATO had established relations with Ukraine way back in 1991. He asked what would happen if we failed in Ukraine. He was right to say that the Baltic countries and the former eastern bloc countries all know that they will be next.

Finally, Jim Shannon reminded us about the pattern of military aggression from Russia, not just in Ukraine but in Georgia. It is exactly what the UN charter is designed to prevent: big nations redrawing international boundaries by force. It is exactly why it is so important that Putin does not prevail. When we were in Kyiv last week, the message of those we met was consistent. They described the conflict in Ukraine as being at a critical moment, with new offensives around Kharkiv and new attacks along the length of the frontline. That is an easy thing to say, but the length of the frontline for the Ukrainians is 800 miles. That is as far as London to Aberdeen and back. The scale of the challenge they face is huge.

It is tough for Ukraine at the moment, and it is set to get tougher still in the months ahead. Its most urgent and complex challenge is to stabilise the front in the coming weeks and prevent what are local tactical gains by Russia from becoming a wider operational success. Stabilising the front depends on the prompt delivery from the west of air defence, artillery and long-range strike systems. Also, it depends not just on the western allies; it depends on the Ukrainians to construct effective defensive fortifications, to boost their own military manpower, to maintain the quality advantage that they have in training their forces and also to restore morale.

Alongside this, the Ukrainians have also scored significant successes with their own offensive operations, and we must not lose sight of that, particularly outside the land war. These have involved long-range strikes with indigenously produced weapons systems, partisan warfare in parts of Russia and the occupied territories, special forces operations and maritime operations. These are no longer symbolic; they are increasingly substantial in their effect. They have destroyed one third of the Russian Black sea fleet. Notwithstanding Putin walking away from the Black sea grain initiative, they have opened up freedom of navigation in the western side of the Black sea and Ukraine is now exporting more grain than it did under the initiative when Putin gave it the go-ahead. It is also exporting many other goods. For the large majority of Ukrainians, it is quite clear that the stakes are nothing less than the survival of the state and the nation. People in Kyiv told us, “Even if the west stops supporting us, we will not give up fighting.”

This has also become a war about the survival of Russia as a state and the survival of its elites. Too often, the western view has been that this is somehow a war of choice for Russia, but that has underplayed how Russia has once again become a country whose primary vocation is war. In that vein, Putin has now moved his industry on to a wartime footing. He is now spending a total of 40% of his Government’s budget on defence. This war is not only military; it is also diplomatic and economic, and Putin will not make peace if he thinks he can win on the battlefield. He will not stop at Ukraine if he succeeds there.

Our recent military aid packages from the UK and allies have been really warmly welcomed and received in Kyiv, but more is needed. Deliveries of air defence, ammunition and long-range missiles need to be speeded up, and further diplomatic and economic action must be taken to isolate Putin further. We have to be able to show him that things will get worse for Russia, not better.

That is why we are asking Ministers and allies to take three immediate steps. First, deliveries of military support need to speed up and reach the frontline. As NATO’s Secretary-General Stoltenberg has said, any country that can send more should send more. Training for Ukrainian troops should also be expanded.

Secondly, UK diplomacy should be accelerated leading up to the G7, with the NATO 75th anniversary, the European Political Community meeting and Ukraine’s peace summit all taking place in the next few weeks. The purpose will be to strengthen support for Ukraine, seize frozen Russian state assets and close sanction loopholes. All those must be the outcomes of successful summits over the next few weeks.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I mentioned the necessity of helping civilians with humanitarian aid. If we help the civilians, we also encourage the soldiers at the front. Does the right hon. Gentleman believe we need to focus on that, too?

Photo of John Healey John Healey Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

Yes, the hon. Gentleman makes a sound point.

Thirdly, as many speakers have said, we must boost industrial production. The £2 billion for stockpiles, to re-equip Ukraine and replenish our own forces, was allocated in the spring Budget of 2023. By the end of last year, only a third of that sum had been committed and none of it had been spent. I have now been waiting four months for an update on the progress on committing and spending that £2 billion. It must be fast-tracked and it must be used for stockpiles. It cannot be used to fill gaps in the defence budget, which was the National Audit Office’s concern. We have to reboot our industrial strategy, grow our defence base at home and further collaborate with Ukraine and our allies.

