Skip to main content

Ukrainian NATO Membership

Volume 705: debated on Wednesday 8 December 2021

Before we begin, I remind Members that they are expected to wear face coverings when they are not speaking in the debate. This is in line with current Government and House of Commons Commission guidance. I remind Members that they are asked by the House to have a covid lateral flow test twice a week if coming on to the parliamentary estate. That can be done either at the testing centre in the House or at home. Please give each other and members of staff space when seated, and when entering and leaving the room.

I beg to move,

That this House has considered British support for Ukraine’s membership of NATO.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Dowd. I am very pleased to be called in this debate. Yesterday on the Floor of the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely) asked an urgent question on the situation in Ukraine, and today I am very pleased to initiate this debate, given the extraordinary situation and military build-up that we are starting to see on the border between Ukraine and Russia.

Yesterday on the Floor of the House, we referred to the Budapest memorandum, which was signed in 1994 by the United Kingdom and other major powers. Hon. Members will remember that the Budapest memorandum allowed Ukraine to give up her nuclear arsenal, which at the time was the third largest in the world, in return for certain security guarantees in relation to her territorial integrity and sovereignty. As signatories of the Budapest memorandum, we in the United Kingdom have a unique responsibility to our Ukrainian partners. During the course of my speech, I intend to highlight some of the growing and serious violations of Ukrainian security that we are starting to see, and explain why I and many others believe that it is essential to lobby our own Government on the issue and to take a lead in supporting our Ukrainian partners.

In a previous Parliament, when I was on the Foreign Affairs Committee, I had the opportunity to go to Donetsk and Luhansk. The Committee was writing a report on British relations with Russia, and we were taken to Donetsk and Luhansk to see for ourselves the situation on the ground. I have never come across anything like it, certainly in my 16-year career as a Member of Parliament. It was total, utter destruction on an industrial scale. All the buildings had been destroyed; all traces of human habitation had disappeared. What really struck me was not just the sheer material destruction of Donetsk and Luhansk, but the complete annihilation of wildlife and the natural habitat—something that I had never seen before. We saw for ourselves what the Russians are capable of, and what they can do to another European country on our continent. It is something that will stay with me forever. I will never forget those scenes in Donetsk and Luhansk.

I am the sole Conservative Member of Parliament to have been born in Poland, and the sole Conservative Member of Parliament to have been born in a communist country. I used to go back to communist Poland two or three times a year to see my beloved grandfather, when he was still alive. I understand what the Russians are capable of. I saw it in the country of my birth, Poland, where they had instigated and forced on the country an economically illiterate and politically Orwellian system, which—thank goodness—finally collapsed in 1989. We know what the Russians did to our partners behind the iron curtain between the end of the second world war and 1989, trapping all those European partners behind the iron curtain. The Russians are now trying to trap our Ukrainian partners behind a new iron curtain that they want to impose in what they perceive to be their sphere of influence.

Despite those concerns, when the Select Committee was undertaking the report, I was the sole Conservative MP on the Committee pushing for dialogue with the Russians. We had many debates about what we saw on the ground and what should be our recommendations to the Foreign Office. I think there was universal hostility, frustration, anger and suspicion towards the Russians from my colleagues, but I was the one MP who was trying to look at it in a more balanced way.

Certainly when we visited Donetsk, the independent monitors on the ground said that some of the ceasefire violations were half the responsibility of the Ukrainians and half the responsibility of the Russians. I remember trying to push back and talking about the need for dialogue with the Russians. I still believe that we need to have dialogue with the Russians, but things have changed significantly since we visited Donetsk and Luhansk.

The first concern I want to highlight is something that we have seen in recent weeks. We have seen and heard of the death of a Syrian child on the Poland-Belarus border. We have seen the extraordinary way in which the tyrant, Lukashenko, has been abusing vulnerable refugees, whom he has incentivised to come to Belarus in his attempt to instigate a new hybrid warfare against one of our major partners.

We have seen the extraordinary suffering that has taken place on that border, with vulnerable refugees being used in a cynical way as pawns for President Lukashenko to manipulate in order to put one of our NATO partners under pressure. As genuine refugees, he should be protecting them, but instead his soldiers pushed them on to the barbed wire fences of the border. Unfortunately, barbed wire has inevitably had to be put up on the Poland- Belarus border because of the vulnerability of that border and of Polish sovereignty, bearing in mind what is going on.

Why do I reference Belarus and President Lukashenko? We know that these actions could be stopped immediately by President Putin, who, to all intents and purposes, controls Lukashenko and what happens in Belarus. I would argue that the suffering and cruelty we are seeing on that border is, in part, the responsibility of President Putin and the Russian regime. Only inhumane, cruel people would behave in this way, and President Putin could, should and must stop it immediately.

Temperatures are dropping significantly as we move towards the winter, and the Polish winters are always very, very cold. We have seen the suffering on the border, and goodness only knows what will happen as the temperatures drop and as those people continue to stay at the border, in the most vulnerable circumstances.

That is one aspect of the hybrid warfare that is being used against our NATO partners, but there are others, including the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. I have secured numerous debates on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline here in the House of Commons and I have probably asked more questions about it than any other Member of Parliament. Why? Because so many of our NATO partners in central and eastern Europe, for many years, have been talking about how this German-Russian project—a 1,200 km gas pipeline under the sea from Germany to Russia, completely bypassing all our NATO allies in central and eastern Europe, and Ukraine—is a direct, deliberate threat to their security.

We are very pleased that the Poles and the Croatians, within the Three Seas initiative, are building liquified gas terminals on their coastlines. We are pleased and proud that they are stepping up and investing in huge new facilities such as Świnoujście on the Baltic coast, in order to import liquified gas from America and Norway, our fellow NATO partners. Nevertheless, many of those countries, particularly the Baltic states, Ukraine and others, still depend on gas and energy from Russia. This pipeline, which bypasses them and goes under the sea directly to Germany, is another way for Russia to try to manipulate, coerce, blackmail and intimidate countries in central and eastern Europe.

We have seen what is happening with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and I very much hope that the incoming German coalition Government, who have the Green party among them, will seriously reconsider the project, which is not only a violation of the spirit and letter of our NATO obligations—Germany, being a NATO partner, should take that into consideration—but, I would argue, a major concern from an environmental perspective. With a 1,200 km pipeline going under the Baltic sea directly to Russia, the security situation in the event of a confrontation with the Russians, as well as the ramifications for the environment, could be catastrophic if it were to come under attack or there were some other issue related to it.

