Motion to Take Note
That this House takes note of the war in Ukraine, including the threatened use of tactical nuclear weapons.
My Lords, I want this subject considered by your Lordships because although we have discussed Ukraine a fair amount, we have not given all that much attention to the existence of, and threat posed by, tactical nuclear weapons; that is, weapons of lower yield which can be fired from missiles with a shorter range than strategic weapons, as well as by other means.
By way of background and to avoid any possible misunderstandings, during the fierce debates of the 1980s I was, with much moral fear and spiritual trembling, a defender of the policy of nuclear deterrence. I am still convinced that, for the first time ever in human history, it is not in the interests of one power to go to war with another that possesses nuclear weapons. Although I opposed CND on many occasions in those days, I always felt that it performed a very useful function in keeping before all of us the terrible devastation that the use of such weapons would bring about.
During the 2019 Indo-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir, my fears were first aroused that the world might be forgetting that fact. Recordings were made of generals involved in the fighting, in which they talked about the use of nuclear weapons as though they were hand grenades being lobbed about. It is important for all of us—our own public and, if possible, the Russian general public—to understand the power and effect of these weapons. They have not gone away. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were equivalent to 15 kilotons of explosive energy. Tactical nuclear weapons are available in a range of sizes—0.3, 1.5, 10 or 50 kilotons of explosive energy. Even 0.3 kilotons would cause all the horrors of Hiroshima, albeit on a smaller scale. It would cause a fireball, shockwaves, and deadly radiation that would cause long-term health damage in survivors. Radioactive fallout would continue in air, soil, water and the food supply. Ukrainians are of course already familiar with this kind of outcome because of the disastrous meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in 1986.
Russia possesses 2,000 of these tactical nuclear weapons, kept in storage facilities throughout the country. These have been developed to be used against troops and installations in a small area, or in a limited engagement. Such weapons can be launched on the same short-range missiles that Russia is currently using to bombard Ukraine, such as the Iskander ballistic missile, which has a range of 500 kilometres. These are not the only tactical weapons that could be deployed. The United States has about 100 nuclear gravity bombs—deployed with aircraft and therefore with less sophisticated guidance—stationed around Europe, and 130 or so elsewhere.
Many paradoxes are provided by the existence of nuclear weapons, particularly tactical nuclear weapons. In relation to Ukraine, it could be argued that if it was not for such weapons, we would already be involved in a third world war. Friendly countries would likely have wanted to intervene and defend a neighbour against blatant aggression, and it could all have gone from there. Therefore, in one sense, they have already acted as a deterrent. Although Ukraine is not a member of NATO, the presence of nuclear weapons has rightly made NATO even more cautious and it has not directly intervened. On the other hand, as has happened many times in recent decades, under the nuclear umbrella, a limited war can take place. Clearly, one reason why Mr Putin thought he could get away with a limited war in his backyard was that he calculated that his possession of nuclear weapons would prevent any thought of allies intervening in Ukraine and risking a third world war.
Then, there is the paradox of tactical nuclear weapons. The fact that they could be used in a relatively limited way makes their use more likely, so their presence and fear of escalation to the use of strategic weapons strengthens deterrence overall. On the other hand, for that very reason, they are more dangerous: their use could be envisaged.
The key fact surely is that the gap between the use of conventional weapons and nuclear weapons is a real threshold. It has been maintained for 77 years, providing a nuclear taboo, and it is essential that this be maintained. As President Biden has said:
“I don’t think there’s any such thing as an ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon.”
President Putin, without actually mentioning the word “nuclear”, has already clearly threatened such weapons’ use through the belligerent language he has chosen. We know from his behaviour that his threats have to be taken seriously. On the other hand, expert analysis of possible scenarios for their use regards it as extremely unlikely, but again, as Lawrence Freedman puts it with his characteristic wisdom, he does not see the use of nuclear weapons
“as being a likely development, but we always … keep on coming back to President Putin’s state of mind, and his grasp of the situation that he’s put his country into, and how determined he would be to avoid”
the “humiliation” of defeat.
There is a continuing risk, which we must never forget: the risk of misunderstandings and a misreading of the situation in the fog of a crisis, as well as the risk of a deliberate and intended threat. In 1963, a direct link between the United States and the Kremlin was set up. I understand that this now takes the form of a secure computer link with encrypted emails. It has been used on a number of occasions: when John F Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963; during the outbreak of the Six Day War in 1967; during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War; during the Yom Kippur War of 1973; when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan; and several times during the Reagan Administration, with the Soviets asking questions about events in Lebanon and the United States commenting on the situation in Poland. As recently as October 2016, the hotline was used to reinforce Barack Obama’s September warning that the US would consider any interference on election day a grave matter.
I do not know whether the Minister is in a position to give us an assurance—I will well understand if he is not—but it would be good to know that this form of communication is still in place and regularly tested, so that there are effective means to communicate with Mr Putin in the event of an escalating crisis, and that the European nations are happy that they would have an adequate means to contribute to any such communication. Such an escalation of the crisis could come if Ukraine advances to the border of Crimea.
More widely on the war, it is good that the UK has given Ukraine full support from the beginning and that we are supplying necessary equipment. It is clearly important that we do not falter in our resolve. In particular, Ukraine needs the most effective air defence systems to combat the terrible missile and drone attacks on its infrastructure. I would also like to be assured that it is being helped to combat cyberattacks, which can disable every aspect of a whole country’s infrastructure and are increasingly dangerous and damaging.
The war will end, and as very few wars end in total surrender a time will come for negotiations. When that time should be is, of course, above all a matter for the Ukrainians. But we can hope and pray that the Ukrainian push will continue and that Russian forces will be forced to retreat from the Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia areas to the borders of Russia and Crimea—although I fear that, with winter and Russian forces dug in beyond the Dnieper, it will not be easy. At that point, on the border of Crimea, when the stakes would be raised very high indeed, perhaps Mr Putin would be happy to agree to a ceasefire and engage in talks. Until that happens, I hope we will continue to give Ukraine all the military support we can, especially the air defence systems we have already agreed to, and more. I beg to move.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, on bringing forward this debate. It is the second time in a week or so that he has secured a debate on a vital international topic. He is doing the work of this House’s business managers for them by playing to the Lords’ strengths in this area. At a time when our colleagues in the other place seem to be sinking down the plughole of bickering and short-termism, it is the accumulated experience of their Lordships that can focus on the international issues which, in the end, are more decisive than any others in our daily lives and our long-term existence as a nation. So I hope the noble and right reverend Lord will take an accolade from me for making a better case than most for a future active and experienced House of Lords.
The potential use of tactical nuclear weapons is the most important issue of all because, of course, it would unlock grim escalation and proliferation, end the balance of nuclear deterrence entirely and lead us straight to a world war and mass incineration with the consequences the noble and right reverend Lord just described.
I do not believe, as some do, that there is a halfway house between small tactical nuclear weapons and the full force of massive destruction on a scale never seen before in human history. In the present fraught situation, it is China, rather than Russia, where the key lies to governing Putin’s actions. There is no doubt in my mind that until now, China has been the most powerful restraint on Putin and his warmongering generals. As he increasingly loses on the ground to Ukrainian resilience and ingenuity, Putin’s latest assurance, about a fortnight ago, was that he would not use nuclear weapons in Ukraine after all. Of course, that cannot be trusted; it is just one statement. It is interesting that he had to make it, because it should be seen entirely in the context of trying to keep China’s vague approval of what he is doing. In all the back-track exchanges with Russia since the Russian invasion, in addition to the official hotline, to which I have had the privilege of access, Putin’s toying with nuclear weapons has been China’s No. 1 concern. It has been quite ready to use its good offices with Moscow in exchange for specific restraints on American and NATO supply and the technological sophistication of weapons.
China may have immediate problems with Xi Jinping’s rising unpopularity and all the riots, but these will not affect its weight and influence with Moscow. Their relationship may have started out as an unlimited partnership, but China has not supplied weapons to Russia, and it has applied quite a few financial and trading controls. China’s business community is deeply apprehensive about the effect of Putin’s war on their world business. For example, Chinese citizens are not even allowed to use their credit cards in Russia and have to carry around piles of cash when they visit. They would much prefer being mediators to being rooters for Russian success.
Longer term, China is a big nuclear power and now, according to the Americans, it is planning—idiotically, in my view—to triple its nuclear arsenal. By preparing for superpower conflict and hegemonic struggle with the US, it is heading on precisely the wrong route, greatly to the detriment of the Chinese people. This unfolding crisis, with its impatient and aggressive turn towards Taiwan, is the next chapter. All needs urgently to be managed and controlled, as it was in the Cold War, to prevent the situation turning red hot. We will need many further debates on that, but in the meantime, ugly though Chinese policies have become in many areas, and on our guard though we must be with every action they take, this is one area where we must work with the Chinese so they carry on being the vital restraint on Russia’s nuclear madness.
My Lords, I have supported military interventions in the Falklands, Iraq and central Europe, but on this conflict I have repeatedly expressed my concerns. I join the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, in some of the concerns he expressed.
