Ukraine - Motion to Take Note

– in the House of Lords am 10:05 am ar 26 Ionawr 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

That this House takes note of the situation in Ukraine.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, I first welcome all noble Lords who are taking part in this extremely important debate. I thank them all in advance for their participation in what I know will be an in-depth, insightful and expert debate. Looking around your Lordships’ House today again underlines the deep commitment of this House—indeed, of our country—to Ukraine and its people. My noble friend Lord Minto and I both look forward to the insights that will be provided. I believe that this debate will once again underline the strong commitment and continued focus that the United Kingdom has on providing support to Ukraine.

It is now nearly two years since Russia’s illegal invasion. The recent escalation by Russia once again demonstrates the need for unity in support of Ukraine. The Government are extremely grateful for the uniform support across all Benches for supporting Ukraine. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister was the first leader to visit the country this year. Ukraine continues to be a top priority for His Majesty’s Government because ultimately, as I am sure we all recognise, this is a generational struggle. Our friends, but also our enemies, are watching very carefully to see whether the UK—and indeed the collective West, as it is often termed—has the real resolve and ability not just to support Ukraine but to allow it to win.

It is poignant that we meet just as we look towards the commemoration of the Holocaust, because the atrocities in Ukraine are unmatched in Europe in almost 80 years. Our generation—all of us—must not fail this vital test. We must continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes. Ukraine has shown that, with the right support, Russia can be defeated.

The human cost of the war unleashed by Mr Putin is frankly unimaginable. More than 14 million Ukrainians are in dire need of help right now. The latest reports are of over 29,000 civilian casualties: over 10,000 killed and 19,000 injured. Several million people have been displaced inside Ukraine and almost 6 million people are registered as refugees across Europe. This is the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War. Food, medicine and basic hygiene items are scarce in the worst-hit areas. People have been cut off from basic services, including things we all take for granted, such as water. Children have been denied education. Energy supplies are extremely challenging. Simply put, lives and a country have been shattered.

The ramifications of Russia’s activities are, of course, not confined to Ukraine; they have global impact. Since Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain initiative last July, it has been cynically and systematically attacking Ukrainian ports and grain storage facilities—frankly, using food as a weapon of war while stealing food from the mouths of the world’s poorest. We all know that Ukraine was the breadbasket to the world. Close to half a billion people depended on those supplies.

Therefore, Russia must be held to account for its actions. International law must be upheld and infractions punished. Not only is the war in clear violation of the UN charter but Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General has recorded more than 120,000 incidents of alleged war crimes, including murder, rape, torture and, as we have all recognised in this House, the shocking deportation of children.

Similarly, UN investigators and agencies are gathering evidence that shows that serious international crimes have been committed. Allegations of war crimes must be fully and fairly investigated by independent legal mechanisms. That is why, since the start of the war, the United Kingdom has provided £2 million in additional contributions to the International Criminal Court, to increase the court’s ability to collect evidence and support survivors. Indeed, Ukraine was one of the subjects that I and my noble friend Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, discussed when the ICC prosecutor visited the UK recently. Together with the EU and the US, we have also established an Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group to support Ukraine’s own domestic investigations and prosecutions.

Tragically, there continues to be mounting evidence of horrific acts of sexual violence and other crimes committed by Russian forces. I assure noble Lords that the United Kingdom has been working very closely with Ukrainian actors involved in tackling conflict-related sexual violence, including, importantly, with First Lady Zelenska. The First Lady herself has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of these issues. I commend her, as I am sure all noble Lords do, on her powerful advocacy for women and girls.

This is poignant for me, as I know it will be for my noble friend Lady Anelay, who is joining us for this debate. As the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, I assure noble Lords that I will continue to work very closely with First Lady Zelenska and others to champion support for survivors and promote justice and accountability. A member of the UK’s team of experts on preventing sexual violence in conflict is also directly supporting the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General. This will help develop its conflict-related sexual violence strategy, produce an action plan and determine standard operating procedures in line with international best practice.

I now turn to the war itself. Mr Putin is now two years into a war he thought he could win in days. The longer it goes on, the more Russia suffers. The Ukrainian counter-offensive is inflicting serious pressure on Russia’s own military. Ukraine has retaken over half the land seized by Russia since the war began, including Snake Island, Kharkiv and Kherson. Ukraine has demolished over 50% of Russia’s pre-war land combat power. In October, it destroyed 20% of Russia’s attack helicopters in a single night. Over 300,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured.

Ukraine has also successfully pushed back much of the Russian Black Sea fleet from Crimea, destroying 15% of the Russian fleet’s vessels. On the back of these successes, it has now established a maritime corridor to export its goods from Black Sea ports, which we all welcome. Since the corridor became operational, I can report that 300 ships have exported 10 million tonnes of cargo through the corridor, including over 7 million tonnes of grain by the end of December. This remarkable success is crucial for global food security, the Ukrainian economy and for making Crimea a vulnerability rather than a strength for Russia and for Mr Putin.

We are at a historic moment. Ukraine has decided that its future is in Europe and EU leaders have agreed to open accession talks. Mr Putin’s war has prompted new countries to join NATO: first Finland, with Sweden to follow. Russia’s latest aerial bombardment has come at a vast cost, with limited military effect. Its missile stockpiles have been significantly depleted. Ukraine can now reliably shoot down its superweapon, the Kinzhal missile. Every Kinzhal costs $7 million, as much as 130 Russian teachers’ salaries. Mr Putin is now turning in desperation to other places, including North Korea, for missiles. He is being forced to pick less valuable targets, with less air defence and fewer air assets. On Monday last week, Ukraine downed a £250 million A-50 Russian spy plane. Only a few remain operational. With a few exceptions, power and utilities remain functional across Ukraine.

None of this would have been possible without the sustained pipeline of military aid that we and others have provided. Ukraine is proving that it is more than capable of defeating the Russian invasion, and this will continue so long as we continue to provide it with the tools it needs. The outcome of the war is down to our collective will. In total, the United Kingdom is now providing almost £12 billion of military, humanitarian and economic support to Ukraine. Together with our partners, our collective capability vastly outweighs that of Russia. As a simple fact, if you add up the countries on Ukraine’s side, we outmatch Russia’s GDP by about 25:1. Our collective defence spending is 15 times greater. We must make that economic difference count.

This is affordable. Our support so far makes up 0.45% of GDP for the UK, 0.66% for Europe and 0.3% for the US. That is a mere drop in the ocean when you consider how costly it has been for Russia. It is simply not sustainable, because it now spends as much as 40% of its total government spending on defence. That is 6% of its GDP—contributing to huge, spiralling inflation even as inflationary pressures in our economies continue to fall. That is why we will continue to remind international partners that supporting Ukraine now is far cheaper than facing the consequences of a Russian victory. Make no mistake, that would mean Cold War levels of European defence spending.

What we need to do is clear; I will outline our approach. First, we must ensure that Ukraine has the military supplies it needs to keep pushing the Russians back. In December, the UK announced 200 new air defence missiles, topping up Ukraine’s crucial air defence capability to protect its citizens.

Secondly, we must ensure that Ukraine wins the war if Mr Putin prolongs it. We will do this by committing to long-term support. We will increase our military aid to a total of £2.5 billion over the coming financial year. At the NATO summit last year, 30 countries promised to sign long-term pledges of security support; the United Kingdom was the first to deliver on this commitment on 12 January, when the Prime Minister signed our bilateral agreement on security assurances with President Zelensky in Kyiv.

We will build Ukraine’s future force, stepping up western industrial production and delivering the new capability coalitions. Last month, the UK launched a new maritime capability coalition, together with Norway, to ensure Ukraine’s future security in the Black Sea. We will also help sustain the Ukrainian economy: we will promote its maritime exports, help attract the private sector back and keep up the fiscal support.

We will squeeze Russia’s war machine. We are doing this by reducing persistent international dependence on its exports, including oil, gas and metals. Our sanctions are working; we had a discussion on this only yesterday in your Lordships’ House. The sanctions have deprived Russia of over $400 billion in potential war funding. We will keep tightening our sanctions, to stop it finding ways around them. We have sanctioned some evaders of the G7’s oil price cap and are planning more measures as well. We will come after the shadow vessels and their enablers. We would like to see Europe do more to reduce its dependence on Russian LNG. With our partners, we will starve Russia’s military industrial production of western-made components, such as computer numerical machine tools.

Thirdly, we will continue to lay the foundation for Ukraine’s long-term future. We are accelerating Ukraine’s move towards NATO. We are providing private sector-led growth, driving reform and unlocking obstacles to trade and investment. For example, on war insurance, the UK has given £20 million to the World Bank to extend risk insurance for inward investments into Ukraine.

Last week, the UK’s development finance institution, British International Investment, closed its first investment in Ukraine—$25 million, alongside funding from the International Finance Corporation. BII’s investment will help companies in Ukraine stay in business and access the credit they need to finance imports and exports on better terms. Many noble Lords were at the London Ukraine Recovery Conference last year, where we announced £250 million to de-risk investments in projects to support economic recovery.

We are also actively exploring options with partners to fund recovery through the seizure of Russian assets. I know every Member here today agrees, as do many people in our country, that there is a strong moral case for this. Russia’s Government should pay for the huge damage they have caused. G7 leaders have already agreed that sovereign assets should remain frozen until Russia compensates Ukraine.