There are concerns about Nord Stream 2 and cyber-attacks, but my last point is about assassinations, which have changed my mind about the Russians more than anything else, particularly those assassinations on British soil. Whether it is the Litvinenko or the Skripal case, most of us here in the Chamber—cross-party, throughout the House of Commons, as well as our electorate beyond—have been shocked by Russia’s complete disregard for normal diplomatic protocols and normal international behaviour. The Russians are prepared to send trained killers on to British soil to eliminate their political opponents.

The annexation of Crimea is a serious matter. The other day, I was interacting on the issue with a leading research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society who is an expert on Russia and Ukraine. He highlighted to me some real concerns about what is happening in Crimea in terms of ethnic cleansing, manipulating the Tatars and preventing minority Ukrainians from learning and teaching Ukrainian. There is an attempt to Russify the Crimean peninsula. I am pleased that we have sanctions against Russia because of its illegal occupation of Crimea, but concerned that countries such as Germany and others, for their own commercial gain, seem to be bypassing those sanctions and instigating some extraordinary, high-level commercial contracts with the Russians. Nord Stream 2 is a clear example of that.

The illegal occupation of Crimea is one thing, but the Russians have done something even more worrying, and with even greater potential ramifications. They have built a bridge across the Kerch strait, linking Russia directly to Crimea. They have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to construct that huge bridge to give them direct land access to the Crimean peninsula, so that mother Russia is connected to Crimea.

It is not just the bridge; the Russians are using the bridge, and the jurisdiction around it and the maritime control underneath it, to restrict access to the Sea of Azov. Mariupol and many other important Ukrainian ports are now completely prevented from being utilised because vessels cannot get out of the Sea of Azov into the Black sea, and further beyond to navigate the global seas and oceans.

The Russians are controlling everything that comes through the Kerch strait, not just military vessels. My understanding is that they have now banned Ukrainian military vessels from even going through that strait to the Sea of Azov, Mariupol and other parts of Ukraine, which is extremely concerning. I would like the Minister to refer to the restriction on vessels accessing the Sea of Azov when she responds to the questions we are putting to her.

I am very pleased that the United Kingdom has recently sent our own naval vessels to the Black sea in freedom of navigation exercises: that is something I welcome very much. Let us not forget that the Black sea is not a Russian lake—the Russians would like to think that it is, but it is not. It is an international waterway, and I very much hope that we continue our freedom of navigation exercises throughout the Black sea.

Most people think, “Where is the Sea of Azov, and what are the consequences of blocking it?”. It is the way Ukrainians access almost half their country, and a lot of the industrial products of eastern Ukraine are exported through Mariupol and the Sea of Azov to the Black sea. Our equivalent would be somebody coming along and blocking off the English channel. What would be the consequences for our country if the English channel were blocked off? What would be the consequences for our security if our naval vessels were not allowed to patrol the channel? It would be completely unacceptable, and would potentially lead to war.

We are also starting to see a build-up on Ukraine’s eastern frontier. We are led to believe that 90,000 soldiers are now on its borders, and are there deliberately as a provocation to Ukraine. According to experts I spoken to, some intelligence reports from the United States believe that there could be up to 175,000 Russian troops on the border with Ukraine by January, which is obviously of great concern to the Ukrainian Government in respect of their national sovereignty and security.

I must take a moment to pay tribute to the Ukrainian ambassador, whom I met the other day. He and his team are doing a superb job here, putting forward the Ukrainian perspective in a calm and measured way. Despite all the provocations they are under and all the stress and tension they are going through, they are still trying to communicate their message to us and our Government in a very diplomatic and professional way.

Apparently, Putin has some red lines of his own. Apparently, he will not tolerate or accept the following four countries ever joining NATO: Finland, Sweden, Ukraine and Georgia. Those are his red lines, and I must take a moment to condemn Madame Marine Le Pen, the candidate standing to be the next President of the Republic of France. On a recent visit to Warsaw, she is quoted in Rzeczpospolita—a major newspaper in Poland—as having said that Ukraine is a buffer zone and is in the Russian sphere of influence. I find it highly rude and inappropriate to call a European country a buffer. Let us pause for a moment and think how we would feel if somebody called us a buffer; not an independent sovereign nation, not a democratic society, not a country with its own language, history, culture and aspirations, but merely a buffer. It is not a buffer and it is not in the Russian sphere of influence.

I joked with the Ukrainian ambassador the other day because he said that Ukraine is also sometimes described as a bridge between east and west. I suppose it is slightly better to be called a bridge than a buffer. The ambassador joked with me, “No, we are neither a buffer nor a bridge. Who would want to live on a bridge?” This is an independent sovereign nation, and we must start to treat it as such.

I wonder what would have happened to Madame Le Pen’s ancestors if we in Britain during the second world war had said, “Sorry, you are now in the German sphere of influence. We are not going to support you. We are going to leave you to German occupation.” Frankly, her language has to be called out and challenged.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan taught us how we can only negotiate with the Russians from a position of strength. That is the one thing that I remember about Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan. I had the opportunity, when I was first elected in 2005, to meet Margaret Thatcher and thank her for the unique role that she played during the cold war, in giving material and moral support to the Solidarity movement in Poland, which was essential in helping the democratic movements in those countries to persevere in their fight against Soviet and communist oppression.

Margaret Thatcher taught us that the only way to negotiate with the Russians is from a position of strength. I will be 50 next month so I am old enough to remember December 1984 when she invited Gorbachev to Chequers. Konstantin Chernenko was the general secretary of the Communist party in December 1984, but Margaret Thatcher identified Gorbachev as a man she could do business with, and started that extraordinary process of negotiation with the Russians from a position of strength. That position had a united, solid NATO that was outspending the Soviet Union on research and defence capability, showing the Soviets that ultimately their aspiration of world domination would not succeed, and would fall apart because of our strength, unity and determination to outspend them by at least four to one on military capability and technology.

That is the lesson that we now need to learn. We need to negotiate with the Russians from a position of strength. That, I am afraid, is the only thing the Russians understand. They only understand if negotiations are entered from a position of strength and unity. Nothing would please President Putin more than a disunited NATO that is crumbling, divided and not spending a great deal of money on new investments and technology.

