Russia - Statement

– in the House of Lords at 8:42 pm on 10th January 2022.

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The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Thursday 6 January.

“I want to update the House on what we are doing to tackle Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine. In December I set out how, together with our allies, we will build a network of liberty to ensure that democracy not just survives but thrives. Of course, as a free, democratic country in Europe, Ukraine is a crucial priority. Thirty years ago, Britain was one of the first countries to recognise Ukraine’s independence, and today our commitment to Ukraine is unwavering. We stand with our friend against hostile actors. We will defend democracy at the frontier of freedom in eastern Europe and around the world. Britain and its allies made this clear at NATO in November and at the G7, which I hosted in Liverpool last month. Any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake and would come at a severe cost.

We will not accept the campaign Russia is waging to subvert its democratic neighbours. It is accompanied by baseless rhetoric and disinformation. The Russians have falsely cast Ukraine as a threat to justify their aggressive stance, and they falsely accuse NATO of provocation. This could not be further from the truth. Ukraine’s restraint has been commendable, and NATO has always been a defensive alliance. Russia is the aggressor here. It has amassed a huge number of troops along the Ukrainian border and in illegally annexed Crimea.

There is no justification whatever for Russia’s bellicose stance towards Ukraine. It is unprovoked, and it is part of a wider pattern of behaviour by the Kremlin, reliant on disinformation and mistrust to seek to gain the upper hand. Moscow has long run a campaign to subvert freedom and democracy in Ukraine, from the invasion of 2014 to cyberattacks, disinformation and the weaponisation of energy supplies. At the same time, Moscow is backing the repressive actions of the Lukashenko regime in Belarus, sowing the seeds of discord in the western Balkans and threatening our friends in the Baltics.

I urge Russia to end its malign activity and stick to what has been agreed. That means the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, in which Russia signed up to dispute resolution by dialogue rather than force. It means the 1994 Budapest memorandum on security assurances, in which Russia agreed to uphold Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for this security guarantee. It means the 2014 Minsk protocol, in which all parties agreed to a ceasefire in the Donbass region. These agreements, based on the principles of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, must be upheld.

The free world must rise to meet this moment. Britain is stepping up and leading by example. I have spoken out against Russian aggression at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and NATO, and bilaterally with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Last month I chaired a meeting of the G7 Foreign Ministers in Liverpool. We called on Russia to de-escalate, pursue diplomatic channels and abide by its commitments on the transparency of military activities. We made it clear that any further military incursion into Ukraine would bring massive consequences, including co-ordinated sanctions to impose a severe cost on Russia’s interests and economy. The UK is working with our partners on these sanctions, including high-impact measures targeting the Russian financial sector and individuals.

We are also providing crucial economic and security support to Ukraine. I am working closely with Foreign Minister Kuleba. I spoke to him on Tuesday, and last month I welcomed him to London for high-level talks. We are helping Ukraine strengthen its defences with joint exercises and maritime support and by training over 20,000 members of its army, with more to come. We are ramping up support for trade in priority areas such as technology and clean energy to £3.5 billion. This includes £1.7 billion to boost Ukraine’s naval capability. I look forward to visiting Kiev later this month. We are also supporting stability in the western Balkans, where the Prime Minister has appointed Sir Stuart Peach as special envoy. In Belarus, we were the first European country to put sanctions on the Lukashenko regime, and we were also the first to send in engineers to assist Poland.

This next week will be absolutely critical for peace and security in Europe. Tomorrow I will join an extraordinary meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers. The US-Russia dialogue begins on Sunday, followed by the NATO-Russia Council on Wednesday and the OSCE Permanent Council on Thursday. We will be in talks on the basis of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. It is vital that NATO is united in pushing back against Russia’s threatening behaviour. Together, we must hold Russia to its long-standing obligations. There can be no rewards for aggression.

Finally, Europe must reduce its dependence on Russian gas. Britain remains opposed to Nord Stream 2, and I am working with allies and partners to highlight the strategic risks of this project. We are reaching a crucial moment. The only way forward is for Russia to de-escalate and pursue a path of diplomacy. We will continue to stand together with our allies, steadfast in support of Ukraine and its future as a free and sovereign democracy. I commend this Statement to the House.”