In a dozen contributions since before the Russian invasion, I have argued against western military intervention and in favour of talks. At that time, Luhansk and Donetsk were provinces under Ukraine’s sovereignty. The Russians had deployed paramilitary groups, ostensibly to defend what they mistakenly argued were both majority Russian-speaking areas from Ukraine-sponsored Azov Battalion attacks. These battalions had a long history of questionable political affiliation and were an irritant in the administration of a wider Ukraine. I understand that, following reorganisation, they now fall under Ukrainian government control. That was the position when, earlier this year, the Americans again proposed NATO membership. That threat provoked Putin, and he has skilfully used it to reinforce and justify his delusional dreams of a greater Russia.
During the two speaking tours to Russia that I made in the 1990s, I was constantly reminded of both the Russian preoccupation with a perceived external threat and the associated loss of 25 million in the Second World War. It is always there in the background in talks with Russians. I understand that paranoia and Putin’s ability to exploit it. Our mistake in the West has been to feed it by supporting a breach of the Cold War compromise—the maintenance of a string of non-nuclear, barrier, buffer states from Finland in the north to Georgia in the south, placating Russian concerns.
We have now entered a war of indefinite duration characterised by appalling atrocities: rape, indiscriminate murder, nuclear threat, destruction of property now estimated at more than $350 billion and a winter siege threatening millions. In response we are sponsoring a proxy war over which we have ceded control, with ministerial statements offering indefinite equipment support. Russia’s predictable response has been a news lockdown in Russia, escalating troop deployments and a land grab.
I strongly support NATO as the bedrock of our security; it has served us well. But I beg of the powers within its structures to seek wise counsel. Russia cannot persist in this madness. While we wait for compromise, there will be no winners. Millions worldwide are suffering from the consequences of this war.
My political friends—dwindling in number, I understand, over my position—believe the Russians always intended to occupy the Ukraine. I profoundly disagree. It wanted a non-nuclear, non-NATO, compliant barrier state. Incidentally, its eastern boundaries are only 300 miles from Moscow.
I believe there is room for compromise, and I have proposed the following since the beginning, earlier this year: the withdrawal of the Azov Battalions and Russian forces; the reversal of the decision banning official use of the Russian language in the Donbass; the recognition by Ukraine of separate regional status for two eastern provinces—one of which by majority is Russian speaking—and their retention as devolved regions under Ukraine’s sovereignty; the rejection by NATO of Ukraine’s application; and the retention of non-nuclear barrier status, as I have previously alluded to.
It is still not too late. Let us end this nightmare and start the talking. Russia will inevitably have to change and compromise. This war that we are pursuing is not helping the process.
My Lords, I welcome this more substantial debate on Ukraine and thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for securing it. Occasional Questions or short responses to government Statements do not really allow time to come properly to terms with what is happening in this war. Moreover, I sense that the understandable fascination with the military—including nuclear—aspects of the conflict does not really do justice to all its strategic complexity.
To a military mind, the conflict in Ukraine conforms to much of the thinking of the Government’s recent integrated review. In a tactical sense, the conflict has crossed the threshold of formalised warfare and is now quite clearly both brutal and horrific. However, for the moment, at least, it is a war that is limited by both geography and the means employed. Keeping it that way must be one of the primary aims of international policy.
The situation in Ukraine also represents the tactical military dimension of a wider strategic conflict between Russia and those elements of the international community that support an established set of rules and values. That strategic conflict is not geographically limited and embraces a wide variety of what we call “attack vectors”, including, though not limited to, cyber, energy, food, economic sanctions, misinformation, political assassination and proxy terrorism.
I will offer three observations. First, in a military sense, we cannot afford to either win or lose the tactical battle. To attempt to win risks the military escalation that we must seek to avoid, while to lose risks a strategic moral defeat. We must, however, do more to keep Ukraine in the fight, since I fear that Russia still maintains an advantage in the means of production to sustain industrial-level warfare.
Secondly, the more difficult conflict is the strategic one: the one of international resilience in the face of the non-kinetic dimensions of the confrontation. That is also one that I worry Putin might still think he can win—or at least create the circumstances for an advantageous peace.
Thirdly, given that the non-kinetic dimensions of this conflict are not by-products of war but are most definitely the primary vectors of strategic attack, where is the Government’s strategic narrative that explains this to the British people and demands of them the necessary sacrifices? I worry that wider society is currently completely confused by a set of toxic debates about Covid, Brexit and government economic incompetence, when the most significant factor in play in the cost of living crisis is that we are actually at war—but not a war of a variety that most people recognise.
My Lords, President Biden recently commented that this is the most dangerous threat of nuclear war since the Cuban crisis. But are we entering a period of heightened danger, or is this Putin’s way of signalling to the West that it is time to start negotiations? Since the beginning, Mr Putin has been playing poker. If he believes that the West will not back down, he will have to up the stakes. Putin once said, “We don’t need the world without Russia”.
Getting Ukraine is Putin’s obsession. He made that clear in his 2008 NATO speech and in his 6,000-word essay on the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians. For him, the Maidan Revolution was led by Nazi putschists on behalf of Washington. As a result, war became inevitable.
Since 2020, Russia has become a totalitarian regime. Power within the system depends on access to the President, and the number of those with access has narrowed to a handful of associates. These men, known as siloviki, have enriched themselves during the 22 years of Putin’s rule. They also believe that they are in an existential struggle against the West and that, if Putin goes, they lose everything. There is no chance they will back down now. The country could collapse at any moment, but there do not seem to be any cracks among his inner circle. His only critics are the hawks, like Kadyrov, the Chechen leader, or Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, who advocate for tougher measures to win the war.
More strikingly, Putin has managed to weaponise the population so that they do not take to the street as they did in Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus. Putin relies on Dugin’s ideas of a centuries-old conflict, with Russia bearing the divine role of preserving conservative values against the evil powers of the US and Britain, both of which have constantly sought to subdue Russia, from the great game to World War I, and to Vietnam and Afghanistan. This dogma was deployed on state-owned television and the media. With the population physically and ideologically exhausted, it has been easy to indoctrinate them, particularly the older generation.
One must not forget that anyone born before 1990 had, at the age of 12, to swear an oath to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
“to passionately love and cherish my Motherland, to live as the great Lenin bade us to, as the Communist Party teaches us to”
and as the laws of the pioneers of the Soviet Union required. It may no longer be an oath to Lenin, but the personality cult has been restored—to Tsar Putin. In the younger, better-informed generation, there is a general feeling that the previous 30 years have been cancelled, and that it is starting from zero. Everyone in the opposition defines themselves as anti-Putin. There is no competing belief structure to rally them. To this mix, we can add the notion of martyrdom: think of Dostoyevsky and the heroes of World War II, or the Great Patriotic War as the Russians call it.
The West may dream of Ukraine’s victory and the collapse of Putin’s regime, but Zelensky wants total victory and so does Putin. At this year’s annual victory parade Putin declared, “We will never give up”. Negotiating for a peace deal seems nay impossible, particularly since the red lines are drawn around Crimea. If Ukraine attempts to retake that militarily, it will massively increase the risk of tactical strikes. What steps are His Majesty’s Government taking to neutralise this nuclear threat?
My mother’s family fled the Bolsheviks during the revolution. I have always hoped that Russia would one day be a friend but, under Putin, this will not be possible. We need to push further. Will His Majesty’s Government go further and sanction the members of Mr Putin’s regime who have supported this dreadful war?
My Lords, I too thank and commend the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for instituting this important debate and for introducing it so profoundly.
Regrettably, we are all familiar with Putin’s and his spokesperson’s habit of using diplomatic relations like a cracked mirror, ascribing his own egregious intentions to others and therefore justifying aggression and escalations. From the start of this phase of the Ukraine conflict, it has had a nuclear component. In his declaration announcing the February invasion, Putin made statements warning the NATO powers of likely nuclear consequences should they choose to intervene. This nuclear blackmail appears to have, in limited terms, succeeded. NATO rejected Ukraine’s pleas to institute a no-fly zone, despite the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Parliaments all voting in favour. It should not be possible for a tyrant to use nuclear weapons as a shield to conquer his neighbours like this; that it is points to one of several deep injustices and risks baked into the systems that we have created.
There is no such thing as a tactical nuclear weapon. The use of any nuclear weapon would be strategic; all are appallingly destructive and present an existential risk. They are not merely political instruments or one of the sinews of diplomacy. The risk of nuclear weapons being used on a European battlefield is greater today than at any time since the height of the Cold War, and this risk is not just subject to the caprice of an increasingly unstable political actor who is acting against the backdrop of a decaying regime. It is also subject to error or miscalculation. In October 1962 off the coast of Cuba, a Soviet submarine commander, on hearing depth charges, wrongly inferred that war had broken out and gave orders to fire a nuclear weapon at US targets. He was prevented from so doing only by the last-minute intervention of the senior intelligence officer on board the boat. I and almost everyone I know owe our lives to this officer.
We know that the reliability and safety of all nuclear weapons are potentially vulnerable to cyber intrusion and increasingly to disruptive technologies. This war in Ukraine has already exposed the degraded nature of Russian arms and military infrastructure, a situation that only builds upon the fallibility inherent in human nature. The use of nuclear weapons is now contingent not just on the temperament of those responsible for them but on autonomous systems and evolving weapons technology. Nuclear weapons could be detonated by accident or interference and, given that the bonds of trust between Russia and the West are fraying more every day, how could we realistically impute a lack of malign intention, even were that the case?
In response to this evolving risk, the US Congress and President have separately initiated a comprehensive fail-safe evaluation of their nuclear weapons. What assessment have our Government made of the implications of this action by our most important ally, particularly on our confidence in the fail-safe resilience of our systems and on whether we will take their lead and conduct our own similar review?
