Motion to Take Note
That this House takes note of the situation in Ukraine.
My Lords, we hold this debate against the sombre and shocking images emerging from Syria and Turkey of the devastating earthquake which has visited such tragedy and suffering on these two countries. I know the thoughts of us all are with the families and citizens who are affected by and in shock from this horrendous catastrophe. That is a horrific consequence of the destructive power of nature, so it is an incredibly cruel irony that we see tragedy and devastation in Ukraine not from the force of nature but because a human being made an avoidable decision to inflict that horror on an innocent sovereign country.
Almost a year ago, President Putin launched his illegal invasion of Ukraine, which was a move that shook the whole world. Putin imagined that Ukraine would fall within a matter of days, but the Russian army completely failed to anticipate how proud, determined and brave would be the reaction from the forces of Ukraine which ferociously resisted Putin’s troops on every axis. We have now reached day 351 of the conflict. The Kremlin’s attack has cost Russia the lives of tens of thousands of soldiers, not to mention a vast quantity of tanks, armoured vehicles, jets and one prized flagship.
Ukraine has retaken more than 50% of the territory lost in the initial chaos of the Russian advance. A merry-go-round of Russian generals have come and gone, replaced with monotonous regularity. Most recently, General Surovikin has been replaced by General Gerasimov, who is derided by some of his own countrymen as the “Plywood Marshal”. Throughout it all, the Kremlin—aided by Iran’s kamikaze drones—has kept up a relentless, cynical and despicable bombardment directed against civilian infrastructure. Thousands of innocent civilians have died in botched, indiscriminate attacks, adding to the charge sheet of the litany of alleged war crimes.
Take last Wednesday evening—2 February—when an Iskander-K tactical ballistic missile slammed into an apartment block, killing three and wounding many more. Separately, in the past few days, we have heard a former Russian military officer admit that Russian troops have indeed tortured Ukrainian prisoners of war, claiming that at one site in southern Ukraine,
“the interrogations, the torture, continued for about a week”.
That is utterly appalling.
Yet despite laying waste to vast swathes of Ukraine and imposing unnecessary suffering on much of the population, Russia has still failed to accomplish any of its strategic aims. In recent weeks, Russia has trumpeted several tactical advances. In mid-January, Ukrainian forces withdrew from the small Donbas salt-mine town of Soledar: the first notable settlement Russia has gained since early July last year. But this was a pyrrhic victory achieved at enormous cost and resulting in several thousand casualties. Human wave attacks were deployed to secure a ruined town inhabited by just 500 people. It underlines the Kremlin’s callous attitude to dehumanise not only its opponents but its own troops, who are quite simply regarded by the Kremlin as dispensable cannon fodder. In recent days, a force of Russian naval infantry further south has also been attempting to make gains near the central Donetsk Oblast town of Vuhledar, south-west of Donetsk city. It is another case of Groundhog Day. Russia makes creeping gains but simply lacks the capability to achieve its strategic goals.
Intriguingly, the Wagner paramilitary group, bolstered by the mass deployment of at least 40,000 convicts, has been prominent in many of these recent manoeuvres. The extraordinary expansion of this group, and the corresponding increase in its public profile, raise interesting questions about the current nature of the Russian state. Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin continues to indulge in the most direct criticism of his military counterparts. It is difficult to imagine that this tension will not implode sooner or later. In a sense, tracking the implications of this war on the dynamics of Moscow’s power structures is as important as following the events on the front line.
For all Russia’s recent tactical advances, winter has imposed an effective operational stalemate in the active areas of the Ukrainian front line. Both sides are now bogged down in attritional warfare that has more in common with World War One. Military casualties on both sides have been high, with each side struggling. We are seeing a Russian security apparatus that is increasingly factional and overstretched. It is highly unlikely that the hundreds of thousands of mobilised reservists have been formed into cohesive formations capable of major offensive manoeuvre operations. None the less, with spring around the corner, there are signs that President Putin is amassing his forces in preparation for a surge in the coming weeks. Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s Defence Minister, believes that Russia is planning a major offensive to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine on 24 February. In other words, President Zelensky and the Ukrainian armed forces require the support of their friends in the international community more than ever.
One thing is clear: the UK will remain at the forefront of that effort. It is worth perhaps a brief summary of how we have led so far. Like many, we were taken aback by President Putin’s actions on 24 February 2022, but we were not unprepared. Indeed, since 2015, we had trained more than 22,000 Ukrainians through Operation Orbital following the annexation of Crimea. As soon as Russian boots touched Ukrainian soil, we were again determined to lead the international response. The UK was the first European country to provide Ukraine with lethal aid to help stall the Russian advance. To date, we have donated thousands of short and long-range missiles, Stormer vehicles fitted with Starstreak missile launchers, and multiple launch rocket systems capable of striking targets up to 80 kilometres away with pinpoint accuracy. Last month, we led the world by providing modern main battle tanks to Ukraine.
I know that many noble Lords today will wish to know about the effect of these donations on our own supplies, so it is worth noting that even as we gift capability, we are seeking to restock and replenish. We are reviewing the number of Challenger 3 conversions to consider whether the lessons of Ukraine suggest that we need a larger tank fleet. We are accelerating the Army’s Mobile Fires programme so that, instead of delivering in the 2030s, it will do so earlier in this decade. Subject to commercial negotiation, an interim artillery capability will also be delivered. Furthermore, we are commissioning the backfilling of 155-millimetre artillery shells. In November, we signed a contract for high-velocity anti-aircraft defence missiles to replace the ones we had gifted. On top of that, in the Autumn Statement there was a £560 million increase for our own stockpiles.
Ours is a calibrated response—one that is necessitated by Russia’s growing aggression and indiscriminate bombing, but also intended to act as a force multiplier. The UK’s announcement generated unstoppable momentum, with countries following our lead to pledge main battle tanks to Ukraine. Germany’s decision to send Leopard 2 tanks and the United States’ to send Abrams tanks, coupled with the pledges of Poland, Spain, Canada and France, have enabled us to send a unified signal to Moscow that is more important than any individual contribution. It is a signal that says no one is acting unilaterally and that we are united in helping Ukraine to defend its land and evict the illegal invader.
Let us be clear: in 2023, the UK’s support to Ukraine will remain unwavering. We have already committed to match the £2.3 billion in military aid we spent last year. Yesterday the Prime Minister went further still, not just expanding our training offer for Ukrainian troops to include fighter jet pilots—enabling Ukrainian aviators to fly sophisticated NATO-standard fighters in the future—but offering to provide Ukraine with longer-range capabilities to inhibit Russia’s ability to target civilians and critical national infrastructure while also relieving pressure on Ukraine’s front lines.
Make no mistake: we will continue to use our influence and convening power to keep that global support solid. Once again, we are joined in this great endeavour by our friends in the United States. They have invested approximately $24.2 billion in support for Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion. They have delivered thousands of anti-aircraft and anti-armour systems as well as Patriot air defence battery and munitions, refurbished T-72B tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. As an aside, the other week I met a group of American congress men and women, and I can tell your Lordships that the US absolutely approves of what we are doing. They pointed out to me that in their country those tempted to think that this was a remote European issue have been given a wake-up call. They now understand how the conflict can reach them, not just in the form of hostile aggression but through its wider impacts, including economic fluctuations, energy shocks and cost of living crises.
Many other allies are part of the broad pro-Ukraine coalition. On 19 January, the United Kingdom—alongside Estonia, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, and the representatives of Denmark, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Slovakia—signed the Tallinn pledge to collectively pursue
“the delivery of an unprecedented set of donations including main battle tanks, heavy artillery, air defence, ammunition, and infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine’s defence”.
Separately, our international fund now stands at over £500 million. Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Lithuania and Iceland have donated generously, and we shall soon be announcing the first round of bids.
However, our efforts are not confined to supplying aid or raising donations. The United Kingdom will continue to demonstrate global leadership by hosting both the international Justice Ministers conference on war crimes in March and the Ukraine recovery conference in June. We are playing a critical role in training Ukrainian forces too. Besides teaching Ukrainian tank crews how to operate Challenger platforms and how to fight as a formed unit with those tanks, we are providing specialist basic training to Ukrainian recruits. I went to see that happening last week. It was a privilege to be there; it was both inspiring and humbling. The training is excellent and the Ukrainians receptive, quick to learn and agile. So far, we have trained more than 10,000 Ukrainian personnel in the UK. This year, we are doubling down on that success by increasing the number to a further 20,000. If noble Lords want an illustration of international solidarity with Ukraine, they should just consider our partners in this extraordinary training effort: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Lithuania, Norway, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
President Putin’s flagrant breach of international law has forced us to come to terms with a new reality. It has brought the resurgence of state aggression into sharp relief. For the first time since World War II, we have seen the manifestation of an illegal land-based war in Europe: a desperate attempt by one nation to conquer another country’s sovereign territory. However, there have also been a number of other interesting outcomes that President Putin certainly did not foresee, because the 2020s have not proved a mirror to the 1930s. Nations have not been cowed or coerced into staying silent. President Putin wished for a weaker NATO, but NATO is more solid and more determined and—with the anticipated accession of Finland and Sweden—even stronger. Indeed, we will continue to do all we can to ensure that the final hurdles are removed to allow their swift entry into the alliance.
It is equally striking how nations outside NATO’s orbit have also come to the same conclusion: that their interests align and that they too have a role to play in defending international order. Notably, the United Kingdom has once again been instrumental in bringing northern European neighbours together in solidarity under the auspices of the Joint Expeditionary Force, ensuring a steady supply of lethal and non-lethal aid to sustain Ukrainian resistance.
Back on the home front, we now have a clearer picture of the more serious threats and a renewed understanding of the significance of traditional war-fighting capability. We are planning to refresh our 2021 integrated review and Command Paper. This will be an important opportunity to address the hollowing-out of our land capability over many years under successive Governments, to restore our combat credibility, to rebuild our land industrial base and to modernise the whole of defence to confront the threats of tomorrow.
Kremlin propagandists will inevitably paint any support for Ukraine as an attack on Russia, so-called NATO-orchestrated aggression, or even a proxy war. For the avoidance of doubt, the escalation is not happening today. It started in February 2022, when the Russian Government chose to invade Ukraine illegally to pursue their vain imperialist dream. No one who watched President Zelensky give his stirring address in Westminster Hall yesterday can fail to have been impressed by his courage, his indomitable spirit and his powerful conviction that, in his words,
“bravery takes you through the most unimaginable hardships to finally reward you with victory”.
He and his people are an inspiration, and in 2022 they achieved impossible things; but the reality is that bravery and heroism will not be enough against Russia. Ukraine needs its friends to continue upping their support, which is why, in 2023, as the Prime Minister has said, we must seize the opportunity to accelerate our support for Ukraine before Russia tries to recover its equilibrium.
Putin hopes to wear down the West. He hopes our unity will fracture. He hopes we will seek a rapid return to the status quo. However, history has already taught us that you can never let wrong go unpunished because, if you do, you do not know where that wrong will end up. Therefore, we must show the Kremlin the error of its ways, working with our international partners to aggregate our military muscle and diplomatic clout. We must do all in our power to help brave Ukrainians expel Russia from their sovereign soil. Ultimately, as President Zelensky put it so eloquently yesterday, Russia must lose so that freedom will win. I beg to move.
My Lords—just to pick up that last point—I thought that yesterday’s visit of President Zelensky was a remarkable parliamentary occasion, echoing the leadership that this country showed in World War II, particularly the leadership of Winston Churchill. In that setting, I am very much looking forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soames. Standing in his fatigues next to Mr Speaker and the Lord Speaker, President Zelensky’s message was clear: “Do not forget Ukraine or this war in Europe.” As the Lord Speaker said in his thanks to the President, leadership is about visibility, and the President has not been afraid to stand with his people and be where they have suffered most: in the front line.
On the point about visibility, it was also important for the world to see Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak presenting a united front in their determination to help Ukraine defeat Vladimir Putin. Both reaffirmed to President Zelensky their support for Ukraine and expressed sympathy for the horrors suffered by the Ukrainian people. This war must end with Putin’s defeat and Ukraine’s freedom secured.
As the Minister reminded us, this month represents the first anniversary of Putin’s barbaric and illegal invasion of Ukraine, which has resulted in immeasurable suffering. Britain is united in its support for Ukraine, and the Government will always have our full backing to provide military, economic, diplomatic and humanitarian assistance as it defends itself. However, we also want to see support in the long term, and a move from ad hoc announcements to more systematic assistance. This means setting aside individual announcements, and instead setting out a clear strategy, in partnership with our allies and Ukraine.
Putin’s recent shift to attack civilian infrastructure shows that he has no regard for the rules of military conflict, and it also means that the war is unlikely to conclude in the immediate future. While the UK’s crisis response to Ukraine has been undoubtedly strong—and the Government deserve credit for this—we now need to look towards the future as well. It is on this basis that the Government should consider proposals for a 2023 action plan, encompassing military, economic and diplomatic support. This must include a strategy to ensure a sustained stream of future supplies, and efforts to urgently ramp up our own industry; but it should also encourage our allies to do more. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond positively about the intention to publish such a plan.
In the immediate term, the Government must also contend with how they can best support the people of Ukraine through the final months of winter. Putin’s illegal invasion has left key areas of the country’s infrastructure decimated, and the attacks on energy and water plants appear to be part of an attempt to freeze the population of Ukraine into submission. I hope the Minister can set out what the Government are doing to support the viability of Ukraine’s energy sector going forward. Can he also set out what additional support the United Kingdom will provide to Ukraine beyond the 850 generators already delivered, and what further measures will be taken to support Ukrainians in the light of these continued attacks by Russia on critical infrastructure?
As the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, reaffirmed, we must remain committed to military support for Ukraine. Ultimately, we must constantly ask ourselves how we can better assist it in winning this war. Immediately following President Zelensky’s speech, the Prime Minister said that the UK’s provision of planes is “part of the conversation”, but that the immediate need is for longer-range missiles and tanks—the noble Baroness referred to this—and that it may take as long as three years to train pilots to use UK jets. He also noted that there are supply chain issues, adding that some of the UK’s aircraft are linked to joint treaties with other countries. The PM said that Britain was only making a different long-term offer on fighter jets, saying that the UK would be
“expanding its training offer to include fighter jet pilots to ensure Ukraine can defend its skies well into the future”.
I know that the United States has been allocating resources to that sort of training. Downing Street said:
“The training will ensure pilots are able to fly sophisticated NATO standard fighter jets in the future.”
What is the timeframe for this? What discussions have taken place with our NATO allies on such a programme?
Turning to next-generation light anti-tank weapons, although I am pleased that the Government have announced that a contract to start replenishing stocks has finally been signed, can the Minister confirm how many other contracts have been signed to start to replace the military aid sent to Ukraine? I heard the confident remarks from the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, in this regard but it would be good to hear a little more detail to ensure that this is actually happening.
Of course, sanctions are another of the greatest tools at our disposal in supporting Ukraine and holding Putin to account. The Minister will be aware that the US recently imposed new sanctions on Russia, targeting a network accused of procuring military and dual-use technologies from US manufacturers and illegally supplying them to Russia for the war. Given that RUSI has confirmed that UK components are also appearing in Russian weaponry, can the Minister confirm whether the UK is looking to impose similar sanctions? No doubt the Minister will say that he cannot comment on future designations for sanctions, but we want to hear from him that we are confident we can tackle these leaks and breaches of our own sanctions and that we are absolutely determined to work closely with our allies to do this.
On frozen Russian assets, the EU and Canada recently set out a plan to repurpose such assets to help rebuild critical Ukrainian infrastructure and provide much-needed humanitarian aid to the country. Does the Minister have any plans to replicate this, work in tandem with these important allies and engage with the EU and Canada to support those efforts?
Finally, the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, mentioned the growing body of evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine. In addition to taking any steps we can to help the Ukrainians, we must consider how we can hold Putin and his regime to account. The reports of new mass graves in liberated areas and increasing evidence of war crimes demand accountability. It is in everyone’s interests that the UK supports all international efforts to document, investigate and prosecute these crimes. I know that the Minister has been committed to this strategy in other international scenarios. He will be aware that, since March, my colleagues in the House of Commons have been calling for a special international tribunal to prosecute Putin and members of his armed forces for the crime of aggression and other war crimes that have been evidenced. The EU backs the plan, as do the Ukrainian Government. Can the Minister explain why we as a country are not planning to support such efforts?
Unfortunately, it is now clear that Putin’s aim is not simply to take Ukraine. His regime has shown that it is prepared to use armed forces in contempt of international institutions and humanitarian law. For this reason, as Putin expands his war effort and amasses further troops, we must also remain alert to the more immediate threat to the United Kingdom and our allies. It is important that our commitment to NATO is unshakeable, and this must be paired with a rebooting our defence plans, as more than 20 of our NATO allies have done. We have heard repeated calls for the integrated review to be reviewed; however, we need not just the review but absolutely clear plans to reboot our defence mechanisms.
If this war is to end, we must make it clear to Putin that things will get worse, not better, for Russia. We must also give Ukraine the confidence it needs by announcing a longer-term strategy. On Britain’s military help to Ukraine and reinforcing our NATO allies on the border, the Government have had and will continue to have Labour’s full support. In standing side by side with Ukraine against this illegal invasion, we are not only reflecting our global values but defending our national interests.
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to have a full debate on this issue. I welcome the comprehensive introduction from the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie. I also look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soames, with his experience as a former MoD Minister; he will contribute greatly to this House and to this specific debate.
Last year, I watched the full expansion of the 2014 aggression into the invasion of Ukraine from a hotel room in Baghdad, before I flew to Beirut. I knew then what we all know now: that this unwarranted and illegal aggression by Russia against an independent sovereign state would have significant consequences far beyond the borders of Ukraine itself. The horror inflicted on the people of Ukraine—according to the UN Human Rights Office, it has so far claimed 438 children’s lives, among more than 7,000 civilian deaths; and of course, we know that women have been disproportionately affected by this aggression—has been compounded by Putin weaponising grain and food, thereby exacerbating famine in the Horn of Africa, where 5 million children are currently dangerously malnourished, an issue we debated earlier this week. His venally amoral use of the Wagner Group of mercenaries to deploy intimidation, rape and torture across a wider arc in Africa is even worse.
According to the Norwegian chief of defence, Ukrainian losses are probably over 100,000 dead or wounded in defending their country, and for Russia an astonishing 180,000 dead or wounded soldiers, many of whom we know were lied to and misled about what they were fighting for. A year on, today, a Ukrainian MP friend of mine from our sister party, President Zelensky’s party, WhatsApped me a message:
“We have just got information that Russia has started a new attack. It is a hell there.”
It is, and President Zelensky’s extraordinary address to us yesterday captured the totality of the consequences of what I believe will be a failed attempt by Putin to occupy a nation and subjugate its people. Putin wants to be a neo-Russian emperor. He has convinced himself that a Russian empire can only exist with Kievan Rus’ within it. However, he has miscalculated strategically and misunderstood the people of Ukraine to an extraordinary degree.
Like many colleagues, I have visited Ukraine. I have been there three times. The people of that country have a very differing view from Putin of their own future. They want to determine it themselves. Their clear desire to join the EU and to work with us and NATO for security I believe is now, for the long term, immutable. Putin made another miscalculation. A year ago, we could not possibly have forecast the German Zeitenwende, the sea change in Germany policies. We could not have forecast how European energy reliance on Russian gas has moved from 50% to less than 13% in one year—extraordinary changes. I and colleagues from these Benches have been in lockstep with the Government on support for the Government of Ukraine and we have all been impressed, as the Minister said, by the support from the British people for the people of Ukraine, from individual families and communities across all parts of the UK welcoming those in need, through to the Government providing hard military capabilities—“tea and tanks”, as President Zelensky may have put it.
We have supported the raft of economic sanctions and I have debated them all with the noble Lord, Lord Collins. I too put on record my appreciation of the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, for how he has engaged with us, informed us and been accessible to us. It is an exemplary way for a Minister to operate on foreign affairs. However, we did argue that we needed to have moved faster on closing London’s laundromat reputation. The data from the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation’s Annual Review from the end of last year said that in 2021, £44.5 million of Russian assets were frozen. By November 2022, that figure had risen to £18 billion, showing the extraordinary exposure that the UK had to questionable Russian finance—to which, regrettably, all too often a blind eye was turned. The Government continue to refuse to state who on the sanctions list now had been issued with a golden visa and effectively paid to launder their money through Britain.
We have supported the Ukrainian settlement scheme, but it was only through scrutiny that we found out that this scheme in its entirety will be scored against development assistance—uniquely among OECD countries—meaning that it has been offset by cuts elsewhere. We must be self- aware that these reductions are a part of how Russia is opening what I described in the autumn as a second front in this war, in the east and the global south. I am fearful that the UK is not focused enough now on that front.
Last week I raised concerns with the Minister on the red-carpet treatment given to Sergey Lavrov by our friends in South Africa, and the naval exercises that South Africa, China and Russia will be carrying out in just 10 days’ time. India and Sri Lanka have increased oil purchases, and the gold trade from the east and southern Africa via the Gulf and into Moscow is flourishing. In certain sectors, the rouble is strong. Four years of reductions in UK development co-operation mean something, not just for the most vulnerable people in the world but geopolitically.
We must be self-aware and acknowledge that, while our economic sanctions have undeniably been extensive and in many areas effective, in other areas they have been offset and circumvented elsewhere. As Putin now enters a different phase, of slow, grinding horror against the Ukrainian people, we must also think of how to isolate Russia more. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that the next phase of our sanctions and economic measures must be considered carefully and those measures must be strong. They must also ensure that our work on the second front is considered.
I have no doubt that Putin miscalculated when he underestimated the resolve of the Ukrainian people. He thought that the EU would splinter and that the EU, UK and US would not work as closely as they have. However, he has been more successful in presenting this aggression not as imperial expansion, which it undoubtedly is, but as Cold War alignment. In March last year, 25 African countries either abstained or refrained from voting on a UN resolution to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In South Africa alone, as I referred to, in one minor but telling example, the ANC Youth League sent observers to Russia’s phoney referendum in the four Ukrainian provinces occupied by Russia in September and described the referendum as
“a beautiful, wonderful process”.
From the Sahel to southern Africa, a sweep of Russian malign influence is seen, and, of course, they have their blood-soaked criminal mercenaries to act as a proxy. As I have mentioned in the Chamber before, I have seen with my own eyes the Wagner Group operate in Sudan. I was the first in Parliament to call for that group’s proscription. I did so to Ministers in this Chamber on 25 April, 23 May, 9 June, 17 July, 15 November, 21 December, and again on 26 January. At that time, the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Penn, said that she would write to me. I have not had a reply yet. Ed Davey asked the Prime Minister about this issue yesterday. This group is a threat to our security and our safety, to British nationals abroad and to our allies. Why have we not proscribed it? Why are we acting so slowly? When the Minister winds up this debate, I hope that he can confirm that we will indeed proscribe this group. There cannot be impunity for the Putin regime’s human rights crimes, nor should there be for his proxies.