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 8:44 pm, 10th January 2022

My Lords, this is one of the occasions where we do not have to listen to a Statement being read out, as it was taken last week.

Last Thursday, my right honourable friend, David Lammy, said it was right that Parliament should send

“a clear and unified message … that we fully support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and that Russian action to further undermine it will be met with severe consequences.”—[Official Report, Commons, 6/1/22; cols. 171-172].

I am pleased that the Foreign Secretary emphasised the importance of NATO in co-ordinating the response, and I hope the Minister will update the House on the UK’s contributions to Friday’s Foreign Ministers’ NATO meeting. After that meeting, members reaffirmed their commitment that all nations have the right to determine their own alliances. Ministers also used the summit to commit to further engagement with Georgia, Moldova, Finland and Sweden. I hope the Minister can tell us whether he intends to speak directly with counterparts in any of these nations.

I am also pleased that Secretary-General Stoltenberg stressed the importance of meaningful dialogue with Russia to avert further escalation. The US State Department account of Sunday night’s dinner, for example, said that the US would talk about certain bilateral issues with Russia in Geneva but will not discuss European security without European allies and partners. France and other European states will be represented at two other rounds of talks over the course of this week.

On the further talks at the NATO-Russia summit on Wednesday, as well as the OSCE meeting in Vienna on Thursday, will the Minister commit to updating the House after the conclusion of these talks? Does the Minister share the analysis of Secretary of State Blinken, who suggested that any agreement is unlikely this week? Certainly, the reports I have read tonight of the discussions today suggest that they have been constructive but unlikely to conclude. Could the Minister tell us whether he, or other Ministers or the Foreign Secretary, will be speaking to US counterparts next week, following the talks?

I would also be grateful if the Minister would elaborate on the development of sanctions, if they prove necessary. The Minister has repeatedly said, sometimes at my request, that they must be agreed and implemented multilaterally. It is equally important the Government are prepared to implement sanctions immediately and in concert with our allies if the situation escalates. Will the Minister confirm that legislation is being drafted in preparation for this eventually?

We must also use this opportunity to ensure that the UK is no longer home to illicit Russian finance. In its 2018 report, Moscow’s Gold, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee warned that

“turning a blind eye to London’s role in hiding the proceeds of Kremlin-connected corruption risks signalling that the UK is not serious about confronting the full spectrum of President Putin’s offensive measures.”

A public register of beneficial owners of overseas entities that buy and sell property was first announced in 2016 but has been repeatedly delayed. As the Guardian reported today, Chatham House has argued that

“the law in this area is so poorly constructed and under-resourced that it amounts to self-regulation.”

As announced in the Guardian today, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee has agreed to re-examine the Government’s apparent inability to crack down on Russian oligarchs’ use of London to launder their fortunes. I hope the Minister will tell us when the Government will act. Will it act before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee reports?

Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, we also welcome the opportunity to ask the Government questions on its current position regarding Ukraine. Like many noble Lords, I have visited Ukraine on a number of occasions. From our Benches, we recognise and respect its sovereignty and its borders. It is worth noting that it is a border that has seen over 13,000 casualties over the last few years.

The Lords International Relations Committee report, UK Foreign Policy in a Changing World, published when I was a member of the committee, along with my noble friend Lady Smith, stated in paragraph 84:

“Russia is a declining power that is increasingly willing and able to use both traditional and new capabilities—such as cyber capabilities—to act as a disrupter in international relations.”

We have seen this in the Middle East, Central Asia and, especially, in Ukraine, but I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Collins: we have also seen it at home.

Over the Christmas break, I reviewed the annual report of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, a committee of which my noble friend Lord Campbell had been a member. Of Russia, the committee said:

The Report questioned whether the Government took its eye off the ball with regard to Russia, because of its focus on counter-terrorism. The previous Committee found that until recently the Government had badly underestimated the response required to the Russian threat and is still playing catch up.”

When will the recommendations of that committee be met in full? This House has acted to change our rules and procedures; when will the Government act on the other recommendations?

