That this House takes note of (1) the impact of the conflict in Ukraine, (2) the implications for the Integrated Defence Review, and (3) the case for the United Kingdom strengthening (a) its relationships with the European Union and other European allies, and (b) its commitment to NATO.
My Lords, right at the start of this debate I want to put on record my admiration for the courage and heroism of Ukraine’s people and their president. The Russian invasion of Ukraine constitutes the greatest threat to peace in Europe since the Second World War. None of us imagined that we would ever again witness such terrible scenes of armed butchery on our continent, even though the horrors of Yugoslavia in the 1990s warn us that the blood-soaked legacies of Europe’s history cannot simply be washed away.
I have some experience of Ukraine. Some 20 years ago, the Prime Minister appointed me to head a regular No. 10 dialogue with its presidential administration. We visited Ukraine four or five times, taking in Crimea, Odessa and Lviv, as well as Kyiv, and there were return meetings in London. President Leonid Kuchma’s Ukraine was then deeply divided, caught between its western provinces, which are more nationalist and committed to Europe, and the pro-European east where the oligarchs retained close links to the old Soviet fatherland but did not want a return to Moscow domination. These divisions deepened at the time of 2014 revolution, the deposition and fleeing of President Yanukovych, Putin’s seizure of Crimea and the outbreak of civil war in the Donbass. Putin’s behaviour since then has force Ukrainians to make a choice, with the vast majority choosing freedom and independence, united behind a commitment to a shared European future.
Today, my emotions are very simple ones. Thank God for NATO. Thank God for 70-years of cross-party leadership that learned the lessons of the 20th century: that the world is safer when Britain does not cower, does not retrench and does not abandon our hard-fought values out of political expediency. Also, as a Labour man, let me say thank God for Clem Attlee and Ernest Bevin, who gave us this legacy. Thank God for leaders of the Labour Party such as Hugh Gaitskell, Denis Healey and Jim Callaghan, who consistently sustained that legacy; and, in my generation, my noble friends Lord Robertson of Port Ellen and Lord Reid, both whom I had the privilege of working with very closely. Today, Keir Starmer stands firmly in that same tradition.
The Ukraine crisis shows that NATO belongs to the future not the past. It has shown the crucial role that at present the United States, and only the United States, can play. Joe Biden and his Administration have been magnificent, but the shadow of a re-elected Donald Trump hangs over NATO like a suspended death sentence. There will be no closer watchers of the 2022 mid-terms and the presidential primaries than the occupants of the Kremlin.
I congratulate the Government for a good part of their immediate Ukraine response: tougher sanctions on Russia, help for Ukraine’s devastated economy and rapid supply of weaponry. Yet our support for refugees has been lamentable, and we must do more to sanction Russians and hold them financially accountable for their conduct. Liz Truss’s rhetoric on war aims is overblown; she should remember that it is the brave Ukrainians, not us, who are fighting this war on the ground. Our aim should be to put Ukraine in a position where Zelensky can bring Putin to the negotiating table from a position of strength, not be forced to accede to a ceasefire that offers merely a temporary pause while Russia regroups. That requires Europe and the United States to devise a credible offer of military and economic security for Ukraine that, while not full NATO membership, is sufficient to deter Putin from future adventurism. We should also think about offering whoever emerges post Putin as his successor the potential for a relationship based on mutual security and respect, a return to the principles of the NATO-Russia Founding Act. We must preserve and strengthen NATO, and that means Britain and the rest of Europe rising from our past complacency, matching the gravity of current events with a concerted rethinking of the principles of our defence, foreign and wider security policy.
Ukraine has demonstrated that the key to our security is Europe, not the mushy rhetoric of global Britain. The requirement is a stronger and more united Europe with Britain playing its full part. Brexit is done. Let us for now put it behind us. The priority today is a more constructive approach to the EU and its key member states.
Let me suggest five ways forward. First, Britain needs to articulate a Europe-wide strategy to confront and contain Russia. Last year’s integrated review had some strengths. It half-identified the danger that stood before us: a revanchist Russian state intent on aggressively remaking the post-Cold War settlement. Yet it de-emphasised Britain’s commitment to Europe and the need for new thinking on transatlantic and European collective security. It deprioritised the Army. It focused British grand strategy on a tilt towards the Indo-Pacific to confront the rising power of China. It showed, in Professor Michael Clarke’s words,
“frankly insulting indifference to European partners”.
Its claims to be truly integrated now ring hollow. There was no discussion of oil, gas or energy security; no discussion of the role of Russia as the energy tap for so much of post-Cold War European development; no discussion of the power that OPEC nations continue to hold over the West; and no discussion of how the urgent transition from fossil fuels is now a security, as well as climate change, imperative. Furthermore, the advent of economic warfare against the Russian economy, with unprecedented sanctions, the freezing of central bank reserves and the pursuit of oligarchs across the world, is all new in international politics. The integrated review ignored the complexity of it.
Russia is the greatest threat to European security. Let us understand our objectives and our capabilities and build a strategy in common with our allies that will contain its aggressive ambitions. Only by articulating a common strategy, embracing a multilateral security partnership with our European allies, and only by embracing Europe, will we be taken seriously by the United States.
I have a question for the Minister. Are the Government planning to revise seriously their integrated review in the light of changed circumstances? Secondly, this will require reinvestment in British defence capabilities. The integrated review aspired to prepare us for a military challenge on the far side of the world but disregarded the necessary elements that would support our European partners and enable us to proactively confront Russia. The military was to be reshaped as
“leaner, more lethal, nimbler, and more effectively matched to current and future threats”.
Yet the Army in practice are set to lose their entire fleet of Warrior infantry fighting machines, with goodness knows what to replace them, and one-third of their Challenger tanks. Our land forces are now the smallest they have been since the 18th century.
We have been right to provide weaponry to the Ukrainian military, but we need urgently to replenish the stocks of those weapons that we have sent there. Even before Russia’s assault, the defence procurement budget faced a shortfall of more than £7 billion—incidentally, twice the whole of Ukraine’s 2021 defence budget. Rising inflation represents a further axe to the defence budget today, which is held constant in cash terms. My second question for the Minister is how much money has been set aside for replenishment of the weaponry that we have sent to Ukraine, and where is it coming from? The Government wax lyrical about global Britain, but we lack the capabilities to match words with action.
Thirdly, Britain should be an advocate for sustained investment in Ukrainian reconstruction and dealing with the global fallout from the conflict. NATO did not emerge in a vacuum. There was the Marshall Plan, and the focus on economic and social conditions, which brilliantly demonstrated the superiority of our values and economic system. Circumstances call on us to do the same again today. We must help Ukraine with debt—and, as for the emerging global famine, that is going to test us an awful lot over the coming months. We have to consider using the frozen Russian assets to invest in Ukrainian redevelopment and the mitigation of the global food crisis.
Fourthly, we must transform Britain’s relationship with the European Union, which our Government continue to treat with disdain. In some regards, this is deeply comical—for instance, when the Prime Minister would have us believe that the Ukrainian people’s struggle for their very lives is akin to Brexit. When the Foreign Secretary went to Brussels, she tweeted about her meetings with NATO and G7 allies but somehow forgot that she had been invited to the EU Foreign Affairs Council, a very special step on the part of the EU. Contempt cannot be a guiding principle for British foreign policy. The Foreign Secretary’s notion of an international network of liberty sounds appealing, but what on earth does it mean in practice? Sanctions, aid, energy policy and now weapons provisions are being co-ordinated through the mechanisms of the European Union. We must deal with realities, not fantasies, and build a sustainable partnership with them.
Fifthly—and this will be more controversial, I think—we should work with our European allies and partners to develop greater European strategic autonomy. Some deride President Macron’s advocacy of European strategic autonomy as a typically Gaullist and anti-American thing. I can see friends nodding on the other side of the House. Or they see it as a federalist project with which we should have nothing to do whatever. But in my view, it can be seen as a means of getting the whole of Europe to be serious about defence, as, thankfully, under Olaf Scholz, the Germans now are. It can, should and will complement NATO, not threaten NATO. How long have the Americans and the UK complained about the continent not living up to our NATO responsibilities? As a result of Ukraine, Germany is set to surpass, quite soon, the UK as the third-largest defence spender in the world.
We have no relationship with the enlarged budget of the European Defence Agency. How are we going to take part in procurement programmes? President Macron recently articulated the interesting idea of a tiered European political arrangement, with an outer political community for nations that are not EU members. Is this not an opportunity for Britain, a potential vehicle for closer European co-operation, without rejoining the EU itself?
I have another question for the Minister. What consideration are the Government giving to President Macron’s thinking? A European political community involves no loss of sovereignty for us. For Ukraine, it offers the chance to fulfil its European vocation. Some 86% of Ukrainians support EU membership— even two-thirds of those who live in the eastern provinces. I believe the EU should accept Ukraine as a candidate for membership, but getting there would be protracted and complex and exacerbated by the war. A European political community could give reality to Ukraine’s European vocation much sooner.
In conclusion, Putin is driving Europe together and driving it to change. Britain has to go with the flow. We are thinking a lot about the forthcoming NATO summit, the welcome prospect of Finnish and Swedish membership, the revision of the NATO strategic concept, but we should also be thinking about how we work with Europe’s common security and defence policy. Brexit has warped the discourse on European co-operation for far too long. There is no better time than this moment of acute danger for Britain to change course.
My Lords, what a pleasure to follow the thoughtful and comprehensive Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle. I would like to associate myself with the paean of praise to those level-headed, responsible Labour leaders down the decades who were prepared to deploy proportionate force in defence of western values, starting with that flinty patriot and still underrated politician Ernest Bevin.
I do not think many of us expected to be here after nearly three and a half months. If we cast our minds back to the dark days—figuratively and literally—of late February, I think we were expecting something very different. The talk then was about a Ukrainian Government in exile and counterinsurgency operations behind the lines and possibly some Ukrainian forces operating across the border from NATO territory. Why did that not happen? Why were the expectations, not only from the Kremlin but from most international observers, so misplaced? Obviously, there is not a single or simple answer, but I thought an interesting light was shone on it by a story that emerged towards the end of March, which suggested that the entire leadership of the Fifth Service of Russia’s FSB had been arrested.
These are, necessarily, murky waters and we cannot say for sure what happened in the world of espionage, but what seems to have happened—if the sources are believed—is that, as early as the 2014 intervention, Putin was planning a second intervention. He realised after the annexation of Crimea and part of Donbass that he had upset what had been an equilibrium between —to borrow 19th-century Russian terminology—westernisers and Slavophiles in Ukraine. He had taken several million Russophile voters out of the equation and given the pro-NATO forces a majority. He seems to have decided then on a further and decisive intervention.
If reports are to be believed, Putin set aside a substantial budget of billions of roubles to suborn key Ukrainians when the moment came, to bring regional governors, army generals, policy chiefs, mayors et cetera on to the payroll so that, at the key moment, they would open the gates. They would switch sides, denounce the Zelensky regime or whichever one was in power and accept the jurisdiction of whatever puppet regime was put in by the Kremlin. The problem was that the FSB did not believe the invasion would ever happen, and so the money that was set aside to prepare Ukraine instead disappeared into yachts in Cyprus and into Swiss bank accounts. We can imagine the scenes towards the end of last year when the President of the Russian Federation called in his spy chiefs and said, “Are we ready to go?” We can imagine a lot of nervous fingering of collars: “Absolutely, Vladimir Vladimirovich. No problem at all.” What were they going to do? They cannot even come here because, as we know from the Skripal and Litvinenko affairs, there is nowhere safe for an ex-spy. So they did the only thing you can logically do in that position. They tried to stop the invasion happening so that their embezzlement should not come to light, and they did so by telling us exactly what was planned, which was why our intelligence was so accurate.