We face a moment of enormous danger. What mechanisms do we have in place to bring this conflict to an end on terms that are acceptable to Ukraine? In modern warfare, there is no such thing as a conflict that can be won by purely military means. The best that combat can offer is to fashion a context within which an acceptable settlement can be reached. But, ultimately, there will have to be a set of terms to which both Ukraine and Russia will be prepared to accede if this war is to end. It is not for this Government, or any other western Administration, to attempt to dictate the timing of such negotiations; that is a matter for President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine. But, as the US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, said only two weeks ago, we are reaching a time when the Russians would be negotiating from an adverse position, certainly in military terms and possibly in political terms as well.
This conflict has exposed the failures of a generation to grasp the opportunities after the Cold War to escape the global risk arising from our collective attachment to nuclear deterrence. This is not the time to look backwards; we now need to make a resolution to double down and realise the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, repeatedly expressed by representatives of the British Government and the non-proliferation treaty. When I sat on the Trident Commission alongside several colleagues from this House a decade ago, we concluded that the UK needed to do more to drive genuine multilateral disarmament. Unfortunately, what effort we have put in has not borne fruit, and the strategic situation has deteriorated further. The latest NPT review conference this August ended in failure.
We cannot simply step back and shrug our shoulders. As a nuclear weapon state and permanent member of the Security Council, we bear a special responsibility. While we rightly condemn the leadership in Moscow, we must also draw it or its successors into a constructive process that builds an inclusive European security arrangement, with strong and credible security guarantees for Ukraine. This is a fearsome challenge, perhaps more problematic than winning a war with Russia, but we owe it to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren to engage in it.
My Lords, we have heard a series of extremely thoughtful and well-considered speeches, which underlines the fact that we need a full day’s debate on Ukraine very early in the new year.
If your Lordships had any doubt about the terrible things that we are facing, please go across to Portcullis House, where, within the parliamentary precinct, there is the most extraordinarily shocking exhibition of war crimes, opened by the brave Madam Zelenska only two days ago. However doubting you might be, that will reinforce that we face something evil. This is why I am particularly glad that this debate was introduced by a profound Christian thinker, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, who has done so much for this country over so long.
We have to exploit modern contrivances—24-hour news and even social media, which I hate so much—to get across to the Russian people that they are not our enemy. Their enemy is their leader. We have to get across to them that they need fear nothing about their national security.
Both the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and my noble friend Lady Meyer referred to the last war. Anybody who has been to Russia and talks to Russians knows that that spectre of the 27 million dead, which helped to mould their national character, will not go away, and they need to feel security. But the security that they need cannot be provided by a megalomaniac dictator. Somehow, we have to get this across to them, and to get it across to a people who have no infrastructure of democracy. Apart from the brief experiment before the Bolshevik revolution, they have lived in an absolutist regime for centuries, and they are living under a tsar now.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Houghton of Richmond, was very wise when he talked about our being essentially careful as well as determined—careful because a nuclear conflagration has no winner, and everyone is a loser. Equally, if Ukraine is defeated, we have all lost, because we have lost something that is essentially precious to us.
We all know that it is enormously complicated, but we have within your Lordships’ House many like the noble and gallant Lord who have great personal experience and wisdom to offer. I hope that in another debate we will hear again from the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, who was such a splendid Secretary-General of NATO. We all need to come together very early in the new year and have a full-scale debate on the future of Ukraine, knowing that, at the end of the day, as has been said, negotiations will have to take place. Those negotiations must be such that not an inch of the territory occupied by Ukraine on 24 February falls into Russian hands permanently. There must be international guarantees, underwritten by the United Nations, perhaps with a European NATO peacekeeping force—there is no reason why the UN and NATO should not work together in this.
The stakes are very high—they have never been higher—but we must bring calm consideration, and I hope that this useful debate will be a beginning for another chapter of that.
My Lords, I am grateful, as we all are, to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for initiating this debate and for drawing attention to the real danger of nuclear escalation.
I am in profound disagreement with the Government’s policy on Ukraine—I have said it before in this House and I shall say it again. This disagreement can be stated in one sentence: the Government’s policy is a war policy; I support a peace policy. I shall try to justify that.
The then Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, stated on 27 April:
“We will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine.”
This policy has been repeatedly restated by government spokesmen. It is supported by the Opposition and echoed by the media.
In calling for peace, I may be an isolated voice in Britain, but not in the world. Everyone outside the NATO world is calling for negotiations and some within it—I draw attention to President Macron in particular. Let me try to be logical. The Government’s policy makes sense on one assumption: that Ukraine, with NATO military support and economic sanctions on Russia, will soon complete the reconquest of Ukraine, including Crimea. In this case, there will be nothing to negotiate; the deed will have been done—it will have been accomplished.
I am not privy to secret military intelligence, but such evidence as I have, plus a dose of common sense, suggests that neither Russia nor Ukraine can achieve their war aims at the present level of hostilities, so the pursuit of victory is bound to bring escalation on both sides. Russia will intensify its air war, and NATO will provide Ukraine with more weapons to shoot down Russian aircraft. At what point such escalation leads to the accidental or deliberate deployment of tactical nuclear weapons is anyone’s guess, but the danger must be there, as the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, pointed out. That is why the war should be ended as soon as possible, and that can be done only by negotiations based on a ceasefire.
I utterly reject the premise underlying the Government’s policy that it is up to Ukraine to decide if and when it wants to end the war. President Zelensky’s policy is to get his “land back entirely”. Of course, it is up to Ukraine to decide what to do, but we cannot give Ukraine carte blanche to determine its war policy when we are in fact providing it with the weaponry to continue the war at considerable sacrifice to our own people. The decisions for peace and war, and on what terms to end the war, must be taken by Ukraine and NATO jointly.
I have reached one conclusion which is more compatible with government thinking: that no meaningful negotiations are possible as long as President Putin remains in office and, more importantly, in power. It is not only that his personal prestige is too heavily implicated in an impossible object but that his attempt to achieve it is leading his country to disaster. His invasion of Ukraine has galvanised Ukrainian nationalism, expanded NATO, shifted the balance of power in Europe to its most anti-Russian eastern states, exposed hitherto hidden Russian military and technical weaknesses, subjected Russia to the most sweeping economic sanctions ever imposed, and provoked the emigration of many of the most talented Russian scientists, technicians, thinkers and artists. In sum, he has erected a new monument to imperfect and incompetent statesmanship.
Any settlement of the war which can inspire confidence in the future will require Mr Putin’s departure from the scene. I do not know how this is to come about; it is beyond our control. However, we can offer an incentive: our Government can say that they would be willing to join our partners in serious negotiations to end the war with a new Russian Government. This negotiation would include the future status of Crimea and the dropping of sanctions. It would encourage forces within the Russian state to implement a change of government. This is a tough but constructive policy that I would understand and support; I do not understand the present policy in intellectual terms. It might not succeed, but it is infinitely better than the dangerous bellicosity we seem to be trapped in.
My Lords, I thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for securing this important and timely debate, and for his powerful introduction. The debate is, as always, excellent and informed.
On Tuesday, I had the very great privilege of being present when the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, addressed MPs and Peers. Some here this afternoon were also present on Tuesday. Like the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, I visited the exhibition in Portcullis House; it is indeed sobering.
The debate this afternoon has focused on the mechanics of war and the threat of nuclear weapons. Of the 19 speakers taking part, only two of us are women. It can be said that war is a man’s business, and certainly hand-to-hand combat is better suited to the physique of men, but it is the effect on the women of Ukraine that I wish to speak to this afternoon. The First Lady did not pull any punches when she spoke about the sexual abuse and rape which Russian soldiers were perpetrating on the women, girls and children of Ukraine. There is also evidence that civilians and Ukrainian soldiers were tortured before death by their invaders. All this is sanctioned by Moscow and Putin.
I have long been a champion of women and their ability and right to live the lives and careers they choose, some of which have traditionally been seen as the purview of men. However, only women can bear children, although very many men make excellent mothers. In the early days of a child’s life, the main task of nurturing generally falls to the women. For these women in Ukraine, and previously for those in Bosnia, to see their homes, schools and villages bombed and destroyed is devastating; then to be sexually assaulted and raped by advancing enemy soldiers is soul-destroying—exactly as the enemy intended.
We have seen many television interviews and scenes of the women of Ukraine relating their horrific experiences and begging us to help them out. They are suffering, but they are not beaten. Their spirit is strong, and we must help them to maintain that strength and see this through to the end.
The First Lady asked those present on Tuesday, as representatives of the legislature of our country, to help Ukraine to bring the culprits to justice through successful convictions of war crimes against humanity. Putin has sanctioned these crimes, and Putin must pay. We have seen this week in America the person orchestrating the invasion of Capitol Hill, on the eve of the announcement of the results of the presidential election, being prosecuted. Even though he was not physically present at the event, he planned and executed the attack from afar and assembled those who would be prepared to disrupt the proceedings. It cannot, therefore, be impossible for the Russian war crimes in Ukraine to be brought to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. We, as a country, must pursue and support this happening.