I very much welcome the shift in the Government’s position regarding the tribunal that was announced on 20 January, supporting the establishment of a tribunal on aggression. I call again on the Government to add the UK’s support to the Kampala Amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on the crime of aggression. It is incongruous that we support now a tribunal under the authority of articles in the Rome statute that we have so far not supported, but the shift in government policy is welcome. As President Zelensky told us yesterday, if we support the rules-based international order there should be no impunity for those who break those rules or seek to circumvent them.
I attended an event supporting the International Criminal Court last autumn and spoke with a Ukrainian MP friend of mine, Galyna Mykhailiuk. I asked her a number of questions during the event about the situation with the people of Ukraine. She was extremely humble. She said, “Can I ask you a question, please?” I said, “Of course”. I thought that it would be about UK support or military equipment and missiles. She said, “Just out of interest, have you ever met the Queen?” I said, “Funnily enough, I have”. She said, “Can I please pass on the condolences of the people of Ukraine on the Queen’s passing?” She then said, “I have to let you in on a secret”—which I have her permission to tell your Lordships. “I watched, with a group of my fellow MPs, the whole of the funeral.” Then she said, rather cheekily, “I missed the plenary of the Parliament and my committee meeting to watch the funeral”. She paused and then said, “I did not see the Windsor Castle part because I had to attend my AK-47 training”.
MPs were told there a year ago that they should expect an imminent Russian special forces attack on their Verkhovna Rada building, where they would be either murdered or held hostage as part of the installation of a puppet regime. They thwarted that and their Parliament carried on. It legislated. Its staff, some of whom were also conscripted to the front, and others, continued to help ensure that the raft of emergency legislation could be passed. It continues to function.
Putin has no feel for, nor knowledge or understanding of, a representative parliamentary democracy—he has persecuted his own opposition at home—but the people of Ukraine do. I hope the Minister will support what I am calling for, which is a nomination process for the Ukrainian parliament to be given the George Medal. That parliament, as an institution, a representative democracy at a time of horror and aggression, has been humbling for all other parliamentarians in the world.
One of the reasons that I feel so humble is that I see that they are managing to do what we, in this building, did 80 or so years ago. On the night of 10 May 1941, a bomb fell through the roof of this Chamber and hit the very spot where I stand. It did not detonate. Bombs did not stop our Parliament from carrying on, and Putin’s missiles will not stop Ukraine’s either.
My Lords, I too look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soames. While it is his first in this Chamber, it is but his latest contribution to an already long and distinguished parliamentary career.
We are about to reach the ninth anniversary of Russia’s war in Ukraine and the first anniversary of the latest and most violent phase of the conflict, during which the total casualties have run into the hundreds of thousands—a butcher’s bill that will only grow, and grow rapidly, over the coming months. As this reality continues to unfold and the suffering of the Ukrainian people mounts, the question I hear most frequently is: how and when will it end? The answer, of course, is that nobody knows. Just about all wars begin and end in politics, and this one is no different. Eventually, there will have to be a political conclusion, but that appears to be a long way off and it does not imply, as some seem to believe, the appeasement of Russia.
In thinking about what it might imply for the near term, it is worth taking a step back and reflecting on broader strategic objectives. The Ukrainians are clear about theirs: the full restoration of their country’s pre-2014 borders, including the recovery of Crimea. The Russians’ position today is less certain. Their initial objective was undoubtedly the removal of the Ukrainian Government and their replacement by a regime friendly to, if not under the control of, the Kremlin. Whether events of the past year have changed this calculus is open to debate, but I doubt it.
Putin is certainly aware that making progress towards his original objective is a lot harder and taking far longer than he had imagined, but there is no reason to suppose that he has given up on it. To the contrary, there is much evidence to suggest that he is doubling down on his original intent.
As far as the UK is concerned, our strategic objective must be to ensure that Putin’s aggression is widely perceived to have failed; that such illegal assaults on the international order are seen as not just very costly but unlikely to succeed. But I believe we should go further. As I observed last week, in conjunction with the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, Russia’s war in Ukraine is being spearheaded by the Wagner organisation—a group that has at the heart of its activities terror, torture, murder, rape and all other forms of brutality. A supposedly civilised world should not countenance the existence of such a force, and we should seek to eliminate its presence from the wider international scene.
From looking at these strategic objectives, it is apparent that they differ markedly. That is unsurprising in the case of Russia and Ukraine, but it is also true with regard to the UK’s aims and, I suspect, those of many other countries that support Ukraine. This makes it very difficult to see what shape a long-term political solution might take. However, there is far less uncertainty about the near term. This is because, if Putin’s aggression is to be widely perceived as having failed, Russia must end up in no better a position than when it started the conflict and preferably in a worse one. That means Ukraine recovering its southern coastline and at least some of the Donbass.
Both those outcomes are, at best, some way off, so for the moment we need not concern ourselves about how much further the Ukrainian Government’s ambitions might stretch. That may become a pressing issue if Russian forces are driven back significantly, but there are a great many bridges to cross, both literally and figuratively, before we get anywhere near that point. For now, we should focus our minds and efforts on those bridges, and not worry unduly about what forks may lie along the road in the far distance.
Our immediate priority, like that of Ukraine, must therefore be further reversals of Russia’s territorial gains. But Ukraine’s continued success in this regard relies not just on the sustained valour of its people but on the willingness of western nations to maintain their high level of material support. That, in turn, depends to an extent on the perception of military progress—something of a chicken-and-egg situation.
My conclusion from all this is that the Ukrainian forces will need to make demonstrable gains over 2023. That, though, begs the question of the means required to achieve such an outcome, so I turn to some detailed points and questions for the Minister.
We have seen the very recent, welcome decisions, by Germany in particular, on the provision of tanks to go along with the other armoured fighting vehicles and artillery already delivered and promised. We should be in no doubt, though, that offensive action to retake and hold ground is a very different proposition from mounting a defence against the kind of unco-ordinated and poorly led attack that we saw from Russian forces last summer. Tanks in sufficient numbers will be very helpful in this regard, but the ability to manoeuvre sizeable units with concentrated firepower, to clear obstacles, both natural and man-made, and to co-ordinate different elements, both on the ground and in the air, is a significant challenge to any military. Of course, the offensive forces need extensive logistical support, technical capabilities and, crucially, sufficient weapon stocks. The important aid that we and other countries have given to Ukraine has resulted in a multiplicity of equipment types, each with its own logistic tail and often with different ammunition requirements.
Can the Minister therefore tell the House what assessment His Majesty’s Government have made of the scale of development of Ukraine’s offensive capabilities and, in particular, of its sustainability in the light of the requirements I have outlined above? Is there more that we should be doing to improve the coherence of Ukraine’s capabilities rather than focusing just on quantity?
I turn to the air. It is clear that the continued existence of capable ground-based air defences on both sides has led to something of a stalemate. What advice and aid is the Ministry of Defence giving the Ukrainians to help them break the impasse, particularly in light of the advantage that air superiority would give an attacking force? I note the Government’s announcement yesterday that the UK will provide fast-jet pilot training for Ukrainians. This may be an important contribution to Ukrainian capability, but training pilots, even advanced training, takes a long time and they need aircraft to fly once they are trained—not that we have much to offer in that regard. Our Typhoon force is already overstretched maintaining the air defence of these islands and flying combat air patrols over NATO nations bordering the conflict.
Can the Minister explain how this initiative will fit into Ukraine’s broader operational plans? Is it intended to bolster the military effort in the present conflict or is it part of the longer-term development of the Ukrainian armed forces? Can he also say what impact this new undertaking is likely to have on our military? Given the signal failure, over the past few years, of the military flying training system to deliver sufficient capacity to meet the RAF’s needs, only compounded by the recent problems with the engine on the Hawk T2 aircraft, how confident is he that it can now rise to such an additional demand? Is this not yet another example of the stripping out of our military capabilities, which has gone on for so many years, coming home to roost? Until now, the Ukraine war has largely focused attention on the paucity of our weapon stocks, but this latest initiative highlights a much deeper and wider problem of capacity. Will the revision of the defence Command Paper address this?
Finally, I turn to an issue already raised by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and very ably highlighted yesterday by the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, in the briefing on Ukraine that the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, kindly arranged for us. Outside of the NATO area, Russia seems to be having considerable success in the battle of the narratives. This has important implications for the longer term. In the Middle East, Asia and Africa, the danger posed by Russia and the plight of Ukraine are widely misunderstood. There is indeed sympathy for Russia, which is supposedly facing encirclement by a hostile and aggressive NATO. I know that the Minister understands the importance of countering this narrative, but can he reassure the House that the Government are working hard with allies to develop a co-ordinated and sustained response? We may not be able to win over everybody, but at the moment we are winning over far too few.
The conflict in Ukraine continues to throw up many complex and difficult questions, but this is a time for clarity. We should not expect the war to be decided this year, but it will be a decisive period in determining whether both we and Ukraine are able to achieve our objectives. With that in mind, we should bend every sinew to promote Ukrainian military success over these crucial months.
My Lords, it is rather humbling to follow the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup. I also welcome my noble friend Lord Soames and look forward to his maiden speech.
As everybody has said, after 12 months of conflict, death, destruction and huge suffering, everybody is wondering how long this war will last and how it will end. At the beginning of the war, no one believed that Ukraine could outlast the might of Russia. President Biden even offered Zelensky and his Government exile in the United States. Zelensky’s famous refusal,
“I need ammunition, not a ride”,
and the amazing resilience and courage of the Ukrainian people that followed, stunned the West. Helping Zelensky contain Russia’s aggression soon turned into a proxy war for the West.
Since then, as we heard earlier, the West has provided a massive amount of military and economic support. With Germany’s recent agreement to release the Leopard 2 tanks, more than 300 heavy tanks will be delivered to Ukraine by European countries, while the USA will provide 31 Abrams tanks. Yesterday our Prime Minister announced that Britain could also provide fighter jets and train Ukrainian pilots.
Unsurprisingly, Zelensky and the West believe that Ukraine can win the war outright. But Putin too believes that he can win the war outright. He has shown no sign of intending to stop the war, scaling down his demands or looking for a way out, let alone making serious proposals for peace. For Putin, this is a crusade. He and his siloviki—men of force, mostly ex-KGB—are in an existential struggle against the West. For Putin, as much as for them, it is a matter of life and death. There is no chance to back down now and, if Putin goes, they too lose everything. Their only interest is to keep their wealth, and they are too afraid to raise their voices and criticise Putin anyway.
A recent report published by the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service concluded that we should not expect Mr Putin to give up on his faltering war, and should bury any hopes of a successor toppling him anytime soon. The report goes on to say:
“Putin is playing for time, believing that Ukraine and the West will wear out before Russia.”
Ukrainian intelligence services, as the Minister pointed out, believe that Putin is planning a major counteroffensive, maybe as early as on 24 February to mark the beginning of his “war against the Nazis”.
The Russian army may be disorganised and the number of deaths, injured and deserters may be in the region of 200,000, but Putin has a large reserve at hand. There are three times more Russians than Ukrainians. This is reminiscent of Stalin during World War II; the Germans would kill 10 divisions, but 20 would resurge. Putin’s war stock is vast, while the delivery of western tanks may not arrive in time for the upcoming battle—and let us not forget that Russia is one of the world’s two largest nuclear powers.
Dr Kissinger recently questioned whether we were sleepwalking into a conflict similar to World War I, which none of the European leaders would have entered into had they foreseen what would follow. The President of Croatia—a NATO member—criticised western nations for supplying Ukraine with heavy tanks and other weapons, saying that it will only prolong the war and adding that it is “mad” to believe that Russia can be defeated in a conventional war.
I am enormously proud of our Government’s unwavering support and of the lead role they have taken immediately, not only in military aid but in economic and humanitarian aid and in their diplomatic efforts and successes with other countries.
However, in view of Putin’s revisionism, and Russia’s nuclear weapons, oil and gas, skills in cyber technology, and its proximity to Europe, I ask my noble friend the Minister to clarify exactly what our strategic aim is and say how we can achieve it. When we look at Russia, we can be clear about its strategic aim—which is possibly also to take control of the nuclear power in Ukraine. Ukraine’s strategic aims are also clear but can all the NATO nations have the same aim? How can we ensure that we work together to make a safer future for our country and the Ukrainians?
My Lords, it is good to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, who has worked hard as the Prime Minister’s envoy on Ukraine. It is also good to look forward to the maiden contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Soames, who is not only an old colleague and friend but a former Minister for the Armed Forces, with a distinguished record that was only enhanced by him being denied the Conservative whip in the House of Commons before he came here.
The most famous expert on strategy during the Second World War was Sir Basil Liddell Hart, who once wisely said:
“The profoundest truth of war is that the issue of battle is usually decided in the minds of the opposing commanders, not in the bodies of their men.”
Therefore, the question for us is: given that Vladimir Putin, in his own mind, made the decision to invade Ukraine, ignoring the advice of his military experts and recklessly misreading the intelligence on the resistance of the Ukrainians, can we change his mind? I believe that we can and that we must do just that. Getting into the mind of someone like President Putin is not easy, even for me who dealt with him personally 20 years ago in what now seems to be another universe. But I offer to the House some recent examples of the kind of mind shifts among authoritarians that might just give us an indication of where we could go in the future.
The first example is the decision of President Xi of China only a few weeks ago to abandon overnight the draconian lockdown policy on Covid. Even an authoritarian in a country such as China will watch public opinion closely, and he could see that the ground was moving—and fast. My second example was less than a week ago. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran, a notably repressive regime, decided without notice to release thousands of prisoners who had defied the law on headdress. Even the Supreme Leader could see that the ground was moving against the regime. With women’s demonstrations escalating all the time, the mind of the commander was changed as a consequence. My third example was the exit by the Soviet Union in February 1989 from its disastrous invasion and intervention in Afghanistan. In the Kremlin, they understood that they were losing the war, the casualty list was producing a massive backlash among mothers and it was costing an already troubled economy a substantial amount of money. So, without any off-ramp being offered, no face-saving formula being available, they ordered their troops simply to come home. My fourth example to the House is 4 June 1989, when Solidarity was elected the Government in Poland. On that day, there were 55,000 Soviet troops in Poland but the Soviet Politburo ordered them to stay in their barracks. It could see the writing on the wall, that the ground internationally was moving and that its mind had to change—and it did so.
What, then, will it take to change Vladimir Putin’s mind without, as it happens, the advice to him of a politburo, a parliament or even a security council? The answer is: primarily by the determination of the West to stand by the territorial integrity of Ukraine and its people. Only by the united resolution of the countries of the free world insisting on the right of Ukraine and the Ukrainians to live as they want will the mind of Putin change when he sees that he cannot succeed. That unity of western Europe was Putin’s first serious miscalculation and so, too, was the renewed link between Europe and the United States. Both must be reinforced.
We must give President Zelensky, who inspired us all yesterday in Westminster Hall, the tools to defend his nation. The main thing, however, is to give long-term commitments to providing help. Piecemeal decisions do not have the same effect on the Kremlin as our united promise to continue providing the missiles, guns, ammunition and training that will help Ukraine to throw out the invader.
It is a brutal fact that the people of Ukraine are fighting for their lives, their country and democracy, but they are also fighting for us. It is again a brutal fact of the new world that Vladimir Putin has created that our front line of defending Britain is no longer the white cliffs of Dover or the north German plains but the mud and blood of the Donbass in eastern Ukraine. We must make sure that that front line is defended with vigour, determination and total resolution. That means that the Government must make a difficult but necessary choice to spend the cash, replenish all that we have sent to Ukraine and restore the defences of our own country. We can all now see the threat to us that is on display in technicolour in Donetsk, Luhansk and Mariupol. There is absolutely no excuse possible for skimping on the defence of our nation and our people. The first and overwhelming duty of any Government is the protection of the nation, and that duty cannot and must not be avoided.
My Lords, I start with a couple of declarations of interest. I am one of the elected vice-presidents of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and I work very closely with our five sister parties in Ukraine. I am also a former trustee of UNICEF UK, and I am vice-chair of the All-Party Group on Fire Safety and Rescue.
It is an honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. His decades of experience and strategic view have given us a hopeful speech about changing mindsets. The House should be grateful for that. The only issue I have is that one other factor is beginning to emerge, which is the Russian people themselves. However downtrodden they are, however much protesters are imprisoned, however much Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation and our sister party Yabloko do what they can in a country where it is almost impossible to speak up, it is now becoming clear that the Russian people are concerned about the number of deaths and beginning to understand that things are not as Putin has told them. Let us hope that that continues to grow as well.
I look forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soames. I had the honour of meeting his mother on a number of occasions over 30 years at Churchill College. It is delightful to welcome yet another Soames into your Lordships’ House.
I will focus on the extraordinary cross-party political co-operation, not just in the UK and Ukraine but in many parts of the western world that have come together to try to turn the tide on Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. I will illustrate that with one example, that of removing landmines. I will also focus on Ukrainian children abducted and forcibly adopted by Russia.
But first, I echo the points my noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed made. Our Ukrainian friends are extremely keen that the UK looks at Russian assets, not just those of oligarchs and individuals who are in power but those of the nation itself. I gather that £58 billion of central Russian assets are held in London. We need to go beyond targeting just individuals because at some point, I hope very soon, we will have to find the resources to help Ukraine rebuild. It and the West should not pay for that; the aggressor should pay.
I mentioned that I work with our sister parties in Ukraine. There are five, but two are particular key: Servant of the People, or Sluha Narodu, which is obviously in power and led by Zelensky, and Golos, which is led by Kira Rudik as leader of the opposition. The example of cross-party co-operation is so evident when you talk to any MP in the Ukrainian parliament, because one thing they all do is come together. Their debate in parliament usually universally accepts that there is one priority role. Kira, who is also a vice-president of ALDE alongside me and has become a friend, uses her role as an international ambassador to go wherever she is asked by her country to speak about its priorities and concerns. She is an example to us all.
It was Kira who, in May last year, contacted me to ask whether the UK could provide support for landmine clearance and ensure it arrived as soon as the Russians had vacated Donetsk and Luhansk, which they were just in the process of doing. I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, and to Amanda Milling, whom I wrote to at the time to ask whether we could ensure that specific resources were available. I have worked somewhat with MAG over the past year. The one thing that still concerns it, despite everything that has gone extremely well, which I will come back to in a minute, is that there will still need to be considerable mine-clearing resource available in Ukraine as we move forward. The Government have done the right thing and not let it impact on landmine clearance that the UK funds elsewhere in the world. Will the Government continue to ensure that there are enough resources? I would like to point out the level of mine clearance elsewhere every year. My noble friend Lord Purvis spoke about the issues in southern Africa, and the numbers there are astonishing. In Somalia I think it is about 70,000 and in Myanmar it was 98,000 landmines last year alone. The numbers across the world are good, and this is something that the UK should be proud to do.
The key issue that I wanted to raise is that, now that the Mines Advisory Group and the Halo Trust are in touch with Ukraine, they have managed to work with a united Ukrainian Government. Every department that had to give permission to work with them has done so and did so quickly, within three to four weeks, and they are training their own Ukrainian people now to clear mines as well, which is something that both MAG and the Halo Trust do in every country that they go into. We know that the number of Russian attacks mean that there is a significant and serious problem that is continuing to grow with landmines and other things that can injure people, so I hope the Minister can give some reassurance on that.
My other focus is on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I note that Russia signed it in 1990 just after it was first launched, so there are other things that Russia has signed but chosen not to be party to. Articles 6, 11, 19, 21 and 38 are vital when it comes to protecting the children of Ukraine, both in terms of simply being victims of war in areas where there are attacks and, particularly, in relation to children who are being adopted. Article 21 says that adoption must be safe and lawful, and that every adoption must prioritise the child’s best interest. That has not happened. It is now thought that over 13,000 children were forcibly removed from Ukraine by Russia, and some 2,000 are completely untraced. It is astonishing that the Russian media have promoted the fact that they were proud to take those children from those regions, saying:
“More than 1,000 babies from the liberated Mariupol have already found new families … More than 300 babies are on temporary maintenance in specialized institutions of the Krasnodar Territory and are looking forward to meeting their new families”.
This is the straightforward abduction of children of one nationality who are then moved to another country. It must be stopped. When the time is right, these children must be reunited with their birth families.
I shall end on some of the issues in UK civic society, where extraordinary things have happened. First, we need to pay tribute to those families who have hosted Ukrainian families; to the many schools that are taking in, right from day one, Ukrainian children and making sure that they can settle in; and to the many Ukrainian families working together to make sure that Ukrainian heritage is upheld and supported while the children are abroad, not just in the UK but elsewhere. I have seen friends running vans of goods, sometimes specialist goods such as pharmaceutical goods, to Ukraine as they are needed. As a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group, I find it notable that the national fire chiefs have had four convoys of firefighting equipment, including fire engines, that have already gone to Ukraine, and further trips are planned. These are not things that get national press in the way that day-to-day war does, but it shows us that in this country we have come together as best we can as ordinary people to try to play our part.
I was talking to Kira Rudik in the period between the Queen’s death and her funeral. I had just had a family dinner with my stepmother and my mother-in-law, both of whom grew up in the war, one in the Blitz and one in a northern city where there were daily bombings. Both of them said that the pictures from Ukraine were reminiscent of their childhood and that, in the early days of the Blitz, they all thought that things would end fast, but they did not. That is the big message from our own generation who have witnessed this at first hand. We must be there to help Ukraine every step of the way for however long this trial takes because we know that we can come out the other side of it—as we did—but we have to do so as a united world to stop Russia’s continued aggression.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, who brings great focus to a number of very important issues concerning the Ukrainian scene. I also look forward with warm anticipation to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soames.
I wonder if President Putin ever heard about the principles of war before he launched his special operation. Most important of these principles is:
“Selection and maintenance of the aim”.
His aim was clear: to make all Ukraine again part of Mother Russia. He had established to his satisfaction that China would be supportive, while many in the third world might see his special operation as no part of their business. Eastern Europe is a far-off land and for some—for example, South Africa—a developing friendship with Russia was important.
Probably, there was also an expectation that Russia would soon succeed, as it had with Crimea. Then, after diplomatic tantrums, apoplectic condemnations and some more useless sanctions, Russia’s conquest would become accepted—in which case, why side with others against Russia? Almost 50 countries either abstained or did not choose to vote on the United Nations Assembly motion seeking to condemn Russia’s aggression. In some parts of the world, criticism of Russia is thus more nuanced—sympathetic, even—in spite of that totally unlawful behaviour, as indeed outlined by the Minister.