I cannot, of course, confirm that story, but it does seem pretty plausible, especially when we look at what happened following the invasion. We saw the same pattern again and again, of failures of equipment and failures of procurement, because the fundamental weakness of any autocratic system is that people tell their superiors what they want to hear. Therefore, what was expected in the Kremlin, even now, was very far from what was happening on the ground. This, it seems to me, is the real strength of democracies. It is why we tend to have a surprisingly good record at winning wars. It is not that our people are braver or more virtuous; it is that we have better mechanisms in place to identify and correct errors. That, among other things, is a system worth defending.
We can argue about what exact military and strategic response we should take. One could take the line the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, just took. One could equally argue that in fact, since NATO was put together largely to contain a Soviet menace, and since the Russian menace has shown to be much weaker than we thought as recently as February, the time to be strengthening NATO was five years ago, and so the argument for it is now weaker than it was. There is a debate to be had, and it should be had in a judicious and thoughtful manner. You can at least make the case for a more global and dispersed approach to security and that the peculiar interest in western Europe’s security that dominated our post-war thinking is no longer quite as pressing.
Whatever view we take on that, the one thing we have learned is that it is worth defending our values even if that means going out-of-area. The invasion of Ukraine was no threat to the United Kingdom. There was no realistic scenario in which Russian troops were going to be marching through Kent. But as in 1914, as in 1939, we took a decision to defend our values in the defence of allied European democracies. Sure, it is an imperfect democracy in the case of Ukraine—I do not think anyone denies that—but, none the less, it had an aspiration to become a more pluralistic and liberal society. When we endorse that process in other countries, we make the world safer and more prosperous for ourselves. It is for that reason that I hope noble Lords on all sides will add their voices to those of the patriotic Ukrainian soldiers as they fire their British-made missiles at Russian armour and join them in saying, “God save the Queen.”
My Lords, while I think it is right that we should review the integrated review in the context of the Ukraine war and a number of global issues that have come to light because of that war, I think the integrated review was broadly accurate in identifying the trends that would shape national security and the international environment over the next decade. It stated very clearly that NATO should remain
“the foundation of collective security” in the Euro-Atlantic region and identified Russia as remaining “the most acute threat” to the UK’s security—both of which I think were right.
A number of people, including my noble friend Lord Liddle, believe there is not enough emphasis on working with the EU on security and defence matters. Having been involved in the defence arena for some 57 years, and a major NATO commander for a number of those years, I have no doubt whatever that we must ensure that our European allies channel their co-operative defence efforts through NATO, rather than trying to construct what I would call a “lesser NATO”, which will just divert resources for no defence benefit.
I also strongly support the integrated review’s intent that the UK should become
“the European partner with the broadest and most integrated presence in the Indo-Pacific—committed for the long term, with closer and deeper partnerships, bilaterally and multilaterally” in that arena. Many of my interlocutors in the US military see this very much as a quid pro quo: the US has supported us in Europe and is delighted that we are actually showing an intent to do so in that region. It would be a catastrophic mistake to ignore the Indo-Pacific and China because of the war in Ukraine. I have no doubt that that will be a threat that comes up on us.
My difficulties are rather around the MoD plans laid out in Defence in a Competitive Age, which covered the contribution of the MoD and the Armed Forces to achieving the objectives set out in the IR. Much of this stems from the fact that, despite all sorts of intentions, there has been a lack of funding in defence for many years. Looking to the future, that lack of funding is exacerbated by the assumption of what are very illusory efficiency savings—they just will not happen; we know this from past experience. Spending money on defence is clearly very hard for Governments in our cosy, secure society, but the reason we are in a cosy, secure society is because we spent money on defence. There is considerable truth in the view that wars are won not on the battlefield but by building up military capability beforehand. It is noticed by competitors, particularly dictators, and therefore it prevents war—but it takes time.
Many of us who have warned of chronic underfunding have been told time and again that we are wrong. The reality is that our Armed Forces are too weak to prevent war, which is something that Armed Forces do rather well, and if there is a war, which I am afraid one day there probably will be, they lack the equipment and manpower to keep us safe. Our Army, Navy and Air Force are too small. They lack the ability to withstand the inevitable attrition and are insufficiently equipped with state-of-the-art, fully maintained weapons—that is important—and sufficient war stocks—that too is important—for the inevitably high war-usage rates that we know happen, as Ukraine has illustrated very clearly.
The integrated review planned to restructure the Armed Forces for
“permanent and persistent global engagement”.
Therefore, our maritime strategy makes sense, not least because we are an island nation, which we seem to forget regularly, and in particular after the large shift of resources away from the maritime into the continental warfare area over decades in our counter-terrorist and failed nation building in south-east Asia. One cannot fault the desire to make the Army
“more lethal, nimbler and more effectively matched to current and future threats.”
Of course we want to do that, but we need to be very wary of making it “leaner”. Numbers matter, whether of ships, aircraft or people. The reduction of the Army to 72,500 is a step too far.
There seems to be a belief in government that future wars will be fought solely in cyberspace, using advanced technologies such as AI and quantum, and that there is no need for traditional military equipment and numbers. That is dangerously simplistic nonsense. Clearly, those new things are very important to the way we fight a war, but we need more than that. Greater integration of traditional maritime, land and air capabilities with the domains of cyber and space, and increasing investment in those domains, makes sense, but it does not mean spending less, I am afraid, on the traditional areas: they cannot be cut. For example, the advantages of high tech in helping the Ukrainians have been highlighted in this recent conflict, but the Ukrainians still need boots on the ground. The steady pressure of heavy forces is grinding them down, and we ignore that at our peril. Tanks, for example, are not redundant. The fact that so much effort and expense are put into destroying them shows that they remain important on the battlefield. No, we do not need large tank armies, but my goodness we still need tanks.
One area we need to note is the recently increased Russian jamming of GPS receivers on the drones that Ukraine has been using to such good effect to locate the enemy, direct artillery fire and attack tanks. They are now becoming ineffective because of Russian jamming of GPS. I have spoken before in the House about our vulnerability to GPS jamming: we really have to do something, and I think this needs urgent government attention. So is this now being done and co-ordinated, because it is a crucial risk to us?
The Government have a choice over whether we spend what is required to ensure the safety of our nation in defence terms to stop world war, look after our dependencies and our people or not. At present, I believe they are getting the choice wrong. The decline in military capability is a choice, and not one we should have made in a highly chaotic and very dangerous world. With war raging in Europe, and possibly extending to a world war, there is a need for an immediate uplift in defence spending.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, for this very timely and important debate. The noble Lord, Lord Hannan, said we have a better system in place, as a democracy, to identify and correct errors. I thoroughly agree, and I am going to talk about correcting the errors of Brexit.
There has been much debate this week over how to improve the economic and trade relationship with the EU, not least the suggestion by senior Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood that the UK should seek to rejoin the single market and customs union—a suggestion my party fully endorses, but it has ruffled some Brexiter feathers. A closer relationship in foreign and security policy ought to be less controversial. It was a sadly missed opportunity that this was not part of the Brexit deal, partly because of the poison from the rest of the “done deal”. The lack of trust being generated by this Government is prejudicing the chance of picking up that baton again and capitalising on the UK’s undoubted assets in security, defence and diplomacy. Health Secretary Sajid Javid has urged the RMT rail union to think again, act sensibly, “act like adults” and withdraw its strike threat. Would that he would address the same admonition to the Prime Minister over the crazy and damaging proposal to tear up the Northern Ireland protocol.
It is not only the prospects for British science that are being damaged by the confrontational approach currently being pursued. British, European, transatlantic and indeed global security are being harmed as well by the absence of trust and the failure to seize opportunities for a closer foreign and security relationship. Apart from changes in attitude, there needs to be a big, clear political declaration of a fundamental change in the UK’s approach, setting out the intention to act as a good neighbour to the EU and to repair the damage caused over the last six years by Conservative Governments, and especially this one. This may not happen under the present Government, but hopefully will under a new one. There is a clear basis for extending co-operation, building on areas where it is working well, most obviously in the policy towards Ukraine. It makes sense to start with the content of co-operative ventures and look later for suitable structures and mechanisms, but it can start with good relationships through meetings of Ministers and officials, maybe backed with exchanges of staff, such as between the FCDO and the European External Action Service.
The present Government have prioritised bilateral relationships with EU states over those with the EU institutions. There is nothing wrong with good bilateral relations, of course, except that doing it in order to undermine the EU and somehow demonstrate that the UK does not need, and indeed disdains, the EU is very unwise and counterproductive. I hope the current Foreign Secretary can adopt a more pragmatic attitude than the arrogant one of the previous incumbent. Maybe the FCDO does not do humility, but the attitude of superiority coupled with cynicism that the UK often got away with as a member state will not wash as a third country.
There needs to be a recognition in London, in particular, that the EU is a serious security and defence actor. The scope for this is evident from the experience on sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, where the alignment has either been explicit, such as UK sanctions mirroring those of the EU, or the two have been complementary and mutually reinforcing. This is an excellent precedent.
The European Council, at the Versailles summit in March,
“reaffirmed their commitment to take more responsibility for the EU’s own security … The leaders stressed that continued strong coordination on security and defence with partners and allies is key in this respect, including EU-NATO cooperation”.
In addition, EU
“leaders agreed to … develop further incentives for collaborative investments in joint projects and procurement; invest in … cybersecurity … ; foster synergies between civilian, defence and space research and innovation” and
“invest in critical and emerging technologies”.
The UK could also seek to participate in one or more PESCO—Permanent Structured Cooperation—projects. The one on Military Mobility is much valued by EU and NATO members in eastern Europe, and is indeed a centrepiece of the increasing EU-NATO co-operation and overlap as Finland and Sweden are poised to join NATO and Denmark has decided through a referendum—which is very welcome—to end its opt-out from the EU’s common security and defence policy. The importance of the Military Mobility project hardly needs stressing; it enables
“the unhindered movement of military personnel and assets within … the EU.”
The other opportunity, besides the European Defence Agency and PESCO, might be for the UK to participate in European security and defence missions, as other third countries do. There is, of course, a chapter on cybersecurity as an example of thematic co-operation in the TCA. It is disappointing that this has, so far as I know, remained an unexplored opportunity. Can the Minister tell me if there is any more life in it now? Is there any prospect of the UK participating in the EU Agency for Cybersecurity—ENISA—which it can in fact request?
The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, mentioned the idea from President Macron of a political community wider than the EU. It may go nowhere, and it is partly designed to head off pressure from candidate countries for early membership. However, it is an olive branch and the kind of idea that offers opportunities for a third country like the UK, so I hope that it will get a positive response, even from the present Government.
My Lords, the timely, multi-headed debate of the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, so well introduced by him a few minutes ago, surely requires us not only to recall but to act on Keynes’s dictum: “When the facts change, I change my views.” This is because an awful lot of facts have changed in the last few months which fundamentally affect our national security interests, and it is no good ignoring the need to change the conclusions we may previously have drawn. To recognise the need for change does not require us to admit that we were wrong before; it is just common sense.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has quite simply torn up the post-Cold War rule book on European security we all agreed to in Paris in 1990, as well as some of the basic precepts of the UN charter. The new Cold War is not going to be over any time soon; the war in Ukraine is going to require much determination and unity with our NATO and EU allies, if it is to be brought to a conclusion that does not reward Russia for its aggression and does not merely represent a prelude to further hostilities. That will require hard thought about what we ourselves are prepared to contribute to a newly shaped European security order; it will require more resources, both military and economic. It is not a beauty contest between allies. Evidently, there are consequences and reordered priorities for those—at the time, I believed they were quite well marshalled—in the integrated defence review. There should be no shame or defensiveness about admitting that. Every one of our partners is having to reorder its priorities, and some—Germany in particular—are doing so already in a much more substantial way than we have yet done.
The Indo-Pacific tilt, of which the Government are so proud, is not rendered inoperable; China’s rise and ambitions warn against that. However, the European theatre, and countering Russia’s actions, have again become our top priority. I suggest that we need to pay more attention to Africa, where we should be working in close concert with our European partners and where, together, we could make a real difference. That brings any analysis to our relationships with the EU, its member states and within NATO. Instead of working ourselves up into a frenzy about a European army, or the supposed threat from President Macron’s strategic autonomy, we should recognise that the rise in defence spending right across Europe is precisely what we have been calling for over decades. We need, as a crucial player in European security—and, with France, one of Europe’s two nuclear powers—to be there shaping its form and content, contributing constructive thinking and co-operation, not barracking from the side of the pitch.