I now turn to the military support we are providing to Ukraine. We have committed more than £7 billion of military support until now. That is among the biggest contributions by any single nation. Our pipeline of supplies of ammunition, air defence and artillery, in combination with supplies from our international partners, has been pivotal. As the first nation to provide lethal aid, we helped to galvanise the international response. We have been training members of Ukraine’s armed forces since before the invasion, providing battlefield skills that enable volunteer soldiers to defend their homeland against Russian aggression. Until now we have trained more than 34,000 Ukrainian personnel under Operation Interflex, and we have committed to train up to 10,000 more in the first half of 2024. In Kyiv, the Prime Minister announced an increased military funding package for Ukraine of £2.5 billion for the next financial year.

As well as this, the Prime Minister signed the UK-Ukraine agreement on security co-operation with President Zelensky. The UK is the first country to deliver on this promise. The agreement is the first step in developing an unshakeable 100-year partnership between the UK and Ukraine. It formalises a range of support that the UK will continue to provide, including intelligence sharing, cybersecurity, medical and military training and defence industrial co-operation. It also contains mutual commitments on reform. Significantly, it also commits to providing swift and sustained assistance to defend against a future Russian attack. It will signal to Russia and Mr Putin that we are in this for the long haul and that he cannot wait us out, and it reassures Ukraine of our long-term commitment to its security and its right to determine its own future as an independent nation.

Our military support is one element, but humanitarian and economic support matter equally. We are providing, as one of the largest bilateral donors to Ukraine, support in both these areas. Since the start of the invasion we have provided more than £4.7 billion in non-military support, including £357 million in lifesaving assistance to Ukraine and the region, which reached up to 10 million people in 2023. We are currently working to protect Ukrainians from the worst effects of the war through the winter. We have committed £34 million to the United Nations and charities to provide shelter and warm winter clothing. The Prime Minister announced an additional £18 million of aid funding during his visit. In addition, we have committed almost £140 million to rebuild Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. We are providing generators and hybrid solar units for hospitals, as well as funding for vital repairs following Russian attacks on infrastructure.

Turning briefly to diplomacy, the United Kingdom has, as many noble Lords have recognised and supported, consistently led and supported actions to condemn, isolate and hold Russia to account in multilateral organisations. This is an important part of maintaining pressure on the Russian Government. We took several steps in March 2022 in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion. On 2 March, the UN General Assembly voted comprehensively—141 yes votes—to condemn Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and affirm the international community’s commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and, importantly, territorial integrity of Ukraine. Later in March, the UK pushed partners in the Council of Europe to suspend and then end Russia’s 26-year membership. In April 2022, Russia was suspended from the Human Rights Council following a powerful demonstration of unity in the UN General Assembly, where 93 states voted in favour. This was the strongest punitive action the UN membership has taken against a P5 member in its history. Later that year, in October, 143 countries adopted a resolution in the UN General Assembly condemning Russia’s sham referenda and illegal attempted annexation. Last year, on 24 February, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that reiterated its demands that Russia withdraw immediately and unconditionally all its military forces; 141 member states voted in favour. These outcomes demonstrate the strength of international unity against Russia’s aggression.

We have been clear that the quickest route to peace is for Russia to stop this war now and withdraw from Ukraine. We are supporting Ukraine’s vigorous efforts to bring the international community together to discuss Ukraine’s principles for peace, most recently last week, via a meeting of more than 80 countries in Davos. We continue to urge Russia to stop its illegal war. I put on record once again my thanks and those of my noble friend and the Government to all noble Lords, not just those participating today, for the consistent and strong support we have had from all parties and from all parts of your Lordships’ House. Noble Lords have provided the strength that is needed for not just the Government and our nation but, importantly, for the people of Ukraine in understanding the strength of unity in the UK. The Prime Minister paid tribute to the bravery and determination of the people of Ukraine in his address to the Ukrainian Rada. As he said in Kyiv, in the end, history tells us that democracies that endure will always prevail.

I end with this promise and assurance, and I am sure I speak for every noble Lord: the United Kingdom will not walk away from our responsibilities to Ukraine. We will stand with Ukraine today. We will stand with Ukraine tomorrow. We will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. Slava Ukraini.

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords) 10:27, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, for his extremely important statement to your Lordships’ House this morning. It was very well received, detailed and informative for us all. I look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Camoys, and wish him well on it and on his time in your Lordships’ House.

As the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, mentioned, it is very important to start such debates by reiterating our full support for the Government and the policies they are pursuing in Ukraine. In doing so, we support and salute, as the noble Lord did, the bravery of the people of Ukraine. There is no difference between us regarding our shared objectives. As has been said on many occasions in the other place, if there were to be a change of government there would be no change in the determination of any such new Government to see this through and stand with Ukraine, recognising that its security is our security, and that its fight is a fight for all of us in this country, in Europe and beyond.

Even today we read in our newspapers of Putin visiting Kaliningrad and saying there that the west needs to be careful. With the UK Government also saying that there is a one in four chance that Russia will attack a UK ally in the next two years, will the Minister outline for us what that assessment is? I think for all of us it is a stark warning of the importance of the debate we are having here today. It is not a theoretical debate or an academic exercise, but the proper function of Parliament and government in looking at the threats that may face our country and our allies. We welcome the comprehensive 10-year UK-Ukraine defence co-operation agreement as a positive step, perhaps representing a model for Ukraine to use with other G7 countries, short of NATO membership—although we ask for more detail on the implementation of its welcome statements and objectives.

We also very much welcome the new military funding announced for 2024-25 of £2.5 billion, which, as the Minister mentioned, is a £200 million increase from last year. We hope this encourages others to make good their commitments, including at the forthcoming EU meeting on 1 February. I believe that with the money just announced we have provided some £12 billion in aid, which has allowed Ukraine to fight the Russian aggression. However, we believe it would help Ukraine in its fight if such funding were done as a multiyear funding agreement, and I wonder whether the Government are considering that.

It appears welcome—again, we look for confirmation from the Government—that Hungary has withdrawn its objections to the EU package of aid to Ukraine. If so, that is welcome news. Perhaps the Minister can confirm that or otherwise. Of course, we look to the US and hope that in due course its aid package for Ukraine will be agreed.

Much as we can rightly be proud of the military support that we have given and are giving to Ukraine, there is no doubt that this war and other threats across the world have acted as a wake-up call to us all in respect of defence. We have long expressed concerns about the reduction in the size of the Army, leading to the calls from General Sanders, which, however right or wrong, ask very important questions. Other questions remain regarding the numbers of planes and ships, including the use or non-use of our carriers; indeed, the head of the US Navy has talked about that in the last 24 hours. We will need to have a debate and discussion about the correct configuration of our Armed Forces.

Ukraine’s most pressing need, alongside personnel, has been the provision of equipment and ammunition. It has been a real struggle to provide sufficient quantities of military hardware while ensuring that we have sufficient in other spheres of activity for our own forces. The Minister may wish to say more about what, if any, rethink is going on regarding our own industrial base and capacity, as the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, mentioned.

What of the future? Will Ukraine receive all that it needs from us, the US, NATO and others? Importantly, will it receive all the weapons that it asks for? What is our policy on requests for military equipment coming from Ukraine? Speed of delivery and quantity of resource are everything.

There are others here who are much more expert in discussing the military situation, the equipment that is needed or the tactics that should be used. The Minister may wish to elaborate further, as far as he can, on his assessment of the current military situation on the ground and the expectation of any new Russian offensive. What is the latest regarding the Black Sea, where even open-source material, as the Minister mentioned, suggests that we are making some welcome progress?

In debates such as this, it is important for us to continue to make the case loudly and clearly for supporting Ukraine. The British public have done an amazing job in standing with Ukraine until now, and we need to continue to argue the case. It may be that there is virtual unanimity in this Parliament, but we need to make the case continuously to the British public and beyond for why we will and should continue to spend huge sums of money to support Ukraine.

Only last year, as the Minister mentioned, Ukraine stopped Russia from defeating it militarily, installing a puppet Government and bringing Ukraine back into the Russian fold. Since that time, we have supported Ukraine in maintaining its freedom. Putin expected NATO to divide. Instead, in overall terms NATO is stronger, with Ukraine far closer to NATO than to Russia. Perhaps the Minister can update us on the welcome joining of Finland to NATO. As I understand it, the Turkish parliament recently passed a motion allowing Sweden to join. Perhaps there is a timeline for that on which the Minister could update the House.

Let us be clear, as we make the case for our ongoing involvement, that there is no confusion between right and wrong in this conflict. This Parliament, the British public and our friends and allies choose international law, human rights and democratic values over the autocracy personified by Russia’s aggression. We should recognise that preventing a Russian victory in Ukraine will diminish the threat from Russia. Our eastern European allies, particularly in the Baltic states, feel very vulnerable. Ukraine, by its war against Russia and achieving what it is, is preventing further aggression and instability. A Russia staying within its borders is in all our interests. A strong Ukraine will be a strong NATO ally, deter future Russian aggression and keep the peace. Have we not learned the lesson of history that appeasement does not work?

We need to continue to support Ukraine as the outcome will affect our security beyond Europe, in Asia and across the world. Imagine the reaction of China on seeing the US, the UK, NATO and their global supporters fail in Ukraine. Would China not feel emboldened, rather than considering the consequences for itself on seeing a strong West determined to see a conflict through to a successful conclusion?

This is also about the preservation of an international rules-based order. Russia flagrantly broke those rules when it invaded Ukraine. What does it say for us, not only here in Europe but beyond, if international treaties, agreements or rules are to be ignored because they do not suit the ambitions of a particular country?