A year on, Putin has not changed his strategic aim. His claim last September that Kherson and much of the Donbass were now part of Mother Russia underlined his continuing strategic aim. Russia is expected to launch a further offensive. Will this one take the form of shock and awe, one wonders, with massive use of airpower? Russia has that ability, although it has been noticeable—even surprising—how little attempt it made at the outset, or in the past 12 months, to establish air supremacy in its classic form.
Putin’s military commanders will be instructed this time to use all means, short of nuclear weapons, to defeat the Ukrainians. But at the back of their minds must be a fear that NATO would take advantage and maybe use the conflict as a pretext for advancing further east. We know that is not true, but truth is not a feature of Russian thinking or practice. They employ untruths—blatant lies—and will assume that NATO would too. A chasm between cultures is there. It exists.
How much, then, will Russia keep in reserve against a fear of NATO attack? That must affect its decisions about a shock and awe air-led assault and other advances further into Ukraine. Occupation would require stationing forces to keep Ukrainians under control; that too must be planned for. Will production fully match its high rates of ammunition consumption? In sum, it is a difficult operational and logistic balance to strike, but I expect Putin to try to strike it.
Another great principle of war is “maintenance of morale”—that is, on your side, along with the destruction of the morale of your opponents. Here, one must hand the winner’s cup to Zelensky. His leadership of his country stands with the likes of a Caesar or a Churchill. Putin’s leadership, too, depends not just on the rigours of an authoritarian regime but on inspiring Russians that his cause is noble. However, when it comes to those engaged in the actual battle, differences in morale are striking.
Ukrainians have been given astonishing leadership from the top, and they have responded magnificently. What could be more inspiring than when, as has already been mentioned, at the start of the conflict Zelensky was offered a safe flight and responded, “I don’t need a ride; I want more ammunition”, or his message and the symbolism yesterday in Westminster Hall? He is going to need more and more ammunition and much other support for his military. His plea for fighter jets, which will take time to implement if agreed, means he is up for a long struggle. Will the many new Russian troops, freshly conscripted and exposed to brutal conflict, feel as inspired as the Ukrainians? No way.
Finally, faced with further assault, the Ukrainians stand firm; they do not fold. What then? If they do not just hold ground but gradually force the Russians to retreat and give up more and more of the country they occupy, even Crimea, Putin must face the truth: he has not achieved his aim. He must fear, however unreal, that behind any Ukrainian success, NATO would choose to venture even closer to Moscow—even further than Sweden and Finland joining NATO. That is a position unacceptable to Putin. In his eyes, it would directly threaten to destroy his Russia. How would he respond if he were to be booted out of Ukraine? That is the big unknown for all to ponder. I hope, even now, that we and our allies are in deep deliberation and gaming these future issues.
My Lords, like others in this House I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, for tabling this debate. I wish to convey the apologies of my most reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, having recently travelled to Kyiv, wished to take part in this debate but is detained by the business of the General Synod. He will follow the deliberations closely in Hansard. My most reverend friend and several others from these Benches took time away from the General Synod yesterday and were delighted to join Members of both Houses to hear the President of Ukraine address us.
I count it a privilege and not a little daunting to precede the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soames, whose insight and wisdom on the matters before us are truly formidable. On behalf of the Lords Spiritual, I look forward to listening to and learning from his contributions to the work of the House in the coming days.
I would like to explore some of the issues which have arisen in recent weeks concerning how we assist Ukraine militarily while ensuring that we avoid strategic miscalculation. There can be no doubting the illegality, immorality and brutality of the Russian invasion. Nor can there be any doubt that Ukraine has a legitimate right to self-defence and to arm itself with the necessary equipment to do so. The military, financial and political support NATO countries have shown Ukraine since the start of the war has been just, necessary and proportionate. It is surely right that, as the war progresses and the early predictions of Russia’s swift victory prove ill-judged, our support for Ukraine grows significantly. The recent announcement that NATO countries will send tanks to Ukraine, a decision that would have been seen as taboo this time last year, has already given way to fresh debate on whether Ukraine should now also be supplied with fighter jets and longer-range missiles.
Such is our support for Ukraine that this is no longer being seen as a war solely between Russia and Ukraine. That is hardly surprising given that many western commentators now openly call for Russia’s complete defeat in Ukraine, either to bring down the evil Putin regime or to press for the decolonisation of Russia. Yet we need to be careful that, as the war progresses, our objectives do not shift from helping Ukraine defend itself to more comprehensively defeating Russia. Neither should we wishfully assume that a post-Putin Russia would see the country pathway seamlessly to democracy. In the meantime, we need to be reassured that we are not depleting our already diminished military resources, and we should strengthen our capacity for future defence without delay. Putin needs to see that we are serious in our preparedness for any widening of the conflict, should that be needed. This surely now requires a robust financial plan for immediate and medium-term increased defence spending and a strategic defence procurement plan, especially in the light of the sudden shift in security priorities because of the heightened threats in Europe.
Additionally, there can be no reduction in the need for supporting those fleeing the trouble in Ukraine. The initial early public support for the refugees was remarkable, and the government scheme very welcome, but more of the elderly relatives are now starting to come, and they have been harder to house. People in my diocese have found that there is also a particular problem for those leaving their host families to be able to find sufficient resources for a deposit for rented accommodation. We cannot keep taking from the international aid budget; we need a budget more in keeping with the fact that we are, in many ways, strategic players in a proxy war—a war that will need a long-term, committed response.
However, as we and our allies continue to support the people of Ukraine to defend themselves, how do we ensure that we do not become overconfident in our supply of advanced weaponry or so convinced by the rightness of our cause that we find ourselves in direct confrontation with Russia? There are significant cultural, religious and historical antecedents that need to be understood as having value in themselves if Putin is not simply to exploit those very things to bolster his increasingly costly war by framing western aggression as an attack on all that is instinctively and proudly Russian. In this, there is a propaganda war that we may not yet have properly addressed. I believe that we should, therefore, not defer from the Prophet Micah’s call to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. That should not soften strategic or military resolve to reply to violent aggression, but it may help, in the process, to avoid lapses of judgment caused by conflict fatigue. Indeed, it ought to stiffen the moral imperative to continue resisting such a grotesque evil, even though the financial and more tragic human costs may continue to increase.
In his response, it would be helpful to hear from the Minister whether there are limits to the military support that Britain is willing to provide to Ukraine. Is there a clear set of criteria against which such decisions are being made? I would also value clarity from the Government as to what success looks like. We have pledged to help Ukraine win and to provide it with the weaponry to do so, but as an alliance we remain undecided on what victory means or looks like. What will territorial integrity look like? Would a post-ceasefire and internationally supervised referendum in parts of Donbass and Crimea be respected by all sides and sufficient to end the dispute over the territories? Are we looking to supply weaponry so that Russia can be evicted militarily from all of Ukraine, including Crimea? Or do we want Ukraine to be able, credibly, to threaten Russia’s control of Crimea in order to strengthen Kyiv’s position in any future negotiations?
The Foreign Secretary is right to say that we cannot
“allow this to drag on and become a kind of First World War attritional-type stalemate”,
but we need to be careful that such understandable frustration does not lead to mission creep and, with it, further unnecessary escalation.
My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for his very kind words. It is difficult for me to adequately express the great sense of honour that I feel in rising to make my maiden speech in your Lordships’ House.
I start by thanking your Lordships for the generosity of the welcome that I have received, including some very kind words today, and expressing my particular thanks to Black Rod and her staff, Garter, the Clerk of the Parliaments, the IT wizards, the doorkeepers and attendants and, of course, the police, for their kindness and patience in steering me about the place. My thanks also go to my noble friends Lord Maude and Lord Benyon for generously agreeing to present me to this House; to the Government Chief Whip and her excellent office; and to my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham than whom there could be no better, no more sympathetic and no more knowledgeable mentor.
My first impressions, after a very few weeks here and as a former Member for 35 years of the House of Commons, are that your Lordships’ House is a highly successful but unsung institution, quietly and effectively getting on with vital, detailed, irreplaceable work of scrutiny, complementing but not rivalling the House of Commons. This week alone it has been a great privilege to listen to the ebb and flow of passionate, well-informed argument by some of the most distinguished and eminent Members of your Lordships’ House on two Bills of absolute profound importance to this country: on Monday, the debate on retained EU law and, on Tuesday, on matters touching on the fundamental liberties of the people of this country in the Public Order Bill. It has become clear to me very quickly that your Lordships’ House has a membership of often extraordinary wisdom, expertise, knowledge and experience, and I feel deeply privileged and very humbled to be part of it.
There could hardly be a better day for this House to take stock of the situation in Ukraine after the extraordinarily powerful and symbolic visit to London by President Zelensky and his inspirational speech to both Houses of Parliament. His leadership of Ukraine, as Moscow has sought to collapse his country as an independent and democratic state, has been heroic and exemplary and was brilliantly and movingly expressed yesterday.
I think it fitting to pay tribute to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who immediately grasped the significance of President Putin unleashing a war on our European continent without any provocation or credible excuse. He rightly said that this country and its allies could not and indeed would not allow the values of democracy and freedom to be snuffed out, and made clear the United Kingdom’s policy. He said:
“Now we have a clear mission: diplomatically, politically, economically and eventually militarily, this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure.”—[Official Report, Commons, 24/2/2022; col 564.]
I also congratulate my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence, whose drive and leadership in the equipping and training of the Ukrainian armed forces has been admirable. I pay tribute to the tremendous skills of those members of the British Armed Forces, of all three services, who have been and are training our Ukrainian friends. As a former Minister of State for the Armed Forces, I have always been very aware of how exceptionally skilled the services are in their delivering of these training programmes. They are probably the finest training organisation in the country.
As we witness the unfolding reality and costs, in both men and materiel, of high-intensity conventional land warfare in Ukraine, it has added to the grave and now widespread concern that this country needs to pay a great deal more attention to defence and to sustaining our capabilities. Frankly, it is no longer possible, in my view, for defence to be reduced to an almost discretionary budget. I strongly believe that we need to reverse the slide in defence spending and to recognise that unless we invest at scale, we risk being left behind—very left behind—by the United States and, indeed, outgunned by other European states.
We all know that there are grave dangers ahead—the war in Ukraine is not the only challenge we will face. There are the global ambitions of China, including as a military power; serious difficulties in the Middle East; and instability in Africa and elsewhere. Further, I strongly believe that we need to pay the most careful and detailed attention to shoring up other areas, such as the Balkans, where Russia exhibits daily its malign intent. We need to concentrate on this with the same clarity, focus and decisiveness as we devote to Ukraine. We should most definitely not underestimate the danger of the fracturing of western resolve. We must ensure that there are no doubts about our staying power, our determination, our resolve and our unity. Your Lordships will be very aware that the President of China will be watching with great interest and care as he makes his calculations about Taiwan.
Finally, I support a sentiment expressed by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, who I was with yesterday on a very helpful Zoom call briefing with the Ministry of Defence, and expressed in an earlier speech by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, and yesterday by my noble friend Lady Helic: that we need urgently to address the lack of understanding—other noble Lords have also mentioned this—of Ukraine’s position in Africa, South America, the Middle East and India, where Russian propaganda seems to have been, in some places, dangerously effective. This should, in my judgment, be a priority for the Foreign Office.
Our country can and should be proud of the role we have played in supporting Ukraine, and we must continue to be absolutely steadfast in our support in every way we can. It is worth remembering that Ukraine is one of history’s great survivors: two world wars, Stalin’s famines, the Great Terror, the Chernobyl explosion and finally a decade of subversion and occupation by Russia, followed by a full-blown invasion. The terrible lessons of history teach us that Ukraine is surely in need of all the help we can muster. I look forward to playing a further part in these debates and to continuing to learn, as I have done in the past few weeks, from your Lordships across the House.
My Lords, I am absolutely delighted to follow the maiden speech of my noble and long-standing friend Lord Soames, which contained much wisdom, as we have just heard. It was a very fine speech. I remind your Lordships that my noble friend, throughout the whole of his career, has been a beacon of balance and common sense in a world plagued by distorting polarisation and extremism, and has enormous experience, including his time as a highly successful Defence Minister. In my view we are indeed lucky to have him with us. We should all listen very closely to what he says, especially on these intractable world issues, which seem remote to some but in fact affect us all, our future and our children’s future.
This dreadful war is being fought on three fronts, if not more. There is the battlefield war, where we are now being told to expect an imminent and major Russian assault, and maybe some nasty blows. How this has come about, I do not know. They will be full of cunning—full of Russian maskirovka, as they call it—and difficult to anticipate. There is the war of sanctions, finance and trade, and especially energy trade. I am very glad to see the resuscitation of my old department, Energy, which will help to handle the very difficult problems lying ahead. There is the shadowy war of cyber and intelligence, fake news, and attempts at demoralisation and undermining civil order.
On the battlefield, I hope the enthusiasm with which we all greeted President Zelensky in Westminster Hall yesterday lunchtime will now be followed not just by tanks—that is good—but by much longer-range missiles, helicopters and advanced drones, which are improving technologically all the time; and, from the United States, if we can help and support them and jog them along, F16s. Without these coming—and coming in time—I foresee a prolonged and bloody stalemate at best. Even then, much more will be needed on other fronts as well.
I am going to focus on the other front where there could be a breakthrough: via sanctions and economic pressures, and Russian trade isolation. The question is, have sanctions of all kinds worked so far, and what more could be done? The answer to whether they have worked is, awkwardly, yes and no. On the “no” side, the Russian economy is not yet crippled and Putin has not withdrawn; on the contrary, he is gearing up for new assaults. The rouble is stronger, not weaker, than at the start of all this. The $60 cap on Russian oil, along with insurance sanctions, is not much different from what Russia was getting anyway, and Russian oil and frozen gas are pouring into Asia at a discount, benefiting hugely countries like China, which I cannot believe is something we intended or wanted. A lot of this oil is being moved illegally by so-called ghost fleets, evading Western eyes. As a result, Russian crude exports have surged enormously this last month, even if their revenues have not. The reality is that half the world is not playing the Western game, which means that the sanctions system is being undermined constantly.
On the other hand, turning to a more optimistic stance, Russian GDP is heavily down, some say by at least 15%. There is a massive disinvestment and capital flight, where people can get their money out—and they will find the means to do so. The Russian budget deficit is up to 6% of GDP and, much more encouragingly, Europe is now in far better position on energy resources than last year. Gas storage facilities are almost full, except, regrettably, here in the UK, where we are still arguing about who should pay for the storage we should have had from the start. Overall, Russia has much less leverage on western Europe today than it did a year ago.
The issue now is: should the wider world try to tighten sanctions further and, as some suggest, make the oil price cap much lower still—say, $35? Would that really begin to limit Putin’s capacity to wage this war? It is a very difficult call, with events often backfiring and unfolding in the opposite way from that intended. Yet it is here, in this sphere of economic pressures, with the major political consequences that could follow inside Russia, that the real weak point could lie.
Whatever happens on the battlefield now, the best supporting strategy could be to aim at increasingly isolating Russia, as the unquestioned pariah in the comity of nations, from its markets, from its arms and component suppliers, from investors, from so-called neutrals, even getting China to back a little further away from its old ally, as has been hinted at by others. Remember, China is scared stiff that Putin will go nuclear and ruin its world business and recovery from Covid, as backchannel discussions with the Chinese are confirming all the time. Please remember also that China now accounts for 30% of all world manufacturing.
If we could weaken Chinese support; persuade India—which my noble friend Lord Soames rightly mentioned—to come round, despite its long-standing reliance on Russian goods and arms; and persuade our 55 like-minded fellow Commonwealth members to stand firm, that would be a real strategy. We could then take a bold leap internationally which might help to break the deadlocks on the ground which will otherwise develop. This should be the overwhelming and priority task for our diplomacy and national security strategy but, quite frankly, attention on this external aspect has been rather on the slow side and, from my point of view, far too weak from the start.
When Russia’s brutal invasion began, we found that half our Commonwealth friends did not even see things our way, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, rightly reminded us. We then found that our supposed friends in the Middle East and the Gulf—who are always claiming such close relations with us—still wanted to keep in with the Russians and that OPEC had other priorities than easing our unbearable gas and oil costs by quickly pumping more oil, as it could well have done. Those countries were looking a different way altogether.
Things are now easing a bit. In 2023, there is every chance that energy prices will come down—what goes up does come down in an immense cycle of investment in the energy field. However, this is where we should press much harder, building relations, mending fences and using the international influence and powers of persuasion which were always available to us, and always here, but which we neglected. We should now use them much more vigorously.
Whatever the resistance of the brave Ukrainian soldiery, it is only by leveraging up a solid world front all around against Russia and by intensifying internal hardship and anger inside Russia that the pressure on the Putin gang, or on Putin himself, might break the stalemate, force Russian withdrawal and begin Russia’s return to sanity as a nation in the comity of nations. That is the brutal truth. The fight continues on the ground, but the more it can be reinforced by these other strategies, the better the chances are of—as Zelensky himself said yesterday—
“victory over the very idea of the war”,
and the better the chances are of the closure of this unjust, unjustified and barbaric conflict.
My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Soames, to his place. We go back a long way—30 years in the Commons. I recall that when he and I were on those Benches, he always did his homework.
There is feedback on the line at the moment.
I have been a dissenting voice on this issue on a number of occasions. I support NATO, and I have supported wars in central Europe, the Falklands, and even Iraq, which I argued for in Washington—but this is different. If we had troops on the ground, I would be loyal, but we do not. We are fighting a proxy war. To date, 8 million have fled the conflict, with 6 million internally displaced.
I believe that a series of miscalculations and missed opportunities have provoked a worldwide economic crisis that could have been avoided. I confess that I have no practical hands-on experience of foreign policy management, but I have followed in detail developments in foreign affairs over three decades. In my analysis, Russia’s oil blockade response was predictable, as was its impact on the oil price and the explosion in wage inflation. Both have consequences. The people paying the price are the unemployed, the poor, the rent and mortgage payers, the elderly poor and those struggling on marginal incomes. The impact on those with resources has been minimal. Millions in poverty now rely on friends, food banks and social centres while the stock market booms.
In truth, the world is changing. New alliances are being forged; trading patterns are changing; Russia is forging stronger trading links with China, India and parts of Africa. These changes have consequences for our alliances and trading patterns in the longer term. I ask myself: are we getting it wrong? I go back to a time of hope, when my noble friend Lord Robertson of Port Ellen met Putin in October 2001, following the final years of Yeltsin’s presidency. It had ended in an atmosphere of suspicion, following years of argument over NATO’s expansion. It is that which stands at the heart of today’s impasse. Russia had been humiliated with a collapsed economy and a loss of strategic influence. Genscher, as early as 1990, had recognised this and assured the Russians at Tutzing that there would be no NATO expansion to the east. Baker, to assure volatile Russian public opinion, gave similar assurances to Gorbachev. Indeed, it was Gorbachev’s willingness under duress to show flexibility in response on NATO that cost him the leadership in favour of Yeltsin.
Yeltsin himself showed huge statesmanship in seeking to square the circle, but he too fell when he could not deliver, giving way to Putin—his protégé. As Yeltsin had made clear in the arguments over Ukraine and NATO, the loss of Ukraine would upset the balance in former Soviet states, between Slav and Islamic nations, creating an Islamic majority, most of which carried an overlay of debt. We should at least try to understand the background.
However, the Russians then sadly made the catastrophic mistake of meddling in Chechnya—again, the Islamic factor. In doing so, they played right into the hands of the NATO expansionists. On reflection, I believe that we misread the problem. My own two speaking visits to Moscow during that period left me with a clear impression of Russian fears. In the Second World War, we lost 500,000 dead; they lost 25 million—50 times more. Nearly one in four Russians died. Surely that provides us with an explanation for Russia’s obsession with the external threat, which Putin is now ruthlessly using to justify his response to NATO expansion. I ask colleagues: are we really listening to their concerns? No. Do we ever stop to consider the impact on Russian public opinion of prospective NATO status for a ring of states, from Finland in the north to Georgia in the South—hitherto non-nuclear, neutral states—pointing nuclear weapons at Russia? No.
What of the Azov brigades, with their historic connections and their impact on Russian public opinion? Why have we compromised Germany into supplying tanks in the face of German public opinion, ever conscious of Russian memories of World War II? By our actions and inactions on all these counts, we are ignoring the credibility of a brutal Putin-driven Kremlin propaganda machine within Russia, exploiting these matters.
Where do we go from here? I believe we need to set out our bottom-line war aims and feed them into Russia, using every propaganda tool available and challenging disinformation, using the written word, telecommunication from satellite links, the internet, audio communication in all its forms, intel and the underground media. We should be proposing a settlement that avoids humiliation of a proud nation. We cannot blame the Russian people for the sins of a brutal, cruel leadership that keeps them in information lockdown and ignorance of the truth.
We need to bypass the Putin machine, and talk of a settlement based on, first, a ceasefire and withdrawal of all Russian and Ukrainian combat forces, including the Asov battalions, from the Donbass; and, secondly, the recognition by Ukraine of separate regional devolved status under Ukraine sovereignty of the Donetsk and Luhansk, one of which is majority Russian-speaking, the other not. Then we need the reversal of Ukraine’s decision to ban the official use of the Russian language in the Donbass; an agreement on Russian access to arrangements for the Crimea; and the rejection of any NATO application by Ukraine under an agreed review timetable of up to 20 years—or earlier, depending on the negotiations. Finally, we need the retention of non-nuclear barrier status under the agreed review timetable.
In closing, I must express my admiration for the Ukrainians, families and military alike, and their belief that their strategy is right. They have been prepared to lay down their lives in the face of escalating levels of brutality. I argue not with their laudable objectives in pursuit of liberty; I argue only with the detail of the strategy that they have set out to pursue, and warn of the real dangers of escalation, perhaps nuclear, for the whole world.
My Lords, I very much regret that I cannot accept either the analysis or the conclusions of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. However, I know from personal experience that he is a man of principle and commitment; I must say, I very much admire the fact that he has consistently argued against the overwhelming opinion of support for Ukraine and what it is doing in both this House and the other place.
It is a particular pleasure to follow my friend the noble Lord, Lord Soames. His lineage is beyond reproach; likewise his contribution to this debate. I look forward to hearing him again, not least when we are both members of the International Relations and Defence Committee where he will, I am sure, make a much-valued and well-informed contribution.