That sort of constructive approach is what our principal ally, the United States, would like to see us making. We really should not, yet again, fall into the trap of thinking that we know better than it does what is in the US interest; we have done that quite often in the past, and it has proved pretty painful. The reality is that these fundamental shifts in the security structures around us present us with both opportunities as well as risks and costs. However, those opportunities will be realised only if we show a decent respect for other people’s priorities and not just for our own. That was how NATO was successfully fashioned in the late 1940s by Ernest Bevin, and that is how the NATO of the 2020s will be strengthened if we have the wisdom to throw our weight behind it.
My Lords, it is a very great honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, with his immense diplomatic experience. How right he is to remind us that principles are constant but policies have to change. We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, for the thoughtful way in which he introduced this debate.
I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Hannan and his characteristically charismatic imagination. He made one very important point that we must all recognise: it is 106 days since we woke to the news that the invasion had begun. A day after it, we assembled in your Lordships’ House and had a full-scale debate in which some extremely fine speeches were made. We now must assess the situation because, as he made plain, 106 days ago, we did not imagine that we would be quite where we are now. Indeed, all the talk was of a quick occupation of Kyiv and the probable exiling of the Government, which would force President Zelensky to seek sanctuary. His moving words—“I stay here”—galvanised Europe. Here we are today with the Russians shown up for what they are: those who would destroy wantonly and kill indiscriminately, but who have not succeeded in subjugating.
We must be realistic, and recognise what we can actually do with our limited capacities. That is why I called, on Tuesday this week, for an international conference convened by the UK on Ukraine. The noble Lord, Lord West, in his very sober analysis was right to remind us of our limitations. Of course we have done well, and I congratulate the Government, but I do not think that it is realistic to suppose that an honourable settlement demands a restitution of the whole of Ukraine as it existed in 2014—it demands a restoration of Ukraine as it was on
If that does not happen, we are all defeated because the principles of democratic government, freedom of speech and all the things we treasure so much in this House will have suffered a severe rebuff which could be followed—and how right the noble Lord, Lord West, was to refer to this—by a greater confrontation with a greater power later this century. We could be in a very difficult situation.
I urge noble Lords to concentrate on ensuring that we give President Zelensky all he needs to achieve an honourable settlement, because what has happened over the last 106 days is destruction that will take years to repair. We have got to put a great deal of money into that repair. That will cost us, as will the food crisis that looms over the world because of the mining of the Black Sea, which is likely to plunge us into greater difficulties in the year ahead.
Above all, as several noble Lords have referred to, we need to have an adult and proper relationship with our friends and allies in the European Union, many of whom are also in NATO, because we do not want a divided West. We have a duty in this country to ensure that we do not create unnecessary difficulties. I sincerely hope that the recent reports of the introduction of a Bill to override the protocol are wrong; you cannot abrogate international treaties which this Government entered into willingly and urged Parliament to adapt, adopt and pass—and we did it willingly. You cannot set that sort of example of abrogating treaties and claim to be a moral leader in global Britain. We must mend our fences with our European friends and allies and go forward together to ensure that the values that we each seek to encapsulate in our democracies are preserved and not defeated.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. I agree with him that we face an extraordinarily great challenge in the West, and those of us who subscribe to our values can only face that challenge together; there is no possibility of us doing so individually. I draw attention to my entry in the register of interests, particularly my chairmanship of the European Leadership Network, and vice-chairmanship of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. I join other noble Lords in thanking and congratulating my noble friend Lord Liddle for securing this timely and welcome debate and for the careful and balanced way that he opened it.
On Friday I chaired a meeting of the core group of the Euro-Atlantic Security Leadership Group. The EASLG, which was formed after the 2014 invasion of Crimea and Donbass, is sponsored by the European Leadership Network, the Munich Security Conference, the Russian International Affairs Council and the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and includes former and current officials and experts from Euro-Atlantic states. The EASLG is designed to test ideas and develop proposals for improving security in areas of existential common interest in these complex and difficult times. It operates as an independent and informal initiative, with participants from more than 15 countries who reflect the diversity of the Euro-Atlantic region, and it particularly includes both Ukrainians and Russians in this conversation.
Our focus was on Ukraine. I will draw the attention the House to two humanitarian challenges that we discussed, which otherwise are unlikely to surface in this debate but are a very strong reflection of the complexity of modern warfare, and also one issue of deep strategic importance that has emerged recently in this context. At this discussion we were joined by representatives of the International Commission on Missing Persons and the Halo Trust, which is a British and US charity set up to remove the debris left behind by war, in particular land mines and unexploded ordnance.
The estimates assembled by the ICMP from a variety of sources suggest that, since the beginning of 2014—when this war really began—more than 2, 500 people may have been kidnapped, abducted, forcibly disappeared or have gone missing from all levels of Ukrainian society, as well as from all sides of the political and conflict divide. This is now a weapon of war, as is moving people deliberately. Six million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have left Ukraine, and many of these children are subject to disappearance because we do not know where all of them are.
The ICMP has been working in the war zones of Ukraine for years. It reported to us that the commitments agreed in an MoU between the Ukrainian Government and the International Commission on Missing Persons had not even begun to be implemented prior to the outbreak of hostilities on
The Halo Trust has been at work in various locations in Ukraine since 2016, with 450 Ukrainian staff, mostly locally engaged. The programme has now shifted from eastern Donbass to the centre of the country. Survey and risk-reduction teams are on the ground, dealing with new threats, which include anti-tank mines that have been laid in farmland, making these fields unusable and exacerbating the food security issue that will affect a substantial part of the world. Until they are cleaned up properly, we will not even begin to reverse the damage that has been done. Ukraine’s state emergency services have, by Halo’s estimate, already done a huge amount of clearance. Many minefields have been partially cleared, but partially cleared is not good enough in this situation; they require additional time and cost to finish the rest. Halo, however, is working under pre-war restrictions in Ukraine, precluding the use of high explosives. This requires pausing to allow the military, which is not equipped to do this, to deal with the issue before Halo can move in. Halo is trying to lobby the Ukrainian Government to lift this restriction, and any additional support that our Government can give in their communication and discussions with them will be extremely important. I urge the Government to take on this and other issues that the Halo Trust is dealing with. I commend the Government for the financial support that they have given—as have the US Government—to Halo, but it will not be able to do its work properly unless some of these local blockages are removed.
I turn now to the strategic question, which I raised at Oral Questions on Tuesday. Security guarantees in some indiscernible form continue to be referenced as a major issue in ending the war in Ukraine. I understand that Kyiv is now in discussion with the Quad about them. On Monday, the Prime Minister met President Zelensky, and Number 10 briefed the press that they had discussed security guarantees. In March, there was apparently progress on this in the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia; in April, that process stopped. There are many questions about this. This is a fundamental issue for us. We need to be at the table if security guarantees that involve our country in commitments are being discussed in the resolution of this conflict.
The most important question for the Government is this: when will someone come to Parliament, explain what is being discussed and spell out the implications of these security guarantees, which are clearly already being discussed, for our future security and that of the West?
My Lords, this is a most dangerous moment—as dangerous as the Cuba crisis of 1962 and more dangerous than the crisis of 1983. It certainly calls for cool heads. But the request by some noble Lords to revisit the integrated review is a rush to judgment. A 100-day war is a short war. This is not the moment to draw definitive conclusions. We have yet to see, for example, the full impact of the weapons systems we and the Americans have sent to Ukraine. I am the last person to question military men on military matters, but when I hear the cry that the UK needs more tanks and a bigger Army, I note that Ukraine, with far fewer men and tanks, has managed to humiliate the Russian army around Kyiv and Kharkiv. Size is not everything, as I should know.
Nevertheless, there are important things to be said. As the noble Lord, Lord West, noted, the integrated review got it right: NATO is the foundation of our security; Russia is the most acute physical threat; the US is our most important ally; and we should work closely with the EU on matters of defence. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine does not require these principles to be revisited. Far from it—it reinforces them.
Putin will make Russia an awkward and aggressive European neighbour for years to come. This is what we must plan for: a strategy for the long run which is both political and military. The French President has urged that we should not seek to humiliate Putin in any peace deal. Macron misses the point. Putin has already humiliated himself. His invasion has strengthened NATO, opening the door to its further enlargement, rained down sanctions on Russia’s head and revealed the Russian army to be as brutal as the Nazis.
Today, the West has a short-term and a long-term challenge. The first is to provide Ukraine with sufficient support to repel the Russian invaders without provoking a third world war. The second is to answer the question: how does this end? There is already much disagreement on who decides the terms of any peace deal. There are even some, including in Westminster, who would sign an agreement with Putin over Ukrainian heads. Yet, no matter how tricky the issues, the unity of the West—of NATO and the EU—is essential. We do not need competition between the two organisations, driven by the French.
“What began as a cohesive Europe … has become progressively mushier. The spectrum of policies from Estonia to France, to say nothing of Hungary, has widened troublingly.”
The conundrum is this: long-term European peace and stability cannot be achieved without Russia, as Henry Kissinger noted a few weeks ago, but Putin’s atrocities have put him so beyond the pale that many will refuse to negotiate with him.
In the end, the West will have to decide whether the purpose of its support is to put Kyiv in the strongest possible negotiating position with Russia or to see Russia defeated on the battlefield. I ask my noble friend the Minister: is there yet a settled view in government on this question? In which forum are these matters discussed with allies, given that the full NATO membership is prone to leaks?
My Lords, I respectfully remind noble Lords of the speaking limit. We are running very close to time anyway, and the Minister will not have very long if we do not all stick exactly to it. I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord.
That is a slightly strange intervention, given that the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, was well under time.
The whole House is grateful to my noble friend Lord Liddle for his, if I may say so, magisterial and wide-ranging introduction to this debate. I declare my interest as chair of the National Preparedness Commission, the aim of which is to improve the preparedness of the UK to reduce the risk of and mitigate the consequences of a major crisis or threat.
My noble friend and others referred to the integrated defence review, which now appears—with all due respect to those who say its tone was right—somewhat stale in the light of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. The Ukrainian resistance to a vile invasion has demonstrated what a well-led, resilient nation can do when faced with an existential threat. But how well prepared would this country be if faced with a similar attack, whether kinetic or hybrid? How resilient would our society be in responding to any other significant threat? We know from Covid how quickly what we would regard as the norms of society unravelled within a few weeks, with deserted town centres, lockdown, social distancing, mask wearing and so on. We are living in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world.
Eighteen months ago, the latest edition of the national risk register was published. It mapped 38 major risks facing the country, including environmental hazards, major accidents, malicious attacks—cyber-based and terrorist—risks arising overseas and, inevitably, animal and human diseases. Supply chain disruption and energy market instability are not mentioned; nor, since it pre-dated the invasion of Ukraine, is the threat of Russian retaliation by cyber or other means for the stance that the EU, NATO and, indeed, this country have taken.
That is why Chapter 4 of the integrated review, on building national and international resilience, was so important. It explicitly promised a “comprehensive national resilience strategy” based on a whole-of-society approach, involving individuals, businesses and organisations. This strategy has been expected for several months. Can the Minister tell us—this is the first of five specific questions I have for him—when it is likely to be published? I assume that it will address the three central questions of what we should prepare for, how much resilience is enough and how we finance the necessary investment.
A whole-of-society approach necessarily implies engagement with the whole of society. My second question for the Minister is: what plans do the Government have for this engagement? Specifically, how will the wider business community be informed, encouraged and incentivised to build its organisational resilience?
What about the general public? In 2018, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency sent to every household in the country a revised version of its household preparedness guide If Crisis or War Comes. It asks the reader to consider what they would do if their normal everyday life was turned upside down. It cites climate change, external incidents and cyberattacks, but is essentially risk agnostic in the practical advice and information it provides. So my third question for the Minister is: do the Government plan such a publication here? If not, how do they envisage obtaining sufficient community engagement to deliver the necessary level of societal resilience to the threats we may face?