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, referred to the Foreign Affairs Committee's report, Moscow’s Gold: Russian Corruption in the UK, which highlighted the estimate that one-fifth of the 176 properties worth £4.4 billion in the UK that have been bought with suspicious wealth have been from Russian individuals. I asked the noble Lord, Lord Agnew of Oulton, when we would see legislative proposals. He replied:

“I am the counter-fraud Minister, and I am pressing hard to get that commitment.”—[Hansard, 25/11/21; col 1108.]

Will the Minister give an update now on when we will see those legislative proposals, which have been much promised but also much delayed? If the Minister who is responsible cannot give that commitment, what is the block?

With regard to the Ukrainian situation, can the Government update us on the UK’s specific approach to the various talks which are now happening? There has been the French and German initiative, as referred to, with Jens Plötner, the envoy of Olaf Scholz, and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Bonne, travelling there last week. Does the UK have a specific named envoy who is participating in any of these discussions? Are we approaching the discussions purely through NATO, or do we have a bilateral strand of diplomacy?

When was the last time the Foreign Secretary spoke to Annalena Baerbock, the German Foreign Minister? We know from the Foreign Secretary’s reply to the Statement last week that she had taken part in G7 and NATO discussions, but what about our discussions directly with the German and French Foreign Ministers? Has the Prime Minister spoken since Christmas to the German Chancellor about the German initiatives?

Parliament last week debated the proposed ratification of the UK agreement with the Government of Ukraine on their naval capacity. As was referenced in the Foreign Secretary’s Statement, the UK now has an agreement to provide offensive capabilities, including missile equipment and technology, to Ukraine, but if reports are correct, part of the discussions on the table this week are about NATO members and their missile capability with regard to Ukraine and Russia. Is this agreement now part of those discussions, and is our agreement with Ukraine covered within any of the NATO discussions?

On sanctions that could be brought in—a situation which we do not wish to see but may be necessary—what contingencies are in place for UK businesses which are currently operating legitimately with Russia but may then be in a position where, without notice, they are carrying on illegitimate business? We know from previous US actions as a result of decisions made about Iran that wide economic sanctions from the United States can have considerable impact on the UK. Regardless of the merits of these, including the decision on SWIFT payments or transactions through the City of London, how many companies are currently conducting business that may have to dramatically change their approach to trade with Russia?

I noted this afternoon that the Department for International Trade is still, despite the Foreign Secretary’s Statement last week, promoting trade and investment with Russia. Indeed, there are events planned for 18 January for online trade and gaming, for example. What contingency arrangements is the Bank of England or, indeed, the Government providing as advice for British businesses that may be in this position?

Finally, without a clear statement of the UK’s bilateral position, including on the situation in Ukraine, we will not be as strong a partner as the Foreign Secretary’s Statement said we would be. We all support the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and I hope that the UK’s actions will deliver on those.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Collins and Lord Purvis, for their contributions. I reiterate the point that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, made about the importance of coming together within Parliament in standing against Russian aggression. It is regrettable but obvious that we have seen Russia, not just in the context of Ukraine but in other parts of Europe, exercising all measures, as the noble Lord, Purvis, referred to. Indeed, we have seen challenging situations arise, in terms of technology, through cyber, and through the current continued occupation of Crimea.

The build-up of Russian forces within eastern Ukraine, on the borders of eastern Ukraine and in Donbass also adds to the point the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, made about Russian aggression. Let us be very clear that the current challenges and issues that we face come about because of Russian aggression.

In taking some of the questions, I will read Hansard and the specific questions of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, in particular, and respond accordingly. Picking up on some of those questions, first, in terms of our contributions, we are working very closely with our NATO partners. The noble Lord asked about specific conversations with French and German counterparts. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, as has been noted already, has participated directly in the meeting of NATO Ministers. This week is a major week in terms of diplomacy—I stress the importance of diplomacy—and I will come on to the meeting conducted today between the United States Deputy Secretary of State and the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister.

As noble Lords will know, and as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, pointed to, the NATO-Russia Council will be taking place. We are certainly looking to attend at ministerial level to ensure there is that engagement, which also picks up the specific point about engaging with US counterparts. We are doing so directly at Foreign Secretary level and with other colleagues. My right honourable friend James Cleverly has assumed responsibility for our relations with the US and how best to approach those. On 13 January—this Thursday—the OSCE Permanent Council will also take place and it is right that in this week, which is a crucial week, diplomacy is put at the forefront of our engagement to seek to de-escalate the current situation on the borders of Ukraine.