I have heard the Minister speak in this Chamber on many occasions of his support for women and girls who are suffering persecution, torture and rape. He is a true champion of their cause. I therefore look forward to his comments on this debate and, in particular, on the plight of the women of Ukraine. Just as Radovan Karadžić was, in his turn, prosecuted for the crimes that his troops perpetrated in Bosnia, so Putin should be indicted for his crimes against the women of Ukraine.
My Lords, I too thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, for securing this crucial debate. On Tuesday, like the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, I was privileged to listen to Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine, when she addressed parliamentarians and then when she spoke at the exhibition on Russian war crimes in Portcullis House. Like the noble Baroness and my noble friend Lord Cormack, I was horrified by what I heard and saw. Her courage was matched only by the unfathomable tragedy of the current situation, which she captured so poignantly in her words. For the exhibition is not just about the past nine or so months, or even the present; it is also about the future—the future suffering of her people until the barbarity of the Russians’ criminal regime is brought to a halt and they have left the territory of Ukraine.
The images in the exhibition will one day comprise an historical record, but not yet. The war crimes being perpetrated by the Russians, who, as the First Lady told us, are individuals with faces and lives of their own, but no soul—all of it is happening in real time. The awful truth is that the exhibition on display in Portcullis House will grow to accommodate the images of horrors yet to be unearthed, perhaps yet to be committed. That is why it is so important that her appeal to us as the mother of Parliaments and the primary defender of democracy does not go unheeded. All she asked for is justice and the means, in the form of a tribunal, by which to secure it so that those who commit war crimes can be held to account—and that, critically, others can be deterred from doing so.
Madam Zelenska has presented us with a clear choice: either we bear witness to the truth that we have a common interest in challenging and arresting this regressive slide into depraved barbarity, which threatens the very foundations of free and civilised societies, or we wring our hands as if there is nothing we can do and no price to pay for inaction. Of course, no one could lay that charge at His Majesty’s Government’s door. It is to the immense credit of Boris Johnson that, as Prime Minister, he grasped both the enormity of the threat posed by Russia’s illegal invasion and the scale of responsibility and self-interest we have in countering it. Rishi Sunak is absolutely right to continue his policy; he would also be absolutely right to give the First Lady’s call for a tribunal his full support.
It is crucial that we consider the consequences were Madam Zelenska’s cry for justice to go unheeded and such war crimes and even genocide to go unpunished. For as a species, we have a curious propensity to unlearn the lessons of history. But we cannot afford to forget Munich or be cowed into appeasement by the threat of nuclear weapons, whether tactical or strategic. We must hold our nerve.
I ask my noble friend the Minister to reassure the House that Madam Zelenska’s visit will not have been in vain and that His Majesty’s Government are already acting on her request for the UK to take the lead in establishing a tribunal for justice for Ukraine and for all those countries that believe in democracy and the self-determination of nations.
My Lords, I join the broad cross-party consensus in support of Ukraine. I say to my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours and the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, that it would surely pose a very poor precedent if Russia were to be seen to gain from its illegal and unjustified intervention and emerge with some territorial advantage from that, contrary to the international undertakings that it has made for the last 10 or 15 years.
It is right that the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, has drawn attention to the danger of Putin’s nuclear rhetoric and the threat to break what has been a taboo since 1945. Like the noble Lord, Lord Howell, I see the difficulty of drawing a distinction between battlefield nuclear and other forms of weapons, and see the great danger of escalation.
It is clear that much has changed as a result of both Crimea in 2014 and the invasion in February this year. It was only 20 or so years ago that I recall that there was even a Russian office at NATO headquarters, and we had the NATO-Russia Act. Much has changed since that time. This conflict will have seen the nature of modern warfare changed, with the use of drones even in naval warfare at Sevastopol. It will perhaps also lead to a revision of the western view of the quality of the Russian military.
Since the invasion of Crimea in 2014, it is good that we and other NATO countries have joined in training the Ukrainian forces. It is also right that NATO has emphasised that this is a matter for Ukraine of territorial defence, not of offence over the borders of Russia, and that we are not co-belligerents, but in support of a country that has been invaded. To that extent, NATO policy is absolutely right.
It is good too that America, as President Biden has said, is back. US forces have been extremely helpful. The hero of the conflict will probably be President Zelensky as a great leader of his own people. I say with respect to Yaroslavsky, that this is the Great Patriotic War of the people of Ukraine. Another hero, in my judgment, has been Secretary-General Stoltenberg, who has shown a steady hand at key moments. By contrast, President Putin will surely be judged by history to have massively miscalculated the effect of his invasion. That view he had of taking Kyiv in a few days was shared by many at NATO headquarters. Part of that miscalculation has been provoking Finland and Sweden to join NATO. We know that 28 of the 30 NATO countries have so far ratified and I understand that Hungary will have a debate on it on 7 December. Following moves made by Sweden, Finland is also moving, following the accord it reached in June. Will the Minister comment on the prospects, as seen by our Government, of the accession of Finland and Sweden?
I have two final observations. The first is that this is a clear invasion. It is most distressing that key countries such as China, for example, so keen on non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries, cannot see that invasion is the worst sort of interference. Of course, other Commonwealth countries, including India and South Africa, and many African countries are not in support.
Finally, what is the likely endgame and who will pay for reconstruction? Some say we should not humiliate Putin. In my judgment, so long as Russia is left with some territorial gains, it will be tempted to launch further attacks on Ukraine. One of the few certainties is that, at the end of this conflict, Russia and Putin will be weakened in strength and in reputation and that NATO, led by the US, is not brain-dead or irrelevant, but much stronger and more relevant.
My Lords, President Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine has upended our own country’s national security strategy, along with those of many other countries, particularly fellow European states. As our strategy is currently being reviewed and reset, this debate in the name of my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth could not be more timely or more welcome. I will focus my own remarks on the nuclear aspects of the Ukraine conflict, both military and civil.
It is a bitter irony that in the first days of 2022, the five legally recognised nuclear weapon states—China, France, Russia, the UK and the US—rather belatedly reaffirmed their support for the Reagan-Gorbachev statement that
“a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”.
A few weeks later, President Putin was threatening the possible use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapon state—indeed, one whose territorial integrity and sovereignty Russia had explicitly pledged to respect as part of the agreement by Ukraine to give up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons, known as the Budapest memorandum. Then, in August, Russia blocked the agreed conclusions of the UN’s nuclear non-proliferation review conference. Perfidy does not come in much purer form than that.
We will know for certain only after this war has ended whether President Putin was merely sabre rattling or whether his remarks presaged something far worse. Let us hope that the unambiguous passage in the recent G20 communiqué:
“The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible”
will have given him some thought. It was, of course, signed by the Chinese too.
Either way, President Putin will have put back on the table several key aspects of nuclear policy. First is whether a doctrine of “constructive ambiguity” on the use of nuclear weapons, as all members of the P5, including ourselves, currently maintain, is the best approach. There is nothing much constructive in Russia’s interpretation of that doctrine and not much benefit from the ambiguity. It might be preferable to move to a “sole purpose” doctrine, meaning that nuclear weapons’ only purpose is to deter their use by other nuclear weapon states.
Secondly, engagement with the whole issue of global strategic stability between nuclear weapon states will surely need to be resumed at some stage, drawing in the Chinese, whose nuclear arsenal is increasing by leaps and bounds; nor should we overlook the desirability of ensuring that the New START Treaty between the US and Russia on strategic nuclear weapons does not lapse and is, if possible, replaced by more constraining limits. There is also a need to look again at the question of intermediate nuclear weapons in Europe. While ensuring that Russia does not use nuclear weapons in or around Ukraine—it would be good to hear whether the UK, like the US, has conveyed any messages about the consequences of stepping across that line—this much wider agenda is coming towards us and we need to be ready for it.
There is another nuclear dimension to the Ukraine conflict: the need to safeguard civil nuclear installations in conflict zones. Both at Chernobyl in the early days after the invasion and at Zaporizhzhia, the site of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, Russia has taken quite horrendous risks without any heed to the possible consequences. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, and his officials for the courage and professionalism they have shown in safeguarding those installations. I hope the Minister agrees with that and, if he does, will convey our collective thanks to the IAEA. Do we think that the international rules and conventions governing vulnerable civil nuclear sites in conflict zones are sufficient, or does experience in Ukraine show that they need, over time, to be strengthened and supplemented? This will not be the last occasion on which civil nuclear power stations find themselves in conflict zones.
I realise that some of the nuclear issues raised by the conflict in Ukraine are extraordinarily sensitive and not easy to handle in open debate, but we surely need to be thinking about and getting ready to engage with them.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble and right reverend Lord on securing this debate. I will probably disappoint most noble Lords, because I am much nearer to the noble Lords, Lord Skidelsky and Lord Campbell-Savours, than to many of the things that have been said this afternoon. I have not been in Ukraine for some years—six, to be exact—but I was there in the 1990s and the early years of this century. I got to know ex-President Kuchma quite well and had several discussions with him about the evolution of Ukraine.
My first point is this: be careful what you wish for. How on earth have we got into such a position with Russia? It is a tragedy. We are using huge amounts of western military equipment to destroy Ukraine—not Russia. It is all being fired around Ukraine and ruining the country.
Secondly, everybody, including most Russians, accepts that the invasion was a massive misjudgment. The intelligence given to the Russian leadership was seriously defective and the amount of corruption in the Russian military seriously underestimated. The Russians are now facing an impossible situation, because they probably cannot pull back—they cannot leave and cannot stay.