There is a competition or contest between those who support democracy and the autocracy of others. In Ukraine a democracy is under threat, supported by autocracies such as Iran, China and North Korea. We can see tension in many parts of the world, which is why, as the Minister pointed out, we are taking action against the Iranian-backed Houthis, who are seeking to disrupt our right to free passage by their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. Imagine how all these countries, with their supporters across Europe and the globe, would feel if the Ukrainians were not successful.

All this, although far away, could have profound effects on the security, safety and living of people in the UK, the rest of Europe and beyond. Instability and war could bring refugees and migrants, huge disruption to trade and energy shortages, as well as security threats.

The debate today gives us an opportunity to make this case. We are rightly focused in many ways on the crisis in the Middle East and the worries about escalation there. We are anxious about what the prospect of a Trump victory in the presidential election may or may not bring. But what I know, and what we should say, is that there is a need for the UK, as a senior member of NATO, a close ally and friend of the US, an important Five Eyes member and a member of the UN Security Council, to stand tall in the international community and say loudly and clearly that we will continue to work to ensure success for Ukraine.

We know that the defence of democracy and freedom is sometimes hard, but we have proved in the past that we do not take it for granted. However difficult, we will not take it for granted now for ourselves, for Ukraine or for others. The defence of democracy, freedom and human rights is our rallying cry, and that should ring out from this Chamber to those who stand against us. The war in Ukraine is of crucial importance to us all, and we should not shrink from making sure that that echoes loudly and clearly from this Chamber and is heard in Russia and beyond. Democracy, human rights and freedom are at stake, and that is what the debate today is about.

Photo of Baroness Suttie Baroness Suttie Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Northern Ireland) 10:38, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I too thank the Minister for tabling this timely and extremely important debate and for his powerful and comprehensive opening speech.

The UK’s response has been powerful and united, and I know it has been very much appreciated in Ukraine. The generosity of many people in the UK in opening up their homes to Ukrainian families has shown Britain at its best. Equally, the cross-party support for the provision of military support to Ukraine, the introduction of sanctions against Russia and interventions through the International Criminal Court have all been extremely welcome and powerful.

There is, however, more that we can and should do to hurt the wealthy and the ruling classes in Russia. My noble friend Lord Purvis will say more about this. I would like to concentrate my remarks on the human cost of the war and I hope noble Lords will forgive me if, at times, some of them are of a rather personal nature.

From 2017 to 2019, I had the privilege of working on a variety of political and public health projects in Kyiv and Odesa. I worked on a project in the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada; as a result, I have kept in very regular contact with a great many Ukrainian friends throughout the war. If Ukrainian friends are now inevitably battle-worn and weary, they are also very wary that the political consensus in the West could change at any time. From Victor Orbán in Hungary to the change of mood in America, they are, I fear, right to be concerned. As the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has said, Ukrainians are also right to be deeply fearful at the prospect of another Trump presidency.

Exactly two years ago today, in January 2022, I was in Moscow attending a British Council conference at Moscow State University. In the margins of that conference there was much discussion of whether there could or would be a war with Ukraine. The general consensus among all the Russians whom I spoke to at that time was that it was just inconceivable that they would invade their Slavic brothers. Two years on from the illegal invasion of Ukraine, one or two of my brave Russian friends in St Petersburg and Moscow have publicly criticised the war. But for many, especially among the metropolitan elite, the war seems a distant and far-off event that has given them little inconvenience —perhaps just to their travel arrangements. The war has not directly impacted on their lives. They have just turned to doing their business to the east and south.

Putin has mostly avoided recruiting his front-line soldiers from the more powerful middle classes in Russia. He has recruited from the provinces, the migrant communities and the voiceless as well as, notoriously, recruiting prisoners through the Wagner organisation. There is fear in Russia of what the future might bring, especially for those who dare to speak out. They face an increasing number of laws that prevent any kind of public criticism of the war, so the majority of Russians, I am afraid, are doing what they have often done throughout history, which is to keep their heads down to avoid trouble.

Unlike in Russia, in Ukraine the lives of virtually every Ukrainian have been impacted by this war. Many of my male friends in Ukraine have served, and continue to serve, on the front line. Friends whom I used to work with in the parliament when they were political advisers are now in uniform and serving their country. Studies and careers are on hold as they fight to save their nation. Families are physically divided but united in their shared battle for the survival of Ukraine.

Some Ukrainian friends who initially left have now returned to Kyiv because, as they tell me, it is their home and they would prefer to stay there, whatever the risks. The psychological impact of air-raid sirens and sheltering in the Kyiv metro, night after night, is hard for us to comprehend. People have had to adapt and find new ways of surviving in the new normal that is life in Ukraine. As my friend Ostap Kryvdyk said to me the other day, the psychological impact of the war on the elderly has been particularly severe, as so much of what they have known for their whole lives has now been removed and they lack the desire to start again.

I have had the honour of getting to know many Ukrainians who have settled in this country through an extremely positive organisation called Canterbury for Ukraine. It has mobilised the local community to welcome Ukrainian refugees and assist them in adjusting to life in the UK. When the various schemes such as Homes for Ukraine were established, we obviously did not know how long this war would last. I have, however, been hearing from Ukrainians in Canterbury about some of the uncertainties that they now face. I heard of a lady who has been working as a cleaner in Canterbury since the beginning of the scheme. She is renting her own flat and her son is now at university, but she is now faced with uncertainty as to whether she will be able to stay and whether her son will be able to continue with his studies.

I appreciate that we do not have a Home Office Minister present today but it would be useful for those Ukrainians already in the UK, and making such an active and valuable contribution to our country, to have greater clarity about their right to remain, should they wish to do so. If the Minister feels unable to respond to that in his closing remarks, I would be grateful if he could write. Similarly for those children who are now well established in schools across the UK, what is our thinking about whether they can stay to finish their schooling? Will they have to go back to Ukraine at some point in the future when there is, as we hope, peace in their country?

In addition to the military support which we are giving, I hope that we will continue to assist Ukraine in other ways. The Minister laid some of these out in his remarks, but it is important that we continue to promote business and trade links. We should also help with PTSD and on mental health issues, as well as through leadership programmes for future generations of Ukrainians, such as through the John Smith Trust: I have to declare an interest as a trustee.

As we approach the second anniversary of this truly awful war and Putin continues with his ruthless strategy of hoping that the West gets tired, I hope we will remember that behind the statistics and military strategies that we will debate today are the lives of ordinary people in Ukraine whom we must continue to support. However difficult it becomes, we owe it to the brave Ukrainian people who just want the freedom to live their lives in peace and to build a free and independent Ukraine.

Photo of Lord Stirrup Lord Stirrup Crossbench 10:46, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, during our debate on Ukraine last September, I cautioned that there would be no rapid military resolution to the war there and that we should be prepared for a protracted and messy conflict. Events since then have served only to reinforce this view.

Perhaps the most important operational development over the past year has been the extent to which Ukrainian forces have been able to threaten Russia’s use of Crimea as a secure base for its maritime forces. This is undoubtedly a major achievement. We should not underestimate the strategic significance of Crimea to Russia. For Russia, its security is of much greater importance than relatively small movements of the front line elsewhere in Ukraine. Nevertheless, Russian consolidation of its positions in the Donbass and the south of the country poses a serious challenge for Ukrainian planners. This is particularly so given the losses that the Ukrainian armed forces have suffered and continue to suffer on the front lines. Russian losses have been even higher but, of course, its resources are much greater.

We must face the fact that the nature of this conflict has changed, or perhaps not so much changed but become more obvious. It is a battle of wills between Putin and the West. His calculus is that a protracted campaign will become increasingly unpopular in the West and that the political will to sustain the financial and material costs will erode over time, with a consequent weakening of Ukraine’s military ability to resist. Putin no doubt believes, as others have said, that a Trump victory in this year’s American general election could be very helpful in that regard. The Defence Secretary agrees. In his recent speech at Lancaster House, he said:

“Putin believes the West lacks staying power. And since the future of the world order is at stake, we must prove him wrong”.

He went on:

“Old enemies are reanimated. New foes are taking shape. Battle lines are being redrawn. The tanks are literally on Europe’s Ukrainian lawn … the foundations of the world order are being shaken to their core. We stand at this crossroads—whether to surrender to a sea of troubles, or do everything we can to deter the danger”.

If that were not enough, the Foreign Secretary has said:

“The lights are absolutely flashing red … on the global dashboard”.

He also said:

“It is hard to think of a time when there has been so much danger, insecurity and instability in the world”.

I am with them but, given such a dire if accurate analysis of our situation, noble Lords might understand how much it jarred with me when the Defence Secretary also said that

“we have made the critical decision to set out our aspiration to reach 2.5% of GDP … on defence”.

Talk about an anticlimax.

Up to now, the UK has done well in its support for Ukraine. But if we are to prove Putin wrong about the West’s staying power, we must make the necessary sustained investment in defence capability and defence industrial capacity. With that in mind, it is worth remembering that the Iran-Iraq war—a brutal conflict that ended in stalemate—lasted for eight years. We cannot forecast the course of the war in Ukraine, but we should be thinking in these kinds of timescales. In that context, 2.5% of GDP is not nearly enough for defence, and we do not even have a commitment to reach that inadequate level—just an aspiration.

We are frequently told by the Government that they have delivered the largest increase in defence expenditure since the end of the Cold War. That may be, but it is only after imposing some of the largest cuts. As I have said before, you really cannot claim credit for helping someone to keep their head just above water when you pushed them into the river in the first place.