A familiar background to those broadcasts that we have all heard from Ukraine in the last few months has been the background sound of air raid sirens. I remember, as many noble Lords will, when air raid sirens were still placed on the top of large buildings in this country—as they had been in World War II. But that system was largely dismantled in the early 1990s. I am told that only about 1,200 remain and are used to warn the public in the event of floods in certain parts of the country. So, what is to replace them in the rest of the country?
In 2013, the Cabinet Office tested emergency alerts sent automatically to every mobile phone in designated areas. It is a technology that has been proven to save lives all over the world. Yet, nine years later, the technology has yet to be rolled out here. So, my fourth question for the Minister is: when will the promised cell broadcast technology—which incidentally is not the best technology to be using, but it is better than nothing—be available across the country and what advice is to be provided to the public on the actions they should take in response to an alert?
During Covid, communities had to come together to respond at local level. Councils and the emergency services worked with local community and voluntary organisations to support vulnerable people in the community. So my fifth question to the Minister is: how are those arrangements going to be sustained and built on as we go forward? This will involve increased funding and proper partnership. The lessons of the response by the Government and people of Ukraine demonstrate why whole-of-society resilience is so important. It is a wake-up call for us to look at our own arrangements. I hope that, when he winds up, the Minister will reassure us that this is central to the Government’s thinking, and that the fine words in chapter 4 of the integrated review will be turned into meaningful action.
My Lords, I join in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, on securing this important debate, which gives us the opportunity to look again at the integrated review in the context of unfolding events within Ukraine. It is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Harris, who has quite rightly focused on resilience in the context of his chairmanship of the National Preparedness Commission, and I have been very pleased to work with him as chair of the National Emergencies Trust.
It is on the integrated review in the wider security sense that I wish to focus my remarks this afternoon. I would suggest that our history since the end of the Cold War of security and defence reviews has been at best somewhat chequered. The options for change exercise conducted in the early 1990s I think is fairly described as something of a semi-camouflaged peace dividend taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and across Europe, by other finance Ministers as well. We then went forward to the end of that decade with the strategic defence review of 1997-98; and that review in many people’s view was an extremely good piece of policy work. Unfortunately, it was holed below the waterline by not being fully funded by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. Those risks came home to roost when we found ourselves fighting hot wars from 2003 onwards in Iraq and subsequently in Afghanistan.
We then went through a period of 13 years when we had no defence review whatever, until we came to 2010 when the coalition Government found themselves having to take rapid action to fill the black hole of about £35 billion in defence spending that they had inherited from the previous Government. The defence reviews of 2010 and 2015 were both again cost-cutting exercises, and when you have a cost-cutting exercise, you have to decide what costs you are going to cut. Quite rightly in my view, major capital equipment programmes, including—to the pleasure of the noble Lord, Lord West —the aircraft carrier programme, continued to be funded. But where there had to be savings, they had to come from our manpower cover. And where do you find most of the manpower? In our Army.
When the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Walker, was Chief of the General Staff and I was his Assistant Chief of the General Staff, the Army was over 100,000. A few years later when I was Chief of the General Staff it was still over 100,000. It is now plummeting to 72,000, and if No. 10 and the Cabinet Office had had their way in the early days of the integrated review, it could have gone down as low as 65,000 or 60,000. That I would suggest is unacceptable. So of course, against that background, we come to the welcome news in 2020 of a considerable boost to defence spending. But that boost was not a boost that was going to be made available to really increase our capability; it was largely an exercise in filling in many of the potholes that once again had accumulated.
However, the integrated review tried to take a broad-ranging look at our security, defence and foreign affairs requirements. I would suggest—as other noble Lords have said—that many of the conclusions of that integrated review were valid and reasonable, including, dare I say, the tilt toward the Indo-Pacific. As the noble Lord, Lord West, said, the Americans are very much approving of that because it is a little bit of a quid pro quo for them continuing to support us in continental Europe. But what the integrated review failed to take full account of was what we are now facing: the consequences of a resurgent Russia with a dictator who is determined to have his will in many ways.
So, we could then argue with ourselves, “Well, what should our response be?” Should we be rebalancing and changing some of the conclusions of the integrated review? I suggest that that is not the right approach to take. Many of the conclusions of the integrated review are reasonable, but what we failed to fully factor in was the requirement to be able to conduct a land war, or have a land capability that was strong enough to deter a land war, in Europe. Therefore, this is not to be a zero-sum game, with the Army, the Navy and the Air Force once again arguing against each other for a shift in priorities. Actually, it argues for an increase in our defence budget from 2% to 3%—an extra £12 billion to 15 billion a year—so that we can properly give ourselves the land capability that we absolutely require.
Our land capability is woefully lacking in armour; we are going to go down as it stands to 148 Challenger 3 tanks, and we have cancelled the Warrior tracked armoured fighting vehicle that can accompany them on the battlefield. What the war in Ukraine has shown once again is that artillery is a fundamental piece on the modern battlefield. We are woeful in the number of rocket and tube systems we have in this country. We have just given some MLRS to Ukraine: my goodness, we have few enough anyway, and where are the replacements going to come from? We need more armour, more artillery and we need more manpower; to have an Army that is going down to its smallest size in the last 200 years is completely unacceptable.
In conclusion, I would say that, when we look at the impact of Ukraine on the integrated review, there is a cautionary tale that we need to take note of. We need to look at that cautionary tale, learn lessons and, principally, ensure that an increased defence budget is argued for, and that much of that increased money goes into our land capability.
My Lords, in view of some of the things I am going to say, I would like to make it clear from the very beginning that I do condemn the Russian invasion. I think it was foolish and misplaced and, whatever else may be said, Putin clearly did not know what the result was going to be and seriously misjudged his own capacity.
I have been to Ukraine and to Crimea on several occasions, including before Crimea was taken over by the Russians. My conclusion on Ukraine is that there has been far too much western meddling. We have not managed to keep our hands off it for years, and we have not stood up to the Ukrainian Government. We have a Government who have conspicuously refused to implement the Minsk accords, and we have done little about it. Macron has done a bit, his predecessors did a bit and Merkel tried, but we have not had the Minsk accords implemented, and we have stood by while the Ukrainian Government have done such things as ban the Russian language—can you believe that they have banned the language of half of the population of the country?—and said virtually nothing about it.
I think Ukraine got itself into a position where it was being batted backwards and forwards by western-oriented policies. The real crunch came when Ukraine got rid of Yanukovych, because the country was a balancing act between the Party of Regions in the east and the parties in the west. It was never a clear dichotomy; it was never one area. I witnessed an election in Donetsk where over 90% of the votes were cast for the Party of Regions. I went round and questioned people, and all I heard was, “Well, it’s our party”. As one local person said to me, demonstrating some knowledge of British history, “It’s like the Valleys, you know. We all vote Regions; they all vote Labour”. I think there is a certain amount of truth in that.
When I used to lecture in European history, I used to say, quite truthfully, that you can rewrite your history but cannot rewrite your geography. The fact of the matter is that Ukraine is where it is, it is going to stay where it is, and we must devise a policy to dial down. There is far too much triumphalist rhetoric at the moment. What do we want to do with Russia? Do we actually want another Versailles? Are we going to suspend what is basically the rule of law in the West to confiscate assets? Of those assets in the West, are we going to distinguish between those of, say, Mr Bill Browder, who is supposedly our friend; Mr Roman Abramovich, who was our friend; and some people who have never been our friend? This is a slippery slope we are investing in if we start to suspend the rule of law so that we can have a rule of confiscation. We are almost back to the Versailles way of looking at the world, and it will not work. My friends in Russia—I do have some, and they are not at the top of the pile—are behind Putin. We have done what Hitler did in Britain: we have united the Russian people, and we need to be careful.
To close, I think we have to get a European peace conference, and we have to work out what we want. A justifiable line to draw is to say that we back the members of NATO and fully support Article 5. That is a line we can draw sensibly in the sand. We can say to the Russians, “So far, but no further” with the Article 5 guarantee. I have a lot of sympathy for the view of the noble Lord, Lord Liddle—I do not believe Labour Party Members are supposed to be my noble friends, so I will call him my ex-good friend—that we need to work with the Europeans. There is no way around that. Being in the same room as those Foreign Ministers is a great advantage. We need to get together with them; we will not get a peace in Europe without Germany and France. We need to get a common position—there is a European phrase for you—we need to get into the room, and we need to negotiate with the Russians from a position where they know that we mean it, but that what we mean does not humiliate them.
My Lords, I join in the warm thanks to my noble friend Lord Liddle for choosing this vital topic for our debate today, and for his magnificent speech in leading what has so far been a very interesting debate. It is just a pity that we have not heard the unique perspective of the noble Lord, Lord Lebedev, in this debate. He might have given us an interesting insight. I hope he would have joined in what is becoming a clear thread throughout the whole debate: overwhelming, unanimous support for the people of Ukraine in their fight not just for their sovereignty but for their democracy—and for our democracy as well, because they are fighting for us.
To follow up with a related topic, we have a scheme in place to assist the huge number of innocent civilians who have been displaced by the conflict. However, I fear that the Homes for Ukraine scheme remains far from perfect. Earlier this year, the BBC reported that up to 30% of registered would-be sponsors were single men over 40 offering to host single women in their 20s. More recently, the Guardian has highlighted the increasing number of refugees becoming homeless, and in many cases destitute, as a result of relationship breakdowns with their Homes for Ukraine hosts. This is dangerous and needs to be reviewed. The safeguards that we do have in place currently prohibit UK families from hosting under-18s who are travelling on their own, which means that Ukrainian children in this position currently have no route to this country. On both these issues, more must be done to ensure that we live up to our duty to shelter those fleeing the devastating effects of Putin’s brutal war machine.
We must also maintain and strengthen UK sanctions at least in line with our European allies. The EU is pushing for a total ban on oil imports. Our own consumption is relatively low compared to other European countries, so it is easier for us, but it is vital that we continue to phase out Russian oil. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently noted at Davos that the war has strangely—paradoxically—given us a unique spin-off opportunity to meet our carbon neutrality goals sooner than expected, so we should join the rest of Europe to push for united climate action and to have this double benefit.
The German Chancellor also stated that it is unlikely that Putin will consider negotiating for peace until he is certain of the impossibility of a Russian victory—a belief I share, incidentally—and it is therefore vital that we continue to honour our commitments to NATO and to ship more weapons to the courageous Ukrainian armed forces. I fear that we are being too selfish in Britain in trying to maintain our stockpiles. We should certainly renew them, but we are not shipping to the Ukrainians enough weapons and new ammunition, which they urgently need.
We must also remember that the effects of this war stretch well beyond Europe; Putin’s blockade on grain is hitting developing countries badly. Therefore, we should recognise that we must improve and expand our foreign aid programmes to mitigate the food crisis that this war has triggered. The sooner we get back to 0.7% of GNP, the more likely it is that we will be able to do that. If we do not, as recent history has shown, the aid vacuum left by Britain and the West will most likely be filled by an authoritarian power—particularly Russia or China—intent on cementing support for them in African countries in particular. I have seen this myself in Africa. I remind noble Lords that African nations such as Senegal and South Africa refused to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine and abstained from the UN vote which demanded the full withdrawal of Russian forces. These countries are, or should be, our natural allies, but they have struggled to keep their economies afloat throughout the pandemic and rightly feel that we prioritised our own narrow interests during that time, and that we continue to do so.
Gordon Brown wrote a powerful article earlier this year in which he commented that our terrible treatment of Africa throughout the pandemic. allowing massive vaccine inequality, was as bad as under colonial rule. This is now an opportunity to try to right these wrongs and to stop the global creep of dictatorship.