On analysis, it seems to me, perversely, that Ukraine presents both certainty and uncertainty. We see daily certainty on the part of Russia’s illegal brutality. Reference has already been made to Russia’s aim in the debate, but I would put things slightly differently: it is clearly to dismantle the state of Ukraine, destroy its infrastructure and eradicate its identity. Ukraine’s aim is to survive. That is an uncertain aim, not least because it has lost 40% of its economy and 25% of the value of its currency. It has also given up 15 million refugees and we see its infrastructure being destroyed daily. Russia, on the other hand, is certain in its conduct. Ukraine is uncertain in its future. The only thing that they have in common is the fact of the casualties—the dead and injured—the precise numbers of which are not being revealed but are certainly estimated to be very substantial indeed.
Out of that, the conclusion is inevitable: to survive, Ukraine must win. On the other hand, leaving aside the possible political and other consequences for Mr Putin, Russia can afford to lose. Its economy has survived sanctions with a little help from its friends—albeit with damage, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, pointed out. Its infrastructure is untouched. Its alliances have survived. Its statehood has suffered nothing. It is still proving an obstacle to the activities of the Security Council of the United Nations.
Let me put my conclusion a little more dramatically. Ukraine must win or be destroyed. As well as that, and of equal importance in the long run, is that if the credibility of NATO is to be preserved, Ukraine must not be destroyed. This involves the continued supply of top-quality equipment to Ukraine. However, top-quality equipment comes with some obligations. It requires top-quality maintenance and top-quality training. If these things are necessary for the proper use and taking into action of tanks, they are so much truer when we consider the possibility of fast jet aircraft. Let us remember that the older the aircraft, the more demanding the maintenance.
I question whether the United Kingdom has sufficient aircraft to release fast jets while maintaining the defence of the home country and fulfilling our obligations to NATO. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, referred to the combat air patrols. I add that we maintain a flight in the Falklands for obvious reasons. I add that the Quick Reaction Alert, based at RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby, necessarily requires the presence of Typhoon aircraft. I am still tempted to call it Eurofighter, but in the interests of unanimity I will call it the Typhoon.
Notably, the Prime Minister has promised pilot training but not aircraft. That is a well-informed decision. I have sought to raise in writing with the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, who will close this debate, that there are some legal implications to be drawn from Russia having used an aerial bombardment of drones armed with missiles to mount indiscriminate attacks on infrastructure and citizens of Ukraine, contrary to the principles of humanitarian law. If it could be established that the manufacturers of these drones and the suppliers in Iran knew what they were likely to be used for and the extent to which they would breach the principles of humanitarian law, liability could be attached to them also. The issue is worth investigation. Without sounding too dramatic, I rather think that the principle was established at Nuremberg.
This issue will not be resolved by economic sanctions or diplomacy. It will be won or lost on the battlefield. That is the imperative for the supply to Ukraine of the means to win. This is a bloody war, and we are in for the long haul. I leave your Lordships with not a prediction but a possibility. In the event that Mr Putin were successful, might not triumphalism encourage him to turn his attention to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia? If Mr Putin were defeated, for his own survival he might then be tempted to turn on Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. If that were his conduct in either circumstance, we most certainly would be in for the long haul, because that would trigger Article 5.
My Lords, I sometimes hear noble Lords complain that people outside your Lordships’ House do not pay enough attention to what is said inside it, but I assure you that, today, one part of our external audience is listening very carefully: the Russian embassy in London. People there are not listening because they want to hear the strength of support for Ukraine or because they are looking for arguments to change their President’s mind. They are looking for evidence that we are not united, that there is division in the United Kingdom and that there is hope for Russia and its propaganda. I fear that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, will be the one on which they focus most, but I hope that the first secretaries in the embassy are honest enough to report that the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soames, much better reflected the mood of the House.
The day after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February last year, we had a debate. The atmosphere in the House was uncertain, even fearful, because back then we could see, more clearly than we do now, why President Putin thought he would succeed. He thought that he was confronted by a divided West. He knew that we had failed to respond adequately to the invasion of Crimea in 2014. He thought that his back was covered, and that China and the South would support him; that his army was the best in the world and would arrive in Kyiv in three days; and that his opponent was hollow, and Ukraine was a corrupt country with an elite who was mostly in his pocket and a President who was a clown.
The few days after the invasion were more difficult than we remember. Things were touch and go. We did not know whether the Ukrainian army would hold or whether Zelensky would rise to the task. Already, in those first days, as the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, reminded us, Zelensky showed his mettle. When offered a route out, he said:
“The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”
After nearly a year, we look back and see that Putin miscalculated in everything and in some things comprehensively and disastrously. First, the West is not divided. It has come together as never before and is supporting Ukraine to the hilt. The weakest link in our chain was supposed to be Germany and, even though it took some time to get going, it is with the programme. Remember, a year ago, Nord Stream 2 was about to be commissioned. The Russians thought that the Germans could not do without their oil and gas and that, however reluctantly, they would acquiesce. That did not happen. Nord Stream 2 is now mothballed indefinitely. A year ago, Russia supplied about 40% of Germany’s gas. Germany managed to reduce that to zero by September last year, so Germany has retooled and the West is in a similar place. The West is hanging together.
Secondly, Putin thought that Russia’s traditional partners would be with him, but China, frankly, is not. China has taken this opportunity to benefit from cheap, discounted Russian oil and gas. It has not done anything practically to support Russia; this is key. I learned over my career to disagree rarely and gently with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, but I think that in diplomatic terms Ukraine has also scored a triumph in the South. The Security Council of the United Nations cannot function in these circumstances because Russia has a veto. But the General Assembly is still working, and in the resolutions that come to it, Ukraine has attracted 140 positive votes—141 altogether supporting Ukraine. Russia, by contrast, has attracted four: Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Eritrea. I submit that that is a measure of success; although there is no doubt more we could do, the international community, including the South, is more sympathetic with Ukraine than it is with Russia.
Thirdly, on the excellence of Russian forces: they are not excellent. They are losing the fight on the ground; they made some initial progress but, as the Minister reminded us in her opening statement, Ukraine has already recaptured 50% of what was taken in those early weeks. Russia’s forces are demoralised and badly equipped; they are going through their weaponry at a rapid pace. The only place that is resupplying them is Iran; it causes trouble but will not strategically affect the picture. As we all know, this was supposed to be a special operation. This was supposed to be wrapped up quickly, but the Russians had to conscript people. The moment they started to conscript, we saw the weakness. More young Russian men left the country than were conscripted into the Russian army. Russia’s army is not doing well.
Fourthly, and lastly, Ukraine was already a country. It had been independent since 1990—an independence recognised by Russia. But countries gain their national identity in phases; war is often the crucible in which a national identity is forged. That is what has happened in Ukraine in the last 12 months. A country that may have been a bit too much on paper is showing itself to be vibrant and determined, and it is doing this under the leadership of an amazing President: a man who, on paper, was not at all equipped to do the job he has to do, but a man who has risen to that task magnificently. I will gently disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Soames about yesterday’s visit; it was not symbolic but was purposeful. He had an agenda, and although he was addressing us in Westminster Hall, he was also appealing over our heads. My favourite line was when he said:
“In Britain, the king is an air force pilot and in Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king.”
This was the prelude to asking us for fighter jets. Although we are hesitating, and I can see reasons to hesitate, I can also feel the national debate moving ahead of us.
So what are we going to do? In order for Ukraine to win, which is in our collective western strategic interest, we must do everything that we can to support it. The military training is vital. The tanks are important. The jets, too, will be important and we can take the risk. The noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, was talking about forward defence. Right now, Ukraine is our front line, too. What is done in Ukraine is done for our defence too. What we do there contributes directly to the defence of the United Kingdom. What is supplied to Ukraine is fulfilling a national purpose. We can take some risk because it will help us.
Also—this, I admit, is a personal calculation—the Russians are completely extended in Ukraine. They do not have the option to strike anywhere else. They cannot hit the Baltic states right now because they have nothing with which to hit them. Another little piece of the Russians’ miscalculation was as regards NATO. The only thing stopping Finland and Sweden from joining today is Turkish hesitation, but that will be overcome. We collectively need to do all that we can to help them.
One other thing that President Zelensky said yesterday, which received less interest, was the value of preventive action before armed conflict starts. One of the most important things for him was the training of Ukrainian forces in the UK, which started under Prime Minister Johnson. This meant that, when things kicked off, they had sufficient resilience to resist. Zelensky’s challenge is to expand that sort of assistance, and yet the DAC in Paris and our development community is resistant to the idea that military training can be a proper subject for overseas official development assistance. It would be good to take up his suggestion and reconsider that resistance.
Lastly, there are the ultimate objectives, which are all about Ukraine. The ultimate objective does not touch Russia, and that is important to acknowledge and repeat, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham did. We are not at war with Russia. We are not going to touch its territory and there needs to be clarity about that. Once Ukraine has won its war in its territory, that will be enough.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the noble Lord, Lord Soames, on behalf of the two Greens on these Benches. I am sure that that is a first. It was a good speech and I thank him. There was just one jarring note, which was that after 35 years in the other place the noble Lord had no understanding of the value of us—how wonderful we are in your Lordships’ House. Perhaps he can take that revelation back to his former colleagues in the other place and explain just how valuable we are, and what a wonderful job we do. I also very much enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord McDonald. It was impressive for him to speak for that long without notes. It was very good.
On the issue of the Russian embassy listening, it is a real pleasure to think that it is showing a lot of interest in what we are doing here—more, obviously, than at the other end. I tweeted yesterday about the speech that we had heard and the President’s visit. It was remarkable that within moments abusive tweets were directed back at me. They were abusive towards me, the President, Ukraine and the Green Party. It struck me that most of them were anonymous with few followers. I do not know how many noble Lords are on Twitter, but that sort of thing—the lack of followers and anonymisation—is often from bots, people who do not exist. That suggested that the tweets were from fake accounts and were probably pro-Russian propaganda. They have failed. I am sure that they are doing their best, bless them.
Ukraine has presented a persona for the President and the country right from the start of a united Government, of opposition and bravery. Even the look of the President has been very carefully thought through, wearing his military colours and always speaking out and being heard by the people, with clear updates on the war. Ukraine has allowed journalists to report from the front lines but also in towns and cities. That sort of thing has given us a very positive image of Ukraine and its President. If any noble Lord has not watched “Servant of the People”, which is where the former actor Zelensky showed us what he could do as President of Ukraine if he ever got there, I really recommend it. When I see him now, there are still times when I see “Servant of the People”.
Since Russia began its illegal and, I hope, futile war, it has weaponised energy supply. It has tried to punish Ukrainian society in many ways, and those indiscriminate strikes trying to hit energy supply have definitely been part of it. Hitting the energy infrastructure has meant that innocent civilians have not only died but gone without heating and water at a terrible time of year—the winter is very hard there. NATO has placed much emphasis on the continuation of military supplies. Although new Challenger, Leopard and Abrams tanks provide some hope for Ukraine possibly to repel a spring Russian offensive, they do very little to keep women, children and old people from freezing to death.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, outlined that the West needs to think long-term. That is not easy to do when events are happening so fast, but we have to do it. Just as Truman engineered the economic revival of post-war Europe through a comprehensive plan, the West needs to devise a green Marshall plan—a strategic plan that offers Ukraine the economic capability to secure its survival. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, made a very good speech as well. She actually stole my thunder—so thanks for that—because an energy-secure Ukraine is perhaps Europe’s best safety net against future Russian aggression.
However, the West cannot simply throw money at the problem and potentially burden Ukraine with debts that it cannot pay. Green planning and investment must be at the heart of Ukraine’s reconstruction. Ukraine has set a target of sourcing 25% of its total energy generation from renewables by 2035; it currently has 15%. Solar infrastructure projects must be built in southern Ukraine, where solar irradiance is highest, and, of course, wind farms.
I have not been to a war zone, but I worked as an archaeologist at Axum near Eritrea in the 1990s when the civil war had paused temporarily, so I know the difficulties that a local population can face after war and the sort of assaults individuals have to face—violence, rape and torture. The hardships they face after the conflict has stopped are sometimes almost worse, because they do not have anything else to distract them. In Eritrea at that time it was very hard to eat. I was not very fat to start with and I lost half a stone within a couple of weeks, simply because we could not feed ourselves—and we were the privileged people. The Eritreans wanted us to be there to excavate Axum to find out even more about their heritage, but we could barely get enough food to survive ourselves. I was a vegetarian when I went there, but when I left I had eaten a lot of goat—boiled goat at that—which I would not advise anyone to do.
All the infrastructure and rehabilitation is put at risk by a major obstacle: landmines. Ukraine is littered with them already. Ukraine’s Government estimate that 160,000 square kilometres of land is contaminated with landmines. That is astonishing, and of course the actual figure is likely to be much higher because it is difficult to see things that are buried underground. Schools and local infrastructure cannot be physically built in such a dangerous environment; it renders any plan to reconstruct Ukraine futile. As much as the West might fund Ukraine’s military defence against Russia’s invasion, it needs to simultaneously fund and support the demining effort with equal conviction. The US has already pledged $89 million for demining, but Ukraine needs much more financial support on this front because demining is labour intensive and extremely expensive.
Given the enormity of that challenge, demining has so far been more of an afterthought than a central priority. The UK can help by directing funds and equipment to the demining effort. It should use the British Army’s training facilities here to train Ukrainians in demining procedures, and it should send a fleet of demining machines. Demining the areas where the urgently needed energy infrastructure can be built should be a priority today rather than later, to help a green Marshall plan to be implemented as soon as possible.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, particularly in her suggestion that it is not too early to start thinking about the long term. She is quite right.
I say to my noble friend Lord Soames, who is no longer in his place, how much I admired his contribution to our discussion. I know we will have many more quality contributions of that kind from him, and it is a great pleasure to have him in our House.
A lot of wise things have already been said in this debate. We have reached the point in our discussion where much of the important ground has been covered one way or another by previous speakers. I intend to be brief.
I think there is widespread understanding that we are at something of a turning point in this war. The bravery and resilience of the Ukrainian people and their leadership was exemplified by President Zelensky in his remarkable performance yesterday, crucially underpinned by the military assistance given by the allies. That has led to a level of Ukrainian success in the field that has come as a fairly nasty shock to the Russians; the situation on the ground is not one that they either wanted or expected. However, when they gear up for the next offensive, they are not likely to make precisely the same mistakes. It seems to me that they will be better organised and their attempt at combined-force operations will be much more effective. General Gerasimov, who is no fool and whose prestige is now directly engaged, and for that matter Putin, even though his position is not necessarily in danger, must be conscious of the damage done to their reputation for competence. There is not a lot more that they have to claim in that regard. All those factors mean that we shall see a different quality of military performance when fighting really resumes. Economy is not going to be the Russians’ main consideration; I think they are going to throw everything they have at it, so the challenge to the Ukrainian forces could be formidable.
HMG have given real leadership in supporting Ukraine’s military capability. I commend the Government on the absolutely consistent and strong role that they have played, frequently being the catalyst for action by allies that might not otherwise have occurred, or certainly not have occurred in sufficiently good or timely a way as has been the case as a result of the actions of our Government. Perhaps we are at another of those turning points in the equipment debate, now that the UK has undertaken to train pilots. This is against the background of the rather curious charade which has been played out over previous weapons decisions—I take tanks as an example—whereby the allies start out by saying that a given weapon or munition is either too escalatory to risk in the theatre, too sophisticated for the Ukrainians to master, or insufficient in supply or inappropriate. There were all those things and you could not tell, frankly, whether they were real reasons or excuses but they then vanished at the 11th hour.
This game of red lines being put in place, defended and then lifted at a late hour is a rather odd way of going on. I hope that we can, as an alliance, do less of this in future. There is clearly an important decision to be taken about air power and I hope that the Minister, when he speaks, will be able to respond to the question of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup: where does the UK place its action in offering training for jet aircraft? Is it going to be followed by supply and do we reckon that it is part of a short or immediate response to military need, or is it actually related to a much longer view of the kind of armament that Ukraine will need? It sure is going to have to be an armed country when the war comes to an end.
Turning to the post war for a moment, one has only to think about the consequences of not helping Ukrainians to defend themselves successfully to realise how important that task is. There will be no acceptable basis for ending the fighting if Russian forces have not been driven from Ukrainian territory and are still occupying it. If there is no end to the fighting, there is no basis for negotiation—and no negotiation means no legal basis for security in Europe. I take issue slightly with my former colleague the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, when he says that it is all about Ukraine. A great deal of it is about Ukraine but it is also about European security, and that is why its fight is our fight. It is about European security and the whole of our continent. Clearly, we therefore have to be in a position not only to secure the future of Ukraine as a free and democratic country but to secure a continent in which we can live in reasonable stability.
I want to use the word “peace” but I have a very unhappy feeling that the Europe we will inherit after the end of this war is not going to be quite as peaceable or relaxed, if I put it that way, as the political climate that we have enjoyed since the fall of the wall and German unification. It seems that we are going to be in a more militarised continent, one where our defence spending will be at a higher level on a sustained basis. That will be so for not just this country but the whole of the alliance. We will be coping with an aftermath of decisions and difficulties. This poses the question: are we moving towards an attempt—with success, I hope—at once again resuming co-operative security in Europe, or will we be dealing with a Russia that is contained and where the objective of the exercise is to prevent more damage rather than to return to any kind of active or positive relationship? These seem to be some of the choices that we are going to have to confront.
There are questions of what happens to sanctions, over what period they can be lifted and how we balance the need to demonstrate that there is a cost of war to regimes like Russia’s against the issue of the long-term future of the Russian people—who are also victims of the actions of their leadership. These are going to be very difficult issues. It will behove us to start thinking about how we handle some of them and laying out some of the options for ourselves, because we may have to make very difficult choices and we need to be united about them. There would be nothing worse than the West falling apart when it comes to trying to deal with the consequences and the aftermath of war.
To conclude, I agree very strongly with those who say that the Ukrainians’ fight is our fight because their security is part of ours. While they make the sacrifice with their lives, the least we can do is offer our maximum support to help them towards their success.
My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones. I agree with her and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that it is essential that we plan for the longer term. I believe that in Euro-Atlantic security—strategic stability in the space between Vancouver and Vladivostok—now is always the time to plan for the longer term. In the past I have been critical of people not thinking in those terms. To some degree that may have contributed to where we find ourselves today.
It was a privilege to hear the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soames. I congratulate him on an excellent and characteristically robust speech. It was informed, wise and delivered exceptionally well. I think the best I can say for him is that in that speech, and otherwise, he has earned and deserves the ear of your Lordships’ House.
I find myself for the second time in a few weeks embarrassed and apologetic to be in a position where I know that, as I am contributing to a debate on a Thursday afternoon, it is improbable that I will be here for the winding up if I hope to get home today to Scotland. Today it is a function of the addition, at relatively short notice, of important business to the list. It is also a function of the increasing unpredictability and lack of capacity of the transport systems to Scotland. I know I am not the only Scot in your Lordships’ House today who is suffering to some degree because of this. In any event, I explained my problem to the Whips’ Office, my own Whips and both Front Benches. I am immensely grateful for the generous way in which they responded.
As the US State Department, among many others, predicted, winter has brought with it a relatively static front in eastern Ukraine along lines largely unchanged since that extraordinary Ukrainian counteroffensive in September. However, we must guard against complacency, and many speeches have echoed that. Troop movements over the last few days indicate that Putin is moving his planned spring offensives forward and we must expect an intensification of fighting in pretty short order. If the WhatsApp from the friend of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, proves to be correct, that order may be shorter than many of us expected. Although the front is relatively static for the moment, we must ensure that this does not result in any abatement of focus from the NATO powers.
This debate gives us a welcome opportunity to remind ourselves of the ongoing consequences of Russia’s unprovoked aggression. Russian forces continue to occupy more than 100,000 square kilometres of Ukraine, around 15% of its total territory. Fierce fighting continues in Bakhmut and elsewhere, and civilians continue to die on a daily basis. On 14 January a missile struck an apartment building in Dnipro, killing at least 46 people. It was deliberately targeted there. On 29 January at least one civilian was killed in strikes on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which has been under constant attack since the invasion began. On 1 February a Russian missile killed at least three people in Kramatorsk, a city in the Donetsk region.
Noble Lords will recall the profound trauma this nation experienced on 7/7, when 52 people lost their lives to co-ordinated and malign terrorist activity. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that more than 7,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed by Russian activity since February last year, with many more thousands seriously wounded. That is equivalent to 134 7/7s, with no end in sight. It is a daily experience for the people of Ukraine.
Human Rights Watch reminded us:
“Russian war crimes began literally from day one”.
Russian cluster munitions hit a hospital and a preschool on 24 February last year, the first day of the invasion. The European media director of Human Rights Watch asserted last week:
“Russia has committed more atrocities than all the human rights groups in all the world could ever have the capacity to investigate.”
I make these points as a reminder that the front line becoming static does not in any way mean that the horrors of conflict have begun to dissipate. Civilian lives, and those of soldiers, are still being lost every day. That fact should act as a constant spur to action, ensuring that we continue to give Ukrainian forces what they need so that they, in turn, can continue their efforts to repel Russian aggression.
I will also mention the situation of Russian conscripts. In many cases, they are young men who have no desire to threaten Ukraine and are being compelled to enlist for service through a mixture of intimidation, avowedly prescriptive legal pressures and crude propaganda. They are Putin’s victims too, as are their families and loved ones.
What of the broader strategic picture? Last week Putin reached into his quiver of bizarrely inapt historical parallels and compared the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine with the Battle of Stalingrad. It is evident that his faltering offensives, undertaken without provocation, bear about as much similarity with the Soviet Union’s heroic rearguard action as they do with the battles of Jutland or Thermopylae. But his recourse to historical parallels, however tenuous, usually tells us something about his intentions, as it does in this case. Noble Lords will recall the essay he produced in 2021 entitled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”. Academically, it was valueless and reminiscent of the work of David Irving in issuing a miasma of pseudo-scholarship to conceal its central immorality. But it made plain his ambitions, including his belief that Ukraine and Belarus have no right to exist and his desire to reshape Eurasia accordingly. What might his evocation of Stalingrad tell us? Coupled with his stated desire to broaden the parameters for the next wave of conscription, it may suggest that he is preparing the ground for an attritional conflict and that he is preparing the Russian nation’s psyche for the reality of a lengthy struggle, costing thousands of lives, to be pursued even where progress is minimal or non-existent.
In a previous debate in your Lordships’ House on this subject, I echoed all the wise senior military officers I have met in my engagement in these issues, two of whom have already spoken in the debate. I said:
“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.”—[Official Report, 1/12/22; col. 1956.]