Another frequent argument is that how we spend the money matters much more than how much we have to spend. Nobody disagrees with the principle that money should be spent wisely, but try telling all the British citizens suffering from the recent significant rise in the cost of living that their problems are their own fault and that they would disappear if only they managed their money better. Improved efficiency can mitigate to some extent, but cannot eliminate, the damaging consequences of inadequate resources.

In his evidence to your Lordship’s International Relations and Defence Committee, the previous Defence Secretary admitted that the Armed Forces had been hollowed out over far too many years. He subsequently confirmed that defence needed more investment than the Government were prepared to commit.

This is not an issue just for the UK. If the outcome in Ukraine is as critical as the Government claim—rightly, in my view—the countries of western Europe simply cannot allow their safety and security to be subject to the vagaries of American politics. They need to increase defence expenditure significantly, expand defence industrial capacity and co-ordinate their efforts both to support Ukraine and to strengthen NATO more widely. As the Minister reminded us, together, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and all the other countries within NATO have more than enough economic and industrial muscle to overmatch Russia, even with the latter on a draconian war footing. What is required is the will to do it, and that is not yet evident. The UK should be offering a greater lead in this regard. We have to match our grand words with decisive and sustained actions, backed by the appropriate resources.

On Tuesday, we witnessed the introduction of the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Hereford. We have heard the words of a bishop’s introduction to the House many times, and perhaps we too often let them just roll over us. However, on that occasion I could not but reflect on the relevance and urgency of some of the phrases:

“considering the difficulty of the said affairs and the dangers impending … as you regard … the safety and defence of the said Kingdom … in nowise do you omit”.

The Government would do well to take this stricture to heart. As far as defence is concerned, there has been far too much omitting over recent years, and it has to stop.

Photo of Baroness Meyer Baroness Meyer Ceidwadwyr 10:53, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, as we enter the third year of the war in Ukraine, questions are being asked about how long the conflict can last and how long the West can continue its support. The quick win we were all hoping for has not happened. Commentators speak of a stalemate. Russia occupies around one-fifth of Ukrainian territory and will not give that up easily. There are talks of a large-scale Russian offensive deeper into Ukraine, while the Ukrainian counteroffensive is running out of steam due to a lack of funding, a lack of weaponry and unsustainable losses.

Almost a year ago, in March 2023, the World Bank estimated that it would cost a minimum of $411 billion to rebuild Ukraine. Oleksandr Gryban, Ukraine’s former Deputy Minister of Economy, said that the figure could be closer to $1 trillion now. Naturally, both sides are looking for help abroad. An axis of resistance is forming, as Russia is getting weapons from Iran, China and North Korea. Ukraine is again asking for more weapons and financial support from its allies in the West.

Thankfully, the West has reaffirmed its commitment to Ukraine. The EU is confident that all members will agree to give €50 billion from the joint budget, despite Hungarian opposition. This is on top of many independent bilateral agreements from European countries. As the trade envoy to Ukraine, I am particularly proud of the United Kingdom’s steadfast support. We have already delivered £9.3 billion in humanitarian, economic and military support. This month, the Prime Minister agreed to increase our military funding from £2.3 to £2.5 billion.

But, while European nations are increasing their support, there is growing concern about the future of US military aid. As mentioned, President Biden’s request of $61.4 billion has still not been approved by Congress. There is also growing reluctance among American voters, particularly Republicans, to provide additional support to Ukraine. This isolationist stance will only solidify should Donald Trump come to power. Given Putin’s past behaviour, it is likely that Moscow will try to interfere in the United States’ elections.

While we are all united in supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression, the ever-growing financial cost of rebuilding Ukraine and the drain on public finances, let alone the human cost, will undoubtedly lead to a point when we will have to explore ways to stop this carnage. Speaking as a woman and a mother of two sons, and seeing the atrocities every day—towns being destroyed, women raped, children abducted and more and more killing—I ask how much longer this can go on. This is not appeasement but the realisation that war cannot continue indefinitely. Diplomacy will have to take the reins.

Some will say that any negotiation would be impossible, but we have done this before, when America and the Soviet Union came close to nuclear war in 1962, with the Cuban missile crisis. It had a sobering effect on Washington and Moscow, which led to the establishment of a hotline between the two capitals to defuse the crisis. The notion of relaxing tension then entered the foreign policy vocabulary; we called it détente in the West. It triggered a series of agreements and confidence-building measures banning nuclear proliferation, which lasted until 1979. The Helsinki accords, signed in 1975, provided a framework for European security. Could a similar diplomatic offensive help persuade Putin to come to some compromise?

An article in yesterday’s Foreign Affairs was about the prevailing myths and misconceptions that distort how America and Russia see each other, and how

“they get in the way of sound strategy and agile diplomacy”.

A RUSI analysis, published the day before, stated that even a “partial victory for Russia” would have catastrophic consequences not only for Ukraine but for the West and NATO. It stated that any peace treaty in which Ukraine could survive despite the loss of territory would be just another Minsk agreement, giving Putin the strategic pause necessary to prepare the next phase of aggression.

Given this stark scenario, can my noble friend the Minister assure the House that Europe could maintain defending Ukraine without the support of the United States? If there is a shred of doubt, should this narrow window of opportunity before the US election and the likelihood of a President Trump win be used for negotiation? Can he also tell the House whether there is any realistic possibility of ending this war other than through diplomacy?

I too look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Camoys.

Photo of Lord Robertson of Port Ellen Lord Robertson of Port Ellen Llafur 11:00, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I draw attention to my entry in the register. I also commend the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, following her in her envoy responsibilities to Ukraine.

I want first to thank the Government for providing time for this debate on Ukraine. We need constantly to discuss the illegal, unprovoked attack on Ukraine, because the fight of the Ukrainian people is our fight as well. Secondly, I congratulate the Prime Minister on his visit last week to Kyiv and commend the important package of military help and the new security guarantees that he gave when he was there. It is good that this new money has been announced, since the 2023 money will run out in only a few weeks’ time. However, if there is to be a strong signal to the Kremlin of our long-term support, I urge the Government to give a multiyear commitment and not simply a one-year package. That will inevitably involve sacrifices by our taxpayers, but, remarkably, it is an investment in our own nation’s safety.

The basic rule of politics is that it is not what you say; it is what people hear. That one man in the Kremlin needs to hear—has to hear—that we are with Ukraine until it prevails. Sir Basil Liddell Hart, one of great strategists of the Second World War, wisely said that the outcome of the battle will more likely be determined in the minds of the commanders than in the bodies of their men. It is into the mind of Vladimir Putin that we need to get the message that he cannot win. Frankly, we in the West—in the White House and in European capitals—have become preoccupied, and therefore limited, by fears of “escalation”. It is time now that, instead, we inculcate in the minds of Putin, his high military command and that elite who acquiesce with this fatal adventure the idea that they in Russia might overstep the mark and escalate beyond their own limits and hence endanger the “motherland” itself.

It is only now, with the Ukrainians having developed their own means of striking inside Russia without our weaponry, that Russians will at last begin to see the price that they are paying for Putin’s folly. I repeat that we need to get the message into the mind of that one man who made the decision to invade—the same man who can order the withdrawal—that his strategic mission has been a failure.

We sink far too easily and far too often into the lazy, dangerous narrative that, since last year’s overoptimistic autumn offensive stalled against the minefields and trenches of the Russian conscripts, somehow Ukraine cannot succeed. That is plainly wrong. In reality, Putin’s clear original objective of limiting NATO enlargement and European Union encroachment, of dividing Europe and breaking the transatlantic bonds, has been a miserable failure—not to mention his demented ambition of taking and subordinating Ukraine in three days.

Now, with no real Russian progress in taking territory beyond the minefields, and indeed losing half of what they originally took 700 days ago, and by failing even to occupy the land they had pretended and legislated to annex, it would appear that Putin can only wait it out until Donald Trump gets elected, who, he hopes, will do some grubby deal to end the war. Even that strategy, if that is what it can be called, is incorrect. Republican members of the United States Congress who were here last week with the Marshall fund were keen to articulate that such a strategy is flawed. When he was in office, and in spite of his rhetoric, President Trump sent missiles to Poland, increased funding to NATO and robustly increased the power of his own military. Therefore, it begins to look like yet another Kremlin miscalculation.

In my personal view—and I dealt with Putin in better times—there is a weakness inside the secretive enclave in the walls of the Moscow Kremlin. From the outside, we, and indeed the Russian people, cannot know how fragile is the morale in the circle around Putin. However, from the Prigozhin incident—here was a man invented by, organised by and used by Putin brutally exposing the truth of this disaster—we got a glimpse of the unseen tensions in the ruling elite. What we saw in Prigozhin’s march on Moscow was the revelation of a serious weakness, a chink in the armour of a gambling authoritarian.

By continuing to build our supplies to Kyiv, by maintaining western unity and by giving the strongest possible message of our continuing resolve, the man in the Kremlin may yet see that there is a way out for him from this Russian-made, Putin-made disaster.

Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 11:07, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I thank the Minister for securing this important debate and for his very helpful introduction. It is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, with his interest and expertise, and, as a Kremlin watcher, his awareness of what is going on there. I particularly echo the comments of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, about the need to provide the right level of resources both to Ukraine and to our defence forces at a time when Europe, which includes the United Kingdom, is certainly on red alert.

I am vice-president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. President Zelensky’s party, Servant of the People, and Kira Rudik’s party, Holos, are both members of ALDE. It is a privilege to work with them on all matters European.

