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Ukraine: Diplomatic Efforts

Volume 707: debated on Tuesday 25 January 2022

8. What diplomatic steps she is taking in response to Russia’s threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. (905231)

I hosted Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in London in December. I speak to him regularly and I will be visiting Ukraine next week.

A further military incursion by Russia into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake and come with a severe cost to Russia’s economy, including co-ordinated sanctions.

I am pleased to hear about the bilateral discussions between the UK and Kyiv, but with the threat of serious conflict looming over Europe, what meetings has the Foreign Secretary held in recent days with the Prime Minister to discuss the crisis? Can she expand on the intellectual heft or geostrategic advice he applied to her at those meetings?

I met the Prime Minister last night to discuss this very serious issue. He had a call with President Biden, President Macron and Chancellor Scholz to continue to co-ordinate our efforts. Yesterday, I met the Secretary-General of NATO to talk about the contribution that the United Kingdom is making. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the UK is at the forefront of putting pressure on Russia and supporting our friends in Ukraine.

I appreciate that the Secretary of State may be limited in what she can say in response to my question. The use of propaganda and deceit in warfare is as old as the Trojan horse, but nowadays it can reach millions in a matter of minutes from heavily disguised sources. Will the Secretary of State assure the House that the Government acknowledge the wide-ranging nature of the Russian threat and tell us what role UK experts are playing with NATO allies and Ukrainian counterparts to combat the use of powerful and far-reaching misinformation campaigns?

The hon. Lady makes the very important point that, as well as the risk of an incursion into Ukraine, there are efforts by the Russian Government to destabilise and undermine democracy. That is why we released intelligence to expose Russian attempts to install a puppet regime in Kyiv. We will continue to expose their playbook, including false flag operations, disinformation and cyber-attacks.

I very much welcome my right hon. Friend’s comments. She will know that the Foreign Affairs Committee was in Ukraine last week. I would like to place on record my thanks to Ambassador Simmons and her impressive team in Kyiv, who are serving our country extremely well. We are off to Sarajevo tomorrow. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we are seeing an arc of instability from Moscow, designed to put democracies on the back foot and make Putin’s regime look normal in a world of corrupt thieves? Will she reiterate her stance in the defence of freedom and promise to speak to our German friends about their decision not to support Ukraine with the sale of military weapons from Estonia, which was so recently denied?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the undermining that Russia is seeking to do of European democracy, including Ukraine, and Russia’s activities through Belarus and its activities in the Balkans. That is why we have appointed Sir Stuart Peach as our envoy to the Balkans and why I hosted a meeting of all the Balkans Ministers to discuss this issue. We need all our allies to step up. The UK is providing defensive weapons to Ukraine, we are supporting Ukraine economically and we are helping to train its armed forces. We need all our allies to get behind that, because ultimately, we do not want to see a Russian incursion into Ukraine, which would lead to huge loss of life and a huge quagmire, and we need to make Russia absolutely clear about that.

To build on my right hon. Friend’s answer, what assessment has her Department made of Russia’s other surrounding nations and their territorial and sovereign integrity? I am thinking especially of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Are the actions going on in Ukraine being assessed in respect of whether the west would take any intervention on Russian invasion in those areas?

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. We are working with allies and partners across the world because this is a threat not just to Europe, but to broader global stability. I was at a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in November where many of those countries were represented, and I saw very strong statements against further Russian action in the region.

As we stand here today, peace in Europe faces its greatest threat in decades. Our darkest moments in history have taught us that aggression must be challenged and bullies must be confronted. Putin’s imperialism must be met with our utmost strength and resolve. Twenty-eight years ago, Britain, America and Russia promised that if Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons, its sovereignty would be assured. Putin has already run roughshod over that by annexing Crimea and backing separatists in the Donbass. Now he threatens Ukraine with full invasion. I ask the Secretary of State: at a time when arms control treaties have unravelled and non-proliferation efforts are under great strain, what message would it send to other countries in the world with nuclear ambitions, such as Iran, if those assurances to Ukraine were worth nothing?

The right hon. Gentleman makes an extremely good point. In the 1994 Budapest memorandum, Ukraine agreed to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for the continued protection of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is absolutely right that this is about not just European security, which is incredibly important, but the response we will see from other authoritarian regimes around the world if Putin is allowed to get away with what he is seeking to do. That is why it is important that we work with allies, from Japan to India to Australia, as well as the United States and our NATO allies, to strengthen our resolve and our security and to make it absolutely clear that none of these regimes will succeed.

We owe it to the people of Ukraine to send a simple and united message: we support their sovereign democratic right to choose their own destiny and we will stand with them in this struggle against Putin’s reckless aggression. And we should send a firm, unambiguous message to Putin that any aggression will come at a high price, so will the Secretary of State assure me that any Russian military incursion or attack will be met with a full package of sanctions, unprecedented in depth and severity, cutting Russia out of the global financial system, blocking rouble conversion, halting exports of semiconductors and finally clamping down on the oligarchs who hide their ill-gotten wealth in this capital city?

I strongly agree again with the right hon. Gentleman. We will make sure that we have the wherewithal to have a very severe package of sanctions in the case of any Russian incursion into Ukraine. We have been working with allies such as the United States, France and Germany to put that together. That is why we brought people together at the G7 in Liverpool, where we said that there would be severe economic consequences of an incursion into Ukraine. It is important, at this moment, that we see all our partners around the world step up. We are leading by example, but we want to see others follow that example.