When we are asked to justify our support for President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine, I believe an answer is that we, together with NATO allies, are determined to allow him the scope to shape a context within which this conflict can be ended on terms that are equitable for Ukraine and on a scale commensurate with its sacrifice. We know that ultimately there will have to be a set of terms to which both Ukraine and Russia will be prepared to accede if this conflict is to end. The timetable and context of those negotiations is a matter for President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine. But our military and humanitarian support gives them the opportunity to resist the use of unprovoked brutality and to avoid the necessity of chafing under the terms of a Russian-dictated peace, with all the risks of revanchist violence that would engender.
Even as the military challenges continue, we must not fail to consider the different but enormous challenges we will face in assisting Ukraine to rebuild. Figures from Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index show that endemic problems with corruption remain, with Ukraine ranking 122nd out of 180 countries. President Zelensky’s recent dismissal of his deputy infrastructure Minister and a number of regional officials shows that he is aware of this problem and its implications for the efficacy of military and humanitarian support today and for the post-conflict reconstruction process.
In thinking about how our support can be directed where it will do the most good for the people of Ukraine and the most harm to Russian intentions, it would be useful to consider the example of the US, which last month sent its own auditors to Ukraine for just that purpose.
We all want this conflict to end as swiftly as possible, and in terms that reduce the risk of further aggression. I believe that continuing our military and humanitarian support and intensifying it where necessary is the course of action most likely to achieve those aims.
My Lords, it is an immense privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton. I always learn a great deal from him in the field of geostrategy and defence. In fact, I am acutely aware of speaking after so many noble Lords, on all sides, who have direct ministerial experience, as well as noble and gallant Lords who have held senior office as servicemen.
In common, I suspect, with a number of noble Lords, I have had the privilege of visiting Ukraine a few times since the invasion. I never fail to be impressed by the cheerful and uncomplaining courage of local people. My last visit was to Odessa and Mykolaiv in September. Mykolaiv at that point was the front line. It was the time, as your Lordships will recall, when there was a lot of talk of the Kherson offensive, but it was a deception—what the Russians would call a maskirovka. In fact, the offensive at that time was in Kharkiv.
This was and is a very Russophone and historically Russophile part of Ukraine. We can see it in the toponymy. Why are so many of the places there called “pol”, rather than “grad”—Melitopol, Mariupol, Sevastopol or whatever? The answer goes back to Catherine the Great’s Greek plan, which energetic emperors had: to try to restore the Romanov claim to the Byzantine throne. She had a grandson who was conveniently called Constantine, and this idea of filling that part of the coastline with Russian settlers as a prelude to taking Constantinople. So, this has always been a Russian-speaking territory and, sure enough, the people there had historically voted for the pro-Russian parties. They were for Yanukovych’s Party of Regions and its various successors—up until the offensive.
I had this conversation over and over again with local people in that part of Russia, saying, “When did you change? Here we are still with a big statue of Catherine the Great and all these Soviet war memorials, and a Russian-speaking population”. Odessa had its own Maidan in 2014 and could easily have gone the same way as Donetsk and Luhansk. It was only the merest chance that it did not. The answer would come: “We had an idea of the kind of Russia we thought we had a kinship with. We did not want to be absorbed by it, but we thought we had a special relationship with the other east Slav peoples. But there came a moment for all of us when it became impossible to sustain that view. For some it was the annexation of Crimea; for some it was when Putin started lobbing ordnance at Russian-speaking populations in southern Ukraine; for some it was when he started firing missiles at our own city. But we have all got to the point where we have been jolted out of our dreams. We have to accept that the real Russia, the Russian we are dealing with, is not the one with which we aspired to have some sort of kinship or special relationship.” That is what makes it so hard to imagine a negotiated settlement from here. There is not a landing zone between the minimal positions of the two sides.
As recently as April, Zelensky was talking about referendums in Donbass, and so on. That is now utterly impossible, given what people have suffered, especially, in his case, the very personal reaction he had to seeing the abominations at Bucha. When you have seen something like that, it becomes very difficult to compromise. How did Yeats put it?
But who can talk of give and take,
What should be and what not
While those dead men are loitering there
To stir the boiling pot?
Just as Ukraine now has minimum terms for settlement, so does Russia. I cannot see any situation where Putin would accept a return to the status quo ante of between 2014 and last year, because that would leave him having to explain why more than 100,000 Russians have died while the economy has been set back a decade and NATO has reached the frontiers of Russia—for nothing. It is all very well people talking of realpolitik. The grand old man of realpolitik, Henry Kissinger, says, “Effectively, Ukraine is now in NATO, so let’s acknowledge that and let’s have referendums in the disputed territories.” Fine, but there is literally no scenario where either side could countenance such a thing.
We in this House might have various takes and modifications. We could say that we could have a demilitarised Ukraine, international observers or a demilitarised Crimea, but it is for the birds; it makes no difference in the world where these things are being determined. So, we are back, I am afraid, to the rather grisly proposition that one side or the other has to win—that the quickest way out of this situation is that one side is defeated and the other can settle from a position of strength. When we put it in those terms, it seems pretty clear who we should want to win. Anything short of a Ukrainian victory is a victory for Putin. If the front lines freeze where they are, Putin wins. If Russia gets to absorb its new oblasts administratively, Putin wins. If the West gets tired, bored or distracted and stops sending ordnance, tanks and planes, Putin wins. If China picks this moment to invade Taiwan, Putin wins. We are in a world of suboptimal alternatives—we have been since 24 February last year—but surely the worst option is for Russian aggression to be rewarded.
Let me answer those who ask why this is our business—not many, I am glad to say, in this Chamber, but there are voices beyond. I am not a great believer in the horseshoe theory of politics, but I notice that these are particularly voices on the far left and far right. “Why is this our fight? It is nothing to do with us; it is all stirred up by NATO,” and so on. I make just two points. First, we may want to be indifferent, but Putin has never been indifferent to us. He has been targeting this country in various ways for more than a decade, and arguably on two occasions carried out what were technically acts of war against us: the attacks that accompanied the Litvinenko and Skripal murder attempts. If you deploy state force in anger in an attempt to kill somebody who is living under the Queen’s peace, that is technically an act of war, so it is not as though Russia was peacefully minding its business and not crossing our radar.
The more direct answer is this. In December 1994, Ukraine was persuaded to give up all the nuclear arsenal it had inherited from the USSR in exchange for an absolute commitment that it would have its territorial integrity defended within its existing frontiers—a commitment guaranteed by the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia. For Russia then to turn around, after Ukraine denuclearised, and invade it must rank as one of the most grotesque betrayals in history. So, as a country with honour, we have no option but to see this as our fight. I do not think we have the option of sitting back and pretending that it is a far-away country of which we know little.
My noble friend Lady Meyer said that if any of the participants in the First World War had known how it was going to end, they would not have joined in. I am sure that is true. None the less, it is worth dwelling on the fact that the two most terrible wars we entered into in the 20th century were provoked not because our sovereignty was threatened or because we had been directly attacked, but because we took seriously our commitment to defend the independence of a friendly country. If we are not prepared to stand for the international order, for the rule of law among nations and for the right to sovereignty of a friendly people, then we are not the kind of country I thought we were.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure, as always, to follow my noble friend whose extraordinary geopolitical grasp, experiences as an MEP and brilliant journalism give him such insight. We are all always very pleased to hear what he has to say.
I thought the maiden speech by my noble friend Lord Soames was absolutely superb and very powerful. He will contribute a huge amount to this House. He and I were elected to the Commons together in 1983. I was serving as a PPS at the Ministry of Defence when he was the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, and he had an illustrious career. Unlike mine, it was not interrupted by losing his seat in the landslide of 1997. He took the good caution to have uninterrupted service and we are very fortunate to have him here.
I agree with those noble Lords who said that yesterday was a historic day, when Zelensky came to this Parliament. The British public have taken him into their hearts, and I thought his expression of gratitude to Britain, for our military aid and our political assistance in aid, was absolutely effusive; it was very impressive. As a number of noble Lords have pointed out, that aid has been crucial in enabling Ukraine to defend its borders against this quite atrocious aggression. The NLAWs, the Javelins and now the squadron of Challenger tanks which, along with American M1 Abrams, will unlock the 70 Leopards that are going to be donated by countries such as Finland, Spain, Portugal and Holland. That will mean that Ukraine will have the makings of an armoured division. As a number of noble Lords have pointed out, the need for logistical support, engineering and mechanical back-up, an all-arms input, and making sure that the problems around interoperability are dealt with, means that there are big challenges. However, I think it is a significant step forward.
As far as aircraft are concerned, I think the training is going to be crucial—I always have huge respect for the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, who was station commander at Marham when I was the MP for that area and once took me up in an aircraft, which was one of the most terrifying experiences I have ever had. I suggest to the Minister that there may be a quicker way of getting these aircraft to Ukraine, by making sure that some of the eastern European countries that have Soviet-era aircraft donate some of their existing capability to Ukraine and have that capability replaced by modern aircraft from America and maybe the UK, perhaps with F-16s and Typhoons. That could be a much quicker way of ensuring that they have air cover.
Can the Minister say to what extent have our own supplies and reserves have been diminished as a result of our donations to Ukraine? A number of noble Lords have touched on that already. I know that the Minister of State at the MoD also touched on this, but we are obviously facing an incredibly urgent situation and, like my noble friend Lord Soames and many others, I would like to see defence expenditure increase immediately. If we cannot do that, we should be making sure that we have in place a really well-calibrated replenishment programme. I ask the Minister: if we had to deploy a battlegroup into a theatre now, could it be deployed with the requisite levels of ammunition? What would happen if that battlegroup were engaged in a heavy set of fighting early on; how long would the ammunition, and the back-up logistics, last to keep that battlegroup in place? I urge the Minister to address the point, which has been made by a number of noble Lords, that this could be a really critical, difficult situation.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, talked about a green Marshall plan, which is something I think we should all be very cognisant of. We have to look at what will be the massive reconstruction of a country that has been totally devastated. We have heard about the cities that have been caught up in the front line—Kherson, Melitopol, Mariupol, Bakhmut, Soledar—but many other cities, which have not been affected by the front-line fighting as such, have been bombarded with missiles and drones and have suffered horrendous damage.
Somebody told me that Kharkiv has suffered damage to 60% of all buildings and that in one of the oblasts some way back from the front line, something like 90 schools have been seriously damaged, so the necessary rebuilding will be absolutely vast. As the noble Baroness and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, mentioned, there is also chronic damage to infrastructure, including power stations, dams, roads and municipal buildings; the list goes on and on. We will need a huge Marshall plan—a plan bigger than the actual Marshall plan. I urge the Minister to play a key part in making sure that HMG are well prepared for this and to be part of a major donor conference that encompasses all the key organisations and forums—the UN, the EU, and indeed the entire western world—to make sure that this plan is in place early on. Can I also ask the Minister what the Government’s thinking is about Russian reparations? Whatever happens, there will be an end to this war. Surely, the perpetrator of these really quite horrendous acts of violence against an innocent country needs to pay serious reparations at the end of the day.
A number of noble Lords have talked about the western alliance; I have been incredibly impressed by how it has held together. I think the Minister, rather than talking about the alliance as such, talked about the “pro-Ukraine coalition”, which is rather a good way of putting it. I do not think anyone expected that alliance to be quite so durable and effective so quickly, building on the military training that had already taken place. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord McDonald—who has far more experience than I have in these matters—was optimistic that the alliance would continue and that the world would carry on in its efforts to support Ukraine. I would be perhaps a little more cautious than that, for reasons that other noble Lords have mentioned, particularly the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup. Ramstein showed that there were fractures at that juncture. Ultimately, Germany did step up and do its duty, which of course unlocked 70 Leopards from those other countries. The Republicans now have a majority in the House of Representatives, and they have been talking about the importance of Biden not giving a complete blank cheque to Ukraine.
We also have to look elsewhere in the world, such as Africa and the Middle East. This has been said already; I think the noble Lord, Lord Howell, made this point. If one looks not just at those countries one might expect to want to cosy up to Russia, there are others, including the two great democracies of South Africa and Brazil. South Africa recently hosted a Russian naval exercise. I think it is a great pity that, when President Ramaphosa came to this country, we did not have candid conversations with him about the support for the Commonwealth and for those western countries that are part of this pro-Ukraine coalition. In Brazil, the new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, recently called for “an immediate negotiated settlement”. We have to be very pragmatic about this. The pro-Ukraine coalition is incredibly important, but I think HMG must do more in terms of reaching out to all those countries we are close to, including smaller countries in the Caribbean and Africa, and using all our diplomatic muscle and soft power to make sure that they receive the correct message and are not taken in by the Russian narrative.
No one knows where all this is going to end, and we would be speculating if we tried to make predictions. All we know is that it will go on for quite a lot longer. I take the view very strongly that it is not for us to tell Ukraine what it should or should not do. It is not for us to tell the Ukrainians that they should reach a negotiated settlement. It is not our country that has been attacked and decimated in this way. I am mindful of what Zelensky said before:
“It’s a victory when the weapons fall silent and people speak up.”
My Lords, I want to talk about the wider context for the post-Soviet space, so to speak, for the western alliance and for British politics as such. There has been a certain amount of debate as to when this conflict started. Was it last year? Was it 2014? Was it 2008, with the Russian invasion of Georgia, or was it earlier? In effect, it began with the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the different assumptions and illusions held by the new Government of Russia and the Governments of the other states that had emerged out of the Soviet Union.
One of the most vivid memories I have out of all of this was when, at very short notice, I was asked to join a Harvard University team going out to Kyiv six weeks after Ukraine became formally independent. On the first day of the conference, the new Foreign Minister of this new country came and gave us a speech, which concluded with the wonderful declaration: “Ukraine has two major strategic objectives for the next two years. The first is to join the European Union and the second is to join NATO.” My American colleagues turned to me and said, “You’re answering that, William.” I had to explain that life was not as easy as that.
We all know that we were struggling in the 1990s to explain to the Baltic states, the Balkan states and others that the transition was a difficult one; that corruption was always a problem; and that it takes an awfully long time to institute respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions and to change the old culture, and we have not entirely succeeded.
The Russian Governments who succeeded the Soviet Union have been interfering in their neighbours and former clients almost since the word go. I have been in and out of Georgia on a number of occasions and have seen that vividly. As we are talking about destruction, I remember going to Abkhazia in 2004. Over a third of the houses in Sukhumi had been destroyed. It was absolute devastation. When I went into South Ossetia, we found ourselves surrounded in the UN convoy by little green men who objected to our inspecting the damage in various places.
This is not just about Ukraine, and it has not just happened. When we talk about how we can resolve this conflict, we also have to talk about its implications for Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, potentially Kazakhstan, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Soames, reminded us, Serbia and the Balkans. These are all areas where we have seen active Russian interference, and where the end of this conflict, if it involved a Russian setback, would set off all sorts of other minor earthquakes. It is not totally out of the question that current Russia would disintegrate further. I have been to Tatarstan, and everyone is conscious that there are all sorts of historical tensions, of which those who are there are well aware. Coming out of this conflict, therefore, is not going to be very easy.
We all know also about Russian interference in western politics. The Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on Russia was very strong on the extent to which the Russians had penetrated the British establishment, including the Conservative Party. The incidents with the Conservative Friends of Russia and all that were not entirely spelled out in the report; let us hope that that is all behind us and that we all understand what we are dealing with.
We should still be worried that in the United States and a number of other countries, there are those on the right who sympathise with autocracy and illiberal democracy. If we were still to be in the conflict in 18 months’ time and the United States was approaching the return of a Republican President, we might find that the demand on European leadership, rather than American leadership, in resisting Russian interventions in Ukraine would be almost heavier than the Europeans could bear. After hearing the noble Lord, Lord Hannan, who is a great expert on the American right, I wonder whether he thinks that is a real problem or that the debate in the United States has also moved on and we may relax a little about the willingness of the Americans to stay the course and help to pay for the reconstruction.
We have been discussing in this debate questions such as “How long will the conflict last?”, “How will it end?” and “What objectives are we fighting for?” Yesterday, President Zelensky set out those objectives on a pretty high level. He said that we are protecting the international legal order against a terrorist state and that we must make every effort to turn our achievements into the foundations of the future global security architecture. That is ambitious, and we have not thought much about that yet.
In the 1990s, the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, did a great deal on what the post-Cold War European security architecture should be. We never got very far with it, I am afraid. Maybe that sort of question will come back. It will be very difficult for us to explain to the Ukrainian Government that joining the EU is not entirely easy, to dissuade the Georgians and heaven knows who else from wanting to do the same, and to manage the expansion of NATO if it cannot be avoided any further, while also managing the rest of the post-Soviet space. It will all be extremely difficult. We mishandled it in the 1990s, but it was very difficult to know exactly what to do.
I have some sympathy with the agony that the Russians have gone through, coming down from being an imperial power to being simply one of the major nations of the world. After all, Britain has been going through the same process and has been finding it extremely painful. There are those who wish to deny that we are not any longer as exceptional as we thought. I remember reading a wonderful book which used history to justify how exceptional Britain was: How We Invented Freedom & Why It Matters. The American edition was called Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World, so I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hannan, has a degree of sympathy with the Putin essay using Russian history to justify his exceptional view of the world.
We and our public have found it difficult to adjust. The Russian population—certainly the Russian elite—have found it very difficult to adjust too. We do not know where this conflict will end. We know that it must end in a reassertion of international legal and political norms, and that does mean, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannan, said, that Russia must lose in one form or another.
Lastly, on implications for British policy, at present we do not have a coherent UK foreign policy. I look forward to the new integrated review because, after the illusions of the Boris Johnson “global Britain” order, we need to redefine. What are the implications for defence spending? Clearly, we must expand spending on defence. Political leadership, which is as important at home as it is abroad, will therefore require politicians to say, “If we are going to spend more on defence and not cut what we are spending on domestic matters, we will have to raise taxes and not cut taxes.” People, such as Liz Truss, who still go around saying that the most important answer to every single question that Britain faces is to cut taxes, may have to be countered.
Then there is the question of domestic policy on energy spending. We know that energy prices are likely to jump up and down until this conflict is over and perhaps for some time after. That also requires political leadership, in explaining to our public that these sacrifices are worth making, and that the domestic and international emergency we are in justifies these sorts of sacrifices and the additional financial burdens that we will have to suffer. We do not know where we are going or how long the conflict will last, but we know that we have to stick it out.
My Lords, I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Soames, on his maiden speech. I recall that I worked for his father for four years, in the first four years of our membership of the European Communities. I can just imagine his pleasure and pride at his son being the second Lord Soames in this House, in recent times.
It seems a little counterintuitive to identify any positives from the appalling events that have unfolded since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, yet such positives do exist and many noble Lords have referred to them. The first and foremost is the heroic and successful response of the people of Ukraine, symbolically epitomised by yesterday’s visit and speech from President Zelensky and by their response to aggression that aimed to wipe them from the map or turn them into a Russian satellite.
Secondly, the robust and effective decisions taken by NATO, ourselves, the US, Germany, France, the EU, the G7 and many others all went far beyond what might have been anticipated.
Thirdly, even our polarised politics have not stood in the way of a united, cross-party and no-party response to the aggression. I add to that the suggestion that the most effective contribution this country can make to deter any aggression against Taiwan is to ensure that Putin’s aggression in Ukraine does not succeed.
I make no apology for returning to some issues that I raised in the debate we held the day after Russia invaded, because they are still very active. Since then, an impressive array of sanctions has been imposed against Russia and there could be more to come, but it has all been done in a piecemeal and ad hoc way. We can be sure that massive efforts are now being made in Moscow, and in Beijing and Tehran, to find ways round or through those sanctions. The future success of this policy depends on effective implementation much more than on finding new sanctions—ones we have not yet found.
We need solid and structured co-operation to counter the efforts of those we are sanctioning to cut off Russia not only from gas, oil and commodity export revenues—they are very important, of course—but from access to sophisticated technology, without which its military-industrial complex will be severely handicapped. During the first Cold War, the West operated effective controls on exports of such technology through a system called CoCom. I would like to ask the Minister what structured systems we are putting in place now, with the EU, the US and the G7, because we need something more than mere improvisation if sanctions are to be fully and effectively implemented.
Secondly, what are we doing to counter the waves of disinformation being put out by the Kremlin and to ensure that ordinary people worldwide, even those under oppressive regimes that limit their access to information, get a chance to hear another version of events?
Well, cutting the resources of the BBC World Service hardly sounds the best move in the current circumstances. I would argue—I have argued this before in your Lordships’ House, and will repeat it now—that it would surely be better for the FCDO to take full responsibility for the World Service, recognising that this is a national foreign policy priority, and to augment its resources. I should add that it is not just a question of saying, as I am sure the Minister will, that they have found a little bit of money here for the Russian service or a little bit there for the Ukrainian service; I am talking about the BBC World Service and language versions which go worldwide, because that is where the damage is being done.
Thirdly, I wonder if the Minister could say what progress is being made to support the efforts of the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor to gather evidence which could lead to the indictment of Russians, high and low, for the crimes being committed by their troops in Ukraine. Can he confirm that that remains our own top priority in pursuing such crimes?
I have to say that I am not very convinced by the arguments in favour of a new and separate tribunal which we have heard expressed in this debate. I believe that it is unnecessary, because the International Criminal Court has demonstrated that it is capable of pursuing command responsibility for crimes that are on its statute book. It is also, I think, undesirable because it will be intensely divisive. There is absolutely no doubt that if we try to establish a new tribunal, we will split the rest of the world and many will not follow. But many of them are already signatories of the International Criminal Court statute, so they do not have to be asked whether they follow it; they are in it. So I do feel that that is not a good way; I would add that, unfortunately, the idea of a new separate tribunal directed against Russia’s undoubted aggression is precisely what Putin needs to feed the paranoia of his people. That is his way of keeping them on board, saying “The West is after me, and it’s after you.” Now, I do not think that it is very wise to feed that, and I think therefore that the pursuit of war crimes through the International Criminal Court is a much better route, but I would like to hear the Minister’s views on that.
Clearly, we have a worldwide challenge for hearts and minds on our hands. No one can have seen the reception of Sergei Lavrov last week in South Africa without realising that there is an awfully long way to go. One key player will be India, now in the chair of the G20, a grouping whose 2022 summit meeting in Indonesia issued a notable rebuke to Russia’s nuclear sabre-rattling. What are we doing to consolidate support for Ukraine when the next G20 summit takes place later this year? What kind of approach are we and our allies pursuing throughout Asia, Latin America and Africa to counter the arguments that are enabling them to sit on the fence and say that it is something that they do not want to get involved in?
Now, this second Cold War—that is what we are in, and NATO is right, in my view, to do all it can to ensure that it is a cold and not a hot war—puts our own security and the defence of a rules-based international system based on the UN charter, over which Russia has ridden roughshod, right on the line, as so many noble Lords have said. The resulting stresses to our economy may be regrettable, but they do have to be borne, in my estimation. They need to be accepted and handled with calm determination not to let Russian aggression get its way.