We need to increase our spending on defence. Many Conservative MPs, myself included, are extremely concerned at the cuts to our armed forces, whether they are to the number of ships being built or the number of soldiers we have. We understand and recognise the pressures on the budget but, nevertheless, the first duty and responsibility of any Government is the defence of the realm. That is not just the defence of this island; it is the defence of our continent.

When a country is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and the largest military power on our continent, that comes with huge responsibilities. We need to think about the defence of not just our NATO partners, but the other countries in Europe—those final few people and countries on the fringes of Europe that still do not have the comfort blanket of NATO membership and security. We also need to keep NATO strong against the dangerous moves by the European Union to create a single EU army.

I have been a Member of Parliament for nearly 17 years, and I have not had a single complaint about NATO from any of my 81,000 constituents. I have had a lot of complaints about the European Union, but not a single complaint about NATO—it does what it says on the tin. It is an organisation of 30 countries and, as hon. Members know, North Macedonia is the latest country to have had the privilege of joining what is probably the most successful military alliance in the world, and it was given that privilege last year.

We need to keep NATO strong and united against the moves to create a single European army, because I would argue that if it came to fruition, that would, at best, duplicate the services of NATO and, at worst, usurp the supremacy of NATO, destabilise it and push out those six countries that, at the moment, are inextricably linked to the common defence of our continent but are not, and will never be, members of the European Union. Let us just think about those countries for a second: America, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Turkey and the United Kingdom—six extraordinarily important partners that are committed to the defence of our continent. Turkey is protecting our southern flank, America and Britain are two permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Norway, Iceland and Canada are critical in keeping the Atlantic open in the event of hostilities between Russia and America. That is also something to take into consideration.

President Putin wants to undermine Ukraine and turn it into a vassal state like Belarus. He wants another puppet like Lukashenko to run Ukraine for him, and I have spent the last few days watching interviews with former President Yanukovych, who, after the Maidan revolution in Kiev, was whisked to safety to Russia in a Russian helicopter. Putin is keeping Yanukovych there, ready for when he can destroy the Ukrainian Government and reimpose another puppet who will basically give a veneer of independence to Ukraine. As we all know, however, the strings of the puppet will all be controlled from Moscow. We cannot allow that to happen.

I am coming to the end of my speech, but I want to mention the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania in 2008 that stated the organisation’s commitment to NATO membership for Ukraine. That is a very important point, because the United Kingdom, as a member of NATO, is a signatory to the Bucharest statement of 2008. Let me read an extract from the Bucharest summit declaration:

“NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO. Both nations have made valuable contributions to Alliance operations. We welcome the democratic reforms in Ukraine and Georgia and look forward to free and fair parliamentary elections in Georgia in May. MAP”—

the membership action plan, which is the prelude and precursor to NATO membership, as well as the framework and grid—

“is the next step for Ukraine and Georgia on their direct way to membership. Today we make clear that we support these countries’ applications for MAP. Therefore we will now begin a period of intensive engagement with both at a high political level to address the questions still outstanding pertaining to their MAP applications. We have asked Foreign Ministers to make a first assessment of progress at their December 2008 meeting. Foreign Ministers have the authority to decide on the MAP applications of Ukraine and Georgia.”

That is a statement from 2008 whereby Britain and other NATO partners made it abundantly clear that the prelude and precursor to NATO membership—which is ostensibly carried out through the MAP, the membership action plan—would be instigated. That was over a decade ago, so I would like to ask the Minister for her assessment of what has happened since the Bucharest summit. What is her understanding of the MAP strategy for Ukraine, and what are the British Government doing to take a lead in supporting Ukraine’s MAP application process and ongoing movement towards a conclusion and fruition?

There are other things in that process, such as the enhanced partnership for peace which NATO affords, formed partly by countries such as Jordan, Australia, Ukraine, Georgia, Sweden and Finland. However, the real precursor to membership is the MAP, and that is what I will ask the Minister about today. That is why I have instigated the debate; I want to know about the MAP, and I am going to ask a lot of written parliamentary questions about the issue over the coming months and years.

Finally, I come to British leadership on our continent. Do Members remember what they used to say to us in 1999 when Poland, the country of my birth, joined NATO? Do they remember what they said to us when Poland and the Czech Republic joined NATO, when those central European counties were given part-defence partnership with us? They said that it was a step too far, that it would cause world war three and that it would trigger some sort of conflagration that would destroy Europe. That is what they told us: “Don’t give the Poles NATO membership, it is too dangerous. Let’s just leave them there, in the Russian sphere of influence.”

That is absolutely disgusting and disgraceful. That is not the British way. However, we showed that leadership to ensure that our friends in Poland, the Czech Republic, and other central and eastern European countries were given that right to join NATO. The same thing happened in 2004, when Romania and Bulgaria were allowed to join NATO. There were the same siren calls, “It is a step too far, it is going to cause another world war and conflagration with the Russians”. That did not happen.

The time has come to give our Ukrainian partners that same insurance policy. They are our fellow Europeans; let us remember that. They are our fellow European brothers and sisters, not some obscure country far away of which we know very little, and not some banana republic that we have no connections with. They are our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow European brothers and sisters. With that comes a massive obligation to support them.

I have recently written a report on the Three Seas initiative, which I have sent to the Minister. That is a new grouping of 12 countries in central and eastern Europe led by Poland and Croatia, and we interviewed all 12 ambassadors in writing the report. It is a very exciting project that it is taking place in central and eastern Europe, and I very much hope that we can engage further with that initiative, as well as helping Ukraine. It is an opportunity for Britain to take a lead in central and eastern Europe. As Germany and France are undermining Ukraine for their own selfish, national commercial interests—specifically with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline—now is the time for Britain to show leadership.

Finally, the Ukrainians will remember our actions. They are in probably one of the most vulnerable, dangerous set of circumstances that any European country could face. We are lucky here in the United Kingdom to be perched on the extreme western fringes of our continent, as far away as possible from Russia. When a country has a border with Russia—I have been to the Polish-Russian border on many occasions—and the brown bear is next door, his claw scratching on the windowsill, everything changes. The Ukrainians are watching us now and will remember how we behave. I want to lead a campaign, which I hope other MPs will join, in a cross-party caucus to convince our Government that the time has come to show leadership and ensure our Ukrainian friends are finally given NATO membership.