On the outcome of the discussions today, like the noble Lord, Lord Collins, I have, during the course of this afternoon, been seeing some of the statements that have been made by both the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Wendy Sherman, the Deputy Secretary of State. I think we have certainly seen a constructive tone but, in terms of substantive decision-making, that has not been the case, nor was it intended. What was important was that dialogues take place.

It has been very clear, picking up some of the strands of what the noble Lords asked me, that membership of NATO and indeed the future direction of that alliance—a defensive alliance, of course—is a matter for the alliance and for member states seeking to apply it. There should be no conditionality put on the security of Europe as a whole or, indeed, the current situation with Ukraine and the de-escalation of the situation on the borders of Ukraine. We are very clear that the sovereignty of Ukraine, a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, should be fully protected and upheld. In this regard, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has made it clear that any further Russian aggression will be met with that unity of action.

Both noble Lords raised the issue of sanctions. Again, I have previously made it clear that where we have acted—in unison with our key partners, most notably the European Union and the United States—we have acted against Russia directly, not just in terms of human rights abuses, but specifically on issues that have arisen in the areas that noble Lords have pointed to, such as anti-corruption, with sanctions in that respect.

Both noble Lords will note, as I am sure will your Lordships’ House, that we have introduced the global anti-corruption sanctions regime and have already sanctioned 14 individuals involved with the $230 million tax fraud in Russia, perpetrated by organised crime groups and uncovered by the brave Sergei Magnitsky. We will continue to review all sanctions in that respect.

Noble Lords rightly pointed out the continuing challenge faced by the City of London. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, talked about open registers of interests. The challenge remains very clear, and London continues to suffer the consequences of the actions of those who seek to use it as a base. We need to continue to be vigilant and to act accordingly. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked specific questions that I believe he has also raised with the appropriate Minister. I do not have that detail, but I shall reply to him and seek to respond accordingly about the actions that my noble friend is taking in that respect.

As for defence capabilities, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked specific questions about our agreements in support of Ukraine, together with the overall agreements we have reached with NATO. What I can share with the noble Lord is that we, of course, co-ordinate very closely with NATO, and our agreements on increasing the defence capabilities of Ukraine are made in concert with our colleagues within NATO, making sure that they are fully aware of the support that we are extending. The United Kingdom was at the forefront of recognising and supporting Ukraine, and we continue to stress to all parties, especially Russia, that its continued aggression on the borders of Ukraine is unacceptable, as is its continued occupation of Crimea.

The issue of the ISC came up again. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, has previously raised that issue, and I have sought to provide the details of the actions the Government have taken. I have placed a copy of that letter in the Library. If there are subsequent questions on the detail that I have provided, I shall of course look to answer them.

Clearly, what we find in the situation on the Ukrainian border is a lack of recognition, so we again implore Russia to look at what has historically been agreed by itself and by Ukraine. We can go back to previous agreements that have been signed, whether those be the Helsinki, the Budapest or the Minsk agreements, and we ask Russia to abide by those. As for the future direction of talks, we are, as I said, looking forward to further discussions this week. Of course, I give an assurance, and recognise that whatever the outcomes of those future discussions, we will report them back to your Lordships’ House.

Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Non-affiliated 9:03 pm, 10th January 2022

My Lords, on the subject of Crimea as a casus belli for the United Kingdom, did I hear the Minister correctly when he twice referred to Crimea in that way? Of course, that is history, going back well over 10 years, is it not? There is a long history. As we know, Sebastopol, the Russian naval base, is not the same as the issue of Crimea generally, but it is surely a question distinct from what we might call future threats. Will the Minister comment? Have I understood him correctly?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

If I have understood the noble Lord correctly, Crimea is occupied. It is sovereign territory of Ukraine—

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I am seeking to respond. Whether this is historical or current, when an action has been undertaken by Russia, in entering the region of a sovereign state, occupying it and annexing it, the fact that that has been done previously, or historically, should not deter us from ensuring that we continue to stand by Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and integrity. Crimea remains part of that territorial sovereignty and integrity.