My Lords, it is always a very great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and that was a very wise speech. We should not be surprised, because he is the epitome of the experience and expertise which we often call in aid when we are defending your Lordships’ House. It came up earlier this afternoon because there was a question on Afghanistan, and he revealed that he was serving in Kabul in 1962. That says a lot.
I should also like to say how much I echo those who have paid deserved compliments to my noble friend Lord Soames. That was a magisterial speech and we look forward to many more. He is indeed a very worthy successor to his father. When I was a young Member of Parliament, I went out to be entertained at the embassy in Paris and was given the most wonderful, friendly welcome and the best lunch I had ever had. Then I had the great good fortune of serving for 10 years or so on the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, where his mother was a towering figure and a very worthy leader of that trust.
This is, in a way, a strange debate because it was changed yesterday morning when we all received an email at around 9 am telling us that President Zelensky was going to address Parliament in Westminster Hall. What a speech it was. It was brave, defiant and—as the noble Lord, Lord McDonald made plain in his splendid speech—had a large begging bowl at the end, but we all responded enthusiastically because we were in the presence of a great patriot. He is a man written off by Putin, a comic who turned himself into a statesman and to whom we all owe an enormous amount because, under other leadership, Ukraine might well have ceased to exist as an independent country by now.
We owe President Zelensky a great deal because patriotism, as he was saying in his speech, is not enough: you have to have the ammunition. I am glad we have been able to give him a lot and hope we will be able to give him more, but I hope also that we will have regard to our obligations to our own country. My noble friend Lord Soames was absolutely right in his splendid speech to underline that point: greater recognition of the need for more defence expenditure.
We are facing a terrible task. Look at Ukraine as it was on 23 February last year and as it is today on 9 February this year. All around one sees destruction, desolation, a country that has been robbed of much of its history. The history of a nation is often symbolised in its great historic buildings, museums and galleries. Many have been pillaged and looted and their treasures taken to Russia. Many a historic church and monastery has been destroyed. We are going to need trillions of pounds or dollars to restore Ukraine but we must all be committed to that. Whether Russia pays reparations, as it certainly should, or whether that does not come about, we all have a duty to rebuild, so far as we can, a brave country that must have boundaries no smaller than they were on 24 February last year.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, said in his very interesting speech that the war will be won on the battlefield. It is rather interesting that we had a politician say that and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, saying rather the opposite: that it will end, as all wars do, with politics and negotiated settlement. That is right, although I entirely understand why the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, said what he did, because many have made the point that if Ukraine is defeated, we are all defeated; I have made it myself in past debates. The democratic cause would be defeated. That must not be allowed to happen, not just for us but for our children and grandchildren. They will inherit a difficult world whatever happens, but it will be made all the more barren and bleaker if democracy is on the run.
I will make one or two suggestions. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, referred to the BBC World Service. I happened to be at the same meeting that he, the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and others were at last night with the BBC, specifically in the context of Persian language broadcasts. It made the point that it really did not have a budget on which it could rely. Soft power is very important. We have said time and again over this last year that we are not the enemies of the Russian people, and we certainly are not. One thing the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, was right to do was to point to Russia’s enormous losses in the Second World War of some 26 million people. They are a brave people and most of them are good people. We have to appeal to them and use every means that radio and modern communications give to us to get the message across: “You are not our enemies. We wish you to be our friends. You’ve never had the benefit of democracy; it’s something you really should have.” We have to get that message across day after day, hour after hour. It is essential.
The other thing we need is a diplomatic offensive. In his very fine speech, the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, talked about the numbers in the General Assembly. He is right that four or five voted with Russia, but others were equally right when they pointed to the fact that India and the South Africans have not taken the side of Ukraine. Two very important members of the Commonwealth of Nations, which used to be the British Commonwealth, have, in effect, sided with the dictator.
We need to have a real diplomatic offensive. We need to try to arrange that all ambassadors be entertained by the Foreign Secretary here in London and, even more important, a meeting to be attended by Members of both Houses of Parliament to underline the unity in this Chamber and in another place. When Sir Keir Starmer and the Prime Minister stood together yesterday, it was a real piece of symbolism. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, referred to it. It indicated that, whatever we might fall out about—as we do and we will, whoever is sitting on this or that side of the House—there are certain things on which we cannot and will not be separated. It would be very useful to have a series of ambassadorial meetings with those countries that are either hostile or wavering to say, “We in this democracy are totally united on this.”
I also think that we and our allies, all the countries of NATO and the European Union, should summon the Russian ambassadors in the countries concerned to say, “We are united. Of course we are prepared to talk, but you’ve got to withdraw your forces from Ukraine before we do.” I do not suggest that this will be an overnight success, but it should be done as a concerted exercise: an increased use of both soft power and diplomatic channels.
There is another thing that we must do, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, in his excellent speech. A friend said to me the other day that we must “destroy Wagner”—pronounced as the late composer, which I do not think is quite what he meant. The noble Lord spoke about that dreadful organisation spreading mayhem and indulging in rape and violence of every sort. It must be a proscribed organisation. If nothing else comes out of this debate, although I hope that much will, a pledge from the Front Bench that that will be acted upon would send us all into the Recess feeling a little better and with a spring in our step. Let us hope that when we come back and we mark 24 February, some advance has been made on at least one of these fronts.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Cormack and a real privilege to contribute to a debate on such a critical issue of our time.
Although I was horrified—like all noble Lords, I sense—by what unfolded on our screens on 24 February last year, I confess I was cautious on Ukraine. Of course we should support Ukraine, I thought, but in moderation, in solidarity, careful not to provoke the Russian bear for fear of the consequences. I no longer hold that position. Others have referred to the torture, the rape and the sheer brutality. In light of the overwhelming evidence of the calculated barbarity that informs Russia’s criminal war strategy, I no longer believe that the position I held is still tenable. As other noble Lords have said, only one side can win, and that needs to be Ukraine. I therefore believe now that the West needs to do everything possible to help Ukraine to win as quickly as possible.
My noble friend Lord Soames, in his powerful maiden speech, reminded us of the “terrible lessons” of history, which of course his grandfather played such a prominent part in shaping, to the benefit of the world. For me, this situation—Russia’s aggression in Ukraine—threatens us as much as did Hitler’s marching into the Rhineland only 87 years ago, swallowing up independent Austria two years later and occupying first the Sudetenland and then the rest of what was Czechoslovakia within a matter of months—and all without a military response until it was too late.
With the luxury of hindsight, we now know that this was a drumroll for another criminal war of aggression. Surely it teaches us both that we need to invest at scale in our Armed Forces, as my noble friend Lord Soames said, and that we do not have the luxury of waiting for hindsight, especially in the much faster-paced world that we live in. In his memorable address yesterday, to which other noble Lords have referred, President Zelensky spoke about the need to defeat the fear of war in order to enjoy peace. As we all know, he thanked us in advance for planes to help secure that peace.
My question to my noble friend the Minister is this: since the Prime Minister has made the welcome commitment that we should train Ukrainian pilots, exactly how far in advance of those pilots actually being able to use that training was President Zelensky thanking us? We talk about ruling nothing out in the long term, but can my noble friend tell the House how long term is long term when Ukraine is being reduced to rubble now, in the short term? I do not know what the Russian is for long term, but I doubt it is a word that Putin uses much in connection with his battle plans in Ukraine.
If, as anticipated, Russia launches a new offensive within the next few days, possibly the next few weeks, how much worse does it need to get—how many of the new tanks that the West is supplying need to be destroyed by enemy fire—before we say, “Actually, let’s commit now to supply the planes to protect them from attack from the air”? Training needs to come first, of course. No one is disputing that, but surely now is also the time to assure the Ukrainians that once the training is completed the planes will be made available, and quickly. President Zelensky told the press conference that some of his pilots have already been training for two and a half years of the three years required.
I appreciate that I am not the only one wondering, if Putin triumphs in Ukraine, how long it will be before the Baltic states, Poland, the Czech Republic and others, including us, are threatened directly as well. I know that the noble Lords, Lord McDonald of Salford and Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, who is no longer in his place, referred to our front line. If the front line were to shift beyond Ukraine, which it could well do if the Russians actually get their act together, how long is long term then?
We can still avoid the scenario where we come under direct threat, but I believe we can do so only if we act now to give Ukraine what President Zelensky said it needs now. We can tell ourselves that we are the ones doing the protecting and that we can afford the luxury of thinking long term. But what if the reality is different and, as my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones said, their fight is our fight? What if Ukraine is actually protecting us and time is not on our side?
My Lords, yesterday my Cambridge University contemporary and friend Brigadier Justin Maciejewski, the current director of the National Army Museum located next to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where I was proud to be a commissioner for six years, wrote an editorial. It was headed, “No one wants WW3 but lesson from history is clear: If we want peace, prepare to FIGHT for it”. Justin Maciejewski started his powerful editorial by saying:
“BRITAIN is facing a historic crisis that echoes the build-up to the Second World War.”
I sound like a stuck record, but back in 2019, in the debate in this House marking the 70th anniversary of NATO, I said—before there was any sign of the war in Ukraine—that we should increase our defence spending from the NATO minimum of 2% to 3%. I have repeated this suggestion several times since over the past four years. I also remember very clearly the SDSR in 2010 which decimated our Armed Forces, removing our maritime capability, destroying our Nimrods, removing aircraft carrier capability for years and ultimately cutting the size of our Armed Forces. According to recent reports, our Armed Forces are due to shrink to 73,000—smaller than the number during the Napoleonic Wars over 200 years ago.
I hear of pilots of the Royal Air Force and Navy who have been recruited but are waiting for over two years to even begin their pilot training. I have spoken to one of these individuals. Could the Minister explain why this is happening and how we can get these pilots trained straightaway? It is a waste of young talent. There needs to be an urgency about this.
Yesterday, as the noble Lord, Lord Soames, said in his outstanding maiden speech, President Zelensky gave an inspirational speech in Westminster Hall. Zelensky said simply that they need aircraft. We were meant to receive 135 F35 Lightnings, the best fighter aircraft in the world, but we have only 48. We need these aircraft more than ever to give us cutting-edge air superiority on a global scale. Could the Minister confirm when we are going to be taking full delivery of these aircraft?
This reminds me of the excellent debate led by the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, exactly two weeks ago. In that debate, I asked the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, specifically whether we should give aircraft to Ukraine. If I am not mistaken, I was the only Peer to ask that question. I did not receive an answer and I ask the question again to the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, particularly given President Zelensky’s direct request yesterday. Will we, along with our NATO allies, be able to provide aircraft to Ukraine? Additionally, I said, as did others, including the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, that “size matters”. Boots on the ground and critical mass matter. This concept was exemplified greatly during the first Gulf War, when the British Army had over 165,000 full-time troops. At that very time, my late father Lieutenant General Faridoon Bilimoria was commanding the central Indian army, with a total of 350,000 troops under his command.
We must remember that the number one priority of any Government is the security of their citizens. We are sleepwalking into a potential nightmare. The British Army has overall been undefeated for centuries. We have to wake up before it is too late and this changes. When President Putin annexed Crimea in 2014, we did nothing. When he attacked Ukraine on 24 February 2022, he expected Ukraine to capitulate and give up, but the Ukrainian people and army did not.
When I was president of the CBI, I reached out to the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, who has become a very good friend, the weekend after the war started. The following Monday, 28 February, at Ambassador Prystaiko’s request I visited him at the Ukrainian embassy. I was introduced to him well before the war by the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, with a view to increasing UK-Ukraine trade. At the Ukrainian embassy in Holland Park on that Monday, I learned that Ukraine was not going to give up and was going to fight.
I am proud to say that I managed to rally our CBI members to help. The day after that I went back to the embassy. Sitting side by side with the ambassador in his office with leaders and captains of industry, we reached out for help. That call was immediately heeded. Millions of ration packs for the troops in Ukraine, as well as medical kits and food packages, were sent. Funds were raised over the following months, and all this contributed to the fact that Britain in the past year has been one of the top three humanitarian aid supporters of Ukraine and I am so proud to have been personally, alongside the CBI, part of that support. As a result of this war, NATO is stronger than ever.
On 9 March last year, I was invited by the then EU ambassador to the United Kingdom, João Vale de Almeida, to address the ambassadors of the 27 EU member countries at the EU embassy in Smith Square, round the corner from here. I asked the ambassadors of Finland and Sweden, “Are you now going to join NATO?”, and they both replied, “We are ready to join in five minutes”. President Putin has shot himself in the foot: not only is NATO more united than ever before but it will now be enlarged with two serious and formidable military powers. Those two countries have high-tech and highly advanced manufacturing capabilities and state-of-the-art weaponry, from the Saab Gripen fighters to sophisticated artillery. We should not forget that Finland, with its 1,340-kilometre border with Russia, has the ability to muster several hundred thousand troops from its reserves within weeks.
In the last year, we have all witnessed the amazing bravery of the Ukrainian people and its armed forces. With the CBI, I helped to organise the incredibly moving fundraising event, “Brave Ukraine”, at the Tate Modern in London on 5 May last year, where President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed us live from Ukraine. I stood next to Boris Johnson, our then Prime Minister, who was at the forefront of leading the global efforts. The exhibition displayed, for all to see, the true bravery of the people of Ukraine, which was, and still is, utterly inspirational. It is with real pride that we can say that the UK was one of the first nations to provide initial support and vital weaponry, which has now escalated to other countries joining in the efforts and providing hundreds of tanks.
There has been talk, time and again, of not provoking Russia and of worrying about Russia using nuclear weapons or chemical warfare. Surely, the time has come when enough is enough; it is coming up to one year since this wretched war started. We have had the worst global crisis since the Second World War with the Covid pandemic from 2020 to 2022, two years which brought the world to a standstill, completely decimating economies, including our own, which shrank by almost 10% in a year, requiring us to spend £400 billion to save our economy, businesses and jobs. Instead of the last year being a time of recovery from the pandemic, it has been an extension, if not a complete exacerbation, of the crisis, as the Ukraine war has led to global inflation, energy supply issues and supply chain problems. Most tragically, it has created a food shortage, with the notable prediction by David Beasley, the director of the World Food Programme, that 47 million people in developing nations were potentially at threat of starvation if the port of Odessa was not unblocked, as they were reliant on the grain from the food basket of the world, Ukraine.
In May 2022, Ambassador Prystaiko alerted me to the impending food crisis as a result of the port of Odessa being blocked, due to the war. Following up the next day, and using every opportunity I could, I brought it up in Parliament and I ensured that I brought it up face-to-face with the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, in Berlin, in my capacity as a member of the B7, before Germany presided over the G7. It was such a relief that, thankfully, with the help of the UN and our NATO ally Turkey, Russia finally agreed to the port of Odessa being opened and the grain is now flowing again. Can the Minister update us on whether the grain is genuinely flowing?
As has been said by many noble Lords in this excellent debate, it is clear that Ukraine is fighting not only for its own freedom but for the freedom of us all. All our freedoms are at stake here. As one of my Harvard Business School professors outlined to me in September last year, one solution to end this conflict is a stalemate, in the sense that an effective line of control could exist, with Russia occupying some Ukrainian territory and Ukraine not officially acceding to it—a stand-off with non-stop skirmishes in the years ahead. That type of situation exists in many parts of the world, as we speak. But the best and only solution all round is to help Ukraine win the war, as it would send a strong signal to other countries that the free world will not accept aggression of this kind, will unite and will help the victim not just to survive but, ultimately, to win the war. We have the ability to do that without putting our troops on the ground, as the Ukrainians have shown themselves to be fully capable and utterly courageous, if we just give them the right means to aid their efforts. Why are we stopping now? Why are we hesitating? We should be giving them the fighter jets and missiles they are asking for and the artillery and tanks they need—everything possible to enable them to push the Russians out of Ukrainian territory and out of Crimea. Why are we now holding back? What are we scared of?
If President Putin dares to use nuclear weapons for chemical warfare, will the Minister please assure us that this act will not just be a red line, but a trigger to implement the full force of NATO? This will then be a lesson to other countries, including China, to not even dare to contemplate attacking Taiwan.
Almost exactly a year ago, on 8 March 2022, we had a historic moment in Parliament when President Zelensky addressed both Houses of Parliament in the House of Commons. He ended his speech by quoting Shakespeare. He said:
“The question for us now is, “To be, or not to be”. This Shakespearean question could have been asked over the past 13 days, but I can now give you a definitive answer: it is definitely, “To be”. I remind you of the words that the United Kingdom has already heard because they are important again. We will not give up, and we will not lose.”
He has stuck to those words almost a year later.
Fast forward to another absolutely historic and valiant speech by President Zelensky that we witnessed yesterday, which he delivered to all of us in Westminster Hall, amazingly, in person. He mentioned that he was about to meet King Charles later. As the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, has quoted, President Zelensky said:
“The King is an air force pilot and in Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king”.
He then presented Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle with a Ukrainian ace fighter pilot’s helmet—a lieutenant-colonel’s helmet—with the compelling words inscribed on it:
“We have freedom, give us the wings to protect it”.
We must do this at once. Let us give them the wings to protect their freedom. What are we waiting for? This particular point in President Zelensky’s speech highlighted the sheer importance and incredible work of air force pilots in defending a nation. I pay tribute to the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Craig and Lord Stirrup. It means so much to me as a proud honorary group captain in 601 Squadron of the Royal Air Force.
In his speech yesterday in Westminster Hall, President Zelensky spoke more than once about evil and how evil will crumble. This reminded me of when I was privileged to speak at the memorial service for Archbishop Desmond Tutu laid on by the South African High Commission. I quote Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1988 addressing the South African Government:
“You have already lost. Let us say so nicely, you have already lost. We are inviting you to come and join the winning side. Your cause is unjust. You are defending what is fundamentally indefensible because it is evil. It is evil without question. It is immoral. It is immoral without question … Therefore, you will bite the dust! And you will bite the dust comprehensively.”
To conclude, looking ahead, the world order has two superpowers that exist right now: the United States of America and China. A third very important and emerging superpower is India, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, referred. As the noble Lord said, India this year has the presidency of the G20. Russia is not even a top-10 economy in the world. India today is the fifth largest economy in the world; we are the sixth largest. Within 25 years, India is predicted to be the second largest economy in the world with a GDP of $32 trillion.
Today, the Russian army has shown itself to be weak and ineffective. The Indian army is not only one of the largest armies in the world, but a highly disciplined and formidable fighting force, with capabilities growing in leaps and bounds. Our Armed Forces in the UK may be small in number, but we should remember that we have the finest, most respected Armed Forces in the world with our SAS, SBS, Royal Marines, and, of course, our precious Gurkhas.
Our role and aim in Britain has always been, and still is today—even with less than 1% of the world’s population—to remain a global power at the top table of the world and to be closely allied with countries such as India and the United States of America. I suggested a year ago that the UK should join the Quad, along with USA, Japan, Australia and India, thus squaring and circling the world. Does the Minister agree?
When the war in Ukraine ends, it will bring peace and prosperity, not only to Ukraine, but to the whole world. In helping Ukraine, we need not only to continue our efforts regarding the weaponry we have already supplied, but also to up our game immediately. In the words of the Duke of Wellington’s motto: “Fortune favours the bold”. Let us be bold right now. We need more troops and to spend more on our defence. I will finish where I started by quoting Brigadier Justin Maciejewski from his editorial yesterday:
“Armies need might and mass to win. That means good weapons, good people and enough of them to be a credible deterrent. Without an effective defence, everything that you treasure is threatened. Defeat in war means you lose everything: no health, no pensions, no education, no safety”.
He ends by saying:
“We need to be prepared, and preparation has a price”.
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to engage in a full, non-time-limited debate on something that is an existential threat to the security of the United Kingdom. I very much appreciated the introduction to the debate by my noble friend Lady Goldie. Can the Minister confirm, to be clear, that His Majesty’s Government’s absolute minimum strategic objective is to prevent Ukraine being defeated? The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, told us that it is a much more complicated issue than the minimum objective, and we do not know what the long-term objective will be. I think all noble Lords will agree that if Ukraine were defeated, we would have to at least double our defence expenditure, with all the attendant difficulties that would ensue. The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, gave us hope and evidence that, at some point, even autocrats have to give up. I will elaborate on why Putin will have to do so .
In state-on-state conflict, success for the aggressor will depend upon either an immediately successful attack, using overwhelming military or political superiority, or enjoying overall strategic superiority in the longer term. By as early as 26 February last year, it was likely that the former was not going to happen, and by 9 March, it was not at all clear that the Ukrainians would ever be defeated. To enjoy overall strategic superiority, an aggressor needs to have a larger population and industrial capacity and economy to match it. Russia’s population is quite a bit larger than that of Ukraine, as my noble friend Lady Meyer pointed out, but Putin is profligate in the way he tolerates casualties, and one should never underestimate the moral component of fighting power.
More important in terms of strategic superiority is the relative size of the economies and industrial capacities. While Ukraine is obviously inferior in this respect, it will benefit from the sum of all the NATO countries’ capacity, whereas I understand that Russia’s economy is only the size of Italy’s and is largely based on mineral extraction. Furthermore, we will not allow the Ukrainian Government to run out of money and we can share the cost of doing that. Sadly, this could make for a long war with much pointless, tragic and avoidable loss of life on both sides—and it absolutely pains me to see the loss of life of civilians and lovely young men on both sides. Of course, this is made worse by the Russian people’s tolerance of pain in order to avoid defeat. Nevertheless, the long-term outcome is not in doubt, so long as we do not give up: Putin’s position is not sustainable .
With one exception that I will come to, I believe that HMG, particularly the FCDO and the MoD, are doing an outstandingly good job. I share the views expressed by my noble friend Lord Soames about my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, Ben Wallace, in my noble friend’s excellent maiden speech. I admire the way that each decision made by Ministers is very carefully calibrated and calculated: I hope that that answers some of the rhetorical questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria .
I recall that in around 2010, my heart sank when some Cameron advisers claimed that the British Army did not need armoured brigades with their armoured battlegroups. To be honest, these are extremely expensive to operate and maintain, with considerable logistic support required to keep them in operation. We cut them back because we could not afford them—or we thought we could not afford them. The problem is that to attack dug-in infantry without using an armoured battlegroup, with its protected mobility and firepower, is a suicidal endeavour. That is no doubt why the Ukrainians are desperate to create more such fighting units: they cannot afford the immoral casualty rates that the Russians appear to accept in making such dismounted attacks. I point out that for both sides, training for armoured manoeuvre warfare is not quick, easy or cheap, but hopefully we can enable the Ukrainians to be more effective in that regard.