Thank you for permitting me to speak in today’s debate, Mr Dowd. I thank the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) for leading the debate. He has not said a word that I do not totally agree with, so I add my support to his final statement—indeed, all his words—that we do our best across parties in this House to help Ukraine and its citizens. Like him and others who will speak shortly, I fully understand the necessity to support Ukraine physically, emotionally and militarily in such a way that it can feel secure and more confident, and can be assured that we will, as part of NATO and the western countries, add our support should it be necessary.

I am pleased to speak in this debate, and I look forward to hearing the Minister. I thank our United Kingdom Government, who have been very supportive of Ukraine. We urge others to follow our example and support the Ukrainians in their fight against Russian intervention and the potential—indeed, the reality—of invasion. Russia has for many decades posed a threat to democracy. We are probably more aware of that today than we have been in the past. There is no doubt that we must take further action to support the smaller countries that cannot protect themselves.

Along with others, I have an interest in history, and I have read some of the history of Ukraine. I am ever mindful—I was mindful of it before I came to this debate—of the famine and forced hunger that Russia put Ukrainians through in the past. Some 6 million, probably more, died as a result. Russia is no friend of Ukraine. Indeed, Russia is no friend of anybody in the western countries. Its ambitions are great and will be detrimental.

Since 2014, the disruption and intrusion into Ukrainian territory has been ongoing. Only last year President Zelensky approved Ukraine’s new national security strategy, which provides for the development of a distinctive partnership with NATO, leading towards membership. I was struck by the comment made by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham about Poland on its introduction to NATO and the comments from some countries about what would happen. Well, it did not happen for Poland and it will not happen for Ukraine, provided NATO stands strong. I commend him for those comments.

The sooner Ukraine is introduced to NATO, the better. I am keen and anxious to see that happen sooner rather than later. It is one small step forward in improving relations between Ukraine and the rest of the NATO states. As recently as 2019, President Vladimir Putin admitted that there was still a significant amount of military intelligence in Ukraine, so President Putin’s ambitions are clear. As of 2019, 7% of Ukraine’s territory is occupied by Russia—taken illegally and violently. The 7% of Ukraine that Russia now controls has no buildings, no growth, no wildlife and no habitat—desolation and total destruction. What Russia has done to that part of Ukraine it will do, but more so, elsewhere. There have been many reports of Russia’s undercover and special forces behind the lines, carrying out attacks, espionage and, indeed, the murder of Ukrainian citizens. That is something about which I am greatly concerned.

I am very grateful to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for supporting Ukraine’s continued efforts to boost its naval capability, to which the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham referred. In 2015, the UK launched Operation Orbital, a non-lethal training and capacity building operation to aid the Ukrainian armed forces. I very much welcome that, but I perhaps wish that there was something stronger; we and NATO have to look at that possibility, and the United States has to look at it alongside us. Operation Orbital came shortly after the 2014 Russia-Ukraine war, in which it was estimated that 13,000 people lost their lives and 1.5 million people were internally displaced. Those internally displaced people are now residing permanently in Government-controlled areas of Ukraine.

I chair the all-party parliamentary group for international freedom of religion or belief. At the time of the war I highlighted, in some questions and statements, information received from eastern Ukraine about churches having been destroyed, and Baptist and other clergy having gone missing—what happened to them has never been disclosed. People in eastern Ukraine lost their freedom and the right to practise their religion, and it is time that Russia is held accountable for those crimes against humanity—crimes carried out against people who just happened to be Christians and to have a religious point of view. Their human rights were abused. Russia is a threat to religion and belief, and its human rights abuses are enormous.

In September 2020, further efforts were made by the Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace). He announced that the UK would lead a multinational maritime training initiative for the Ukrainian navy, enabling it to advance its own naval strategy to fight off Russian threats. Some £2.2 million of non-lethal equipment has been gifted to Ukraine. Despite the continued efforts of the UK and others, I believe that more needs to be done. We need more direct military intervention. Preventing war requires the military to be in place, so that others think twice before they do anything. The quicker we can bring about Ukraine’s partnership with NATO, the better.

In addition, we must do more to encourage our allies—to be specific, the USA—to help Ukraine. President Biden has recently been under pressure to say whether he will support Ukraine’s bid to join NATO, given the immense pressure that he is under from Putin. I know that Biden and Putin have had talks in the last few days. The NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, has previously stated that Ukraine needs to do more to fulfil promised reforms before it can be accepted for NATO discussions. I ask NATO and Ukraine to expedite those reforms. The quicker they can be brought forward, the quicker Ukraine can become part of NATO and the quicker we can provide support where it is needed.

Have the Minister and the Government had any update on the discussions that President Biden has had with President Putin? What was the outcome of those talks? President Biden is not accountable to us, but I am hopeful because he has had a very strong stance and his comments have reiterated the commitment of NATO and the USA to Ukraine. Is the Minister aware of what took place? I think that we in this House would be very pleased to have an update.

It is important that these promises are met, but I must emphasise further the importance of demonstrating the force of a network of liberty against malign activity. I welcome the recent efforts of the Foreign Secretary at her meetings with world leaders in addressing the concerns of Russian intervention. We must not forgot our commitment to protecting democracy, ensuring essential defence mechanisms and doing everything necessary to ensure that the relationship between Ukraine, NATO, the US and ourselves prospers.

I am proud of the continued efforts by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to aid Ukraine in its fight to join NATO. Until that is accepted, we must do more to ensure that Ukraine is strong enough to fight off Russian interference, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland must be seen to be one of the leading actors encouraging others to do so. I commend the Minister and the Government for what they have done. I look forward to the shadow Ministers’ speeches shortly. I believe that we must have a united front in favour of Ukraine, stand by them and ensure Russia knows that if it takes on Ukraine, it takes on us.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Dowd. I congratulate and thank the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) for bringing the debate forward. He and I do not often find ourselves in agreement—in fact, I do not know whether we ever have outside of this issue—but we agree 100% on this issue. I start by declaring an interest, of sorts. I am very proud to be a recipient and holder of the Ukrainian Order of Merit, bestowed on me by the President of Ukraine, and I proudly hold that award as a strong and robust friend of Ukraine.

It is important to acknowledge, in the context of the debate, not just the current military backdrop that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but two important anniversaries. One was Holodomor Memorial Day last month, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). Also, this month marks the anniversary of the start of the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, when Ukrainians, in that bitter cold weather—I do not know whether you have been to that part of the world at this time of year, Mr Dowd, but it is bitterly cold—camped out on Maidan Square, taking on the friend of a tyrant with almost unparalleled resistance to demand a democratic future for their country. And they paid, many of them, with their lives in doing so.

