Georgia and the War in Ukraine

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:02 pm on 24th May 2022.

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Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development) 5:02 pm, 24th May 2022

It is a pleasure, as always, to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark. I thank Mr Djanogly for securing this crucial debate at a critical time for Georgia and Ukraine, and I thank everyone for making excellent contributions.

Three weeks ago, I was proud to attend the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Georgia and the United Kingdom. I have been honoured today, and on many occasions recently, to speak for the Labour Front Bench in defence of the people of Ukraine, who continue to endure Russia’s barbaric invasion with heroism and great bravery. As has been mentioned, there are very warm relations between Georgia and the UK, but particularly with Wales. I have enjoyed some excellent conversations with the ambassador here in London in recent months since taking this position.

I reiterate Labour’s resolute commitment not only to NATO, but more broadly to defending the values of peace, democracy and liberty, which are being courageously protected in Ukraine and which I know are the aspirations of the people of Georgia, too. That has been demonstrated in their great sacrifice and huge contribution alongside us all in Afghanistan, which my hon. Friend Jessica Morden referred to. That must be remembered, and the sacrifice acknowledged.

Our support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia is as solid as it is for Ukraine. There are marked parallels between the two countries’ experience in recent years at the hands of Russia, and that has made the UK’s diplomatic solidarity, support and engagement with all the countries in Russia’s near orbit all the more essential.

When it comes to the need for unity across the west in the face of Putin’s malevolent and clear intent to re-establish the wider territorial bounds, as he sees them, of the Soviet Union, or some sort of historical claimed area of influence, the alarm has been sounding for well over a decade. Russia’s war against Georgia in 2008 was dubbed by many the first European war of the 21st century. That was a haunting premonition that more would follow if that illegal and unjustified belligerence went unchecked and if other countries dared to seek their own paths and destinies, as they should be able to do. It must now be absolutely clear to all of us that the collective western reaction to those events in 2008 provided Putin with one of the green lights that he sought. We are monitoring his character and intentions intently today, but his playbook—as Alyn Smith, speaking for the SNP, said—has been implemented time and again. As Russia invaded Georgia illegally in 2008, the world largely watched on in silence. Hundreds of people died in that illegal annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We know how this works: Putin and his cronies heighten tensions, exploit and enable so-called secessionist movements, sow discord, spread misinformation, provoke chaos and capitalise on the ensuing turmoil.