I have heard and read concerns that donating a squadron of Challenger tanks to Ukraine would leave us short. I do not believe anything of the sort; we have plenty of surplus tanks and we can rehabilitate any tanks much faster than we can train the gallant Ukrainian soldiers to operate and maintain them. Challenger 2 is a very complex tank to take into service and sustain. Now that we have managed to get the Leopard 2 released, there are some tricky questions about how to deploy Challenger 2, but I am confident that the Government and MoD will make the correct decisions, and these are not something we should seek to influence.
I echo the comments of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, about the logistics for this equipment. If Challenger 2 and the AS-90 are to be deployed to the front line in Ukraine, I urge Ministers to obtain categoric assurances from the staff that there will be first-line and second-line maintenance in place within Ukraine, a robust repair loop for engines and main assemblies, and the black boxes that proliferate in armoured fighting vehicles.
It is not clear to me that HM Treasury is fully seized of the strategic objective of at least preventing Ukraine being defeated. How can we be sure that it is not still penny-pinching the MoD? Noble Lords should understand that we cannot determine what our future defence posture should be until the outcome of this war is clear and the lessons have been analysed.
However, I want to refer to a more immediate problem. In order to support government-to-government arrangements, the Ukrainians, through commercial agents, have been buying up private and commercially owned armoured fighting vehicles in the United Kingdom. These vehicles will allow their troops to move around the battlefield with less chance of falling victim to artillery fire or other perils, as I have explained. Every AFV that is sent out provides another group of brave Ukrainian soldiers with the protective mobility they deserve. The Government’s export control organisation has been doing an excellent job of processing the licences for these AFVs, and no doubt it carefully considers all the relevant factors, including where the vehicles are going and, most importantly, where the money is coming from. It obviously has access to all the facilities and capabilities of the state, coupled with the close involvement of the MoD.
Noble Lords will appreciate that locating, purchasing and preparing these AFVs is a specialised business that only a few are effective at undertaking, and only a few have the necessary contacts and facilities. One of these dealers is called “Peter”—that is not his real name, which I cannot divulge for security reasons. I understand that Peter has export licences for at least 100 AFVs. Peter contacted me to ask for my help, because his bank wrote to him on 20 December last year to tell him that his bank account will be closed on 20 February. The bank made it clear that it was not prepared to discuss the matter or say why it was necessary. Peter suspected it was to do with money laundering, because his turnover has rocketed, and he is dealing with Ukrainian businessmen.
I have sought to deal with this matter discreetly and behind the scenes. The major high street bank has been very helpful and, so far as I can discern, it has done nothing wrong and has only been implementing the money laundering regulations. Thus, it would be unfair to name the bank. At a senior level, the bank has made it clear to me that it could continue to provide banking services if it received a letter from a Treasury Minister telling it to do so, or if Peter promised to stop selling AFVs to Ukraine.
I am grateful to the appropriate Treasury Minister for agreeing to have a meeting yesterday about this matter. Unfortunately, within two hours of us feting President Zelensky in Westminster Hall, the Minister was unable to agree to relax the money laundering regulations, even in a specific and minor way. The best advice from the Minister appeared to be that Peter should engage—wait for it—a consultant who would help him be compliant. The problem with that approach is that it is obvious that the bank was unhappy about the Ukrainian businessmen, and it is not clear to me how an expensive consultant can overcome that difficulty. It is also not what the bank thought to recommend to me.
I apologise for raising this matter in such an important strategic debate. However, as matters stand, Peter will have to cease exporting armoured fighting vehicles to Ukraine on or before Monday week if he is to pay the wages to his staff and continue in business. As I understand it, this is because Treasury Ministers believe that the complete integrity of the money laundering regulations is more important than supplying armoured fighting vehicles to Ukraine. The consequence of this will be that some heroic Ukrainian soldiers will die because they have been denied the opportunity of protected mobility on the battlefield. When my noble friend Lord Ahmad comes to reply, can he confirm that refusing to relax the money laundering regulations in the way I have suggested is the settled policy of His Majesty’s Government?
My Lords, I feel that this debate has begun to justify the generous tribute to your Lordships’ House paid by my noble friend Lord Soames in his powerful and memorable speech. Perhaps the most intriguing aspects of Putin’s special military operation in Ukraine are how he dared to start it; why it so rapidly became a military humiliation for Russia; why the disastrous strategic, economic and human consequences for Russia were not anticipated; and why it will almost certainly—it certainly should—result in the end of Putin’s rule in Russia.
The relationship between Russia and Ukraine this century has been one of suspicion, resentment and hatred, and the seeds of this were sown by Stalin a century ago. On 7 August 1932, the Central Committee of the USSR ordered that the Soviet theory of the collectivisation of agriculture be imposed on Ukraine. The Holodomor, which involved deliberate starvation as a form of genocide in Ukraine, led to the death by starvation of over 3.5 million people by April 1933. Some claim that as many as 10 million people died. It involved Soviet enforcers seizing all grain and livestock from farmers. Collectivisation was well described by Robert Conquest in his book The Harvest of Sorrow, published in 1988, with his conclusion that,
“in any future crisis in the USSR, it is clear that Ukrainian nationhood will be a factor and a vital one”.
On 9 April 1933, the British embassy in Moscow received a desperate appeal from Ukraine, which said:
“England, save us who are dying of hunger; help us get rid of the Bolsheviks”.
Sadly, there was no response.
By July the Soviet intelligence service, OGPU, had turned into the much-feared NKVD, with Yagoda—later executed, of course—in charge of it. In November 1933, famine arrived in Russia following collectivisation and the implementation of Stalin’s call for the liquidation of the kulaks as a class. On 25 July 1934, your Lordships’ House debated famine in the Soviet Union. Looking through the debate, it seemed to me that our Foreign Office was more anxious than anything to avoid criticism of the Soviet system. But that was then: the new shadow of fascism had emerged, even more threatening and dark than that of communism.
History has taught us to be clearer and bolder. In September 1936, the even more feared Yezhov took over the NKVD, launching Stalin’s great terror, with 1.5 million people arrested, of whom 44% were executed. Yezhov was shot in February 1940. In May 1937, Stalin started his purge of the Soviet army. The first bunch were shot in June and, by November, most military commanders were dead. Perhaps that explains the huge loss of Russians before the Nazi invaders were defeated.
Russia’s military has never lacked numbers, courage or endurance, but they have seldom had the training, leadership, equipment, logistics, competence or professionalism needed in a modern army. The result of this has been demonstrated in Ukraine over the last 12 months, with Putin making frantic changes of military command, moving from one general to another. How has he survived the humiliations he has brought upon his country?
To protect the leader, the shadow of the secret police has always dominated everyone in Russia, but Putin has gone one bit better. Since the end of the USSR, the Russian Federation has become largely Christian. Putin himself is a churchgoer. He has, from the start, had spiritual blessing for the Ukraine operation from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who leads the Russian Orthodox Church. A 2020 survey by the American Government estimated that 63% of the population are Orthodox believers, so the Church endorsement may help explain the continuing public compliance, if not support, for Putin’s war. Surprisingly—no, not at all—Patriarch Kirill, who is now 76, was a KGB agent from his youth. The Swiss Government have recently declassified their police archives on Kirill to show that in the 1970s, as agent Mikhailov, the young priest was the KGB’s man in Geneva, and he represented the Russian Church on the World Council of Churches.
I understand that, generally, there are 10 clinically accepted indications of the personality default known as psychopathy. They include behaviour that conflicts with social norms; disregarding or violating the rights of others; an inability to distinguish between right and wrong; difficulty with showing remorse or emotion; a tendency to lie often; manipulating and hurting others; disregard toward safety and responsibility; expressing anger and arrogance on a regular basis; and a tendency to engage in behaviour that is reckless or impulsive or may lead to harmful consequences. I suggest that Putin ticks half those boxes.
Let us hope that, with our undaunted support, President Zelensky can save Ukraine from Russia—but I fear that it may need the Russian people to save the world from President Putin.
It is a great pleasure to follow the speech of my noble friend Lord Marlesford. I warmly congratulate my noble friend Lord Soames on his excellent maiden speech. I was his Parliamentary Private Secretary when he was a Minister in the MoD. He was extremely successful and popular, largely because of his amazingly good judgment and common sense. Those characteristics will, I know, inform our discussions in the months and years to come.
It was my role in the other place to take through for the Opposition the legislation to enlarge the European Community, which was unanimously agreed. I say this only because, at the time, I had some remarkable conversations with an exceptional individual who was the Polish ambassador. On a number of occasions, he said clearly to me that we needed to provide a pathway for Ukraine to come and join the family of European nations; and that, if this did not happen, a certain other country would inevitably interfere. That is exactly what has happened, of course; his words were of great prescience.
I have been to Ukraine on multiple occasions, having in the past chaired the British Ukrainian Society for some time. I should declare an interest. For more than a year, I have been much involved with a new think tank, the Council on Geostrategy. We have done much work on Ukraine; we wrote a paper before the invasion as we were already alarmed at the anarchic environment in the Black Sea being created by Russia.
No country is more committed to the freedom of the seas than ours, as we have demonstrated by Royal Navy activity in the Black Sea. Given our current considerable credibility, does my noble friend the Minister agree that, when this horrific war ends, we should promote and encourage much closer co-operation among Black Sea states—particularly given the critical importance of Ukraine as a food exporter with huge energy exploration potential and the importance of the Black Sea as a central gateway between Europe and Eurasia, underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Montreux convention?
Ever since the construction of the trans-Siberian pipeline into western Europe, European nations have had to live with the leverage provided by Russia’s energy exports. This has created inordinately high dependence and, at times, unacceptable supply abuse, with the price of energy before and after the invasion being determined by political judgments, not market conditions. Of course, this has all funded Russian aggression and expansionism. It is insufficiently known that Ukraine has the second-largest gas reserves in Europe and holds equivalent to 27% of the EU’s gas storage capacity. It has huge potential as a reliable and diverse energy provider, enhanced by more integration of the Ukrainian energy sector with Europe, to our mutual advantage.
As many of your Lordships have said, we do not know when this terrible conflict will end, or on what basis, but your Lordships will welcome the hosting by the UK and Ukraine of the Ukraine recovery conference, drawing international support and building on the Lugano principles, which takes place in London in June. All of us will want Ukraine to embrace formally the Euro-Atlantic defence and political umbrella, but the cost of reconstruction will be enormous, and Ukraine itself will need to undertake reforms, particularly on the rule of law, which it is already addressing.
In July 2020, the Lublin Triangle was agreed between Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, at the heart of which is the creation of a zone of security and prosperity, linked to Euro-Atlantic alliances and strengthening military, cultural and political co-operation. In this spirit, in 2022, ahead of the invasion a trilateral memorandum of co-operation was agreed by the Foreign Ministers of Poland, the United Kingdom and Ukraine, to demonstrate a commitment to further strengthen strategic co-operation and engagement. With considerable support and encouragement, think tanks in Warsaw and Kyiv and ourselves will be meeting this month in Warsaw to take matters forward.
This trilateral could play an instrumental role in the post-war reconstruction effort and in putting Ukraine more fully on the track towards Euro-Atlantic integration. In the longer term, the trilateral initiative could assist Ukraine towards a platform where the three countries work together to secure economic and geopolitical objectives, especially as Poland’s role in the European Union becomes more significant.
I echo the powerful words of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. When we reflect on post-war reconstruction, let us not underestimate the huge depth of the problem. More than 20,000 Ukrainian children have been taken from their families and orphanages and sent to Russia. The terrifyingly traumatic experiences of children will require special educational responses. On another level, reports suggest that mined areas are now equivalent to the size of Great Britain, and the clearing will be a huge undertaking, so well described by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. Can my noble friend please give consideration, during the important reconstruction conference in London in June, to issues such as this being discussed too? This should be an integral part of the successful reconstruction and recovery of Ukraine that we are planning.
Finally, I add my support for a clear mechanism to punish those who initiated this war in such an atrocious and shocking way and to seek reparations for the totally unjustified invasion on the people of Ukraine.
My Lords, it is commonplace to thank whoever has initiated the debate and very often to thank all the speakers for a wide-ranging debate. On this occasion, we certainly must thank the usual channels and the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, for moving this debate today. Two weeks ago, when the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, had his debate on defence, there were calls from both sides of the House for a debate on Ukraine. Nobody could have predicted quite how timely the debate would be. Waking up yesterday morning and hearing on the news that President Zelensky was going to be in Parliament, in person, was quite extraordinary.
It has been a wide-ranging debate but, as the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, said, those people who might be watching from the Russian embassy are really looking for divisions. In his opening words, my noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed pointed out that the Liberal Democrats are in lockstep with His Majesty’s Government and the Official Opposition. When speaking on defence matters, it often feels that the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and I are simply rehearsing the same lines, precisely because, on so many defence issues, we are all singing from broadly the same hymn sheet. We are committed to His Majesty’s Armed Forces and we acknowledge the debt that we all owe them. In the case of the conflict in Ukraine, we particularly acknowledge the training that is going on to support Ukraine and its valiant servicepeople.
So my first point is on the importance of support from all political parties of the United Kingdom. It was notable that the Conservative Benches picked up on the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, about a green Marshall plan. There is a great deal of unanimity across the Chamber. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, was a lone voice. It came from a genuine place, but most Benches do not really agree.
This important debate is about Ukraine, but also about much wider issues of European security, as was pointed out by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones. As the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, stated, essentially the frontiers of British security are no longer the white cliffs of Dover or even Germany; we are looking to the blood and mud of the Donbas.
This debate is about the effects on the United Kingdom and our security, and it fundamentally matters for a reason that was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Hannan of Kingsclere. Ukraine is not just a country in the middle of Europe to which we have no obligations. It is not a NATO member nor a member of the European Union, but we agreed the Budapest memorandum and to support the security of Ukraine. It is vital that we do so. As the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, reminded us, one of the things that has been so clear over the last 351 days is the commitment and resilience of the Ukrainian President and the people of Ukraine. To stand up against Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion for almost a year, to keep fighting and to keep coming to remind the West of the importance of supporting Ukraine is incredible.
But we have to be honest. President Zelensky has not managed to persuade all the West or all the free world of the importance of standing up for Ukraine against Russia. The noble Lord, Lord McDonald, pointed out that very few people in the United Nations voted to support Russia. That is true, but there have been numerous abstentions or countries that simply were not present to vote. That is significant and we are talking about very influential countries that are listening not just to Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, but to Russia. They include, as my noble friend Lord Purvis pointed out, South Africa, India and other Commonwealth countries.
One question I have for the Minister to answer in his winding-up speech is on the conversations His Majesty’s Government are having, with our Commonwealth partners in particular, to explain the importance to freedom and democracy globally of supporting Ukraine. We need to make absolutely clear that this is not about some sort of neocolonial western support for Ukraine; it is about the rule of law and democracy.
So, what conversations are being had? I did wonder if the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, with his extensive contacts with South Africa and India, might also be working with His Majesty’s Government to see how persuasive we can be. As other noble Lords have pointed out, the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, has been very persuasive—not in the Chamber today but elsewhere —in explaining how the message that we all understand implicitly in your Lordships’ House has not necessarily reached the hearts and minds of many people. That is partly because of the Russian disinformation machine—and that goes to discussions maybe in southern Africa or in India, but also other countries in eastern Europe. We like to think that the EU, NATO and the United Kingdom are speaking absolutely as one on the issue of Ukraine, and broadly speaking they are, but some of the disinformation going into eastern Europe is being propagated by Russia. It is not supportive of Ukraine, for very obvious reasons, so there is a whole campaign that we need to wage not just to persuade Vladimir Putin that public opinion in Russia is changing—although if the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, is right, that would be a very welcome way forward—but for hearts and minds generally.
We also need to think about expectations in the United Kingdom. This time last year, when we had the debate after the invasion, I remember suggesting that if we had sanctions, as we now do, we needed to be very explicit to citizens of the United Kingdom about the economic consequences we would all have to face. Those sanctions might be against Russian oligarchs—here, I agree with my noble friend Lady Brinton—but they should also hit all Russian assets.
But the consequences of sanctions have domestic implications as well, and I am minded to reinforce that point looking at today’s newspaper headlines. The headlines are all about yesterday’s visit from President Zelensky, and his message could not have been clearer: “wings for freedom”—give us fighter jets, not just help with training. The Daily Express and the Daily Mail, on their front pages, are not saying that President Zelensky says this; they are saying, send fighter jets to Ukraine. Are His Majesty’s Government in a position to do that? If they feel they are able or could be in a position to send fighter jets in addition to tanks, there will be consequences for our own defence budgets.
At the start of today’s debate, the noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked what contracts have been signed to ensure that we have the equipment we need, as we are supplying Ukraine. I would reinforce that question with the question I raised, along with others, on Monday with the noble Lord, Lord Harlech—the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, passed it on to the noble Lord—about F35s. There are questions about British defence capabilities. From these Benches, we absolutely support the considered approach taken by His Majesty’s Government, in particular the nuanced approach of Ben Wallace, the Secretary of State for Defence. But if we are going to give further support to Ukraine, we also need to make sure that our defence budget can manage that. Capabilities matter.
Finally, I support the comments of my noble friends Lord Campbell of Pittenweem and Lord Purvis of Tweed in discussing questions of accountability, the questions that will be raised at The Hague and what support His Majesty’s Government are going to give to ensure that there can be a tribunal to bring to account Vladimir Putin, his forces and anyone else who has been perpetrating war crimes of the hideous sort we have heard about—rape, the abduction of children and the targeting of civilians in Ukraine. Those are all things we need to be thinking about in the longer term, but we need His Majesty’s Government to be clear about the strategic approach in 2023 and moving forward.
My Lords, we have had some important and informed contributions from many noble Lords across the Chamber. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, and the usual channels for ensuring that this debate could take place over a long period and not be curtailed to a couple of hours. Given the significance and importance of this issue, the Government are to be congratulated for enabling the debate to happen this quickly. Given the significance of what happened yesterday, it was also fortuitous.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, for the informed remarks that started this debate so well. However, it would be remiss of me not to start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Soames, and welcoming him to the Chamber; it is nice to see him here. I think he got here under better circumstances than me. We are all delighted he is here for all sorts of reasons, not least his informed opinions, his general courtesy and, obviously, his lineage, which brings an important historical perspective. But in his own right, he has added considerable knowledge and experience to this debate, and he will no doubt do so in many other debates going forward. We are pleased that he is here with us, and I wish him good luck with his contributions in this House.
I also want to start from the point of view of unanimity, which is extremely important. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and my noble friend Lord Collins talked about the importance of symbolism. The television pictures that are beamed around the world and seen in so many countries are particularly important in these circumstances. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and my noble friend pointed out the importance of the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak being seen alongside Sir Keir Starmer and other leaders of our political parties. That is of huge significance and shows that, although we obviously have some questions for and points to make to the Government—as the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, has rightly just done—that is done on the basis of unanimity. I take the well-made point of the noble Lord, Lord McDonald: this is an important debating Chamber, one of the most significant in the world, alongside the other place. An incredible number of people watch our proceedings. It sometimes does not feel like that, but it is watched by significant numbers of people across the world. It will be being watched and analysed for any sense of difference between us— and there is none.
Perhaps I may say one thing as an aside. We heard the lone voice of my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours. It is good that in our democracy, someone can stand up and say something, even if they are a lone voice. He was heard with courtesy and respect. I think I am right in saying that no one here agreed with him, but he had a right to say it. That is important, because there may be people listening in countries whose parliamentarians would be arrested and imprisoned if they expressed a view so contrary to that of their Government. My noble friend has an absolute right to say what he said. I totally disagree with him but that is not the point. In one sense—and the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, has more experience of these things than me—that symbolises what the conflict is about. This is an important conflict between those who would undermine democracy and those who would stand up for it.
It was a truly historic moment yesterday when so many of us gathered together to hear the inspirational words of President Zelensky—an occasion when he came to thank us, to ask for our continued support and to mention the need to provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs. It was also to restate what this battle, this conflict, this war is about.
I start my remarks by reiterating the importance of ensuring that Putin does not succeed. We can once again be proud that our country was among the first to support, and remains at the forefront of supporting, this battle for the rule of law and for the principle that force and aggression cannot be allowed to prevail. Our stand with Ukraine is for democracy, human rights and justice. This country has a proud tradition of standing up for those principles with our friends and allies, and we will do so once again in Ukraine as we have done so many times in our past.
It is a battle that is well understood not only here in Westminster but across our country. As President Zelensky will have witnessed, there is immense good will among our people to stand firm with the people of Ukraine. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham highlighted that point, as did many others, including the noble Lord, Lord Risby, just now. The British people understand that it is not just us in Westminster who believe that this is important; they understand that the Ukrainian fight is our fight, that their battle is our battle, and that the battle for democracy and freedom in Kyiv, Ukraine and beyond is the front line for us as well. It is a struggle for democracy and is therefore our struggle.
As many noble Lords have pointed out, Putin believed the West to be weak. He believed that we would cave in, that we would not stand with Ukraine, that we would be frightened and intimidated. He made many miscalculations but this was clearly one of the biggest. Instead of dividing us, we are more united than ever in our belief and our desire to see this through. We will do all we can to see it through.
Let it be seen that we will stand up against aggression, intimidation and those who undermine the rule of law not only here in Europe. As others have said, this has lessons for us in the rest of the world as well. Tyranny, oppression and dictatorship cannot win, and our fight in Ukraine sets out to prove that.
We must redouble our efforts, act even more urgently and respond quickly to new threats from Russia, supporting Ukraine in every way we can. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, pointed out some of the difficulties. I do not know how the Minister will respond, but there is clearly a need for urgency and for things to happen as quickly as possible. The Challenger 2 tanks must get there quickly, and training must happen and new demands must be responded to as quickly as possible. The Government will need to explain to us how they will meet these new demands as urgently as they can.
We also need to consider what the review of our independent review should say. We were going to cut the number of our battle tanks; that was in the review. Clearly we must now review that. We were going to undertake other changes to our equipment. We have said that technological improvement is more important than mass. The noble and gallant Lords, Lord Stirrup and Lord Craig, will know far better than me that the Typhoon is a brilliant aircraft, and the F35B is great, but what about the mass of aircraft? Is there more we can do to have more of this equipment in the short term? If we give aircraft or other equipment away, how do we replenish it quickly? Where will it come from? You cannot build a tank or an aircraft in a year. If we want to up our supply and capabilities, how are we going to do that?
Those are the questions that the Government need to answer. As the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Craig and Lord Stirrup, and the noble Lords, Lord Soames and Lord Bilimoria, pointed out, they are important considerations for us. What does that mean for a defence budget? There will have to be a debate about what it actually means and the difficulties of that. If we want more money, where will it come from? Are we going to have a sensible debate about how we achieve that? Again, those are matters for the future, but a debate and discussion will have to be had.