We are proud of the UK’s leadership on Ukraine, and the Ukrainians have told us how important that bipartisan support is to them. The President’s chief of staff told us, “The UK elections are the only ones we are not worried about this year.” On military support for Ukraine and reinforcing NATO allies, the Government have had and will continue to have Labour’s fullest support.

I conclude by returning to where I started. The charity Save Ukraine told us that well over 20,000 Ukrainian children remain stolen and in Russian hands or on Russian territory, but it is determined to bring every single one of them home to their families and home to their country. Across this House, our determination must be just as strong to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes for it to win.

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Minister for the Armed Forces) 8:36, 20 May 2024

This has been a powerful and sincere debate, and I am very grateful for the contributions from across the House.

The shadow Foreign Secretary, Mr Lammy, started by reflecting on his recent visit. He talked about the courage of the Ukrainian people, and he said that this is, indeed, a critical moment. Putin believes he can outlast the democracies of this world, and of course we will disprove that assumption. The shadow Foreign Secretary asked three important questions. First, he asked about speeding up deliveries, and we are straining every sinew to expedite the delivery of lethal aid. This year we have taken our contribution up from £2.5 billion to £3 billion.

The right hon. Gentleman asked whether we will accelerate UK diplomacy, and I can give him that assurance. We have the G7 summit, the NATO summit in Washington in July, the EPC and, of course, the Ukraine peace summit. I cannot comment on the Prime Minister’s diary, but I know the summits will be attended at the very highest level. He also asked about seizing state assets and sanctions. Of course, the G7 summit in June will be the critical moment. As the Prime Minister has said:

“We and our G7 partners…should be bold and pursue all routes through which immobilised Russian sovereign assets can be used to support Ukraine, in line…with international law”.—[Official Report, 15 April 2024;
Vol. 748, c. 38.]

The direction of travel is clear, and we are expediting that work.

We should also have no embarrassment about our remarkable and decisive contribution to Ukraine’s security. Those from the UK who visit Ukraine should hold their head high with pride at our contribution to protecting Ukraine’s sovereignty.

My hon. Friend Sir Bernard Jenkin made a characteristically knowledgeable speech, in which he laid out the contest of wills that is under way in Ukraine. He spoke interestingly about the role of Russia’s new Defence Minister, Belousov, and how that should make us concerned about the wholesale Russian mobilisation to a greater war footing. He also pointed out that it is a global crisis, not just a regional crisis, which is the important context in which to understand it.

Dave Doogan also confused me when he said that he is impartial—I know he did not mean it in that sense—but he rightly spoke about the concern we should have about Russia’s military might. He asked about the refining loophole for the export of hydrocarbons. I can assure him that a huge amount of diplomatic and technical work is being done, with delegations right across the middle east, central Asia and the Caucasus, to ensure that countries at risk of sanction circumvention change their policy to ensure that they are not exploited.

My hon. Friend Jack Lopresti gave a characteristically knowledge-able description of the military situation and the huge military-industrial challenge. His mention of the capabilities in his constituency was very welcome. Of course, the huge resource and energy that we are putting in to supplying the Ukrainians with what they need to develop their drone capability also attends to our own consequential drone strategy, as does our commitment of £10 billion over the next 10 years to increase supplies of our own munitions, in the context of needing to ramp up industrial capabilities not just for supplying Ukraine but for backfilling our capabilities. Indeed, we have an important role in what he termed, and I welcomed this, “the arsenal of the free world.”

Dan Carden made some welcome comments on his personal experience. He pointed out the role of China and the hydrocarbons relationship with Ukraine, which is important, and the important role played by the so-called Eurasian economic sphere. That economic context and the hugely consequential deposits of titanium and lithium in Ukraine could make it an important global player in its longer-term economic development, which is important for how we understand its capacity for its own reconstruction.

My hon. Friend Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown pointed out that this is a critical moment in the conflict and mentioned the regional context. His mention of Moldova was welcome. We recognise the critical challenge faced by that country. He should be assured that we are putting a huge amount of political and technical energy into supporting Moldova in building its state institutions. He urged more work on the diplomatic front, which we are doing. He talked about the importance of air capability and of more grain flowing through the Black sea, which is actually as a consequence of the remarkable military gains achieved by the Ukrainians, often with remote, uncrewed maritime vessels. That is illustrative of a remarkable revolution in warfighting, which we should also note.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, The Cotswolds

The Public Accounts Committee looked in great detail at how we built capacity during the covid pandemic for producing vaccines. Will the Minister look at the lessons learned in that campaign? In particular, during that campaign we invested directly in capacity, not through the firms that were producing. Will he look at that as a method of how we could rapidly build up our military capabilities?