It is important that we understand that important anniversary and that backdrop to the debate. However, I lament the debate in one sense, because of the acres of empty green seats around me. The House needs to wake up, because we are facing a potential conflict that will not confine itself to the borders of Ukraine, but will impact every single country in Europe and beyond, and that includes this country.

I want to address the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. Like the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, I too have been to eastern Ukraine; I was there almost four years ago with colleagues. We took the time to go to Donetsk and Kramatorsk—and we went out to Kharkiv, which is a bit more liberated, shall we say—and spoke to people there. I encourage anyone who goes to Ukraine that just as London is not the United Kingdom, Kiev is not Ukraine. Get out of the capital, head east and talk to people, and go west and talk to people about the conflict as well.

Although the hon. Member for Strangford mentions the number of deaths that the conflict has so far tallied up, we should take a moment to reflect on the fact that nearly 15,000 people have been killed in a war that barely gets a mention outside of escalating tensions reported in our national media, and we are not alone in that. It has displaced more than 1 million civilians within their own country—a country that we can fly to in about four hours from Heathrow airport.

I also want to address the annexation of Crimea, where there continue to be human rights abuses, in particular of religious rights, as rightly mentioned by the hon. Member for Strangford, such as the rights of the Crimean Tatars. It is worth emphasising that we do not recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea in any way, shape or form—I think we all agree on that.

There has been a lot of talk about military encirclement of Russia. Well, let us deal with that issue. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham rightly used the phrase “the new iron curtain”. There are currently more Russian troops stationed in countries bordering Russia than there are US troops stationed in countries bordering Russia. The Kremlin and its current office holder can have as many concerns as they like about Ukraine’s future defence posture and the alliances that it may or may not choose to join, including NATO or the European Union, but Russia does not get a veto on membership or aspirations for membership. The only countries that get a say in that are Ukraine—it is a stated aspiration of the current and previous Governments of Ukraine, and I would bet that, in any free and fair election, it will be the stated aspiration of the next Government of Ukraine— and the other member states of NATO, of which, last time I checked, Russia is not one. So the red lines and the desire for the veto should be seen for what they are—posturing on behalf of the Kremlin that should be given the cold shoulder.

It is worth reflecting on that encirclement right now and, in particular, as the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham rightly mentions, the situation in Belarus and how that becomes a new opening—a new platform—in a conflict that started in 2014; because Russia right now has stationed more troops around Ukraine than there are troops in the entire British Army, and we have intelligence from the United States that that number will get bigger early in the new year. We should also reflect on the steps that the United States has taken. After some capitals, in Europe in particular, were mildly sceptical of its intelligence, the US took the extraordinary step of sharing even more intelligence than it normally would, which has united NATO in recent statements and united NATO in its assessment of what may well happen next.

It is vital, therefore, that we give all the support we can to Ukraine. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham rightly mentions Nord Stream 2. I am minded to check his claim that he has asked more questions on that than any other Member of Parliament—I think he and I might be in competition there—but I will say this about the Government. I have always found it difficult to criticise the Government for their support for Ukraine; my only criticism is only that I want them to go further and faster. They do a good job. I have met the defence attaché in Ukraine; I have met the embassy staff who work with civil society groups and others. They do an excellent job; but I always want to see the Government go further.

On Nord Stream 2, finally the Government are starting to see sense, although it might be a bit late for that. I remember standing where I am now, when Alan Duncan was the Minister—perhaps even in the post now held by the Minister with us today—listening to him say that the issue was peripheral to British interests and that we did not have to worry about it that much, with Member of Parliament after Member of Parliament telling him otherwise. The money that is generated from Nord Stream 2 into Kremlin coffers ain’t gonna stay in Kremlin coffers. It will fund the new hybrid war not just in Ukraine, but across all of Europe as well. Despite there being so few speakers in the debate, we probably do not have time to go into what that might look like.

I completely concur with the hon. Gentleman’s statement about NATO. Former President Trump, who I suspect the hon. Gentleman is not a great fan of, nevertheless did challenge Jens Stoltenberg in a clear and sensible way when he asked him, “Why is it that you, the Secretary-General of NATO, allow one of its members to bypass and impede the security of our other NATO partners?”. If you are a member of NATO, that is a huge attribute, but it is also a huge responsibility. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that Germany should think more reasonably and responsibly about the interests of fellow NATO partners, rather than just securing her own energy interests?

I do agree, and I hope that the new Chancellor, who has taken up post during this debate, will take a more robust position, not least because of Annalena Baerbock’s appointment as the new Foreign Minister of the German Federal Government, which the hon. Member mentioned. However, the less that is said about the Trump Administration and Ukraine, the better.

I end with some questions for the Minister, if I might. When will we see some detail on what the enhanced sanctions mentioned by the White House in the past few days might be, and how the UK would fit into a co-ordinated effort? What assessment have the Government made of Russia’s intentions post the call between President Putin and President Biden? If there is a further military escalation, what response can we expect—and can Ukraine expect—from the Government? I am thinking in terms of the full spectrum of options open to them. Will the Government now, for goodness’ sake, implement something —anything—from the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on Russia?

On the impact that a further escalation of the conflict will have, will the Government publish an assessment of what that will mean for Europe, learning from Afghanistan? Some assessments say that if there is to be a full-scale invasion, we could be looking at up to 9 million Ukrainian refugees. We will need to take some of those people in. Will the Government give us assurances that if that were to be the case, we will not have a repeat of what has played out in terms of taking refugees as far as Afghanistan is concerned? Will they also outline what it might mean for grain supplies in Europe? There has been much talk about Ukraine being a bridge or a buffer, but it is actually well known as the breadbasket of Europe, and it is important that we understand what the consequences of a full-scale invasion would look like. Perhaps the debate would have more speakers if the House better understood that the conflict will come to this country as well.

On NATO membership, I support Ukraine’s aspiration to join NATO because that is its people’s aspiration and we should help them make that happen. Not to diminish the work already going on through Operation Orbital and much else, can the UK look to lead a coalition of NATO member states to deepen the work that we are doing to get to the important membership action plan? Can we start to second officials from whatever Departments we need to second them from, to really beef up the efforts to get Ukraine to the point where its aspirations can be met?