It is obvious that all parties in the UK Parliament are very much of the same mind as the Government about what we need to do to support Ukraine. It is good that we have supported it in the past, but we need to make sure that the level of support continues.

I want to point out something that is not often said but which we just take for granted: that the Ukrainian parliament, regardless of parties, is absolutely united in its actions—not just in its military actions but in everything that it is doing inside its country and, equally important, as ambassadors out to the rest of the world about what is happening.

My friend and colleague Kira Rudik was bombed overnight a few weeks ago. Every single window in her house was blown in, with damage everywhere. She had what she described as minor injuries but was taken to hospital. The Ukrainian people have just got used to this; it is not unlike the Blitz. When she got home from hospital the following day, she discovered that her neighbours had already put up thick plastic sheeting and removed the worst of the broken glass so that, in the midst of winter, she did not return to a house that was completely open to the elements. Emergency responders to that event were once again putting out fires and ferrying the wounded to hospital. The circumstances that they are working in are not dissimilar to those of the Blitz, and we still have people in this country who remember those days. But the Blitz did not last for two years solid; they are facing this every night in Ukraine.

I should declare my interest as a vice-chair of the All-Party Fire Safety and Rescue Group. We have been working with Fire Aid, which is run by fire service officers who have run a number of aid convoys to first responders in Ukraine. It has now run out of resources. Can the Minister say what plans there are to continue that work? There was a convoy last year from the RAF fire service and some training but, as this bombing continues in communities, while the public eye is mostly on the military front line there is a real need to help the Ukrainian people manage.

Kira Rudik was in the UK this time last week asking the Government to help recover money now from the frozen funds of sanctioned people. It is good to hear that the Government are actively seeking this, so can the Minister expand slightly on what he said earlier? Is there any timescale for when Ukraine might get a response? It needs funding for the continuing war but it must also start to plan and fund rebuilding for afterwards.

I end on the Baltic states, Poland and other countries that neighbour Russia. I was in Vilnius a couple of months ago, where I noticed that Mayor Šimašius, the former liberal Mayor of Vilnius, had flashing up on the front of every bus “I love Ukraine”, alternating with its destination—a permanent reminder to the citizens of Vilnius how close they are to Putin and his front line. He also put on the city’s tallest skyscraper the phrase: “Putin, The Hague is waiting for you”. He is right. We have to constantly remind Putin that he will be held accountable not just for the invasion but for his threats to nations in addition to Ukraine. It is really important that we in this country do everything we can to stop Putin, end the war in Ukraine and stop the pressure on other European countries.

Photo of Lord Camoys Lord Camoys Ceidwadwyr 11:12, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, it is an enormous honour and privilege to make my maiden speech in such an important debate and to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton.

I am delighted to have been elected to this place. I have received the warmest welcome from across the House, for which I am most grateful, and thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for his kind words. Not only did so many take the trouble to welcome me but, quite amazingly, the doorkeepers already knew my name on my first day. I am immensely thankful for the help and guidance I have received from them, the Clerk of the Parliaments and Black Rod, their offices and the rest of the fantastic team of staff who work here.

I am also pleased to say that my first day in your Lordships’ House was significantly more auspicious than my first day in the Foreign Office. Keen to make a good impression as a new diplomat, I booked a taxi to ensure that I would get there on time—but while I was bending down to get my wallet at the end of the journey, the seat of my suit trousers ripped wide open. Thankfully, parliamentary security here did not need to spare my blushes in the same way that the security team at the Foreign Office did, finding me safety pins to hide my boxer shorts, which were on full display to Whitehall.

I am making my maiden speech today because much of my career has been spent working abroad. It has taught me the importance for us of looking up and looking out, and never losing a global perspective. During my time in the Foreign Office, I worked in the Afghanistan emergency unit, then in the Middle East on Iran, then in a posting to New Delhi and, finally, I spent three years working on counterterrorism. During that time, I visited Ukraine on a couple of occasions. After the Foreign Office, I set up a financial advisory business focused on China, which led us to move as a family to live in Beijing for five years. My work with China has principally been about building bridges and providing understanding. I passionately believe that the better we understand each other, the more likely we are to have better engagement. I hope I can use my experience occasionally to illuminate our debates on world affairs and Britain’s influence.

I have also been actively engaged in nature conservation for 30 years—I am chair of the UK Trust for Nature Conservation in Nepal—as well as tourism and film. I have been diversifying my family’s tourism business at Stonor in Oxfordshire, which my late father did so much to make possible, and am currently setting up a new film studio in Marlow—but these are subjects for another day. Today, my focus is on Ukraine. Many noble Peers, some of whom are speaking today, have had a much more distinguished career in the foreign service than I had, so I speak with humility and some trepidation as I make the following observations. Some may be obvious, but the obvious merits repeating.

First, Putin’s invasion has changed the world we live in, and we have to accept the changes that have arisen from that. The period of hope after the fall of the Iron Curtain is over. The invasion caused a global systemic shock that ended a decade of low interest rates and low inflation. It threw globalisation into reverse. It has undermined global institutions, the foundation stones of the international order. Russia once again poses a dangerous long-term threat to the West. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that our begrudging acceptance of Putin’s annexation of Crimea was a miscalculation. We pulled our punches to avoid escalation. We did that before, in the 1930s, and it did not end well. We now have no alternative but to make Putin’s invasion in 2022 his own miscalculation. We cannot allow national borders to be changed by force. The impact not just here but elsewhere would be disastrous.

Secondly, we have to commit to support Ukraine for the long term. This will be another difficult year, and the next will probably be the same. Ukraine’s heroic defence at the start of the war, and the early support it received from the UK and other allies, stopped the wholesale capitulation that Putin expected. But the West was too slow to supply the heavy armament and long-range attack capability required. We might well be in a different situation if it had been supplied earlier. Our 10-year commitment to our bilateral security co-operation agreement with Ukraine will help ensure that Ukraine can plan and fight more than just from one year to the next. Helping Ukraine along the path to NATO and EU membership will make the West’s determination clear to Russia. We must keep this going.

The UK’s support needs to be a national effort. Our supply of long-range missiles has significantly changed the balance in Crimea, pushing back Russia’s Black Sea fleet. We really can make a difference, but to do so at scale and over a long duration will require a significant ramping up of our defence manufacturing capabilities and 24/7 shifts in our defence factories. I am delighted that we have increased defence spending, but we have to acknowledge that we are not prepared for the threat from Russia. During the Cold War, we could field four Army divisions at high readiness. Today, we can scarcely field one. We need to accept that we must invest much more in defence. Given that our debt is so high, difficult decisions have to be made on our spending priorities.

Most importantly, we have to maintain the West’s unity and resolve. The nurturing of that resolve must be our number one foreign policy objective. Putin believes he can break our resolve. He just needs to wait for us to find this all too painful. We would pay dearly if that were to happen. Ukraine cannot manage this on its own. Western support and perseverance must be non-negotiable. As others have said, it saddens me that we are worrying about maintaining American support for Ukraine; we must use all our diplomatic skills to keep America onside. Part of that probably involves Europe being prepared to pay more for our own defence.

Putin’s terrible war threatens not only Ukraine but the very values we cherish and our way of life. Defending those values carries a price. It will cost money. The question is very simple: are we prepared to see this through? I very much hope that the answer is yes. We must steel ourselves—or rue the day that we wavered.

Photo of Lord Vaizey of Didcot Lord Vaizey of Didcot Ceidwadwyr 11:19, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Camoys on the occasion of his maiden speech; it is an immense pleasure to welcome him to your Lordships’ House. I am lucky enough to work with him at Marlow Film Studios, and we have got to know each other well over the last two years. It might seem a bit facetious to say that he is literally one of the nicest people I have ever met, but your Lordships will gather from his calm and authoritative speech that he will make some fantastic contributions to our debates in the years ahead. He brings a wealth of expertise in one so young, having worked in the Foreign Office and lived in China—which is going to play such an important part in our lives going forward—not to mention his entrepreneurial zeal.

As the steward of a film studio, a high-tech industry, he has one foot in modernity, but as the steward of Stonor Park he also has one foot in our nation’s heritage. I gather that Stonor Park has been in his family for some 800 years, so he clearly has staying power. To bring the thing full circle, Stonor Park is used as a film and television set. It has hosted brilliant programmes like “One Foot in the Grave” and “Antiques Roadshow”. Unkind souls might say that is perfect preparation for life in your Lordships’ House, but I could not comment on that.

This is an important debate, and one in which we are all united. It is a debate in which we can say unequivocally that our Government have done absolutely the right thing since this conflict began in showing unwavering support to Ukraine, providing it with moral, diplomatic and material support. We can also say that His Majesty’s loyal Opposition have done absolutely the right thing. My noble friend Lord Ahmad and the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, made two wonderful speeches. Hearing the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, say that the policy would not change should there be a change of government is a reminder to us that there are other Chambers around the world where that is not the case. That is something we should really treasure in this country, and which the Ukrainians depend on enormously.

I will focus on two issues: the need for European-wide defence, which the conflict in Ukraine has thrown into sharp relief, and the need for us to invest more in defence tech. I listened with great interest to the speech by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, whose speech demonstrated vastly more expertise and experience than mine will. I was, however, pleased to hear that my remarks will echo his.

Britain is the leading military power in Europe, and we have been the most steadfast supporter of Ukraine in Europe. However, I was particularly interested in some remarks made by Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party, in an interview he gave in Politico. They were welcome remarks, because he talked unequivocally about the need for European defence co-operation to significantly move up a gear. He talked about a common missile defence policy to protect Europe from missiles and drones, and a common cyber defence policy. He reminded us that President Macron has offered to have talks with Germany about a common nuclear defence policy, and there is talk of a potential EU defence commissioner.