We also need to remember that, as happens in many countries—and indeed happened in Britain in the Second World War—when you get the country on a war footing, people tend to rally behind the Government. My friends in Russia tell me that one of the biggest difficulties they have now is that it is very difficult to criticise the Government internally, because there is a general feeling of patriotism, particularly among the elderly: “We have to back our Government; we are all under attack”.
I think we have difficulties here. We conspired to make the Minsk agreements fail; there is no doubt about that. We did not put the effort in and, if noble Lords look through Hansard, they will see that I have made that point on several occasions over the years.
We talk about taking Russia to court, but who is going to take it there? Russia has a veto in the Security Council. Do noble Lords think that the Security Council is going to set up a body that works? Do they think that the Russians are going to pay if people tell them to? No, they are not. If we confiscate Russian assets in the West, the likely outcome will be a selling-off of US treasuries by countries that will say, “Are we going to be next? Is our money safe?” The answer is no. If they can do this to Russia, they can do it to China. We could actually precipitate a very difficult world financial crisis, and we need to be very careful about that.
Finally, we have somehow to get negotiations going—and only we can do that. While we are prepared to put unlimited amounts of military hardware into Ukraine for the Ukrainians to use against the Russians, they will do so, because it is very difficult also for them to step back. Their population is as much behind Zelensky as the Russian population is, overall, behind Putin. So the only way we are going to move things forward is by having backing from Macron and a decisive peace initiative to try to get both sides to the table—the Russians on the grounds that they cannot win, and the Ukrainians on the grounds that they cannot win without us and we are not willing to support an eternal war.
My Lords, for my birthday last month, one of my best friends from university presented me with a book, A Message from Ukraine, by Volodymyr Zelensky. On the back cover is a picture of President Zelensky in his khaki/olive-green T-shirt, and a quote from him:
“One day soon, loved ones will be together again. Our flag will fly over the occupied cities again. Our nation will be reunited and there will be peace again. And the world will no longer dream in black and white. It will only dream in blue and yellow.”
I was introduced to His Excellency Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian ambassador, in the middle of the pandemic by the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer. We had a Zoom call, the objective of which, while I was president of the CBI—the Confederation of British Industry—was to see what we could do to increase trade, business and investment between the UK and Ukraine. Little did the three of us know then what would transpire just a short while later, on 24 February 2022.
Just over two months after the war started, on 5 May, we at the CBI supported the Ukrainian ambassador at a fundraising event at the Tate Modern, attended by the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with a live address by President Zelensky from Kyiv. There was an exhibition at the Tate Modern, the theme of which was bravery. It was inspirational.
I thank my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries for initiating this debate. At the end of the G20 summit in Bali on 16 November, some people argued that it was significant that China had agreed to the G20 leaders’ declaration, which included the condemnation of the war in Ukraine. It stated:
“The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.”
Speaking after the summit, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, said that China had an “important role” in putting pressure on Russia to avoid the use of nuclear weapons. I ask the Minister directly: what would the UK or NATO do if Putin used a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb? How would we react?
On 2 April 2019, I spoke in this House in the debate on the 70th anniversary of NATO. I quoted Lord Ismay, the first Secretary-General of NATO. He said NATO’s objective was to
“keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down”.
I continually say to our Government that, even if we are in a period of peace, uncertainty is always there. Things come out of the blue. No one predicted 9/11 and no one predicted what happened this February. I said in that debate that we should spend 3% of our GDP on defence. Would the Minister agree?
Soon after the war started, I was asked by the EU ambassador to address the 27 EU country ambassadors. I asked the Finland and Sweden ambassadors directly, “Will you now join NATO?” They said, “We are ready to join in five minutes”. They have now agreed to join and NATO is strengthened.
Since 24 February, the CBI has been helping the Ukrainian ambassador and helping Ukraine. Not only has business stopped doing business with Russia but we have given monetary donations, millions of ration packs and hundreds of thousands of food boxes—all evidence of business as a force for good. In May, at the CBI annual dinner, the Ukrainian ambassador asked whether I knew about the blockade on the port of Odessa. He said that if it was not unblocked, the grain would not flow. Then David Beasley, the executive director of the UN’s food programme, reported in May that, unless we unblocked the Odessa port, we could have 47 million people facing acute hunger around the world. Could the Minister give us an update on the deal struck between the UN and Turkey, which thankfully is now allowing the ships to flow?
I conclude by saying that today, hot off the press, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has called out to Vladimir Putin to end the war and stop weaponising food supplies. Writing in the Daily Telegraph as India takes over the G20 presidency, he warned that geopolitical struggles could
“lead to humanitarian crises”.
He said that
“our era need not be one of war. Indeed, it must not be!”
The Telegraph states:
“On the sidelines of a summit in Uzbekistan in September, he told the Russian leader that now was ‘not a time for war’.”
I conclude by saying that having been a Member of this House for 16 years, one of my most memorable days was 8 March, when we adjourned this House for the first joint sitting of both Houses in the House of Commons to hear President Zelensky address us live. He quoted Shakespeare and said:
“‘To be, or not to be’ … it is definitely, ‘To be’.”—[Official Report, Commons, 8/3/22; col. 304.]
My Lords, I have a question to ask your Lordships. What happened to the air war in Ukraine? We have heard that Putin invaded with armoured columns. Presumably, he took a lesson from the United States and the coalition that went into Iraq. That was the greatest demonstration of blitzkrieg we have seen in military history. First, the coalition forces went in and absolutely assured air superiority. They wanted air superiority and ended up with air supremacy. Why did that not happen in Ukraine? As my noble friend Lord Balfe said, clearly the intelligence that Putin was working with was pretty bad, but it seems to be extraordinarily bad tactically to go in on six different fronts simultaneously if you want to indulge in blitzkrieg.
Even then, however, something very odd did not happen, which was that there was never an air war in advance of this armoured invasion of Ukraine. It seems that the Russians were incapable of making sure that air superiority took place; there have been dogfights since but, to be quite honest, it has not happened. We therefore have to ask ourselves what the Russians were lacking that they could not make sure that there was air superiority for them in Ukraine. The answer is technology. They are miles behind on avionics, their aircraft are generations behind the F35, and, for a very long time, we have vastly overestimated their military capabilities.
What this means, of course, is that we have the option to bring this war to an end, but we do not. Why not? That is because, as your Lordships have been discussing today, we are worried that Putin might use tactical nuclear weapons. I will tell your Lordships why he is not going to. It is not because he is worried about escalation and the nuclear Armageddon that President Biden has threatened him with. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, asked whether there is a hotline to the Kremlin. I read in my newspapers that the CIA constantly talk to the Kremlin. I will tell your Lordships what they will have told them: “We’re not prepared to exchange one nuclear attack for another because we don’t know where that will end. What we will do is hit you with the biggest conventional response you have ever seen in your life.” That means the F35, which is technically so superior to any other aircraft in the world today that it could ensure that the whole of Ukraine was completely dominated from the sky, and at that stage we could annihilate any Russian forces in Ukraine at our will.
As we have already discussed, there is no consensus in NATO for this to happen. Okay, so we do nothing. We have the capacity to win this war decisively for the Ukrainians but we decide to do nothing. In the meantime, in this proxy war, the Ukrainians go on losing civilians, having atrocities committed on their people. Quite harmless bystanders get murdered constantly, their soldiers get killed and we stand by and do absolutely nothing, when we have the capability to bring this war to an end. Why? It is because we are so frightened that Putin might use nuclear weapons.
I can tell your Lordships now that he is not going to use nuclear weapons. He never will, and the reason is that the West would be forced to react. If you allow him to use them once, they can be used anywhere in the world as part of a conventional attack anywhere, and every country in the world would be in danger. Therefore he will not use them, but we are being drawn into his plot of thinking that he might. Therefore, we are shying away from taking the action that we could, which is to ensure that we bring this awful war to an end within a few weeks with massive support into Ukraine.
My Lords, I echo the tributes already paid to my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries.
I decided to put my name down for this debate having seen two things on Sunday. The first was a piece in the Sunday Times, no doubt applauded by the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, which said that although the West has frozen $350 billion worth of Russian assets, none of it is available to start paying the, as it happens, roughly equivalent figure necessary by way of reparations to repair some of the devastation that Russia has wrought in Ukraine in this bestial war of theirs.
Secondly, there was a most interesting broadcast on BBC Two by Simon Sharma, which discussed the brutalising effects of totalitarianism on the bodies, minds and spirits of the population, the potentially liberating effects of artistic endeavours which expose and challenge those tyrannies, from people such as Picasso—one pictures “Guernica”—George Orwell, Václav Havel and Pasternak, and why these sorts of people come into it. I strongly recommend this programme to your Lordships.
I also recommend a film from 2019 which I was only alerted to recently, “Mr Jones”. It is the true story of a brave young Welsh journalist who, in 1933, disbelieving the story of the triumphant success of Stalin’s economic policies, goes to Moscow, slips his Intourist leash, goes to Ukraine and finds the devastation, the starvation, the ghastly effects of this policy. I remind your Lordships that Stalin once again is a revered figure in present-day Russia.
There can be only one acceptable outcome to this war. It is essential not only for the future of Ukraine and its security but for the future of the West and democracy itself. Russia certainly must not be seen to win and therefore must be seen to lose this war. That must be recognised internationally if not domestically in Russia. Putin cannot remain on the scene ideally. No doubt he will be in some war crimes tribunal.