As the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham correctly said at the end of his speech, Ukrainians will remember. They will remember what we did and what we did not do. It is not good enough for us to pat ourselves on the back and think that we are in a good place, because events change and change fast, and so do people’s perceptions. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairpersonship, Mr Dowd. I thank the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) for securing this timely debate, not least following the developments in recent days and yesterday’s urgent question in the House.

I will begin by referencing the close ties between Ukraine and my country of Wales as well as my city of Cardiff, which was twinned with Luhansk for many years following the assistance given in the 1980s by that fine city’s citizens to Welsh striking miners. There are many fond and close connections between our two countries. I have had the pleasure of spending time in Ukraine in the past; I taught English in Lviv for some time in my early 20s and have many fine Ukrainian friends and connections and a deep affection for the country. Our friendships and histories are close. In Wales, our Counsel General, Mick Antoniw, is of Ukrainian heritage and a strong defender of the rights of Ukraine.

We heard a range of important contributions this morning and yesterday from Members from both sides of the House. The degree of unity, resolution, concern and attention to this issue, both in this place and across our allies, should not be underestimated by President Putin, the Russian regime and others seeking to destabilise Europe and undermine the liberties and aspirations of people wherever they may be, whether in Ukraine or across the continent. I therefore reiterate the comments of the new shadow Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy):

“It is important at moments such as these that we send the united message from all sides of this House that the UK is resolute in our support for the sovereignty, the independence and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”—[Official Report, 7 December 2021; Vol. 705, c. 188-9.]

It is rare for me to quote Ministers, but we absolutely agreed yesterday with the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford), that it is right that

“the UK is unwavering in our support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, and its territorial integrity, including of its territorial waters, within its internationally recognised borders. Russia should uphold the OSCE principles…that it freely signed up to, which it is violating through its ongoing aggression against Ukraine.”—[Official Report, 7 December 2021; Vol. 705, c. 188.]

Ukrainians want a democratic future and to choose their own path. They must be allowed to choose their own political destiny. We welcome the dialogue between President Biden and President Putin yesterday, and it was rightly made clear in statements before and after that it should be understood that any attempt to further undermine Ukraine’s integrity or engage in dangerous military adventurism will be met with a strong, robust and resolute response. Nobody—not least us—wishes for or seeks further armed conflict. The Opposition welcome the unity and clarity with which our European and Atlantic allies have spoken. We hope that that message has been heard, that dialogue will continue and that the Russian regime will step away from the precipice it is currently sitting on.

Regrettably, this has been part of a wider pattern of dangerous behaviour by Russia and its agents, with tensions raised not only in Ukraine but through its support for the regime in Belarus and its actions, and recently in Bosnia as well. That follows the completely unacceptable and illegal annexation of Crimea and Russian actions in Donbass and other locations, including Georgia, in previous years. We must not forget that more than 14,000 people have lost their lives in the seven years of conflict in Ukraine’s east since Russian-backed forces seized large areas, nor must we forget those who tragically lost their lives in the despicable shooting down of MH17 over the conflict area. Nobody wishes to see further lives lost. Russia’s further ratcheting up of rhetoric and military assets in the region is both dangerous and irresponsible. Perhaps Russia thought we would look away, not least given the pressures of the pandemic and many other international matters. It should be assured that, when it comes to the stability and security of Europe and of Ukraine itself, we will not look away. We will stand by our commitments.

Michael Kofman from the US Centre for Naval Analyses illustrated today for the BBC exactly why concerns have escalated. We heard of the huge numbers of troops and assets. He said:

“While the current Russian military posture supports a range of contingencies…what's remarkable about it is the size of the combat elements assembled and the follow-on force designed to hold seized territory. Consequently, it looks like a credible invasion force, in excess of anything put together in 2014-2015, (the last time major Russian units were directly involved in the fighting) designed for a large scale military intervention.”

That is absolutely clear and tallies with other open-source intelligence that the United States and others have shared. We have also heard in recent days about medical and fuel supply chains to the borders of Ukraine being established, which only further unnecessarily escalates the situation. It is completely dangerous and completely unacceptable.

I turn to some questions for the Minister and other issues. In particular—I will return to this—I hope she will be able to provide further clarity and commitment on the types of financial and economic actions that are being considered, not least with regard to the Nord Stream 2 development, if the Russian regime foolishly chooses to follow another path. I agree wholeheartedly with a number of Members’ comments on that today and yesterday. Have the Minister and her colleagues been engaging with the incoming German Government, particularly the new Foreign Minister? Have they asked them to discuss the situation regarding the cancellation of Nord Stream 2 to ensure that Russia is not able to increase Europe’s energy dependency or weaken our unity with a chokehold on critical energy supplies during the winter? It is clear to anybody who has been watching the situation, as many of those in this room and the speakers in yesterday’s debate have been, that this has been a medium and long-term strategy by the Russian regime to destabilise Ukraine and others in the region, whether that is because they will lose potential transit fees or energy supplies. What other steps are we taking to reduce our dependency on energy supplies from Russia?

Opposition Members wholeheartedly welcome the support the Government have given to Ukraine, and the strong partnership and friendship we have. As has been said, this is not some far-flung shore, but a nearby friend, neighbour and partner, whose prosperity, stability and liberty is of mutual interest to us all. Ukraine has been an important ally since its independence in 1991 and has been working with us closely in military partnerships and through NATO missions for many years. We stand in support of international law, self-determination and the specific commitments that were made under the Budapest memorandum. We have specific responsibilities as a result of those, which have unfortunately been forgotten in some parts of this House. We must remind people about them and about the agreements that were made at that time.

We welcome the support that our UK armed forces and NATO partners have provided and continue to provide in Ukraine. We have trained over 21,000 Ukrainian military personnel in medical skills, logistics, counter-improvised explosive device actions, leadership, planning and infantry tactics, as part of Operation Orbital and in relation to the UK-led maritime training initiative. As has been referenced, it is absolutely right that we work with Ukraine to ensure the freedom of maritime navigation in the Black sea and the Sea of Azov, in line with international law and commitments.

As has also been said, our trade links are critical. We heard about Ukraine being the breadbasket of Europe. In 2019, almost 15% of British cereal imports originated in Ukraine. We must be clear about the impacts for us, our food security and our trading relationships going forward. Beyond that, we have provided official development assistance towards developing economic prosperity, peacebuilding and human rights initiatives. It is right that that continues.