Back in the days when we had vigorous debates about our future in Europe, a common European army was often described as something we should fear and shy away from. Manfred Weber also made clear in his remarks, however, that Europe can, must and should have a strong dialogue with the UK on this. European defence co-operation can no longer be put on the backburner. We have the resources and materiel to defend the European continent from Russian aggression; what will undermine us is an inability to work together.

The EU has, in some ways, let Ukraine down. For example, it still has half a million shells that it promised but which remain undelivered. We should remember, though, that more than 4 million Ukrainian refugees have found refuge in Europe. However, we can, and must, go further.

It is perhaps a shocking thing to say that every war provides an opportunity. Every war throws into relief how wars are fought here and now, and that is what Ukraine has shown. One lesson that most people involved in defence have learnt is the extent to which technology now plays a role in modern warfare—in particular, what is effectively garden shed technology: the ability to devise a technology solution and deploy it rapidly. The Ukrainian army has been very effective in doing this, and much more effective than the Russian army.

On talking to the UK’s small defence companies, it is clear that they are frustrated at the Ministry of Defence’s inability to work closely with them. I am sure that is probably unfair, and the situation is much more nuanced than that. However, it is true that the Ministry of Defence—like many other departments, dare I say it—likes to work with big tech and big companies. We have to find a way to allow the small, agile defence companies to deploy their technology as quickly as possible.

We have some amazing companies. Skyral, which came, improbably, from a video games company called Improbable, uses its software to analyse weaknesses in infrastructure and defend against them. Ocean Infinity deploys the largest amount of underwater sea drones to keep our underwater cables safe. GCHQ in Cheltenham provides a natural cluster of defence companies.

It sounds cynical and perhaps selfish to say that there is a huge opportunity here for the UK. Building a fighter jet or an aircraft carrier costs billions of pounds and takes decades, but building a vibrant and vital UK defence tech cluster will provide jobs, exports and the vital tools we need to defend ourselves and continue to support Ukraine.

Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Llafur 11:26, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, of which I am the director, has been working with Ukraine on war crimes. I co-chair the taskforce for the return of the children who have been taken from Ukraine to Russia. The arbitrary removal of the children of a nation is a war crime: it is a legal outrage and is morally reprehensible.

Over the last two years, Russian officials and military have transferred thousands of children out of Ukraine and to the huge land mass that is Russia. Some have been placed in institutions in far-flung regions, and others with foster families; some of the very young have been put up for adoption. The impact on a population at war is immeasurable. Russia’s claim that the children were being taken out of the theatre of war for their own well-being does not bear examination. The warrants issued by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court were based on evidence and a prima facie case of crimes being committed contrary to the Rome Statute and the Geneva Convention.

The question of how many children have been removed is debated. Some deportations involved emptying institutions and orphanages of their inhabitant children and transporting them across the border; others involved removing children from hospitals where they were being treated after bombings; and others involved taking children from the occupied territories, with parental consent, to so-called summer schools, but then never returning them. Ukraine puts the figure at 19,546—I say it as precisely as that because I was with the delegation at Davos only a week or so ago. Up to February last year, the Yale University Conflict Observatory, using open-source materials, put the figure at 7,000. However, I took evidence from it just before Christmas, and it now says that the figure is double that; it anticipates that the figure will increase as it works through the open-source material. It is going to be close to what the Ukrainians say.

The Yale observatory research also shows that 2,442 disabled children from Russian-occupied Ukraine have been transferred to facilities in Belarus, supposedly for medical treatment. There have been attempts to recover some of these children. The Pope got one back, and Qatar managed to get a handful here and there. However, the majority of those who have returned—just over 500—were located by their own families or by Ukrainian NGOs that boldly travelled into the lion’s den, or they were adolescent teenagers who ran away to get back home.

You have to ask the question, why? What is the real purpose of taking children from their homeland? Young people who have managed to return home give accounts of a determined policy of re-education, with daily classes to show that their identity is really Russian and that Ukraine is a Russian region, not a genuine nation. The lessons are all conducted in Russian; it is basically indoctrination about these children’s history. The effect is clear: it is subversion to sap political will and undermine resolve, and it is another way of destroying identity. The Ukrainian population is demoralised by the capture of their young. It eats at the hearts of families and communities.

You may ask me, what is the legal position? All I can say is that there is no shortage of law. There is no single treaty to protect children in conflict, but the Geneva conventions, international humanitarian law, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the genocide convention, other human rights law instruments, the Rome statute and international criminal law all state clearly that children affected by armed conflict are entitled to special respect and protection. There is a clear ban on forcible transfer, deportation and adoption. However, no enforcement mechanisms can work while war is in progress unless steps are taken—as they have been in Gaza—to create a pause in hostilities and humanitarian corridors, having arranged in advance a recognition of certain categories of children and negotiated with entities inside Russia for those children to be returned in the gap created. This will be created only with international pressure.

Too little has been said about this terrible crime. The worst accounts are of children as young as three and four being placed for adoption in Russia. Their chances of ever being recovered at the end of some war are diminishing by the month. The taking of children is a tragedy that demands action by the international community. So I ask the Minister, who I know is deeply committed to these issues: what can the United Kingdom do? The President of Ukraine has created an action plan to Bring the Kids Back, as he entitles it. He has a coalition of nations which Britain has signed up to. Can Britain lead in this, given our status as a nation that is committed to the protection and well-being of children, and to international rules around war?

The task force I am heading is very much involved in negotiating some of this, but we need to engage the global South. We need to have the nations that are remaining neutral and standing on the sidelines for all sorts of reasons. In the Commonwealth, there are many nations taking that position. There is a great deal that can be done of a diplomatic nature to bring on board people who may not want to take a position on the actual war but are still outraged by the taking of children. We need to bring those people on board and Britain’s voice will be vital in doing that. That is what the President’s office seeks. My co-chair is the chef de cabinet, Andriy Yermak. He wants nations to use their connections with other nations to bring them on board in this effort. It must be done now; there is an urgency about it and I hope the Government will take steps.

Photo of Lord McDonald of Salford Lord McDonald of Salford Crossbench 11:34, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, two years ago, Putin’s Russia was massing 100,000 troops on the borders of Ukraine and the foreign ministries of the West were debating just how firmly they could rule out imminent Ukrainian membership of NATO and the European Union without definitively ruling it out for the long term. As the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, said, a lot has changed in the last two years. As NATO’s Secretary-General said, Russia has gone from having the second-best army in the world to having the second-best army in Ukraine. Under President Zelensky, Ukraine has fought magnificently. On the other side, President Putin might warn darkly that Europe needs to take care, but the fact is, his troops are completely deployed in Ukraine; he has no capacity to take on anything else.

Beyond that, it is not clear what has definitively happened in the last couple of years. We can say that Russia will not win this war and will never have a Ukraine that is a compliant vassal state. Russia is going to have an awkward neighbour for the foreseeable future—but, beyond that, everything is still in play.

The detail of what is going on is also quite difficult to fathom. It is true that Ukraine has recovered more than half of the territory that Russia took at the beginning of the war, but most of those gains were at the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023. It is certainly the case that Ukraine has not achieved the breakthrough that it hoped with the autumn offensive last year. So, although we congratulate Ukraine, clearly, things on the battlefield are in flux. On the other hand, it is not going very well for Russia, either. Before Christmas, Putin’s spokespeople in the media there were almost cracking the champagne at the idea of a quick victory early in 2024. This clearly is not happening. So here we meet at the end of January and one thing seems clear: this will last a long time.

Second, it is also clear that the help given by the UK and the West is crucial to the Ukrainian effort. Although the Ukrainians are fighting bravely, they are fighting with materiel provided by the West. They need that to continue the fight. Here, I am afraid I am going to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. Looking at the contribution of the West, we see that the American contribution has not only been crucial but it is now in grave doubt. As several noble Lords have said, the UK has provided about £7 billion in military assistance. The Germans have provided more than double that. But the United States has provided at least 50% of the military capability that the Ukrainians have been using.

Donald Trump will change American policy. No matter that groups of American politicians disagree with their President, the US constitution makes the President of the United States the key player in foreign and defence policy. So, if Donald Trump becomes President of the United States, we face the prospect of the disappearance of the majority of the military assistance that Ukraine needs to continue and to win this fight. The question for us and the rest of the West is: are we prepared to make up the huge difference? This is tens of billions of pounds and it is necessary for the fight to continue.

It is even worse than that. The prospect of the Trump presidency casts a forward shadow. We are, of course, in the middle of the campaign and Ukraine is a convenient campaign issue for Mr Trump. The latest package that the Administration wants to vote through is in baulk; it is held up because Mr Trump does not want it to pass.

I fear that, with Mr Trump, Ukraine is personal. Noble Lords may remember that Ukraine was the cause of the first impeachment of Donald Trump. He tried to persuade Zelensky to start an investigation into his political rival to show that Ukraine had been interfering in the 2016 campaign, rather than Russia. This goes deep with Trump. We need to take very seriously indeed the possibility that US aid will disappear.

While I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Camoys—welcome, sir—and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, that we need to look again at UK defence spending, the more urgent task is to look at how much we are prepared to give Ukraine, if we are to fulfil the promise made by the Minister in his opening remarks of standing with Ukraine until the end.