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Minister for the Armed Forces)

That is one of the things we are looking at.

I was grateful to Ms Rimmer, who spoke about this being Europe’s war, not just America’s, which was an interesting contextual point. She spoke about the brutality in Bucha and the strategic importance of a Ukrainian victory, which was welcome. My right hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh made a provocative but sincere speech and asked the question, “Do we have the resolve to win?” The House answered that question with a resounding yes—we do have that resolve.

Alex Sobel made a welcome historical point, putting in context the journey to statehood for Ukraine, mentioning the Viking establishment of Kyivan Rus’, the Scythians and Crimea. He also mentioned the ancient grain-based relationship with Europe, which was an interesting insight, and which disputes much of the propaganda coming out of the Kremlin. He pointed out the human cost of the war in Ukraine.

Richard Foord spoke about the chauvinism of the Russian state, which was a good way to put it. He outlined his party’s support for our policy, for which I was grateful. He drew an interesting and relevant parallel to the Russian experience of invading Afghanistan.

Mr Jones paid tribute to the tenacity of the Ukrainian people. He pointed out that the first invasion was in 2014. For understanding the geopolitical journey of Ukraine, 1992 in Lisbon and 1994 in Budapest are important dates that we must all recognise when we consider our posture. The views of his fellow members of the NATO parliamentary delegation from eastern Europe and the Baltic states were welcome because they are highly relevant. I agree with him that increased defence spending is not an indication of warmongering; no—it is the surest safeguard of peace.

My hon. Friend Jim Shannon talked about the importance of the struggle of the whole nation, which was a good way of putting it. He spoke about the brutality of Russian forces, the threat to the Baltic states and the horrendous impact on the education of young people in Ukraine, which will surely last a generation.

I was grateful to the shadow Defence Secretary, John Healey, who reflected on his visit to Ukraine last week, and the horrific experience particularly of young people there; he gave two examples of young people being kidnapped, sent to camps and told that Ukraine does not exist. Well, the whole House knows that Ukraine does exist, and it has proved that to the tyrannical invader in magnificent fashion over the past two years.

I was grateful, as ever, to the right hon. Gentleman for reiterating his support for the Government’s policy, and for the unity and resolve reflected across the whole House—across the political divide. He mentioned the 800 miles of frontline, which indicates the scale of the challenge for the redoubtable Ukrainian military. In answering his three questions, I can give him the assurance that our energetic and dynamic support in supplying lethal aid and military training will continue. Our effort is reflected in the increase of resource therein, from £2.5 billion to £3 billion this year. Our energy in that quarter will be matched by our diplomacy across the landscape of important diplomatic events this year, which I have already mentioned, and we will sincerely carry out a ramping up of industrial production. I give him the commitment that we will keep him and his Opposition colleagues updated as that is expedited.

Putin’s war has demonstrated one thing above all others: he will never be able to subdue the will of Ukrainians to be Ukrainian, which is why he should end his unwinnable war, and the hideous suffering he is inflicting on Ukrainians and Russians, by withdrawing his forces. Putin should also know that this is not the outcome Ukraine and its allies are planning for. In January, the Prime Minister and President Zelensky signed an historic 100-year partnership, and more and more of our allies are following suit.

Since Putin’s invasion of Crimea, we have helped to train over 65,000 Ukrainian military personnel. Since the start of the full-scale invasion, we have sent almost 400 different military capabilities; in terms of resource value, that amounts to £3 billion this year. We are making long-term investments in Ukraine’s security, in the air, on land and at sea, including by hosting a forum with Ukrainian defence companies this week.

Taken together, our current support will help to keep Ukraine in the fight; our continued support and diplomacy will ensure it prevails; and our long-term support and co-operation will help the Ukrainian people to rebuild their country, strengthen its defences and deter future aggression. Putin thinks he can outlast us, but he should be in no doubt. The United Kingdom will stand with the Ukrainian people for as long as it takes.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered the situation in Ukraine.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Deputy Speaker

The occupant of the Chair, as hon. Members know, is always completely impartial. However, the sentiments of the House are quite clearly unanimous on this issue—slava Ukraini.