We continue to work with organisations promoting diplomatic dialogue, freedom, human rights and peace, such as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Can the Minister outline the latest conversations we have had at the OSCE, at the United Nations and at other bodies regarding existing agreements? She will be aware that the OSCE’s special monitoring mission continues its work, although it is often hampered in eastern Ukraine.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me of a point I wanted to make about the special monitoring mission. I take the point that the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) made about breaches of agreements, but does the shadow Minister agree that it remains more than a bit absurd that the Russian Government are a party to that special monitoring mission and are therefore marking their own homework, as the fomenter of the conflict in eastern Ukraine?

Indeed. There are many frustrations around that mission and its ability to do its work, and about the wider context. In terms of those who are breaking the ceasefire agreements, the SMM reported 286 ceasefire violations, including 131 explosions, in just the last reporting period. In the Luhansk region, the mission recorded 261 ceasefire violations. What assessment has the Minister made of the current situation there? What steps are we taking to help de-escalate tensions and ensure adherence to the ceasefire agreement?

At times of high tension, it is critical that calm heads and accurate information prevail. In that regard, it is deeply alarming to see much of the false information emanating from the Russian media, the Russian regime and sympathisers in the region regarding the intentions of Ukraine, the UK, NATO and its allies. We cannot afford for military or political miscalculations to be made on the basis of misinformation or deliberate disinformation, and nor can we accept hybrid attacks on the critical infrastructure of Ukraine or other allies and partners. What assessment has the Minister made of the levels of false information circulating? What steps are we taking to counter and correct that, both directly with the Russian regime and to reassure our allies and partners, including Ukraine, when false information is circulated? What steps are we providing to support Ukraine and other partners to defend themselves against cyber-attacks and other forms of hybrid warfare?

At this time, our NATO allies in the region, in the Baltic states and in eastern Europe will—understandably —be deeply concerned about the direct impact of this escalation and indeed about the continued provocations of Russia towards them. Of course, we have UK forces and support present across the region, not least in Estonia, where Welsh regiments have served very bravely recently, which is very welcome. Can the Minister give some more detail about the discussions the Foreign Secretary had with our Baltic friends and others in eastern Europe on her recent visits, and assure them of our absolute commitment to our NATO partnership with them?

We have heard talk about the situation in Belarus. The Russian regime has additionally encouraged Belarus to antagonise its neighbours, including Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics, through the shameful use of human beings to create a border crisis, with the dictator Alexander Lukashenko continuing to attempt to push them across into Poland and other neighbouring countries, including Ukraine itself. We have heard about the tragic loss of life and the tragic humanitarian situation there, and those actions have rightly been condemned by many members of the Security Council. Can the Minister say what she is doing to work with our partners to de-escalate tensions and provide humanitarian support? Will she send a clear message to the Belarus Government that refugees cannot be used as pawns in a political game pushed by their sponsors in Moscow? What assessment has she made of the impact on the wider tensions that we are debating today? We must move in lockstep with our European partners to consider all appropriate responses to the unacceptable behaviour of the Lukashenko regime, including applying further sanctions. We have a debate coming up later today on the Magnitsky sanctions, and I am sure many of these issues will be raised then.

Finally, I come to an area where I do have some criticism of the Government; indeed, my right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary raised this issue yesterday. As well as working with allies and supporting actions to support Ukraine, we must ensure we do all we can at home to challenge the Russian regime’s behaviour, tackling the untransparent and in some cases illicit sources of support that undermine our sovereignty and that of our allies, and that provide routes to influence even at the heart of our own democracy. We know that that is merely one step removed from even more offensive actions on our own territory—the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham referenced these earlier—whether that be murder or the use of chemical or radiological weapons, which cannot be tolerated, or a wide range of other unacceptable actions. We know that the UK continues to be a soft touch for corrupt elites and the dirty money that helps sustain the Putin regime. That was set out clearly in the Russia report and continues to be substantiated by further evidence, yet more than 18 months after that report was published none of its recommendations has been fully implemented. The Minister who responded yesterday failed to commit, so I ask again: will this Minister commit to taking the steps necessary to implement the recommendations in the Russia report?

As I mentioned, later today we will be debating Magnitsky sanctions and the Government’s failure to further expand the number of individuals subject to sanctions. To be fair, we welcomed and supported the set-up of that system, and we want to see it used further to tackle individuals responsible for deeply unacceptable actions globally, threatening our interests and those of our allies, to ensure that they are brought to book. The Minister will not want to be drawn on individual cases, but can she say whether the Government are considering further Magnitsky sanctions in relation to actions by individuals in the Russian regime with regard to Ukraine or the other issues we have discussed today?

Despite those criticisms, I conclude by reiterating our clear support for the broad approach being taken by the Government. It is only right that the Russian regime understands that when it comes to Ukraine we will take a unified, robust and appropriate response to unacceptable aggression and adventurism. We are united in this House, and we are united among our partners and allies. We urge Russia to de-escalate the situation and respect the liberties and territorial integrity of Ukraine, which it has previously shown scant regard for.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Dowd, and to be a part of this interesting and insightful debate, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) on securing it. Normally the Minister for Europe and the Americas would respond, but I am delighted to take part while she is travelling on ministerial duties. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for securing this debate and for the real wisdom and insight he brings to it. I am also grateful to other Members who have contributed today. As has been mentioned, the debate follows an urgent question on the Floor of the House yesterday.

Our debate takes place in the shadow of a build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border and against the backdrop of the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Riga last week, which has been mentioned. At that meeting, the Foreign Secretary, alongside our allies, made crystal clear to her Ukrainian counterpart our commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. We have repeated that support many times in the House, as the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), mentioned.

I should state that the current relationship with Russia is not the one we want. As we made clear in the integrated review, Russia’s actions pose an acute and direct threat to the national security of the UK and its allies, and we have shown in recent years that we take that threat seriously. As well as responding to and calling out Russian aggression wherever it occurs, we have been clear that serious criminals, corrupt elites and individuals who seek to threaten the security of the UK and our allies are not welcome in the United Kingdom. That is why we are also tackling elicit finance entering our country through groundbreaking legislation and our ambitious economic crime plan.

The UK remains firmly committed to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. We want Ukraine to be secure, stable and prosperous, and we want Ukrainians to be able to define their own future. Any military incursion would be a terrible miscalculation, and the Russian Government should expect significant strategic consequences, including severe economic sanctions.