In summary, to return to where I began, I say that collaboration with our allies in the face of Russian aggression has never been more important. I hope that the Minister—when he gets back—will commit himself to at least matching our European counterparts when it comes to sanctions and aid for Ukraine. I hope that he will agree that the UK should be mindful of the impact that sanctions and food shortages are having on developing countries. We are at the crossroads of a global battle of dictatorship against democracy where Ukraine is in the front line. Ukraine must win for the sake of us all.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, opened our debate today with a thoughtful and well-judged speech, and the whole House is grateful to him for initiating this debate.
Vasily Grossman once wrote:
“Every epoch has its own capital city, a city that embodies its will and soul. For several months of the Second World War that city was Stalingrad”.
In Britain, of course, it was the heavily blitzed city of Coventry. In the history of Putin’s war, that city will surely be Mariupol, and what savage irony that the descendants of the horrific brutality of Stalingrad have become its perpetrators and responsible for atrocities and war crimes. The barbaric onslaught of Mariupol led to besieged Ukrainian soldiers and civilians enduring weeks in the cellars and catacombs of the Azovstal steel plant. Putin has thought nothing about the criminality of unleashing wave after wave of death, destruction and damage including attacks on 400 hospitals and medical centres, killing civilians in railway stations and children in schools, mining fields and slaughtering animals.
Since 2014, as the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, reminded us, even before the depredations of Mariupol, Bucha and the rest, some 14,000 Ukrainians had already been killed, with the illegal occupation of Crimea and Donbas merely a curtain raiser. Since February, the Kremlin’s rhetoric has morphed from the pretext of protecting Russian speakers to portraying their special operation as existential, with Ukraine’s enemies hell-bent on its very destruction.
Reports of Russian fatalities vary but, whatever their number, military and political leaders must surely be recalling that wives and mothers, especially the mothers of conscripted boys who were lied to and told their sons would not be sent to the front, turned public opinion against Russian wars in Chechnya and Afghanistan. They may well do the same again. Russian people and culture have so much that we can admire, but Putin is not part of that. In July 2021, in a 5,000-word essay entitled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” he set out his ambitions. Mercifully shorter than the 153,000 words in Mein Kampf, in which Hitler outlined his pernicious anti-Semitic Aryan ideology, Putin positions himself with the imperial princes and tsars and whips up paranoia around anti-Russian conspiracies and foreign plots, rebutting the legitimacy of Ukraine’s borders and sovereign status.
However, Putin’s attempts—and his decision to abandon for now his failed attempts—to capture the entirety of Ukraine have led to a concentrated, deadly, bloody offensive in Donbas. The capture of Sievierodonetsk would enable domination of the supply lines. Although this hardly smacks of victory, nor does it suggest defeat—diminished and humbled, yes, but it would be absurd to underestimate Russia’s ability to dig in for a protracted conflict or to learn from its failures.
We should also be realistic about fatigue and sustained sacrifice. Despite the many pledges made to the courageous President Zelensky, some of the promised armaments have not reached Ukraine. Nor should we assume that self-interest will not get the better of domestic politics in those western countries facing rampant inflation and skyrocketing energy prices, so our commitment in the United Kingdom must be enduring and sustained.
I have some questions for the Minister. Over the past decade, €1 trillion was transferred to Russia in return for fossil fuels, but Ukraine has the second largest gas reserves in Europe and gas storage space equivalent to 27% of the European Union’s gas storage capacity. What is being done to access that and, ultimately, about the replacement of dependency with sustainability?
Returning to an issue raised by the noble Lords, Lord Liddle, Lord Cormack and Lord Foulkes, I ask: what are we going to do about the grain inside Ukraine at present? In his reply to me today, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, said that there were 25 million tonnes of grain. How are we going to get them out? Will we help with the integration of the Ukrainian railway system to enable exports? What are we doing to open the Black Sea ports to ships from neutral countries, many of which face starvation thanks to Putin’s new Holodomor, using starvation as a weapon of war?
I return to accountability and justice. On
On security, important speeches were made by the noble Lord, Lord West—I agreed with it entirely—and my noble friend Lord Dannatt. Will Sweden and Finland be fully integrated into NATO and when? Is Germany meeting its welcome promise to pay its fair share for our common defence? With the horrendous consumption of weapons and munitions, are we ensuring their replacement to safeguard our own defence and security?
Exactly 40 years ago, I listened to Ronald Reagan here in the Royal Gallery. He, Margaret Thatcher and NATO understood that in every generation like-minded nations must be ready to make extraordinary sacrifices to defeat those who threaten them. The heroism which we have seen in Ukraine has given us a clear view of the barbarians once more at our gate. Putin’s war gives sharper definition to the threat posed to our way of life by a growing number of authoritarians, their regimes and ideologies—a threat that must once again be defeated.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Liddle for his initiative. If the first casualty of war is the truth, Ukraine is a fine example. It is hard to know who and what to believe. Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Denys Shmyal, claims that Putin’s forces have destroyed more than 15,000 miles of roads, hundreds of bridges, 12 airports, 100 school, college and university campuses and 500 medical facilities, and contaminated 150,000 square miles of land with explosive devices. Other reports claim 90,000 cars destroyed, and 34 million square metres of residential buildings wrecked at a replacement cost of $30 billion. The World Bank estimates $60 billion in infrastructural damage. The IMF predicts a 35% and rising contraction in the economy, with 11 million people displaced and 6.5 million refugees escaping violence while leaving loved ones at home. We have 8.5 million on either food assistance or exceptional health support. We have the disruption of education for 3.5 million children and a collapse in family income, leaving millions of pensioners unable to move while trapped. That was the position a few weeks ago.
The Kyiv School of Economics forecasts a potential war cost of $600 million—four times the national GDP. These are cash cost estimates. Then we have the loss of life: 22,000 in Mariupol alone. Wider estimates speak of an additional tens of thousands of civilian and military war dead. If that is not enough, we have President Zelensky’s spokesman demanding more weaponry when he states:
“If you ask me, I would say far too slow, far too late and definitely not enough. We are not happy with the pace of weapons delivery”.
Then there is the cost here at home: escalating fuel and food prices, and worrying inflation with additional millions in need, particularly in low-income households. We have economic destruction throughout Europe with the potential to destabilise all populations. I say, when it comes to war, never underestimate the potential of the unpredictable, which in this case is a distinct possibility. Yet all I hear is cries for more war, more weapons, more sacrifice and a refusal to even talk against a background of escalating threats from Moscow.
We need a period of reflection. Personally, I have never ducked a need to face up to decisions on war when national unity was required. I have supported war in the Falklands, and in the case of Iraq visited Washington repeatedly, calling for intervention, but this is different. This war is riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies, and the silence of the British public begs questions as to the level of real support, indeed concern, out there. I beg the Government to start thinking outside of the box and reflect on the route to a solution and ending the conflict. Humiliating a proud Russian people in whose name a tyrannical Putin is pursuing a brutal, inhuman and crazed war is no answer.
The man has lost all reason, he is desperate as to his legacy and is acutely dangerous. We need a post-Putin strategy which facilitates the development of a more democratic Russia and its joining a world of more civilised nations. There was a possibility in the early 2000s, but it never materialised. Compromise all round is now needed. I plead: do not destroy the Russian economy in a flawed process. Humiliating Germany in the 1920s brought a world war, and history can repeat itself. We cannot win overall militarily; equally, neither can the Russians—they can only damage their economy.
I say: start the talking, and with an open mind. When the Minister in a recent reply insisted on what appears to me to be total capitulation by Russia, my heart sank. The Minister should listen to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont of Lerwick, who has supported calls for early negotiation to end conflict. He should listen to the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, who in a recent debate set out a comprehensive set of proposals for the resolution of the conflict. He should listen to the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, who is to follow me now, and who, while supporting military intervention has heavily qualified his remarks on the issue of preparedness.
Finally, I can only repeat my own calls, made before the war started, for protectorate status for Donetsk and Luhansk within Ukraine under international monitoring arrangements and, additionally, the disbanding and withdrawal from theatre of the Azov and associated battalions and the Donbass militia. I believe all this was possible under an agreed settlement before the war started. It is still possible to deliver as Russia’s war losses mount up and make compromise increasingly possible. At least we should start the talking. If history judges that we have fought a war—call it a proxy war if you want—to secure less than what we would have secured by way of negotiation, we will be condemned by our descendants as little more than party to an historic error. I say: listen to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, which was very impressive today.
My Lords, I too join noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, on obtaining this debate and on the robust way in which he introduced it.
In previous debates on Ukraine, I raised the issue of sanctions and in particular, what assessment the Government have made of their effect on Russia and on Putin. In answer to my question on this on Tuesday the Minister said that they
“have had an inhibiting effect in relation to Mr Putin’s ability to mobilise his forces.”—[
I doubt that Ukrainians defending the Donbass would agree.
Historically, sanctions imposition has often been a political response to a “do something” cry falling short of war. A most significant distinction between all other sanctioned countries and those against Russia is that the former could be dealt with by Theodore Roosevelt’s diplomatic truism,
“Speak softly and carry a big stick”, but Russia, unlike all others, also has a big stick.
Viewed from the Russian side, this is the second time that they have been sanctioned in the past decade. American sanctions following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 were aimed to make Russia a pariah state. Should sanctions become an existential threat to Russia itself, the risks of their response, being a nuclear power, cannot be downplayed or ignored.
As the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, argued in his recent excellent essay on this topic:
“Economic sanctions against Russia are supposed to be an alternative to war, but they can reasonably be expected to change the Kremlin’s behaviour only by becoming tactical components of the conflict.”
Ukraine’s supporters do not intend to make or threaten war themselves directly against Russia, but without such, the true value of sanctions becomes unclear. As the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report in May 2007 on The Impact of Economic Sanctions concluded:
“Economic sanctions used in isolation from other policy instruments are extremely unlikely to force a target to make major policy changes.”
Foremost among “other policy instruments” listed was the threat or actual use of force.
The assessments the Government have made do not show, even after 100 days of conflict, any great reduction in Russia’s war-fighting capability. Bearing in mind that some nations are still trading actively with Russia and many European countries are still paying Russia for oil and gas—no doubt with pricing increases—are the sanctions achieving the result required of a major change in Russia’s “special operation”? Not yet, and do not hold your breath.
Imposing sanctions is not a zero-sum game. Individuals and businesses that are no longer able to trade with Russia will not necessarily be able to make good in other markets what they were achieving in Russia. They will suffer losses, which will increase with time. The financial and banking sanctions sound severe, but workarounds are already evident. The rouble is trading near its pre-war rate. Rising oil and gas prices have increased the cost of living for all here in the UK.
More needs to be said publicly to explain what sanctions achieve. Russia’s combat forces remain active, even if their tactics are less than competent. So where does the balance of advantage lie? Should even more sanctions be imposed, with the attendant risks if Russia feels itself threatened, or has a limit been reached?
What plan, even thought, has been given to an exit strategy? No sanctions can be indefinite. As long ago as 1999, a government review of sanctions policy stressed the principle:
“Sanctions should … have clear objectives, including well-defined and realistic demands against which compliance can be judged, and a clear exit strategy”.
The present sanctions targeting falls far short of such a principle, which, as well as anti-corruption and Magnitsky ones, should have greater exposure in an integrated review.
Looking to the future, when some settlement has been achieved and peace restored—I have little confidence that this will be very soon—what support can be given to the inevitable restructuring needs in Ukraine? Can assets impounded from individuals or Russian banks and businesses be switched to benefit the restoration funds that will be required? Is that going to need legislation, and would that be internationally legal? What steps have the Government in mind or are they taking to study and to implement these post-conflict needs?
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Liddle on a masterful speech, which set the tone for a very interesting debate. I want to talk about transport in Ukraine, in particular rail transport, which is the backbone of the Ukrainian economy because it is a very large country, as we know. Whether it is transport for defence reasons, evacuation or keeping the economy going, most goods are carried by rail. I declare an interest as a board member of the European association ALLRAIL and a former member of the European Rail Freight Association.