How is this to be achieved? Certainly, Ukraine must recover its original borders. There are deep and difficult questions about the future status of Crimea. There are many arguments, and it may be up for grabs, but NATO must guarantee Ukraine’s integrity, save for, conceivably, Crimea. I am much indebted to the Library note, which unsurprisingly suggests that the greatest possible risk, of any nuclear force, although it is still unlikely, would be if Russia were on the brink of defeat in the land war. However, if you recognise that this war against Russia must be won, that point must inevitably come, and the sooner the better, because every week and month of this conflict that passes, Ukrainians are suffering most desperately and outrageously, as has been described.
We should be taking this war to Russia at least to this extent. We should not only be doing everything conceivable to strengthen Ukraine’s defence of its own territory against these ghastly infrastructures strikes but supplying Ukraine so that they can attack the infrastructure necessary in Russia to support the Russian land forces. It would not be mirroring the war crime of attacking their civilian population so as to kill its morale, but stopping the supplies from reaching the land force and keeping it going. We should also be targeting whatever launch sites there are on ships in the Black Sea and on the Crimea launch pads of the incoming missiles. That far we should be going.
My Lords, I stand before you a rather substandard substitute for my noble friend Lady Smith, whom I am afraid has caught the dreaded Covid. In our brief conversation, which was mainly coughing and was continued by text, it was quite clear that we will miss her wisdom on this.
It has become quite clear in this debate that there is some degree of consensus that Russia should not be allowed to march into a neighbouring state and say, “I’m in charge.” My Russian history is old and rather ropey, but there is a horrible quotation that the borders of Russia, at any point in history, are exactly where the Russian Army has put them. I had rather hoped that those days were behind the Russian state. Briefly, in about 1990, we all thought that we were heading into a new age, when Russia would become the state that we would or had come to recognise, not something that is constantly expanding and contracting as its armies win and lose battles.
All nations are in the habit of forgetting that they lose wars. Our own history books are as guilty as anybody else’s: to look at popular history you would think that we won the Hundred Years’ War, but we are out of France. Nations lose and contract. They also survive and often strengthen because of it. The fact that the Russian leadership cannot accept that its empire has effectively been driven back to its heartlands means that we have somebody who is very difficult to deal with—somebody who wants to be a second-rate Peter the Great. It is worth remembering that it is said that St Petersburg is built on the bones of 100,000 serfs, and that does not count the people who died in his wars with Sweden and Turkey.
The glamorisation of war seems embedded in this view and is something that we must remember when we talk about great strategic tactics and swinging backwards and forwards. I hope we all listened very carefully to my noble friend Lady Bakewell’s speech about women in particular and the atrocities committed in war. Making sure that Ukraine is allowed to survive and remain safe must be an objective. I hope we can take some action against those who have allowed the atrocities that are listed in the middle of Portcullis House to happen—and indeed those who committed them, but those who allowed them are probably more important.
If such action takes place, I hope it does so under the rule of law. We must remember that, if we apply these standards, we must apply them the whole way through. I hope the Government will assure us that they will work towards the survival of Ukraine, that any settlement will be done under the rule of law, and that people will accept that that is a must. We do not want to end up being a mirror of Russia on any level —even a blurred and badly reflected one. We must not do it; it must be done under the legal norms that we embrace.
As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, said about the danger of nuclear weapons, I and, I think, virtually everybody in the Chamber grew up with the domino theory that they start small, then we get slightly bigger bangs and slightly nastier outcomes, and then it builds. I think that many people have said this was probably always some sort of myth or gateway to a nightmare—you cannot expect that to happen. The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, put his finger on it when he pointed to what I would call the cock-up school of history. Accidents happen. If we want to scare ourselves, we talk about the near misses of the Cold War. I think that Russia once mistook geese for incoming nuclear missiles on a radar screen. These things have happened, and we have just about managed to step away from them. Can the Government once again give us a real assurance that there is constant interaction between us, our NATO allies—particular those with nuclear capacity—and Russia to try to make sure that, if we are all going to a fiery hell, we do not go there by accident? I cannot ask the Minister for any more details because I doubt very much he has them—nor should he give them to me if he does—but can he give an assurance that communication is constantly happening?
On the consequences of even limited strikes, we have just had a solution of a conventional retaliation that might be possible, but who knows? Remember that the Russians were supposed to be able to walk straight into Ukraine and take it over. It does not do to underestimate your enemy.
We are going to have some degree of constant realisation that we are in a very bad place. It is not only that we have a recession, but others are going to be colder this winter than they ever expected to be. A way of monitoring and being ready for the opportunity to end it is something I think we can have.
I have one or two other smaller points. Something that was hinted at by the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, is golden visas. We had a review in 2018, I think, and that is a while back now. Can the Government publish, or at least let us know when they will be publishing, the outcome of that because, apparently, we have had a review and we have not published it. The Wagner Group strikes me as mercenaries with an appalling record. Are we going to brand it a terrorist organisation? It would be a reasonable thing to do from what I have seen. These small steps are part of conveying to Russia and the Russian people that what is going on is totally unacceptable. That is an important part of what we can do. We can talk here about grand military strategy, but these small steps are important in building up the background music.
In Syria, Russia decided that pounding cities to the ground was a good way to win. It was right, but at hideous cost. The only thing that I can say about that is that we have got to engage with Russia and try whenever we can to get to the people. What I think has scared Putin most is the fact that, when he tried try to mobilise his army, large parts of his population left. That is surely something we can at least use as a lever. Nuclear weapons may be one end of it, but when your population turns round and says “Great, wonderful, but I ain’t going” you have real trouble.
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate on two related issues. One is real and present, the unlawful invasion of Ukraine, and the other is, we all hope, simply a hypothetical threatened use of tactical nuclear weapons by Putin. I understand the most reverend Primate is currently in Kyiv to meet leaders of Ukraine’s churches, refugees and those who have been internally displaced. This is tremendous leadership, and I am sure that act of solidarity will be appreciated.
Back in your Lordships’ House, we have heard from a number of speakers who have raised important and valuable points. The formal Opposition has a curious role at this point of trying to review the whole debate, pick out people on our side and praise them and pick out people on the other side and say they are wrong. This is very different from that. The debate today has been of extreme quality, and I do not think it is safe to comment on the various points of view from this Official Opposition position. This is the most serious thing in front of this country at the moment. There were some pretty serious other things in front of this country, but this could have the most appalling outcome. This debate had subtlety, ambiguity and complexity.
Chilcot did a review of the Iraq war. I am told it is 2.9 million words long. I was charged with trying to précis it in a morning. I think I made a reasonable fist of it because I think he said only two things. One is that decision-making should be by a pluralistic process where all ideas are tested. I hope the decision-makers in this process will follow that advice and that the reading that they do before those discussions will include this debate and the ideas that have come up. I take the point that we must keep on having these debates. The various ideas may not be where we end up, but they all need to be tested against where we all came up.
The second thing Chilcot said is that when you start something, you should have some sort of plan as to what to do next. That seems to be one area where we can gently criticise the Government. There is a need to bring out a better understanding of where the thinking is going.
It has now been 281 days since Russian forces first invaded Ukraine, on 24 February, escalating a war that dated back almost exactly eight years to when Russia annexed Crimea. We will not know the true damage of this escalation until it is over, but we can be sure that thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people have been killed or wounded, and many more have had their lives severely impacted by the illegal and terrible actions of Putin’s Russia.
I pay tribute to the bravery, skill and fortitude of the Ukrainian forces, who are the main reason why the unprovoked, premeditated invasion is not only illegal but misguided. Russia has failed to achieve its objectives. I cannot remember which Peer emphasised this point, but I have been exposed to traditional military thinking in this country and in NATO, and it was very much that when the Russians come they will overwhelm us, certainly for the first few days. The falsehood of that, and of our past assumptions, has been well brought out by this war.
The resolve of the alliance against Russia has only strengthened. Indeed, in recent months Ukraine has conducted a major counteroffensive with much success, taking back territory in the north-east, the east and Kherson region in the south. It is also believed that Russia has now exhausted, or almost exhausted, its supply of Iran-sourced one-way attack UAVs. In the last 24 hours, Ukraine claims to have killed approximately 500 Russian soldiers, destroyed three more tanks and six armoured personnel carriers, and downed three Russian reconnaissance drones.
However, it is of course not all positive, and Russian forces have made efforts to advance in eastern Ukraine, as well as training fire from tanks, mortars and artillery on Kherson following the Russian withdrawal from and Ukrainian liberation of the city early last month. Civilian infrastructure is also under heavy attack. The most recent Defence Intelligence update, shared today, highlights continued Russian attempts to disrupt Ukraine’s electrical grid, using cruise missiles, to demoralise the population. These strikes, which began in October, have caused power shortages leading to indiscriminate suffering across the country. However, stores of suitable missiles have been depleted, and the fact that this has taken place nine months into the invasion has reduced its effectiveness.
As Ukrainians continue to defend their homeland, we must continue to do all we can to support them, especially through the difficult winter months. The Government have rightly been given much credit for the support shown, and they will know that we—the Labour Official Opposition—fully support this continuing. The UK’s Armed Forces have done a tremendous job for which we should all be grateful, co-ordinating military and humanitarian support, reinforcing our allies on NATO’s eastern flank and providing training here at home through Operation Interflex. However, it should be said that most of the support we have provided, primarily the donation of weapons, has been presented through ad hoc announcements rather than a long-term strategy. While this is understandable in the early stages, we do not know how long this war will last and it shows no sign of coming to an end, so we must rethink our approach.