There are many other things that could be said. I join my noble friend Lord Robertson, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, and the noble Lords, Lord Soames, Lord Hannay and Lord Howell, and many others in hoping that the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, can say something about this issue in a few minutes: there is a real problem about explaining in other parts of the world what I have just been saying about what we are doing with respect to Ukraine. It is not just some dictatorships in Africa; we have problems with India, Israel, South Africa and other countries that may not be against what we are doing but are certainly not keen advocates of it and worry about it. How are we trying to deal with that, discuss it and win the narrative?
Although I cannot remember which noble Lord raised this, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, that the idea that we should cut the BBC World Service is a very bad one. At a time when the dissemination of accurate information across the airwaves in different languages to different people is so important, the idea that that is not an absolute priority, at what is a minimal cost, beggars belief. I know the Minister will not be able to answer that now, but I ask him to take it back.
I finish where I started. Their battle is our battle. We are proud to stand with the people of Ukraine. The unity of this Parliament is something that should resound right across Europe and certainly in Moscow. There is no difference between us. We are prepared to see this through, and we will do so.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for yet another great example of your Lordships’ House at its best. Undoubtedly, the issue of unanimity and being at one resonates.
I agree with the contributions from all Front Benches paying tribute to my noble friend Lady Goldie for opening the debate; her usual style, aplomb and detail set the tone for our debate. I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Collins and Lord Purvis—contemporaries of mine, if I can put it that way, when it comes to issues of foreign affairs—for their strong support, and we have seen, from the contributions of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, the strong alignment between us. It is important that, when the world looks at the UK on issues such as standing up for the rights of a sovereign nation, we speak with one voice.
I fully accept the point that that is not without challenge to the Government of the day. I echo the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, that it is right that we will have people who challenge, whether outside these Chambers, through our press, our people, our opinion-formers, agencies and NGOs about our Government or our country doing more, or indeed within this Chamber. I associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, about the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. On this particular issue, if we look at the contributions made over the last year then we can perhaps see where the noble Lord is coming from, but it is right that in a free and open democracy all views are heard.
In thanking all noble Lords, I first and foremost wish to thank my noble friend Lord Soames. It is often said that the contributions in maiden speeches should be measured and informed, hopefully, delivered with expertise, a nice sprinkling of wit and a dose of wisdom. My noble friend’s contribution reflected exactly those qualities and he brings a remarkable insight and expertise. It is right, on the day after the President of Ukraine visited the United Kingdom, not only that we are having this debate but that it marks the occasion of my noble friend’s maiden speech. I look forward to working with him closely not just on Ukraine issues but across the foreign policy and defence agenda. I thank him for his continued support in this regard.
I also associate myself totally with my noble friend’s remarks about the former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. While changes have happened, I have been one of those Ministers who have had the occasion to be around a while. I worked directly with the former Prime Minister when he was Foreign Secretary. Various issues come to mind, but one thing was very notable back in 2018—my noble friend Lord Hannan made this point: it should not be news that Russia targets countries. When we had the CHOGM in London in 2018, I remember that the Salisbury incident happened between the agreement of the communiqué and the meeting itself. Theresa May was Prime Minister and we were given quite straight directions that we needed to include language on Salisbury in the communiqué that came out of CHOGM. I saw Boris Johnson at his best then; I worked closely with him and directly with key Foreign Ministers from across countries to ensure that the language could be amended. Anyone who has worked over many years on different communiqués knows that is a task and a half. To get a number of countries to agree at that time when they were sitting on the fence, or perhaps not in agreement because of their association and relationships with Russia, was a tall order but we achieved it in 48 hours. I fully accept the points made about the principles and importance of diplomacy, which I will come on to.
In underlining my strong support, I also align myself with my noble friend Lord Soames’s remarks about our Secretary of State for Defence. Given the challenges that were put down, he has also been at the forefront of ensuring that we responded with the necessary agility. Across the different Foreign Secretaries I have worked with at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, we have done that with the requirements of Ukraine at the forefront. Those who perhaps still question and challenge whether Ukraine recognises that need do nothing more than listen to President Zelensky’s incredible and memorable speech yesterday in Westminster Hall.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham asked, “Where does this go? What is the United Kingdom’s position?”. I am sure that all noble Lords who spoke from the Front Benches would be able to align themselves with it. We have reaffirmed our unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity within its recognised borders, as well as its right to pursue its own security arrangements. Our military support to Ukraine is enduring and we will continue to support it across all three domains, be that land, sea or air.
I know that the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, had to leave—I thank him for advance notice of that —but he mentioned, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, did, that ultimately agreements and political settlements will be reached in this respect. We are not in that position at this time but we saw how, right from the start, President Zelensky put down his 10 principles for peace. We have been working with key partners and directly with Ukraine, and we in the United Kingdom align ourselves with it totally. Whatever agreement is ultimately reached must be reached with our strong support, but led and agreed by Ukraine.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, talked about the start of the conflict nine years ago. It is sometimes reflected that had the international community reacted differently in 2014 to first the invasion and then the annexation of Crimea, things would be different. But as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, pointed out, Russia’s intentions were clear prior to that, as we have seen through its continued attacks on the sovereignty of other nations, including what we saw in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia prior to the attack on Ukraine. Therefore, we must remain resolute and absolutely committed to ensuring that Ukraine prevails.
My noble friend Lord Marlesford talked of the need to ensure that our war is not with the Russian people. It is not, but we have seen from Mr Putin a suppression of his own communities and people right from the start. The continued arrests and detention of people such as Mr Navalny underline what he thinks of his own people. When we saw early protests in cities across Russia, simple things such as young girls and women appearing with flowers in city squares were shut down. This is a man who does that to his own people. Our fight is not with the Russian people. Our argument is not with the Russian people. We stand for the very freedoms and democracy that I am sure all Russians desire.
My noble friend Lord Hannan and others, including the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, in his very insightful contribution, said that Ukraine must win and cannot be destroyed. My noble friend Lord Hannan said that Russian aggression cannot be rewarded. I think we all stand by that.
In paying tribute to my noble friend Lady Meyer for her early engagement with the Ukrainians, I recall on a personal note—which also speaks to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, made—that we have worked with Ukraine over a number of years. It may surprise noble Lords that my first visit to Kyiv was as Local Government Minister. I was asked to visit Ukraine to ask about how local government structures could work within the emerging government. It seems like a long time ago. I returned in 2019 to represent Her Majesty’s Government, as it was then, during the inauguration of a certain President Zelensky. Only about three or four countries were represented at ministerial level. In a few short years, things have changed.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, talked about changes in systems and issues of corruption. It could be argued that President Zelensky’s election reflected the fact that people within Ukraine wanted change. It is important that we stand by Ukraine at its time of need on defence, humanitarian and reconstruction requirements, but we are also in there for the long term in ensuring that Ukraine can rebuild itself and its governance structures.
Several noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Shinkwin, asked, “How long is long term?”. The enduring reflection I can make is that our participation in alliances such as NATO indicate our strong long-term commitment, irrespective of which Government of what colour is in control of the United Kingdom. It is important that we stand by our obligations.
We have stood by Ukraine, and President Zelensky indicated that with his strong words yesterday. We pay tribute to all Ukrainians for their courage, determination and ingenuity and to the unbreakable friendship and ties between our two countries. As we all heard, President Zelensky thanked the United Kingdom for standing with Ukraine from day one. He also thanked us for our grit and international leadership in this respect. It is important that we are unrelenting in our continued support for Ukraine.
I welcome the wise words and the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, who spoke with great insight and expertise. He reminded us that the world has changed from the time of the Second World War and the international institutions that were created. We live in a very different world. War is not just, as we see unfolding in Ukraine, traditional and conventional battlefield wars of tanks and air. We also see a growing area of cyber challenge. We need to be firmly aligned and work with our partners to ensure that responding to the cyber challenges posed by Russia and other state actors is part and parcel of ensuring our defence.
As we heard from my noble friend Lady Goldie earlier, Ukraine’s heroic armed forces have already recaptured thousands of square miles from the Russians, driving them out from more than half the territory they grabbed last year. As many noble Lords pointed out, Russia did not expect that that would continue. The noble Lord, Lord McDonald, with whom I have had the pleasure of working on occasion over a number of years, rightly highlighted that Mr Putin got it wrong. He felt that this was a short intervention and that the world, perhaps based on history, would not stand by Ukraine, but he was proved wrong. Our continued resilience and support for Ukraine at this crucial juncture is extremely important. I share totally the views expressed by the noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord Collins: that those responsible for war crimes and atrocities should also be held accountable, a point made by several other noble Lords.
The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and my noble friend Lord Risby highlighted the appalling and abhorrent activities of the Russian forces. Ukrainian children in their thousands are being taken from their families and sent to orphanages in Russia. That is pure abduction of young children, and an attempt to terrify a whole population and the next generation of Ukrainians. Therefore, we condemn Russian atrocities, including the alleged abductions and deportations of innocent Ukrainians, and will hold Russia to account. On 16 June, the UK announced a new wave of sanctions, including against the Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner on that issue. I look forward to engaging directly with noble Lords on the important issue of accountability, which I will discuss in a moment, particularly in the areas for which I am responsible in government, such as crimes of sexual violence in conflict. Tragically, that abhorrent crime is again surfacing very clearly in Ukraine.
I turn now to military support. I assure my noble friend Lord Soames, with whom I have been delighted to work over a number of years, that the strong co-operation between the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is very clear. He rightly pointed out that Russia’s threat does not end in Ukraine. Our commitments through NATO, as I have seen myself during visits to places such as Estonia, demonstrate the strong capabilities of our military. They need to continue, and we are committed to that.
My noble friend Lady Goldie and I visited the Balkans, where we saw the rising tide of nationalism, fuelled by Russian support and the likes Mr Dodik, who has also been sanctioned by the United Kingdom Government. It was very clear to both of us, as we saw in Bosnia-Herzegovina, especially in the Republika Srpska entity, that that nationalist element was surfacing again in a way that no one wants to see, and which ripped that country apart previously. So, as was pointed out very ably by my noble friend Lord Hannan and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, we must be very mindful that this is not just about Ukraine but other countries as well.
I turn now to how we will ensure we are providing enough military support. Last month, my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary announced our most significant military support package to date. Ukraine urgently needs heavier, more modern equipment to expedite success. As many noble Lords alluded to, this package includes fourteen Challenger 2 tanks, a training package and artillery, which will further strengthen Ukraine’s capabilities. It means that, importantly, our Ukrainian friends can go from resisting to expelling Russian forces from Ukrainian soil. Our friends in NATO—the United States, France, Canada, Poland and Germany, among others—are following our lead and sending main battle tanks to Ukraine, which is a very important development. We hope that this combined effort will encourage further military support from other partners.
Yesterday, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced plans to expand training for the armed forces of Ukraine, from land to sea and air, including fighter jet pilots and marines, as part of a long-term investment in their military. The United Kingdom’s surge of military equipment to Ukraine aims to give Ukrainian forces the upper hand on the battlefield and to limit Russia’s ability to target civilian infrastructure.
I turn now to the issue of fighter jets. Your Lordships’ House is at its best when we hear two noble and gallant Lords—the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Craig and Lord Stirrup—commenting specifically on capabilities and capacities. This Chamber is like no other because of our insights and experiences. Our commitment on fighter jets is that, with our partners, we want to ensure as best we can that Ukraine is equipped to defend its sovereign territory, and that the capabilities we provide meet the tactical demands of the conflict as they evolve, hence our recent decision on battle tanks.
The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, raised specific questions on aircraft. I know that my noble friend Lady Goldie will write to him on specific numbers, et cetera. On the point that he raised on the initial F35s, I think 30 of the 48 have already been delivered and a further 18, which amounts to the 48 he mentioned, will also arrive in tranches.
On the more specific and higher-level number—a point also raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith—my noble friend Lady Goldie intends to write to noble Lords on some of the specific questions also raised by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup.
On the issue of defence capability and replenishment, which was raised by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, my noble friends Lord Bellingham and Lord Soames, and others, the Defence Secretary has announced his intention to publish an update on the defence Command Paper in the spring. I believe it will be after the Spring Statement. It will address the issue of the Armed Forces and set defence on a path to remodernisation by 2030.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, on this issue of replenishing military aid, asked about contracts. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, also raised this. The MoD has engaged fully with industry allies and partners to ensure the continuation of supply to Ukraine and that all stocks are replaced as quickly as possible. We have rapidly and effectively adopted our procurement process to reflect the urgency of the situation. A replenishment team has now been established at the newly formed operations directorate and a number of substantial contracts—a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Collins—have already been placed to directly replenish UK stockpiles. These include Starstreak missiles and lightweight multi-role missiles as well.
My noble friend Lord Bellingham and other noble Lords asked about replenishment. It is right, of course, that we are supplying Ukraine, and replenishment is important. I believe his question was about our ability to continue to fight. The ability to conduct high-end war-fighting remains at the core of the British Army, including remaining in and leading the contribution to NATO and the ability to field a war-fighting division. The Army has two deployable divisions: first, the UK division, which provides a wide range of capabilities, at home and overseas; and, secondly, the Army’s primary armoured war-fighting force. The British Army holds forces at various levels of readiness to ensure that we can defeat a variety of threats at home and abroad. I am sure we will continue to be asked questions on this and my noble friend Lady Goldie looks forward to engaging with noble Lords on this.
My noble friends Lord Bellingham and Lord Shinkwin asked whether British capability can deploy an armoured force. The short answer is yes. The flexibility remains very much for an agile force. I know that noble Lords—the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, in particular, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup—have expressed specific concerns. I assure noble Lords that we stand very ready. Of course, I share the view that has been expressed by several noble Lords that the first duty of the Government is the security of our own country and citizens.
On the specific question on eastern European planes, which my noble friend Lord Bellingham asked, and decisions to provide support through individual agreements with other countries, the United Kingdom remains supportive of nations providing fighter jets to Ukraine and will continue to work with international partners in this respect.
On the issue raised by several noble Lords about the training of pilots, as the noble and gallant Lord said, training takes time. He is right: these are complex pieces of military equipment, and the pilots will need to spend a certain amount of time before they are trained up on how to deploy these NATO jets. It speaks to the point that we are in it for the long term. As my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones said, the expansion is not just about providing the immediate capability and requirements to Ukrainian forces. It is also about taking a multi-year approach to ensure that Ukraine has the military means and skills for generations to come—the threat will not cease.
Will the Minister or the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, respond, perhaps later, on the delays in the training of our own pilots, which is a point I raised?
I believe that is something we are very up to date with: there is no challenge in the area of training, but my noble friend will write on the specific point that the noble Lord raised.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, also raised the issue of drones and Iran’s role. This has been a really worrying development. We were all very aware of the threat of Iran towards destabilisation, the tragic consequence of which has now extended not just to the region in which Iran is, but to Europe as well. We of course strongly condemn what has happened in this regard and we have also, as the noble Lord will be aware, sanctioned several individuals and businesses responsible for supplying drones.
My noble friend Lord Attlee asked about support for Ukraine, and I thank him for his kind remarks. We have already committed more than £6.1 billion of economic, humanitarian and military support to Ukraine and the Prime Minister has pledged—something that was appreciated and welcomed—that the UK will deliver 14 Challenger 2 tanks to the Ukrainian army. My noble friend pressed me on a meeting he had with Treasury colleagues on the issue of money laundering and raised a specific question. I am sure my colleagues in the Treasury will follow up on that with him but, while I recognise my noble friend’s desire to do whatever it takes to ensure that Ukraine gets the support it needs, it is also imperative, as other noble Lords referred to, that we do not weaken the country’s defences against issues of illicit finance, money laundering and corruption that can end up financing Ukraine’s enemies. We need to be very focused on that.
Moving to the issue of diplomacy, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, among many others, raised the importance of this role. In particular, I welcome the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, on this. The Prime Minister and President Zelensky discussed a two-pronged approach to the UK for Ukraine. In this regard, we remain very resolute in ensuring that military equipment and support is provided.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones and Lady Brinton, and my noble friend Lord Risby also talked about the importance of our continued support on global mine action. I put on record my deep thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, in this respect. We have had discussions about the important role that particular agencies play, whether in Afghanistan, as we have seen, or indeed in Ukraine. The focus on de-mining is a key priority for the FCDO and will remain so. The FCDO has a £2 million agreement with the Halo Trust—I know that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, works very closely with that trust. We are also providing de-mining equipment and training to these state emergency services as part of a £14.5 million contribution to the multi-donor partnership fund for building a resilient Ukraine, and providing a further £0.6 million to UNDP to support co-ordination in this.
On the issue of diplomacy at an international level, the Prime Minister has offered the UK’s backing to President Zelensky’s plans to work closely towards a just and lasting peace for Ukraine. I know that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, James Cleverley, as well as myself and others, are regularly in touch with Foreign Minister Kuleba in co-ordinating activities. The Foreign Secretary was in the United States and Canada only last month, meeting counterparts to discuss going further and faster in Ukraine, and the Defence Secretary has been in Poland and Germany recently, making progress with further donations and international co-ordination. Almost a year on from the invasion, there is a strong alliance internationally and a resolve to continue on this path.
My noble friend Lord Soames raised the important issue of India, as did other key contributors. We continue to have very open and candid exchanges with India. Of course, from a historical perspective, India has relied on a defence partnership with Russia. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, will testify, it is important as we look at a broader and stronger alliance with India that we also look to see how trust —and co-operation—from both sides can be further strengthened, particularly when we see yet wider threats in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. India will be a key strategic partner here, and we need to see how we can further strengthen that relationship. On the issue of India’s abstention within the United Nations, for example, India has given its reasons for that.
On the issues raised about South Africa, we know that Mr Lavrov is on a charm offensive across Africa—he has been into the Sahel recently as well—offering Russian support. There is a clear diplomatic effort to win further support. It was extremely worrying, as I said from the Dispatch Box, seeing what happened in South Africa, as a Commonwealth partner.
This comes back to a point that I raised at CHOGM 2018, and in CHOGM 2022 we had the same challenge again. I sat in the Foreign Ministers meeting when we needed to agree a communiqué with language on Ukraine, which a number of countries objected to and it was a hard challenge. However, through our diplomatic channels we achieve success in that regard, but we need to remain very vigilant and focused, so I accept the points that were made by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, as well as those made by noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and others. My noble friend Lord Howell talked importantly about the Commonwealth partnerships in this respect also.
My noble friend also mentioned the need to build relationships, and we are doing this within the context of the UN and not just the Commonwealth. As the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, pointed out, there were three votes at the United Nations General Assembly. In the first, on 2 March last year, 141 states condemned Russia’s invasion—the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked how we can increase the isolation of Russia diplomatically. In the second vote, on 24 March last year, 140 countries joined the humanitarian resolution. On 12 October, 143 countries condemned Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory.
I can share with the noble Lords that we are currently working with international partners ahead of a UN General Assembly resolution and UN Security Council meeting to mark one year of the war on 24 February. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary will attend that Security Council meeting. As the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, reminded us—and, having been involved with these matters, he speaks from great insight and experience—it is no easy task getting these numbers within the context of the General Assembly, and it is a hard diplomatic lift. I pay tribute to our diplomats around the world who have acted admirably, notwithstanding the challenges they face in ensuring we continue to build and have these strong alliances.
I accept the point that there were about 40-odd abstentions, but we have seen certain countries shift. I can share with noble Lords that, for example, the UAE has shifted its position in the UN Security Council. I was recently engaging with Kuwait, and we have also seen Kuwait now providing humanitarian support.
On disinformation—I am conscious of time; I could continue for another half an hour but will not do so—these issues are very much high up on our agenda. I accept the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and have shared her experiences, which show what can happen through social media and other actions when people speak out and the disinformation campaign continues. I hear the points made about the BBC World Service, but we have allocated additional funding. I saw the strength of contributions in that regard in the earlier Question today.
We have stood by Ukraine very strongly when it comes to humanitarian support. For the longer term—a point made by several noble Lords—we have included £1.35 billion in lending guarantees through the World Bank and the EBRD, £100 million in direct budgetary assistance and £220 million of humanitarian support.
A number of other questions were raised. In the interests of time, I must beg the noble Lord’s indulgence on the issue of the use of frozen assets, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis.
On the support we have given for the winter challenges, we have allocated a further £12 million to the World Food Programme. On sanctions, I know noble Lords are very seized of this; I have been providing regular briefings and will continue to do so.
On the Black Sea grain initiative, we have seen good progress; the next renewal date is March 2023, so we are right up against it—it is normally on a running cycle of 120 days. But we need to ensure that we remain focused and build further support for that.
The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, asked rightly about ensuring effective monitoring and closing down loopholes. Of course, we have the OFSI here in the UK, but we need to work with international partners to ensure that we cut down those who are seeking to circumvent sanctions. I cannot speculate on the issue of proscription, but the issues raised on the Wagner Group have been well received. Noble Lords will be aware of various sanctions we have used in this regard.
I said I would mention the issue of war crimes, and I think it is important to do so. I totally accept the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Hannay, Lord Browne and Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, about the importance of this. We are involved at all levels, and we are working very closely with Karim Khan at the ICC. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and I have met with him on a number of occasions and will continue to do so. My right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister is also leading a cross-government group in this respect. We will host a major international meeting in March to support the ICC in this endeavour.
The noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord Collins, raised the issue of the hybrid mechanism. We are also involved with the working group on that. Recently—only last month—the Attorney-General and I briefed the APPG on Ukraine about steps we are taking, and we are working very closely on this.
Finally, we announced at the PSVI conference the new international alliance on preventing sexual violence in conflict. That will be formally launched at the CSW at the UN in March.
Once again, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. There is always more to say, but as my noble friend Lord Cormack quite rightly said, what more can be done? Given the time I have taken, I have perhaps indicated that a lot is being done. Mr Putin has a clear message being sent to him that the world stands united, and we will continue to do so. His disregard for international norms and laws is unacceptable. He will continue, I am sure, in his unprovoked, reckless and destabilising activity, but the ultimate objective must be to remove Russian forces from Ukraine, relinquish his illegal control of Ukrainian territory, and end his barbaric attacks against civilians. Until then, the Government are resolute—I know I speak for all noble Lords on this—and we will continue to support the brave people of Ukraine by ramping up diplomatic, economic and, yes, military pressure on Mr Putin and Russia. We will do all we can to bring about the end of Mr Putin’s invasion and ensure that in 2023 and beyond, Ukraine maintains its momentum, supported by the international community.
In closing, I again recognise the contribution and lineage of my noble friend Lord Soames, so it is perhaps apt to end this debate with a quote from Winston Churchill about a conflict of the past which is very much etched on our minds:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”—
and Ukraine has that in abundance. As President Zelensky himself said yesterday, freedom will win. Slava Ukraini!