Other noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Foulkes and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, talked about the importance of corn. Ukraine produces some 40 million tonnes of corn, plus fertiliser and sunflower oil. It is a major world supplier. This is—or was—nearly all exported via the Black Sea, and the railway system in Ukraine was very good at doing that. As that route is likely to be blocked for the foreseeable future, we have to think about how to get that corn out, probably by rail and probably, most of it, towards the west. That represents a massive increase in demand and capacity not just in Ukraine but in neighbouring countries, particularly Poland. I am in touch with the railway operators in Ukraine and am told that 6,300 kilometres of track have been damaged by the Russians already, with 41 bridges, as well as tunnels, demolished.
We could say that we are on a war footing. There are problems in Poland, not with the war, of course, but largely with bureaucracy. Getting the railways across Europe to work seamlessly as one team, finding wagons, finding locomotives and making sure that the tracks are repaired is a massive undertaking. I give credit to Network Rail and the Government for giving quite a lot of support in the form of equipment, including Bailey bridges and the like, for repairing bits of railway that have been bombed, but we need to do a great deal more if we are to enable the massive increase in grain exports that is needed if we are not going to have famine in the world, as my noble friends have said.
I was a bit surprised yesterday when the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, said:
“The truth is that we are almost self-sufficient in wheat”.—[Official Report, 8/6/22; cols. 1150-51]
Well, that is all right for us, but what about the rest of the world? I hope that we can look much more widely.
There are many problems. I have received a long list, which I will pass on to the Minister, of ways in which the West, the UK, Europe and United States—which is very keen to do so—can help in making sure that the railways can expand this massive capacity. Noble Lords will know that the track gauge is different in Ukraine—it is the same as in Russia. There are many ways of transferring freight from one gauge to another—I could bore noble Lords for hours on the subject, but I shall not—but it needs investment, wagons and a reduction in bureaucracy, which sadly is still there in Europe. The railways across that part of Europe and Ukraine need to work as if they are on a war footing now. That might seem a bit over the top, but we should get rid of all these regulations. There is a regulation in Poland that says than any wagon coming from Ukraine, if it is transferred, has to have its axle box checked for temperature every 50 kilometres, so the train has to stop. Is that really necessary when up to 20 million tonnes of corn are waiting to be exported?
I am in touch with United States railroad operators as well, and I hope they can help, but, whether it is by way of a task force, a conference or whatever, all the railway administrations that can do it need to help the Ukraine Government help themselves and to support Poland and other countries in making sure that freight can move as quickly and as seamlessly as possible to the ports, mostly in northern Europe, where it is needed if we are to get it away and help the economy of Ukraine and the rest of the world. At the moment, they are all saying, “We can’t do this, because who’s going to pay us?” The question of who gets paid and for what will need urgently addressing. I suspect that it was done before and at the beginning of the last war—I was not in a state to have much of a view then. I will send the Minister a long list of requests from Ukrainian Railways, and I hope that we can help with that, but let us hope that we can encourage everyone to go much faster to increase the capacity of rail export.
My Lords, the broad conclusions of the more general integrated review were correct, but reference should also be made to the defence Command Paper. I propose to the Government that both be updated regularly to reflect changes in circumstances.
I am concerned that this war of attrition masks the fact that Ukraine, from Russia's perspective, is a means to an end and not a strategy in isolation, representing an attempt to craft a new world order with a reconstruction of its role in international affairs. Events are the consequences of 20 years of strategic thinking on Russia’s part. It follows, therefore, that the Euro-Atlantic community should frame a Russia strategy in the longer term, and not as a problem of the last century, looking forward not backwards, with all its future implications.
Russia has returned to its traditional role of an aggressive, expansionist state, and an effective response to this remains to be shaped. A senior British defence official said in 2016:
“Russia is a reality on the world scene and we cannot go on pretending it is not”.
That is correct, with all the opposing ideology, interests and explicitly differing values. A new generation of Russian leaders will change little. We must work to understand more than I suspect we do or face sleepwalking deeper into the quagmire.
The scale of the reconstruction required defies comprehension, with President Zelensky estimating in April that $7 billion monthly, totalling $600 billion, is required. From where is this to come and with what conditionality? A future Ukrainian state awash with money and flooded with arms could itself become a challenge.
HMG will be only too aware also that democratic politics can usher in a new guard. With elections supposedly due in a year or so, there will be many from a military background who will enter politics and, depending on outcomes, bring with them a differing approach. I must ask the Minister, therefore, what HMG’s assessment of that situation is. Are election assistance and process planning being conducted, or are we in active consultation with the electoral commission in Kyiv about a delay to a future election?
On the world stage, it would appear that Russia is hell-bent on building an Iran-China-India axis, in addition to quietly making inroads on relationship building in South America and Africa, with the Indo-Pacific also in its strategic planning. I have been calling around, and it has become clear that a large number of states wish to remain neutral, which is not good.
A vision of Russia would appear to be multiregional, now strengthened by the Arctic route becoming more realistic. That will be of particular appeal to China, which is already investing in securing land for its future infrastructure and military needs along that route.
London is acting in important ways in Ukraine, but very much in the now. Now and looking ahead are essential, and in this context the integrated review is right: Moscow will be a challenge for London through the 2020s. The UK has positioned itself as Moscow’s enemy 1.5, with our strategists having to manoeuvre through a minefield of British policy and determine how global Britain will manage a ubiquitous Russia. It is legitimate to ask what kind of threat Russia might pose to the UK. Moscow has not yet used its strategic assets in this war, but we should be prepared for an intensified cyberthreat.
On a practical note, I am reminded of the loss of the depth of expertise in the FCDO on Russia and the Russian language. We urgently need to build a cadre of Ukrainian expertise and language capability.
In the search for common ground with Russia, while always being explicit that London has very many policy and value disagreements with Moscow and vice versa, urbanisation, climate change, infrastructure, and issues of the 2030s, including how to manage ageing social disruption, might be areas of commonality of challenges.
The war in Ukraine has reignited great power competition. If we are ever to move forward, the institutions that govern the world order must adapt to new ways of thinking and new ways of working.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, for introducing this debate, but it seems that for a while we were fighting not just the Ukraine-Russia war but the EU war as well, between Brexit and no-Brexit. Let us suspend that war for the time being and concentrate on the Ukraine-Russia war. What we do about Brexit is another issue. I speak as a remainer.
The most important thing is to understand and decide that the only solution to this war is that Ukraine regains its entire old frontiers and is re-established as a country safe from external aggression. If this is to be realised, we cannot go down the road that France and Germany, for example, have been proposing, of a peace in which Ukraine would lose its eastern Russian-speaking zones and be left with only western Ukraine. One principle that we established when we established the United Nations in 1945 was that national borders are sacrosanct and cannot be arbitrarily violated by one power set against another.
The problem will last much longer than people think. This is not going to be a 100-day war but probably a 1,000-day war, if not longer. Europe has a habit of going to war quite frequently. We went to war in 1914 until 1918, and then, within another 21 years, in 1939 we went to war again until 1945. We then thought that we had peace but again, we are back at war in Europe in 2022. This is because there are certain unresolved national issues in Europe. Russia has always felt that Ukraine somehow should be part of Russia and not an independent country. I had a colleague at the LSE who taught Russian history. When asked what his biggest dream was, he said, “An independent Ukraine.” At that time Ukraine was not independent. It then became independent temporarily and now it is threatened with control by Russia.
One thing we must make clear to the Russians and the Ukrainians in this battle is that we will stand by Ukraine until it regains its frontiers. Like many other noble Lords, I am in touch with some Ukrainian groups, who send me emails about what their idea of liberation is. We must make that the first priority. Neither our energy supplies nor our wheat supplies nor the debt position of third-world countries should gain priority over the world getting together to give Ukraine its borders back and some future guarantee of safety from another external attack by Russia. Some noble Lords have talked about a new world order, and one very important thing to recognise is that the United Nations has failed in this respect. The United Nations Security Council was built up as an oligarchy of big powers—the permanent members—and we saw the farce whereby Russia could not be indicted for its attack because China used its veto to protect Russia.
The UN will have to be repaired at some future date because right now it is not an effective body. We are left with the EU and the US. The western alliance is divided about how to deal with the Ukraine crisis. Some western European countries would like a quick, patch-up treaty, which will leave Ukraine divided in two and then Russia will go away. I think that is a mistake. We ought to insist that the UK will aid Ukraine for as long as possible, and that our aim is to guarantee that we will stand by Ukraine until the end, just as we stood in the Second World War.
My Lords, in this most welcome debate on the impact of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine we have heard some very thoughtful contributions. It has been made clear that the Ukraine war is not a little local European difficulty; it is a global crisis. The effect of food shortages and the associated price increases threaten widespread famine in Africa. The destruction of energy supplies is contributing to increased global inflation and the overall economic shock will affect living standards around the world.
However, its significance goes beyond the economic. It goes to the heart of how the world is to be ordered in future, how nations are to deal with one another in the years ahead, and how much stability we can expect to see in the international community. This should condition our thinking about the UK’s role in the crisis. Our strategic objective should be to ensure that Putin’s invasion is widely seen to have failed and that such an illegal use of force is fraught with uncertainty and danger for the aggressor. This will not, of course, entirely eliminate the threat of future conflict, but it will at least give pause to those who contemplate starting one. The question then becomes, how is that strategic objective to be achieved? The answer is in two parts—military and economic—but in the time available today I shall restrict myself to military issues.
We must of course continue to support the Ukrainians in their valiant efforts to deny Putin his objectives in their country. They have already defeated his attempts to seize their capital and split their nation in two, and they must now frustrate his latest goal of achieving total control of the entire Donbass region. President Zelensky naturally wishes to regain control over all his nation’s territory. That may not be a realistic short-term objective, but neither is it necessary in order to deny Putin his aims. Given continued Ukrainian resistance, Russia will be unlikely to advance much further and will be tied down in an attempt—almost certainly doomed —to pacify the area it occupies. However, this relies on the Ukrainians continuing to receive the military wherewithal to counter the kind of artillery-heavy attritional attacks that the Russian forces are now mounting.
More widely, we need to relearn some old lessons. The first, as I have remarked before, is the unbounded capacity of the future to surprise us, usually in very unpleasant ways. International crises and the armed conflicts that sometimes flow from them have seldom been anticipated, nor have we been well-prepared to meet them; and every time such a crisis comes to an end we seem to assume—or we certainly act as if we assume—that it will be the last. It never is. Not long ago, some observers were questioning the continued relevance of NATO. They usually did so without considering what sort of organisation might replace it, bearing in mind that we had long ago forsaken the idea of national defence in favour of collective security. Occasionally the EU has been put forward as an alternative focus for European defence, despite the fact that many European nations have declined to make the level of investment necessary to sustain NATO itself, let alone to develop independently the very expensive strategic capabilities currently provided by the United States.
The UK’s recent integrated review, while acknowledging the challenge still posed by Russia, indicated a tilt more towards the Asia-Pacific region, but it was less than clear what that actually meant. How great a tilt? How much of that tilt was to be diplomatic, how much economic and how much military? We have now been rudely reminded that the peace and security of our own continent should always be our top priority. It is also clear that those European nations most directly threatened by Russia put their faith in NATO for their defence, not in the EU. Therefore, at least for the foreseeable future, NATO must remain the bedrock of European security. However, to be credible, NATO must ensure that it has the plans and capabilities to defend its peoples effectively. It needs to be able to operate in the so-called grey zone of warfare but it also needs hard combat power, and power that can be sustained.
The war in Ukraine has reminded those who may have forgotten of the appalling rate at which munitions are expended in high-intensity conflict. For too many years, we and other NATO nations have taken too much risk with our weapon stocks. They were already inadequate and they have, rightly, been depleted further because of the need to supply Ukraine. We now need a concerted effort to bring our munition stocks, across all three services, not just back to where they were but to where they should have been in the first place, and we must press our NATO partners to do the same. That will mean careful planning and much greater investment, not just in defence budgets but in the wider industrial capacity to provide and sustain those weapons, which is currently inadequate. That will not be easy in a period of economic stress but, while the conflict in Ukraine has created great human suffering and threatens to cause much more, it has also changed the world that we have known for the past two decades. We cannot now return to business as usual. We must recognise as much and adapt accordingly.