The Government have previously offered assurances that there is a long-term plan in place. The commitment to at least match the £2.3 billion spent is very welcome but we are keen to see more evidence of the long-term thinking. Part of that will include how we restock the supplies that have been donated, particularly through new contracts to replenish the next generation of light anti-tank weapons. To date, the approach has been rather opaque.
We must also consider humanitarian support. As well as the £2.3 billion I have just mentioned, the Government have committed to underwrite and grant at least £1.5 billion of humanitarian and fiscal aid to Ukraine through the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. That is also welcome, although it is in disappointing contrast to how the Government have treated the rest of the aid budget. We will be very keen to hear how that money will be used and to be given an opportunity to scrutinise it to ensure that it is used as effectively as possible. We must also encourage other allies to follow our lead robustly.
Putin’s nuclear rhetoric is the action of a pariah state. His threats are reckless and should be condemned, not just by the UK and our allies but by all states. The situation is serious but we should remain focused on what is actually happening in Ukraine, despite the threats and distortions coming from the Kremlin. Now is not the time to weaken or dilute our support.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their participation in this important debate. I pay tribute to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for tabling this debate and for his work in this respect.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Cormack—the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Houghton of Richmond, also reminded us of this—about the importance of debating these issues. While we have domestic challenges, undoubtedly this is the real test and challenge of our time, given its implications for our energy security and food security. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for his strong support. This illegal war in Ukraine seems to have been going on for an eternity, yet it started only in February.
In welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Addington, I am sure I speak for the whole House when I say we all missed the presence of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham. He has done an admirable job but we wish her well as she recovers from Covid.
My noble friend Lord Balfe said that he has not been to Ukraine for a while. I went to Ukraine just over 12 months ago, after our incredible and inspirational ambassador, Melinda Simmons, invited me as part of my responsibilities to mark the memorial at Babi Yar to the 33,000-plus Jews shot by the Nazis in 1941. There is an irony in that: they were buried by Soviet prisoners of war. I was shocked to my core when Melinda WhatsApped me and said, “Minister, the very memorial you visited on 3 March was subject to a Russian missile”. That brought home the shocking nature of the false premise of the “denazification” of Ukraine as a justification for war—and let us not forget that President Zelensky’s own heritage is also Jewish—which is also the false basis for Mr Putin’s so-called reasoning behind liberating Russian-speaking parts of a sovereign nation. That is wrong and it must be held back.
The noble Lords, Lord Skidelsky and Lord Campbell-Savours, and my noble friend Lord Balfe again talked for peace. I agree with them. But peace is attainable only if the aggressor recognises that you cannot invade a country and seek to take the spoils of war, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, reminded us. Mr Putin has brought back to our continent war on a scale not seen since Winston Churchill’s time, with consequences that will be felt—I agree with all noble Lords on this—in the world for years to come. That I think was a thread in all contributions.
The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, reminded us about Prime Minister Modi’s recent article, which I read, about the opportunities for the G20. We continue to work with key partners, not just our traditional allies. Like him, I believe that India has an important role in the eventual peace that we all desire.
However, Mr Putin believes that he can claim a victory through oppression, coercion and disinformation. Rightly, the message sent from this debate is a clear one: with one or two notable exceptions, we stand united. I thank both noble Lords who spoke from the Front Benches about not just our condemnation but our support for the Ukrainian nation and its people. I thank again the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for bringing this to bear.
My noble friend Lord Hamilton and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, along with the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, related to us the importance of communication. As we saw with the missile that landed in Poland, there can be unintended consequences and an escalation, perhaps not through intent but by accident. I am limited in what I can say, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, acknowledged, but what I can share is that all the P5, notwithstanding differences, continue to recognise the importance of robust cross-communication mechanisms as a key element in ensuring crisis prevention and de-escalation. These are of course further things that we share through our membership of key alliances, including NATO.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Houghton of Richmond, said that we need a clear narrative on dealing with this issue, including with our own domestic audience. I agree, which is why this House and the Government—indeed, all of us—need to make the consistent case for the necessity of standing firm in our support for Ukraine at this time. We have rightly united behind Ukraine in its fight for freedom and self-determination with sanctions, aid, military support and, ultimately, a clear determination to hold Mr Putin to account. The Ukrainian people, with our support, have pushed Mr Putin’s army back, as we saw recently. I agree totally with the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, that we must continue to work in assisting Ukrainian forces—a point that resonated from many noble Lords who contributed.
Ukraine is regaining its sovereign territory from Russian control; last month, Russia experienced a further strategic setback as Ukraine took back the key city of Kherson. But we cannot be complacent because Russia will regroup and attack. Mr Putin tried to reverse the momentum by holding sham referenda and attempting to annex four Ukrainian territories. He has been forced to resort to a so-called partial mobilisation, provoking further opposition among the Russian people, despite his authoritarian grip.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Cormack: our fight is not with the Russian people. As was noted during the debate, when forced conscription was suddenly applied, many young Russian men fled. Yet Russia and Mr Putin have been unrelenting in launching a wave of indiscriminate attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. Tragically, we see how alliances are built: these attacks included using Iranian-supplied drones to launch indiscriminate attacks against civilian and energy infrastructure. On 15 November there was one of the heaviest attacks since the war began. Wave upon wave of missiles—more than 80—were fired at Ukrainian cities on one single day. This destroyed homes and critical infrastructure, depriving millions of Ukrainians of power when winter is setting in. The brutal air campaign is Mr Putin’s cowardly response to Ukraine’s successes on the battlefield, where Russian forces have been expelled from thousands of square miles of territory. The continued bombardment of civilians demonstrates little commitment to peace.
I alluded to the tragic incident in Poland, the full details of which remain unclear. We continue to support Poland and other NATO members as they seek to establish facts and be secure in their defence. It is clear that the only reason that missiles are flying through European skies today is Russian action. It is an unwarranted aggression, and it is unacceptable.
My noble friend Lord Cormack and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, talked about the recent visit of the First Lady of Ukraine, Madam Zelenska, whom I met. Earlier this week, I had the huge honour of heading and hosting the conference on preventing sexual violence in conflict, at which the First Lady of Ukraine spoke. She shared many reflections on information she had of Russian women advising their husbands and boyfriends who were serving on the front line with the Russian forces to go ahead and weaponise rape. That puts things into perspective. For those who have heard the testimonies of those who have fallen victim to sexual violence in conflict, it is abhorrent. The practices are widespread, and there are ever-increasing and chilling tales of the abuse of young women and girls.
I learned about the violence that can spread through this particular weaponisation of war from the incredible Dr Mukwege, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who runs the Panzi Hospital in Congo. He is on the front line and has helped survivors of sexual violence. When I visited recently with her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex, who is playing an incredible convening role on this issue, Dr Mukwege said that there was a four year-old girl who was a victim of sexual violence. Her body was broken, and she saw that every man was a threat. The shrill shriek of her voice remains with him but, sadly and tragically, she was not the youngest victim that Dr Mukwege has had to deal with: the youngest was only six months old. What possesses a man to commit these kinds of abhorrent crimes against a young child is beyond comprehension. Yet the reality of the war in Ukraine is that these crimes are taking place on our very continent.
It is therefore right that we will not be deterred from supporting Ukraine. I appreciate the support in this debate, and I gently say to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, that Russia is the aggressor and must withdraw. It can stop this war today if it so chooses. Mr Putin is not fooling anyone.
On what my noble friend Lord Balfe said about countries and support, let us be clear. I am the Minister for the United Nations, and I know how diplomatic efforts at times return rewards and present challenges. But, in October—just over a month ago—143 countries, or three-quarters of the membership of the United Nations, voted unequivocally to condemn the annexation of Ukrainian territory. Russia should be judged by its friends. Who supported it? Syria, Belarus, Nicaragua and North Korea did. Need I say more? The United Kingdom is therefore proud to stand with the international community and for freedom and democracy. I assure our Ukrainian friends, as I assured Madam Zelenska, that we will stand united in support of the cause.
Noble Lords referred to nuclear threats. My noble friend Lord Howell rightly reminded us of the importance of coming together and, with his wisdom, also reminded us of the importance of working with countries such as China, with whom we have disagreements. But in front of us on the global stage there are important issues, such as climate change and, most importantly, the current war, to which China also needs to be united in its response. We welcome China’s recent statement opposing the use of or threat of using nuclear weapons. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, who speaks with great insight from his time at the United Nations as a distinguished ambassador. It seems odd that it was only on 3 January this year that P5 members signed their commitment to the Joint Statement of the Leaders of the Five Nuclear-Weapon States on Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races, and we therefore welcome Russia’s recent statement, on 2 November, reaffirming its commitment to this.
My noble friend Lord Hamilton and the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, also asked about the consequences. We and the G7 have been clear that any use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons by Russia would be met with severe consequences. It is not our policy to outline hypothetical responses, so I can say no more than that. I assure noble Lords that NATO will not pre-empt our response to a nuclear attack on Ukraine, but if there was one—which I hope and pray there will not be, and I believe that common sense will prevail—of course it would fundamentally change the nature of the conflict and mean a very important line had been crossed. Let me be clear: NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia in this respect.