The UK does not stand alone. We are at the heart of the international community’s support for Ukraine, deepening its partnership with NATO. Together, we stand ready to continue and build our support for Ukraine across all areas, including energy, reform and defence. Last summer, we backed Ukraine to become an enhanced opportunity partner to increase political consultations, co-operation and joint training and exercises with NATO. We stand firm in our support for Ukraine’s membership aspirations, in line with the 2008 Bucharest summit declaration, which saw NATO allies agree that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance. Allies have reiterated this commitment at every summit since—most recently in June 2021—and that is as it should be.

The route towards membership requires Ukraine’s continued commitment to strengthen its institutions and to deliver the defence and security reforms agreed with NATO in its annual national programme. Ukraine needs to persevere with defence and security reforms as the route to membership. As mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, it is a decision between all 30 allies to grant MAP. That does not prevent NATO and Ukraine from developing their interoperability. As I say, Ukraine achieved enhanced opportunity partner status last year. That is the closest level of partnership with NATO and offers valuable opportunity for engagement with the alliance as Ukraine moves forward with its reforms. I encourage Ukraine to make full use of its enhanced opportunity partner status, which allows for regular information sharing and co-operation.

In the meantime, it is vital that NATO allies continue to stand in solidarity with Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression and provocations and that we work to bolster Kiev’s defences and broader security in the region. That includes Ukraine’s energy security, which is one of the reasons why the UK remains opposed to Nord Stream 2. We are concerned about its implications for the interests of Ukraine and for European energy security, and we stand firm in defending our common interests. I want to make it clear that this support is fundamentally defensive in nature, because Ukraine poses no threat to Russia, and nor does NATO. It is a defensive alliance, which strives for peace, security and stability in the whole Euro- Atlantic area.

The UK remains a key and active member of the NATO alliance. UK military support for Ukraine covers many areas and has been expanded and extended. That includes training delivered through Operation Orbital, which has trained more than 20,000 Ukrainian troops. The training is defensive, is designed to save lives, focusing on the skills for which the Ukrainians have sought our assistance, and is delivered at the point of need.

We will continue to demonstrate our commitment to maintain regional security and freedom of navigation. We take part in periodic deployments, including under a NATO banner, such as Exercise Sea Breeze in the Black sea, and Exercise Joint Endeavour, where we tested and evaluated new techniques, alongside Ukraine. Those deployments have helped to maintain regional security, check Russian aggression and demonstrate NATO’s political support for Ukraine and other allies and partners in the region. In addition, in conjunction with our Canadian allies, we are the NATO contact point embassy for 2021-22. That provides further opportunities to strengthen NATO’s relationship with Ukraine, explain the responsibilities and benefits of the alliance and tackle false narratives.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the Foreign Secretary took part in the NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting at Riga last week, where she discussed the current situation with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister. She reassured him of our unwavering support for Ukraine, including through NATO’s comprehensive assistance package. That package includes assistance on capacity building for cyber and logistics expertise, as well as developing Ukraine’s training programmes. The two are meeting again today at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, during the inaugural UK-Ukraine strategic dialogue.

Tensions on the Ukraine-Russia border, and on the border with the illegally annexed Crimea—

I thank the Minister for her response. With reference to my contribution and those of others, does the Minister know what happened between Biden and Putin? Can she update us on that?

The hon. Member has pre-empted me. I will come to that before I wind up, and give my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham a few minutes to conclude.

With our allies, we are closely monitoring the situation. It is critical that all sides avoid miscalculation. We are unequivocal in our message to Vladimir Putin to see reason and return to diplomatic channels. We have called on the Russian Government to abide by their international commitments, to provide transparency and see reason. NATO remains open to dialogue with Russia.

We will continue to work with our allies and partners to uphold the rules-based international system in relation to Ukraine and the institutions that underpin it. The Prime Minister has spoken to President Zelensky on a number of occasions to reiterate the UK’s support. He raised the issue of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine directly with President Putin when they spoke ahead of COP26.

Turning to the call between Presidents Biden and Putin this week, President Biden voiced deep concerns about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine and made it clear that we would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation. President Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They also discussed the US-Russia dialogue on strategic stability, a separate dialogue on ransomware, as well as joint work on regional issues, such as Iran. After the call, President Biden called the French, German, Italian and British leaders to debrief them on the call and consult on the way forward.

To conclude, the UK will continue to stand by Ukraine’s side as an honest friend and close partner. Our support for Ukraine, alongside our allies, is crystal clear. Together, we can and must co-ordinate greater economic support, including energy support, to Ukraine. Similarly, we must be clear to Russia that an incursion into Ukraine would incur a high cost and result in massive strategic consequences. Russia should understand that the support we provide to Ukraine is to help Ukraine defend itself. Nothing in our support could be construed as a threat to Russia. NATO poses no threat to Russia. That is why Putin needs to see reason, return to the negotiating table and understand this: our support for Ukraine is unwavering. The United Kingdom will continue to build Ukraine’s resilience and stand up for its right to determine its own future.

I am very grateful to the Minister for her very positive remarks and I am very pleased with the unity among all political parties. It is a very pleasant experience to be able to, for the first time ever, agree wholeheartedly with an SNP Member, the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald)— I shall remember this moment.

I want to finish by saying that the Ukrainians are watching all of us. They look to Britain for leadership on our continent and it is extremely important. Ukraine will be one of the most important countries on our continent in the decades ahead. It is a huge country with massive resources and one of its greatest assets is its people. Anybody who has been to Ukraine—the hon. Member for Glasgow South has, and I have had the honour and privilege of visiting that beautiful country on many occasions—will have seen the spirit of innovation and courage of the Ukrainian people. It will be an extremely important country in the future. Our future relationship will inevitably be predicated on how we conduct ourselves today and what support we give them today at its most difficult time.

I remember the previous iron curtain, the gash that cut across our continent which lasted for 50 years. We saw the celebrations in 1989 when the curtain was finally taken down. There is no greater symbolism of the curtain coming down than the destruction of the Berlin wall by young people with pickaxes, finally chipping it away. After the sacrifice and courage of previous generations to tear down that curtain, we must not allow another iron curtain to be reimposed just a little bit further east. Let us not forget that the Ukrainians are our European partners, our European brothers and sisters. I am very proud that the Government seem to be taking a lead. I will be holding them to account on how we take that leadership role in giving them maximum support.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered British support for Ukraine’s membership of NATO.