“it has always been the case that our security at home is best advanced through global co-operation, working with institutions that support that, including the EU … This cannot be a time when any of us allow competition between partners, rigid institutional restrictions or deep-seated ideology to inhibit our co-operation and jeopardise the security of our citizens … where we can both be most effective by the UK deploying its significant capabilities and resources with and indeed through EU mechanisms—we should both be open to that. On defence, if the UK and EU’s interests can best be furthered by the UK continuing to contribute to an EU operation or mission as we do now, then we should both be open to that. And similarly, while the UK will decide how we spend the entirety of our foreign aid in the future, if a UK contribution to EU development programmes and instruments can best deliver our mutual interests, we should both be open to that … So we very much welcome the EU’s efforts to develop Europe’s capabilities in this field. We need to keep open all the options which will enable the UK and the EU to collaborate in the most effective way possible … We are keen for this to continue”.
Every single word that I have said so far is a direct quote from Prime Minister Theresa May to the Munich Security Conference on
There are some clear examples of that move away, and I shall cite two. The first is the EU Military Mobility project, moving military equipment across internal EU borders, which is very bureaucratic and difficult although I am sure that noble and gallant Lords will say it is a fundamental aspect of mutual defence. The US and Canada are involved in the EU Military Mobility plan to simplify this, but not the UK. Why is that?
Third-party countries like Chile contribute personnel to EUFOR, or Operation Althea, the EU peacekeeping force in Bosnia, which is UN mandated. However, after Brexit, the UK withdrew all personnel from the Balkans, a critical and intense area that our Prime Minister has highlighted, and one of the collateral areas of the Russian invasion. I ask the Minister: will the Government consider this? We now have the European defence fund—€8 billion between 2021 and 2027. The UK would have been a leader in securing funding opportunities for research, development and increasing member states’ capabilities, but we are not participating in this. Can the Minister write to me about EU programmes or operations in which third countries can participate but we choose not to?
As the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, said, there should be common ground. I agree with all noble Lords who commended him very strongly not only for bringing this debate to the Chamber but for the extremely comprehensive way that he introduced it—he covered this thematically and progressively, and it set the frame for the debate. He also said very clearly that security, development and prosperity here at home are so intertwined with that our nearest neighbours and indeed those further afield that are like-minded, through NATO in particular.
In his comprehensive remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, referred to Ernest Bevin; from these Benches, we would say that there is no difference between us in commending that foresight. In studying the early days of NATO, I was struck that, for Ernest Bevin, it was in many respects the successor organisation to the Brussels Pact between the UK, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. This European mutual defence agreement was put in place in 1948 to encourage the Truman Administration to go wider and support NATO. So we should never see this debate as purely about one rather than the other; the concept and the delivery are integrated.
The noble Lord also referenced his very frequent visits to and involvement with Ukraine, as have many others in this debate—I have visited Ukraine and the Verkhovna Rada on a number of occasions. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, touched on the civilian element of this: over 4,000 civilians, including 300 children, have sacrificed their lives for the cause of self-determination and their wish to live in a democratic country. This is on top of all those brave individuals who have signed up or been called up to the forces. However, it is a depressing fact that we are likely to see scores more people—hundreds of thousands—dying of hunger, as the collateral damage of Putin’s aggression. This is on top of the world facing increased dangers through the climate emergency and the growth in fragile states. The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, indicated the very imbalanced way that Covid has been managed across the world. We see the warnings that 8 million to 13 million people will suffer acute hunger in the Horn of Africa and central Africa as a result of this conflict.
However, as the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, also indicated, we cannot take for granted that all countries see our thinking and perspective, especially those that are developing or are in fragile, sensitive and complex areas, such as the Middle East. In the week of the Russian invasion, I was in Baghdad and then Beirut. Subsequently, I went to central Africa, where I will be next week, before I go to the civic forums of the CHOGM in Kigali. I heard, and no doubt will hear, differing perspectives on not only the conflict but the consequences of it. This is why the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is absolutely right: the UK’s reputation and trustworthiness is critical in this debate if we are to lever further support for UK interests, given that it has been indicated that this will be a long-term situation.
It is wrong that the UK has cut support from 0.7% to 0.5%—of course it is—and, while it is positive that the UK has committed 0.18% of GNI to Ukraine support, which we support and endorse, it is still not clear whether that is offsetting cuts to programmes in other countries. It is in addition to the 0.5% cap? Or will it be squeezing out other support that is critically important, especially when we see growing poverty, increased instability, the lack of action on climate change in many areas, the growth of mercenary groups in Wagner and also, depressingly, the growth and the recruitment of terrorist groups such as Daesh.
If we are introducing legislation that breaks the rule of law here at home, we cannot be the strongest in calling for the rule of law abroad. That is really important, as the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, indicated, when we see India, China and others taking a different course from us. We need to lead by example not only militarily and economically but morally and on trust.
As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, indicated, we are engaged in hybrid warfare, where our sanctions and economic measures are markedly different from those in the past. They are now designed not only to deter actions but to change strategic and military campaign decisions. We need to debate this soberly and clearly, with regard to the exit that needs to be in place. That exit will be at a time of increased fragility, with the climate emergency and other pressures. So, we do need to revisit the integrated review in practical ways, and measures suggested by my noble friend Lady Ludford. As I said earlier, when we review this—perhaps not to the extent of the German Zeitenwende: the watershed moment they have indicated—we should start by going back to 2018 and that speech of Theresa May.
My Lords, I too would like to thank my noble friend for initiating this debate and for his excellent introduction. I too emphasise that we are all at one in our support for Ukraine; across the House, both Opposition and Government are absolutely at one. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, reminded us that there are some very good things in the integrated review. The fact that we had the integrated review is a positive thing too. Joined-up government is absolutely essential.
Let us remind ourselves what the integrated review was about. It highlighted the need for the United Kingdom to play an active role in ensuring that open societies and economies can flourish across the world by championing free trade and global co-operation, tackling conflict and instability and standing up for democracy and human rights. Just how will the Government address these issues? The recently published international development strategy, promised in the review, made no explicit prioritisation of this. Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has highlighted how misguided many of the Government’s strategic assumptions about foreign policy have been.
As we have heard in this debate, the integrated review wrongly de-emphasised the importance of European security. Boris Johnson described it as a British “tilt to the Indo-Pacific” and scarcely mentions Europe beyond NATO. Certainly, there is no mention of the Russian aggression against Ukraine that was started in 2014.
Let us also think: Russia invaded Ukraine on
All democracies must respond to the newly realised threats to national and European security. That is why we argue that Ministers must rectify the flaws in the integrated review; must review defence spending; must reform defence procurement and must rethink Army cuts. They must reinvigorate UK leadership in NATO—and we have heard about that leadership at its inception. Now it is time for us to return to that leadership.
Also on European security, the key recommendations of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on Russia remain unimplemented. Tackling and challenging Russia’s political, economic and military reach is imperative to European security, and the work must start at home. The United Kingdom must stop acting as a hiding place and service industry for criminals and their money. A key part of defending democracy and the international rules-based order is through international co-operation, whether it be NATO or other forums such as the G7, the United Nations or the Commonwealth. The Ukrainian conflict forcefully reminds us that almost no nation can do anything alone and that Britain is a bigger force for good in the world when we act with our allies.
Brexit is done, no doubt, but the EU is emerging as an organised force in geopolitical security, and President Biden has affirmed US support for
“strengthening the NATO-EU strategic partnership” and for a
“US-EU dialogue on security and defence”.
It is in Britain’s national interests to forge post-Brexit arrangements to work with, not within, the EU. Britain is NATO’s leading European nation, and we should not allow this status to be damaged or deflected by Boris Johnson pursuing his “Indo-Pacific tilt”. The first priority for Britain’s Armed Forces must be where the threats are greatest, not where the business opportunities lie.
At the end of this month, NATO nations will set their strategy for the next decade, with all democracies now facing new threats to their security. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s recommendations for the new strategic concept stress the central importance of resilience in our democracies and societies. It is the way we can counter hybrid warfare and shore up support for our increased defence commitments. In the run-up to Madrid, democracies and their civil societies will rightly demand a say in the priorities set for NATO for the next decade. Yet this is a closed process, confined to Governments, which is why Labour is asking the Government to open up the UK process to create a common vision for NATO. I urge them to lay out to the public the UK’s view of NATO’s strategic goals. The UK needs to be the driving force, driving debates as NATO gives a greater focus to defence, alongside deterrence and diplomacy.
Although our current focus is rightly on Ukraine and Russia, this is far from the only global crisis. Many countries have experienced almost non-stop conflict over the past decade. Our support for Ukraine, including humanitarian assistance, should not come out of overseas development assistance. As my noble friend Lord Foulkes said, the poorest in the world should not have to pay the price for Russian aggression. There are currently multiple crises of nutrition that will only get worse with increasing conflict and the negative effects of climate change. As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, reminded us, east African countries are dependent on Ukraine and Russia for 90% of their grain imports, and parts of the region are also experiencing severe drought.
Rather than restoring the United Kingdom’s development expertise, targeting aid on poverty reduction and prioritising climate, conflict and health funding, the Government instead prioritise a naive aid-for-trade approach that simply will not work. This is an approach that takes us back to the 1980s and the corruption scandals of the Pergau dam. I hope that the Government will reconsider a much swifter return to the 0.7% target and using the aid budget to help those most in need, not trade favours with big corporations.
Ukraine has survived because its people—of diverse faith, age, ethnicity and language—have a national story of hope to unify them. Their hopes are simple: prosperity, security and respect; to be a democratic country at peace with its neighbours, within a rules-based global order; and those are Labour’s hopes for the British people.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, for tabling this important debate. I am grateful to all noble Lords for their insightful contributions, which go to the heart of our country’s role in the world at this turning point in European history. I will try to respond to all the points raised, but there were a lot, and if I miss any, I will follow up in writing.
Putin’s unprovoked, illegal war is a reprehensible, premeditated attack on Ukraine and on the principles of self-determination and the rule of law. It is now clear that Putin cannot break or subjugate Ukraine. The Ukrainian people have shown that they will resist. Their courage in the face of the Russian forces’ brutal tactics is, simply, an inspiration. The UK and the international community stand together with our friends in Ukraine against this naked aggression. We stand together for freedom, democracy and the sovereignty of nations around the world.
As the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, articulated, the human toll of Putin’s war is colossal, from the levelling of cities such as Mariupol to the slaughter, rape and torture of innocent civilians in Bucha. Almost a third of Ukrainians have fled the invading forces, and nearly 16 million people are in need of humanitarian support. The economic damage from the invasion has rippled across the globe, as a number of noble Lords have pointed out, in the form of rising commodity prices and more. Russia’s blockade on Ukrainian grain exports is fuelling hunger and having a catastrophic impact on some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
The UK will continue to play a leading role in the international response to this invasion, working intensively with our allies and partners. I note the slightly gloomy description from the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, of the UK’s place in the world on this issue. But it feels to me that her depiction, or her understanding, of where we stand in the world in relation to Ukraine, is very much at odds with the reality. It certainly seems to be at odds with the views expressed by the leader of Ukraine and so many Ukrainian people. Our support for this effort includes backing Ukraine to defend itself against Russia through £1.3 billion in military support.
In response to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, we are the third-largest humanitarian donor nation, providing £220 million of assistance, and that includes more than £110 million to the UN and the Red Cross and £25 million in matched funding to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal. As Russia’s invasion has threatened global food security, we have announced emergency humanitarian assistance to vulnerable regions such as the Horn of Africa and Yemen, and we are working to co-ordinate with partners through the new G7 Global Alliance for Food Security.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, made the point extremely well, if I may say so, about Vladimir Putin’s use of starvation, I think he said, as a weapon of war. He is right also to say that we believe that at least 25 million tonnes of grain have been locked up as a consequence, not by accident but as a deliberate policy decision. Clearly, releasing that grain has to be a priority, not just for the region but for far beyond. We are working very closely within the G7 and with the global alliance to figure out how we might do that; it is not straightforward.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, made an important point about the need for infrastructure to be maintained and, where necessary, repaired. I am grateful to him for citing the efforts of Network Rail in helping to repair some of that key infrastructure. We are looking for opportunities to do more. It is certainly the Government’s intention to find ways to do more to repair that infrastructure. I am not sure we can do much about Poland’s regulations around axle temperature, but the point is well made, and if we have an opportunity to persuade our friends to look at that regulation, I am sure we will do so.