Photo of Lord Hannay of Chiswick Lord Hannay of Chiswick Crossbench

Does the Minister not agree that the object we are all pursuing is effective deterrence? Does he not think that the deterrent capacity of the western alliance would be greater if we could specify more precisely what economic sanctions would be imposed if Russia crossed the red line we are drawing regarding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine? At the moment, the Russians can delude themselves—perhaps actually believe—that we will not be able to agree anything in those circumstances. If we were to state now some of the specifics of what would happen, that might be an effective deterrent.

Secondly, does he not agree that we need to go into these talks—heaven knows, they are not going to finish this week—with a détente approach that talks about the things we believe should be done to increase strategic stability, reduce the tension and de-escalate, such as arms control and measures in the conventional forces in Europe agreement concerning notification of military exercises and so on? We need to have that. Perhaps the Minister could say something about what NATO will go in with in its hand.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, on the question of specific action, as I have already said in response to the noble Lords, Lord Collins and Lord Purvis, we will of course look to co-ordinate any actions. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has been very clear that a Russian incursion into Ukraine would be a strategic mistake. There should be no doubt that Russian military aggression will be met with massive economic consequence through co-ordinated —I stress that again—economic sanctions by allies and partners, specifically targeting Russian financial transactions, assets and, indeed, individuals. Beyond that, it would be speculative and inappropriate for me to answer with any more detail, but rest assured that we will act in co-ordination with our allies in this respect.

On the noble Lord’s second question, I agree with him: it is important that we look to de-escalate. As I said, I have seen the early reports of the discussions between the United States and Russia, and the tone of those discussions, from both sides, irrespective of the differing positions—of course, we align ourselves with the position of the United States—was constructive. I also note the comments of the Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who said that Russia certainly does not intend to make further incursions. Through these talks, which have taken place through the US, but also further talks this week, we have and will emphasise once again Russia’s own obligations to agreements they have signed, including the Budapest memorandum.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Conservative

My Lords, the Foreign Secretary made a very eloquent comment the other day about a “network of liberty” being necessary to contain, curb and undermine the authoritarian regimes. Can the Minister explain how, over and above the obvious NATO alliance, this concept can be developed in relation to Ukraine? Does he agree that the really important message to get into the public debate and the Russian debate is that invading Ukraine will do neither the Russian people nor their leaders the slightest good in terms of prosperity or security, whereas the path to diplomacy might bring considerable benefits for Russia, including maybe a more peaceful old age for Vladimir Putin, and freedom to write his memoirs in peace?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

It may well be that Mr Putin’s memoirs are some way off at the moment, but I totally agree with my noble friend, and that is why it is right that the United Kingdom stand squarely behind the efforts of the United States. Obviously, we will be joining in further discussions, both through NATO and the OSCE, to ensure that diplomacy is given priority; it must be the way forward. Equally, I agree with my noble friend that it is in the interests of not just Russia and Ukraine or, indeed, other parties, but the world that there be a diplomatic solution to the current crisis.

Photo of Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Defence)

My Lords, I am all for constructive engagement, but it is worth remembering that this constructive engagement was preceded by the deployment of 100,000 troops, with modern armaments and more than a capacity for invasion, if one can put it that way. It is no secret that Mr Putin’s strategy has been the undermining of the unity of the European Union—in which we have actually aided him by our withdrawal—and the testing of NATO by intimidation. As I have said already, I am all for rational discussion, but it is important to remember that NATO should stand fast as an organisation for defensive purposes only that is open to any country which shares our democratic values and our recognition of human rights. These principles must not be allowed to be watered down in any way in the course of what might appear to be constructive negotiations.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

Suffice it to say that I totally agree with noble Lord. The NATO alliance is a defensive alliance and it is for countries to make the case to join that defensive alliance. Wendy Sherman, the Deputy Secretary of State, has said today that one of our red lines is very clear: there will be no shutting the door to future membership of NATO. That point has been made very clear in the discussions that have taken place today.

Photo of Lord Browne of Ladyton Lord Browne of Ladyton Labour

My Lords, I draw attention to my entry in the register of interests, particularly my association with the Nuclear Threat Initiative and my work for the European Leadership Network.