Photo of The Bishop of Newcastle The Bishop of Newcastle Bishop 11:40, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, it is very good to be able to participate in this debate. I acknowledge the collective wisdom in this Chamber and the contributions of noble Lords in the preceding speeches. I pay particular tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Camoys, and congratulate him on his most excellent maiden speech, especially his reminder to look up and look out. I also thank the Minister for bringing this debate today.

This is not the time for platitudes and what could be construed as naive statements about hope. Evil and indeed illegal acts that lead to immense suffering demand decisive response. We know also that there is potential for and actual massive cultural damage in conflict, including the destruction of religious sites and a clamping down on the freedom of religion and belief. These and other matters in the Ukraine war require continued engagement and response. Ukraine depends entirely on money and weaponry from the West and our support in this is vital.

In my brief comments, I will focus on the local impact of this war and add my voice to those of other noble Lords in asking some questions about the level of our own preparedness and planning. A Sunday parish visit to a community in the heart of rural Northumberland is not the first place in which you would expect to be confronted by the reality of the war in Ukraine, but this was my experience recently. During a Sunday parish visit, I met a Ukrainian family who are being supported by the local church community. Their trauma is real and ongoing. Inevitably, when this trauma is being absorbed by local communities, there are immediate pastoral concerns.

A recent meeting of one of the Homes for Ukraine networks in my diocese reported back to me uncertainty over the future of visas, many of which are only a year away from expiry, with no information available about how and when they might be extended. The noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, raised that point in her excellent speech. The visa issue is especially concerning, as it affects young people doing public exams at the moment, who need to make decisions about further education for which they are required to have a valid three-year visa status for the length of courses or apprenticeships from the outset.

Comparability of qualifications is another issue affecting Ukrainians with occupational qualifications. Obtaining comparability statements is a key to them being able to get better employment and become less dependent on the state, but there are significant fees involved, which can act as a brake on progress. Another aspect of the visa issue is the additional anxiety for households due to landlords’ legal requirement to verify that tenants have the right to remain in the UK, as many private tenancies are for 12 months at a time. This will soon become a critical issue, potentially resulting in homelessness. What action are the Government taking on these matters affecting Ukrainians, who are being supported by many local communities right across the United Kingdom?

These local concerns have brought home to me how global situations of conflict have a direct impact on local communities. A word to describe this is “glocal”. The glocalisation of conflict means that it is impossible at a very local level not to take an active interest in global matters, not least when so many of our Armed Forces, with which many of us have personal and family connections, are mobilising in eastern Europe in preparation for further conflict. I note recent comments in the other place that we are moving from a post-war to a pre-war world.

My noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds recently spoke in this House about having an intention not to escalate conflict, but action taken can, in fact, have an escalatory effect, even if that was not the intention. It is clear that the current system of global governance is struggling to meet the interlinked crises of our current age. What scenario planning are the Government undertaking at this time? What is our capability, as the United Kingdom, to fight an escalated war, given that we are constantly hearing, and indeed very recently hearing, that there are insufficient resources? Do we have the capacity to maintain what we keep promising? Other noble Lords have raised this as a serious issue for consideration.

What preparations are being made now for a future none of us wants? Are the Government—and, in the climate of a likely general election in the near future, the opposition party—preparing now for an eventuality that includes assessing the impact of a change of political leadership in the United States of America and the impact that that would potentially have on a Russian victory? That point was made by the noble Lord, Lord McDonald of Salford. Ukraine has to win and be free to pursue its democratic path, but what if it does not win? I support the Government in their support of Ukraine, but these questions are not merely academic. They have immediate and longer-term implications and require active exploration and planning now.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Llafur 11:46, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I, too, welcome today’s debate. I thank the Minister for his comprehensive speech, particularly for his references to the importance of continued collective action and for setting out so clearly the UK’s ongoing support for Ukraine.

The reality is that the situation remains extremely sobering. I fear that we are at a stalemate. Despite Ukraine’s counteroffensive, battle lines remain largely unchanged. Despite Russia’s superior firepower, it is notable that it still only controls part of the territories that it claims to have annexed in Ukraine’s east and south.

A number of noble Lords have expressed concern about the debates currently going on in the United States, particularly as this is an election year and given that former President Trump is making it clear that the US should not continue its level of support. Indeed, he has insisted that it is past time to strike a deal.

Ukraine’s people and leadership remain steadfast in their commitment to fight on, rather than to bow to Russian pressure—a position that we all of course support. While continuing with its military action, Ukraine is also pursuing diplomatic routes to secure the long-term security of its country through NATO and the European Union. But I stress that this aim is long-term; we all know that it will take years—if it is successful. While it is important to look to the medium and long terms, it is the short term that remains concerning. Russia’s view is that it will win in the end and that Ukraine will have to capitulate; that the West will get tired and lose focus and that attention will shift elsewhere, including to Israel and Palestine; and that fissures will appear in European Union support, given the position of Hungary and Slovakia.

Noble Lords will not be surprised to know that I will focus my remarks on the humanitarian situation: what many noble Lords have called the human costs of the conflict. This is a conflict characterised by the movement of people not just within the country and outside its borders but back again to their homes, even if it is not safe to do so.

It is also not a new phenomenon in Ukraine. I saw this 10 years ago when I visited eastern Ukraine. I visited Sloviansk, which had been gripped just weeks before by fierce fighting, but work was already under way at that time to repair critical infrastructure to prepare for winter and to get children back to school. That was in 2014. The humanitarian situation today, of course, is much worse. UN reports estimate that 6.3 million people have been forced to flee; the majority are in countries in Europe. Within Ukraine, an estimated 3.7 million people are internally displaced, but an estimated 4.6 million people have returned to their area of habitual residence following a period of displacement, and that is despite security challenges, family separation and very few opportunities to find work.

However, even with that movement back and forth, the humanitarian situation remains absolutely dire. We know that Russia’s invasion has been followed by relentless, systematic attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure and services, including health, education and energy facilities. The war has resulted in unacceptable violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in densely populated areas has killed or injured thousands of civilians, including children. Indeed, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, which was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, has found that Russia’s armed forces have committed a wide range of war crimes. It has also recorded a small number of violations committed by the Ukrainian armed forces.

We all know that war is also an opportunity for predators and human traffickers, with women and children particularly at risk. There have been over 1,400 attacks on medical facilities, and increasing numbers of people need help with food. Indeed, the World Food Programme aims to help 2.4 million people a month during the winter period, and thousands of schools, preschools and other educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed. This is a war that has taken thousands of lives, caused untold destruction, displaced millions, traumatised a generation of children, torn families and communities apart, devastated the economy and turned vast areas of farmland and forests into deadly minefields.

Therefore, looking to the Minister and to the Government, although I absolutely endorse the action being taken to support Ukraine, I want to bring us back to the short term. The Minister referenced the weight of the economic support being given by those countries that support Ukraine; I ask about the weight of political support. There has to be some form of negotiated settlement. Russia has to feel the pain. It needs to understand that it cannot win. How can we harness that political support in the short term to get that message across?

Photo of Lord Balfe Lord Balfe Ceidwadwyr 11:54, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I begin by welcoming my noble friend Lord Camoys to our Benches. I am sure he will make a long and distinguished career in this House, and we will benefit much from his wisdom. I certainly agree with the last few words of the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, and that is what I want to concentrate on.

First, however, I will just make it clear that I have spent nearly my whole life in foreign policy in one way or another, from a junior position in the Foreign Office in the 1960s, through 25 years in the European Parliament, and then another 15 years doing things for its former Members’ association. Those various jobs took me to all the countries of Europe on many occasions; I was trying to work out how many times I have been to Ukraine—it is probably eight or nine times —and I have also been to Russia a number of times. Having said that, incidentally, I also led the first delegation of the European Parliament to the North Atlantic Assembly, which was quite an interesting event, to put it mildly.

I start by saying, to bowdlerise the words of LP Hartley: “Russia is a foreign country: they do things differently there”. I was in Ukraine several times between the end of the last century and about 2016. During that time, I got to know, first, ex-President Kuchma, who was the last of the old guard, and then of course we had the orange revolution and all that flowed out of it. We have to look at why Russia did what it did, because it was not something that just happened. The fact of the matter is—I saw it through years of being there—that there was massive provocation from the Government in Kyiv. I served for eight years as one of this House’s representatives in the Council of Europe. There I was on its legal affairs committee which dealt with Ukraine, believe it or not, and I was chair for a time of the committee for the enforcement of judgments of the European court.

One of the constant issues was the way in which the Government in Kyiv were trying to outlaw the Russian language. This was a regular and running sore. I remember going to Crimea, where I was surrounded by politicians from the local parliament in Simferopol telling me they did not want to be in Ukraine. We are talking about 2012 or 2014, in the middle of the last decade, not just before the invasion. I got the same message when I went to Donetsk, to Luhansk and to Mariupol. They felt that the Russian language was being outlawed, and that it was ridiculous. I recall talking to one or two families who said to me, “The only language we know at home is Russian. Do you expect us to talk to our children in Ukrainian? Our schools teach in Russian. They’ve taught in Russian throughout history”.

The other group, of course, was the Hungarians. The Hungarian schools were forbidden to teach in Hungarian, and that is one of the reasons we have the problems with Mr Viktor Orbán today. Yes, he is certainly a Putin supporter, but he is also very angry with Ukraine, and this was going on for years.