The noble Lord, Lord Browne, speaking with great insight from his time as a former Defence Secretary, knows well that UK actions ensure that we are dynamic in our response and the effectiveness of our deterrent remains strong. I assure the noble Lord and the whole House that the capability and effectiveness of the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent are not in doubt.
Since the start of the war in February, we have committed £2.3 billion in military support to Ukraine. I hear what my noble friend Lord Hamilton said on that. Alongside the United States, we have matched and will continue to support that spending next year.
My noble friend Lady Meyer talked about the importance of support to Ukraine in its own capability. I can share with her that the UK trained more than 22,000 Ukrainian soldiers before the war and has now trained more than 9,000 of the 10,000 new recruits. We will continue to support them.
The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, asked about air defences. On 16 November, Defence Ministers and chiefs of defence staff of dozens of countries discussed further enhancing support for Ukraine’s air defence. The UK has already provided approximately 1,000 surface-to-air missiles to help Ukraine to counter the Russian threat. It will provide a major new package of air defence to help protect Ukrainian civilians and critical national infrastructure. The £50 million package of defence aid comprises 125 anti-aircraft guns and technology to counter deadly Iranian-supplied drones. It includes dozens of radars and anti-drone electronic warfare capability. We have also committed £220 million of humanitarian support since February, making us the third-largest donor.
The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, rightly asked about the grain deal. In this, I pay tribute to the United Nations but also to our NATO friend and ally, Turkey. As of 13 November, we had seen 11.7 million metric tonnes of grain and other foodstuffs exported from the Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Some 50% of all products exported and 65% of wheat exported have gone to low and middle-income countries. That is playing its role in alleviating the acute food crisis elsewhere, in countries such as Ethiopia, Yemen and Afghanistan. We welcome the fact that this deal has recently been renewed until the early part of next year.
On 14 November, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary signed an MoU to transfer the first £5 million of the UK’s £10 million commitment to the Energy Community’s Ukraine energy support fund to help Ukraine’s efforts to repair energy infrastructure. The UK is also supporting Ukraine’s economic stability through £74 million of direct budget support. We have worked to unlock £1.3 billion of additional World Bank and EBRD lending support.
My noble friend Lady Meyer asked specifically about sanctioning. I assure her that we are sanctioning. Working together with our partners in the G7, the EU and the United States, we have now sanctioned 1,200 individuals including 130 oligarchs with a net worth of around £140 billion. We have also sanctioned 386 members of the Russian Duma. That underlines our strong commitment.
The UK is also working with our allies to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas. From 5 December, as I announced during a statutory instrument debate, there will be a ban on UK ships transporting Russian oil. The issue was rightly raised by my noble friend Lord Shinkwin, the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, whom I thank for her kind remarks.
I assure noble Lords that we are supporting the Ukrainian authorities to investigate these atrocities. In May, together with the EU and the US, we launched the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group to support Ukraine’s investigations and prosecutions. We have provided £2.5 million of funding and have led 42 other countries in referring atrocities committed in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court. The ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan, was present at the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict conference, and recently both the Foreign Secretary and I met with him directly to discuss the various proposals. I say to my noble friend Lord Shinkwin that we are carefully considering the call for a special tribunal on Ukraine. It is right that we stand firmly to ensure that all crimes are investigated, particularly the abhorrent crimes of sexual violence.
Many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Skidelsky and Lord Campbell-Savours, said rightly that they want to see an end to this conflict, as everyone does. Ukraine and partners seek a diplomatic solution to the war. Ukraine has put out a 10-point plan, but Russia has shown no interest in good-faith negotiations. Mr Putin has made it clear that negotiations will not include the territories he has attempted to annex illegally; that cannot be the right starting premise. I assure noble Lords that the UK, together with our partners, will work with Ukraine to provide lasting and long-term diplomatic, military and economic support. We will continue to work through all key areas and look at areas of reconstruction.
Again, I will write to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, among others, on the specific details of the asset seizures which are being conducted. The UK Government are considering all options for seizing assets to support the people of Ukraine. I disagree profoundly with my noble friend Lord Balfe, who said that, somehow, this will result in other assets from other countries pulling out from the UK. I worked in the City of London for 20 years; it is a robust centre. The reason we have seized assets belonging to Russia is because Russia invaded a sovereign territory. If Russia pulls out now, the war can end, and we can look to see how assets can be used to rebuild. Russia should pull out now for the sake its own people within Russia. There is no opposition there; we have seen what happened to the likes of Mr Navalny.
Finally, I turn to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, about the incredible role played by Rafael Rossi. I join the noble Lord in commending his role among probably the most trying circumstances in the IAEA nuclear facility.
To conclude, this is an illegal invasion which should never have happened. I agree with noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, who said that it has gone on for far too long. I hear what he says about the need for structured working and assurances on what we will do next. However, I am sure that he would recognise that we are planning to support, and have already supported, the humanitarian, military, economic, justice and accountability pillars to ensure that Ukraine prevails.
Russia will not pull back. As I said earlier, Russia can end this war by ceasing its illegal assault on Ukraine today and withdrawing its forces. I am sure that I speak for every noble Lord who has spoken in this Chamber and beyond when I say that we salute the resilience, resolve and courage of the Ukrainian people. We saw that resolve and courage once again with the visit of the First Lady. We will stand firm; we will be relentless in our support for Ukraine’s right to self-defence. Parties across your Lordships’ House have backed this strong response, and I know that that is backed by the majority of those who sit on the Cross Benches. That unity of purpose and action will ultimately be our joint resolve and support of Ukraine. Our support for Ukraine matters; it matters for freedom, democracy and for every country that neighbours Russia. I have spoken to their Ministers; they may not come out due to fear, but many worry that, if Russia were allowed to prevail, they would be next.
I end, if I may, on a very personal note, going back to a point made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Houghton of Richmond, about how far this narrative is reaching. Half way through this year, I was on one of my many calls to the incredible Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, who has become a good friend of mine. I was in my study at home. My young son, Faris Amaan—it means “knight of peace”; perhaps there is a poignancy in that—came in, wanting to give me a bit of a hug, because he had come from his friend’s house. He knew I was busy; he had picked up from the call that we were talking about the very atrocities that the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, talked about, which were being inflicted on mothers and young children. Young Faris heard that and disappeared; he returned once he knew the call was over, knocked on the door and gave me a hand-painted flag of Ukraine, with the words written on it: “For the children of Ukraine.” Sláva Ukrayíni!
It remains only for me to thank noble Lords for the cumulative wisdom that has been passed on. I very much hope that a lot of the very valuable points being made around the House will be taken on board and passed on by the Minister. In particular, I thank him for giving his assurance, as far as he is able, that effective means of communication are in place. It was important for us and other people to hear that, because they might increasingly be needed as the crisis gets worse in the months ahead. More widely, the vast majority of us want to thank the Minister personally and, through him, the Government, for standing so firm by the side of Ukraine in recent months.
Of course, there have been three dissenting voices: the noble Lords, Lord Campbell-Savours, Lord Skidelsky and Lord Balfe. With due respect, I suggest to those three noble Lords that the rest of us are not quite as far away from the points that they made as they might think. First, I, personally, strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, that we should never have got into this place in the first place. Clearly, 30 or more years ago, something went very badly wrong indeed; there was a failure of policy and diplomacy, and we find ourselves once again in a binary relationship with Russia. It is nothing less than tragic that we find ourselves here, but the fact is that we are here; we have to deal with the situation where we are now, and the situation so clearly outlined by the Minister is that a defenceless country has been illegally, immorally and outrageously invaded by Mr Putin’s policy. Whatever the faults are on our side—and they are manifest; there is no sense of self-righteousness in this struggle at all—there is no moral equivalence. We must be wary of making a moral equivalence between innocent Ukraine and an aggressive foreign power invading it.
The second point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, was about the concessions that have to be made, which was picked up also by the noble Lord, Lord Balfe. I absolutely agree, as I am sure many others would. Many of those concessions, as the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, said, were already on the table and should perhaps already have been accepted—and they will certainly have to be accepted when negotiations come. As my noble friend Lord Skidelsky said, of course we have to push for negotiations, but it takes two to negotiate. It is no good simply wishing Mr Putin away. If he did go, we might get somebody even more extreme taking over, who thinks that Putin has not been hard enough in this war. But at the moment we are dealing with Putin, and he is going to stop only when he feels that there is nothing else to gain by pursuing this war.
As I made clear in my opening remarks, my own view is that, if the Ukrainian forces manage to advance as far as the borders of Crimea, Ukraine should certainly declare a unilateral ceasefire and wait for Mr Putin because of course, at that point, we will all be hearing the words screaming in the air: “Crisis, crisis, crisis”. However, until that point, there will be negotiations only when both sides feel that there is nothing more to achieve by warfare. Sadly, it will probably come at some point over these next few months if they both get bogged down with the winter continuing. Negotiations will have to come at some point, concessions will have to be made, and the war will come to an end.
Let us never forget the words of the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo when he said that there is only one thing sadder than winning a war; that brings out well the tragic sense that, even if a war is won, it is part of the tragedy that we are in as human beings. There is a sad, tragic element to this. Meanwhile, within that mess that we have made as human beings, moral choices have to be made. The whole country is behind the Government at the moment in the policy they are pursuing.
House adjourned at 6.11 pm.