I welcome this Statement and I agree that Russia’s aggression and actions are a threat to Ukraine and beyond. I also welcome meaningful and robust dialogue with Russia. Having called for this for years, I am delighted to see that, at last, this “no business as usual” policy is no longer defined as meaning that dialogue is somehow a reward for bad behaviour and not a necessity in the circumstances that we have found ourselves in since 2014.

So, having called for it for years, I am delighted that the United States and Russia are having this extended and robust dialogue. I am delighted that the NATO-Russia Council with convene later this week. I am delighted that the permanent council of the OSCE will meet, and I hope that there will soon be talks in the Normandy format. I am pleased to say all of this.

But I am surprised that a Statement made by the Foreign Secretary on 6 January did not include any reference to the fact that, on Monday 3 January, our Prime Minister, President Putin and the leaders of the other three nuclear-armed states issued a rare but welcome joint statement on preventing nuclear war, with a common commitment to diplomacy and avoiding nuclear catastrophe. We have now committed ourselves to that, and I welcome it very strongly. But can the Minister tell us some concrete steps that our Government plan to take to invigorate efforts to avoid the risk of nuclear conflict, as a consequence of that commitment which we have now made?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, first of all, I agree with the noble Lord. That statement, which was made at the start of this year by the five countries concerned, was important and welcome and of course in itself represents a step forward.

The underlying purpose of such statements, and the discussions that are currently taking place on de-escalation, is the importance and the central pivot of diplomacy. We cannot at any time stop discussions, even with our greatest foes, if I can put it that way. Discussion is important. Whether it is done through the meetings that are taking place this week or on other challenges and disagreements that we have, including those with Russia, we must continue to engage directly and bilaterally. On the broader point, the UK has of course been at the centre of this. Indeed, on Ukraine specifically, my right honourable is certainly seeking to visit Kiev in the very near future.

Photo of Lord Balfe Lord Balfe Conservative

My Lords, perhaps I might start by pointing out that it is often a good idea to understand what your opponent actually wants. Last week, it was stated in the other place that recently declassified documents from the US made it clear that, in February 1990, Secretary of State James Baker gave President Gorbachev a categoric assurance that NATO would not, and had no plans to, move east. I do not want to disaggregate that statement, but the fact of the matter is that the Russians feel very aggrieved.

The country of Finland has lived next to Russia for many years without needing to join NATO. Recently, just before Christmas, a man called Jack Matlock, who was the US Ambassador to Russia, published a document about Ukraine in which he pointed out that the Minsk agreements have never been ratified by the Verkhovna Rada. So I say to the Minister: please also recognise that, when we are threatening them with sanctions, there are still things that they could ramp up to cause us damage. The net effect is: please try to cool this thing down and negotiate in good faith to try to get an easing of tension rather than following the line of always ramping things up.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I listened very carefully to what my noble friend said, but I do not agree. We have not ramped this up, and nor has Ukraine. It is Russia that has ramped this up. I referred earlier to the entry into the sovereign territory of another country, Crimea, and the annexation of that region against international law. That goes totally against the agreements that Russia itself has signed up to. So this is not about ramping up; it is about responding. It is right that we work with NATO and our allies to ensure that Russia understands very clearly that it is Russian aggression that is at the root of this, and this week—we continue to invest in this—we are seeking to ensure that diplomacy is at the centre of finding sustainable solutions to this crisis.

Photo of Baroness Smith of Newnham Baroness Smith of Newnham Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

My Lords, the Statement also mentions the western Balkans and the fact that the Prime Minister has appointed Sir Stuart Peach as special envoy. What assessment have the Government made of relations between Russia, Serbia and Republika Srpska, and of the future of Bosnia?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to point that out. Of course, the appointment of Sir Stuart Peach, which she referred to, underlines our commitment to ensuring that we are at the forefront of ensuring the territorial sovereignty and integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Our noble friend Lord Ashdown, who was respected greatly and whom we miss greatly, made some notable efforts, but I repeat what he said when we discussed Bosnia previously: that this was just the bottom line, not the top line, of what we sought to achieve through the creation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and it is important that we not only sustain but protect it.