We are also working with international partners, including the US, the EU and development banks to support Ukraine’s economy. The UK has given £74 million to support the Ukrainian Government’s day-to-day spending. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, there is a £100 million, three-year package to reform energy supply in order to secure alternatives to Russian oil and gas. UK Export Finance, our export credit agency, has £3.5 billion available to support trade with Ukraine, helping UK exporters and Ukrainian buyers access the finance they need. When the PM was in Kyiv, he announced an additional $500 million in World Bank guarantees to support Ukraine’s economy, bringing UK guarantees for World Bank lending to almost $1 billion.
In response to comments by the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Browne, I simply say that they are right to say that Russian forces have, indisputably, committed war crimes, including intentionally targeting civilians in the manner we heard from a number of noble Lords. We are working with partners to hold those responsible to account for their actions. We led efforts to refer the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court, which has now secured support from 42 other countries. We have also committed to provide the court with further resources to help secure evidence and conduct prosecutions, starting with a £1 million contribution. In April, the Foreign Secretary announced a £10 million fund to help expert organisations support victims of the conflict, including, of course, survivors of sexual violence.
In response to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, on the visa situation in relation to Ukrainian refugees, I was looking up the numbers while he was speaking, and our two visa schemes will allow an unlimited number of Ukrainians to find safety in the UK, working through either family members or UK sponsors. As of
With our allies, we continue to impose the largest and most severe economic sanctions Russia has ever faced. Since the invasion, we have sanctioned more than 1,000 individuals and more than 100 entities. I note the comments and questions by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, around the efficacy and, indeed, the purpose of those sanctions. There is compelling evidence that we are succeeding in cutting off funding to Putin’s war machine. We are hitting his corrupt cronies and targeting the outlets that are spreading disinformation. We will continue to ratchet up the pressure until Ukraine prevails.
The UK and our allies support Ukraine’s efforts to secure a settlement that delivers a sustainable peace in line with established principles of European security and in line with Ukraine’s aims—a point made very powerfully by my noble friends Lord Cormack and Lady Meyer, and the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Desai. It is important to emphasise that any outcome of the peace process that will eventually ensue needs to ensure a full Russian withdrawal. Above all, whatever is agreed upon must respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. That matters—and I note the comments by my noble friend Lord Balfe—as the bottom line here is that we are not discussing an ambiguous event within Europe; Russia is engaging in an act of aggression, an act of violent expansionism, against all international norms and law. There is no justification whatever for what is happening, and we need to keep that in mind as we discuss and agree actions that this country needs to take in order to support Ukraine.
The continued support of the UK and its partners will help ensure that Ukraine is able to negotiate from a strong position. This includes committing to ensuring that Ukraine is in a strong position to deter future Russian aggression. We and others are discussing with Ukraine how we can best do this, as the statement by Ukraine and the G7 leaders made clear on
The noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, made a really important point about elections. All I can really say, without wishing to diminish the importance of his question, is that right now it is understandable that for President Zelensky, stopping this conflict must be the overriding priority above all else. The noble Viscount talked about a lack of Russian expertise within the Foreign Office. I am afraid that I do not know the figures, but I will use his comment as an excuse to heap some praise on Melinda Simmons and her team, who are based there in extraordinarily difficult circumstances and are doing an amazing job. The noble Viscount is nodding, as I expected he would. They are in a very difficult position and are doing this country proud.
Putin’s acts of aggression confirm the trends and threats we set out in the integrated review. This includes challenging international rules and norms; forming geopolitical blocs that cut across our security, economic and democratic institutions; deliberately targeting vulnerabilities within democratic systems; and using a growing range of instruments to undermine and coerce others. As the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, and the noble Lords, Lord West and Lord Collins, pointed out, the integrated review did identify Russia as the most acute threat to security in the Euro-Atlantic area, and it set out our commitment to deterring and defending against that threat. This includes action through NATO, combining military, diplomatic and intelligence assets in support of collective security. We also undertook to support others in eastern Europe and beyond, including in Ukraine, where we pledged to build the capacity of its armed forces. Like my noble friend Lady Meyer, the noble Lord, Lord West, and others, I do not agree with the assertions made by some noble Lords that the war in Ukraine is in any way at odds with the conclusions we drew in the integrated review—on the contrary.
Turning to the invasion and our response, the Foreign Secretary set out three key strands to our approach. The first is military strength, and, in the words of President Zelensky:
“Freedom must be better armed than tyranny.”
Ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid, we are working to strengthen the alliance and to arm and support Ukraine. Inaction would be the greatest provocation to Russia; in our view, this is a time for courage, not caution. We are also ensuring that the western Balkans, and countries like Moldova and Georgia, have the resilience and capabilities they need to maintain their sovereignty and freedom.
The second strand of our response is to use all the economic levers we have—trade, sanctions, investment and development policy—in a much more assertive way. This is how we will take on ruthless aggressors like Putin who use patronage, investment and debt as a means to control and coerce.
The third strand—which I point out in response to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay—is forging deeper global alliances against those who seek to harm us. Partnerships like NATO, the G7 and the Commonwealth are absolutely vital, and increasingly so. We will continue strengthening our bonds around the world, including the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force, the Five Eyes partnership and our AUKUS partnership with the US and Australia. Of course, Europe remains at the heart of these global alliances, and we share the same interests and hold the same values as our neighbours across the continent. We recognise the important role played by the EU in the peace and prosperity across Europe, and we will find new ways of working with the EU on shared challenges. We will co-operate with the EU on matters of security and defence as independent partners, as a number of noble Lords have emphasised. We often hear about post-Brexit isolation but that is the not view shared by people outside this country, not least in relation to Ukraine but on other issues. The UK is now unambiguously seen, including by our friends in the European Union, as a world leader on climate and the environment. These are also top priorities in the integrated review, as emphasised again in the international development strategy.
We share an unwavering commitment to European security. We have been working closely with countries across Europe, including those most exposed to Russian aggression on NATO’s eastern flank. I will use this opportunity to respond to points made by a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Liddle, Lord Collins and Lord Hannay, who I felt were ever so slightly dismissive of the Indo-Pacific tilt. I do not have time to go into detail and perhaps we will have another debate on this issue soon, but I would suggest that they and others will not be so dismissive of that tilt in the years to come, given everything we know about geopolitics in the region.
We are doubling the number of UK troops in Estonia as part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence. In Poland we have deployed around 800 service personnel in response to the Ukraine crisis. This rapid response underlines the UK’s resolute commitment to NATO, which, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, has said, is needed now more than ever. More widely, the UK has contributed to every NATO mission through the provision of forces, headquarters, capabilities and funding. We were also the first ally to offer offensive cyber capabilities to NATO. The UK consistently meets the 2% commitment to defence funding and we encourage allies to meet and, where possible, exceed that target to ensure that NATO is ready for future threats; where they do, we celebrate and acknowledge it.
I will respond briefly to the noble Lords, Lord West, Lord Dannatt and Lord Collins, who raised the issue of investment in our own capability. They make a good point and I do not think anyone is going to argue with them on the need for greater investment. We are increasing defence spending by over £24 billion over the next four years—the biggest investment in the UK Armed Forces since the end of the Cold War. As part of military support that has been provided to Ukraine, the Prime Minister announced on
More broadly, we continue actively to make the case for democracy in Europe. Last month, the Foreign Secretary attended the annual Council of Europe Foreign Ministers meeting. She praised the council’s decision to expel Russia but appealed for it to be more pro-active in tackling authoritarian regimes, countering disinformation and promoting democracy. We have also been developing new agreements with key European partners, and that includes the joint declaration on foreign and security policy with Germany, and similar new foreign policy co-operation agreements with the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Norway. This all goes hand in hand with our close co-operation with the EU. We stand shoulder to shoulder, resolute in our determination to face up to Russian aggression. The Foreign Secretary’s attendance at the EU Foreign Affairs Council in March, alongside the US and Canada, illustrates that.
In response to a question put to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, I can tell her that our co-ordination on sanctions is having an impact. I mentioned earlier the effects of those sanctions on Putin’s war machine, but we have acted in concert with the EU against Russia and Belarus, hitting those who are supporting that war machine and Putin’s aggression. Since the outset of our independent sanctions policy, we have worked closely with the EU, regularly consulting with its institutions and member states. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, we continue to look for ways to work with partners to hold Russia to account. With the EU and the US, we recently announced the creation of the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group. This will help to co-ordinate our efforts on the ground to ensure that those responsible for committing violent atrocities in Ukraine are held to account.
Beyond Ukraine, we are supporting efforts to build resilience across the European neighbourhood. As part of the Quint and together with the EU, we are working with western Balkan countries to strengthen democracy and the rule of law and to tackle crime and corruption. We are also working with the G7 to build the region’s energy, security and resilience. In answer to a point well made by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, where we can encourage the EU to complement NATO, as opposed to compete with it, we absolutely should. In the interests of our future and our security, we must remain open to all suggestions and all initiatives, wherever they arise from, including within the European Union. I am going to write to the noble Lord, as he requested, because I only have two minutes left, with examples of UK co-operation with the EU defence programmes—those we have signed up to and those we have not. I will not be able to answer that now, I am afraid; he will understand why.
In conclusion, allow me briefly to reflect on and strongly welcome the unity shown across the House, and indeed across the Commons, since Russia invaded Ukraine more than three months ago. We have been united in condemning Putin’s brazen aggression and the despicable war crimes that Russian forces have committed. This debate, too, has shown that we are fundamentally united across the House on the need for the UK to work together with our partners to support Ukraine and protect European security. Her Majesty’s Government remain resolutely committed to doing that, and I would like to end by thanking once again the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, for tabling this debate and all noble Lords for their contributions.
My Lords, it was a privilege to introduce this debate and it has been a great pleasure to listen to the many and varied contributions we have had, even from very distinct perspectives such as those of my noble friend Lord Berkeley on the railways and my noble friend Lord Harris on national resilience. I was particularly interested in and am always eager to listen to the very thoughtful contributions from noble and gallant Lords. One of the biggest influences on me when I worked in No. 10 Downing Street was Charles Guthrie, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, from whom I learned an enormous amount and whom I was very privileged to know.
I will make just two big points. First, I am not trying to reopen the Brexit debate; I am talking about co-operation with the European Union. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, said that the Government were open to new initiatives. That is good. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, is absolutely right that the way NATO was created was first, fundamentally, from a bilateral security treaty between Britain and France—that is what Bevin started with, and then he extended it to Benelux—and then NATO came in. European security must have a European dimension to it. No one picked up on my point about the risks of how the politics of the United States might change to Europe’s disadvantage in the coming years. That is a very serious problem. So I am not trying to reopen an old debate, I am just trying to emphasise that Europe must be a vital part of NATO, and I am very strongly pro-NATO.
Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, gave a very comprehensive reply, but I asked him three questions which he did not really answer. The first was whether the Government would reconsider the integrated review. I rather gathered from what he said that they do not think that is necessary—that the integrated review can stand, despite the change in circumstances. I would be very grateful if he could confirm that in a letter to me.
I also raised a point about the funding of defence equipment, given what we have done for Ukraine—are we taking a hit on that in our own defence capacities or is the Treasury willing to open up the coffers to ensure that our defence is not weakened further? I would like a response on that if possible.
Thirdly, our longest and oldest ally is France. Therefore, when President Macron makes interesting suggestions about how European defence and co-operation should develop, it is the duty of the British Government to take him seriously and offer their own response to the points he is making. I wonder what that is and I would be very grateful in future if the Minister would tell me—and I beg to move.