We are deeply concerned that we are in the middle of three days of so-called unofficial celebrations in Republika Srpska, which is currently celebrating with Mr Dodik its creation as a republic. It has not been sanctioned; it is unofficial. Indeed, the scenes that we are seeing unfold are adding to the insecurity. As I said previously, again, it is deeply regrettable that this has been spurred on by support directly from Moscow.

Photo of The Bishop of Leeds The Bishop of Leeds Bishop

My Lords, I note that the Statement refers several times to the rule of law, and I am delighted to hear the commitments made by the Minister and the Government. However, it has not gone unnoticed in the Russian press that there have been threats to the rule of law, not least by the Government here proposing legislation that might undermine international treaties. The Statement says:

“The free world must rise to meet the moment. Britain is stepping up and leading by example.”—[Official Report, Commons, 6/1/22; col. 170.]

That is not necessarily how it is seen elsewhere. Perhaps the Minister can comment on that. I do not ask the question to be awkward; I am simply concerned about it.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate raises the issue of the rule of law. As someone who regularly stands up and talks about the protection of the rule of law, I say that when we look at the global stage and Britain’s role on it, it is important that we are also at the forefront of ensuring that, domestically, we are doing everything to uphold the rule of law. We can make the case effectively only if our record also speaks strongly at home. Of course there are comments and challenges on the UK’s domestic position, but I am proud to represent a country where the rule of law prevails and we seek to protect the rights of individuals and communities—indeed, of every citizen—in our country.

Photo of Lord Anderson of Swansea Lord Anderson of Swansea Labour

My Lords, the Minister is absolutely right to draw attention to Russia’s failure to honour its obligations under the Budapest agreement. Does he agree that we would be in a stronger position if we came to the table with clean hands and did not ourselves fail to adhere to our obligations under our treaty with the European Union?

I have just returned from Odessa, where I was the only UK parliamentarian at a defence conference. I emerged convinced that Ukraine will put up very strenuous resistance to any Russian invasion; indeed, there would be enormous damage to its international reputation. Russia must know this, so why do the Government think that Russia has put forward maximalist demands which it knows cannot be met? Is it an attempt to extract at least some concessions? If there is to be dialogue, there clearly has to be some give and take, but any concessions which we make in response to Russian posturing and threats surely cannot let down Ukraine and cannot give any succour to the ambitions of Mr Putin. So what concessions can there possibly be which can provide a ladder down which President Putin can climb which do not also add to the misery of Ukraine and to the aspirations of Putin?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, it is not my job to speak for Mr Putin or Russia, and I will not do so. It is clear that we present a united alliance against Russian aggression and we will continue to work with partners in that respect.

Photo of Lord McDonald of Salford Lord McDonald of Salford Crossbench

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Collins, reminded the House that the Foreign Secretary’s Statement was a very tough Statement using very tough language. I wonder whether there is a danger that it may mislead people in Kiev and Moscow, because, in the end, Ukraine is not an ally of the United Kingdom and is not covered by the Article 5 guarantee of NATO. Will the Minister confirm that his formulation—massive economic sanctions—is the extent, and that we are not talking about any kind of military deployment to Ukraine?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, the noble Lord speaks with great insight and experience of foreign policy. I agree that it is important to underline the consequences of further Russian aggression. I have already alluded to the fact that my right honourable friend pointed specifically to the economic cost and challenge, as I have done again today. As a more general point, I concur that one of the cardinal rules of diplomacy I have learned in the past few years is that tone and content both matter.

Photo of Baroness Falkner of Margravine Baroness Falkner of Margravine Crossbench

My Lords, the Foreign Secretary mentioned Nord Stream 2 and the efforts of the UK Government to discourage European countries’ overreliance on Russia for their energy supplies. Have the Government had any talks directly with the German Government about that in recent months?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The noble Baroness will know that the German Government have just gone through a change and that there is a new Chancellor and Foreign Minister. The statements that have been made by the new Administration reflect the concerns that we have constantly reiterated on Nord Stream 2 and the instability it is giving rise to about energy supplies across Europe.

Photo of Baroness Fookes Baroness Fookes Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, the time for Back-Bench questions has now elapsed.