While I was on the Council of Europe, I was also for a time the vice-president of the Venice Commission, which looks at rule of law issues in Europe. On several occasions we had before the Venice Commission the Ukrainian Government’s desire to outlaw Russian in Ukraine. It was a regular feeling, and it was backed by the West; it was backed by the EU and by everybody in the western embassies in Kyiv. The Russians illegally invaded Ukraine because, basically, they lost their temper. It would not happen in a democracy because there would not be a Putin with quite the power that he had to do what he did.

I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, who mentioned talking to Russians just before the invasion and that they all said it could not happen. I had the same experience talking to Russians. I talked to the Russian ambassador in Britain after it happened. He put a brave face on it, but I swear he did not know it was going to happen until the morning that it actually happened, when he got a call from the Foreign Ministry in Moscow telling him what was going to happen. It was a very well concealed secret.

My final point is this. We have to find a way of getting ourselves out of what is effectively a frozen dispute. That is where we are. It is not going to move that far; “General Winter” is not going to be beaten. Our only answer, it appears, as our great Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey, said, is an army of

“half a million men and women under arms … Where do we get our second echelon from?”.

No existing policies spell out how the UK could mobilise a force big enough to take on Russia. Frankly, if that is His Majesty’s Government’s aim, I despair.

Photo of Lord Browne of Ladyton Lord Browne of Ladyton Llafur 12:01, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, it is a privilege to follow so many thoughtful contributions informed by experience and expertise. It is a particular pleasure to have been present at the excellent maiden speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Camoys. He can go home later this evening, clear that it was a job well done, and come back in the confident knowledge that he has the ear of your Lordships’ House.

It is a truism to say that this debate is taking place at a critical time in the Ukrainian struggle to repel Russian aggression and safeguard its national integrity, an assessment that could have been made with equal truth on every day since the Russian invasion began on 22 February 2022. As both sides have now undertaken offensives and counteroffensives, we can see the emergence of broad strategic lineaments, which offer clues to the pattern of this conflict as it progresses into its third year.

Last week, President Zelensky reaffirmed the indispensability of western aid, money and materiel in repelling Russian aggression. He argued that providing the bare minimum of assistance in the hope that we may help produce a permanent frozen conflict is futile, given the scale of Putin’s expansionist ambitions—and that is the real reason behind the war itself. Equally, 10 days ago, we heard Putin rail against the prohibitive demands being made by Ukraine and the West to end the war and his warning that, if this continued, Ukraine’s statehood may suffer a very serious blow.

On manpower, we have seen waves of conscription from the Russian side. Although Putin ruled out further mass mobilisations in his end of year press conference, we must expect that further drafts will be instituted as necessity dictates. Equally, at the end of December, President Zelensky demanded half a million new troops, and we await the draft mobilisation Bill taking legislative shape and coming before the Ukrainian parliament.

We see parallels too in industrial capacity, which is a key limiting factor for both sides. Russia’s economy, admittedly affected by sanctions, is fully mobilised on to a war footing, with recent air strikes on Kyiv and Kharkiv showing that the Russians possess, for the moment at least, adequate arms and ammunition to continue their air campaign. Conversely, the Ukrainian economy and its western allies are struggling to meet the demands for ammunition for the Ukrainian ground campaign, with Ukrainian air defences still insufficient. In this respect, the UK and our NATO partners are serving as the arsenal of democracy. Leo Varadkar made this clear, rather starkly, at December’s meeting of the European Commission; without adequate support from the US and the EU, he said, Putin will win.

As well as providing critical arms to Ukraine, western powers are compelled by the febrile situation in the Middle East to look to their own security of supply of armaments. Can the Minister tell your Lordships’ House what, if any, multiyear assumptions have been made as to the viability of replenishing our own munitions stocks while continuing our essential support to Ukrainian forces? Major European armaments manufacturers, such as Norway’s Nammo, have spoken about the need to share risks with Governments, given the scale of investment that would be needed to increase production and meet current demands, as well as to mitigate the commercial risk of a sudden end to the conflict. A concerted long-term fiscal commitment is necessary by western Governments to ease the supply bottleneck, and to ease Ukrainian apprehensions about the effect that dwindling supplies will have on their strategic position.

The final parallel is in the sphere of strategic innovation. While Russia’s conventional forces have suffered heavy losses—a staggering 87% of its invasion force having been destroyed or irreparably degraded—they still present a multidomain threat. Its northern fleet and air force remain largely intact, it continues to raise the spectre of a tactical nuclear deployment, and supplies of Iranian drones and small arms and North Korean missiles, artillery and shells continue apace.

Ukraine too is seeking greater multidomain capacity. The commander of Ukraine’s forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, has made it clear that the stalemate on the ground indicates that this war can be won only by technological advantage. The provision and deployment of F-16s will, of course, be a significant boost to Ukraine forces, but they are old and expensive to run, and their arrival on the battlefield has been trailed for months, giving the Russians time to implement appropriate strategic defences. Given this, I fear that the arrival of F-16s, while welcome, may not substantially change the calculus of the conflict.

For all these parallels, there are crucial ways in which the two countries utterly diverge. Ukraine is a victim of unprovoked aggression and living under an existential threat, while Russia is prosecuting an expansionist conflict entirely of its own making. A stark moral difference dictates that we must do all that we can to help Ukraine survive this threat to its existence, and equally that we must do everything in our power to frustrate Putin’s aims.

Alongside present needs, this should also involve equipping ourselves to hold the perpetrators of war crimes to account in a post-conflict situation. This includes those responsible for the forcible transfer—or, in plain English, the abduction and compelled adoption —of Ukrainian children by Russians, the harrowing consequences of which were so graphically described by my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws. Over and above her suggestion as to how we should approach this, what consideration has been given to encouraging the expansion of the jurisdiction that we set out in Section 51 of the International Criminal Court Act, which allows us to pursue these crimes domestically, to ensure that those responsible can be apprehended, potentially for the rest of their lives, and punished wherever they choose to take shelter?

To return to the strategic picture, Ukraine has, for the moment, shifted into a policy of active defence, maintaining its lines and pursuing counterattacks where temporary tactical advantage can be found. While the lines may be static for the moment, is it not possible that Putin, as I suggested in your Lordships’ House last year, is measuring this war and the western electoral cycles and awaiting the possible arrival of President Trump in the White House?

This Government have been steadfast in their support for Ukraine, and they will continue to enjoy unanimous support in debates and analogous Questions in your Lordships’ House. The Minister, as he normally does, ended his remarks with the Ukrainian for “Glory to Ukraine”, the phrase popularised during the Ukrainian War of Independence between 1917 and 1921. It is in that spirit and with that objective that I speak today, trusting that our support, and that of NATO and the European allies, will continue to be effective in repelling Russian aggression.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Jones Baroness Neville-Jones Ceidwadwyr 12:09, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton. I particularly note his correct, salutary remarks about Russia’s ability. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Camoys, and welcome him to our Benches; his excellent maiden speech was much welcomed by the House.

In our previous discussion of Ukraine, about a year ago, I recall a number of us saying—and I was among them—that Ukraine’s security was our security and that its war was our war. I think the references at that time were largely to European security. We could see that the basis on which the security of our continent had been established after the end of the Cold War was being torn up.

I want to focus my remarks on what has happened since. It seems to me that the process of stripping away some of the previous assumptions about the basis on which we were operating continues. There seems to be a wider way in which the military stalemate in Ukraine is now gradually creeping into the basis of our wider political relations. Let me give an example. As we know, since neither of the two combatants wishes to compromise—Ukraine, in my view, with very good reason—the conflict is of indefinite duration; there is no visible end in sight. It has also become—this is my point—one of the main drivers in reshaping power relationships in an increasingly antagonistic post-globalised world.

Riding on the back of existing fissures in international relations, Russia is consolidating relationships with fellow outlaws, notably Iran and North Korea, and is seeking to recruit countries such as the BRICS—the so-called global South—into becoming supporters that lend their co-operation in return for cut-price energy. So the intended effect of western economic sanctions on Russia, which was to isolate the country politically and disable it economically, is having the unintended—and certainly unwanted—effect of mobilising new political camps in the world and new trading patterns, and is underpinning Russia’s transition to an ever-tighter autocracy, with an economy run on a footing designed to maximise Russia’s ability to outlast the West’s commitment to Ukraine and thereby win the war.

As the Minister said, we are in it for the long haul. We must deny Putin his expectations. However, one can see in this that the shape of the international background against which we are operating is also changing. Part, though not all, of it is a direct result of the war that is taking place. I congratulate the Government on the steady and purposeful leadership that they have given in relation to the war in Ukraine. It has been noticed widely and has beneficially affected the behaviour of other allies. It has also helped ensure the continued flow of arms and materiel to Ukraine.

There is no doubt that 2024 will be a key year. It is worrying that there is so much doubt about the consistency of American support. I do not entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, about Trump, but I do think that the anxiety about his likely policy is a shadow cast forward on our ability to inspire confidence in the tightness and solidity of western support and, therefore, of Ukraine’s long-term capabilities. The UK must continue to make the case for supporting Ukraine and campaign against what seem to me to be two wrong-headed arguments. The first is that only China counts and Ukraine does not matter. But China will of course seek to draw important conclusions, in particular for Taiwan, from the way it sees the US handle and treat its dependent friends. The second myth is that modern weapons must be withheld from Ukraine for fear of escalation, when this policy increasingly risks defeat for Ukraine.

We also need a somewhat broader political strategy. In saying this, I acknowledge that the Minister’s speech betrayed a good deal of thinking about the longer term. What concerns me is that I do not think that, together, the western democracies are yet developing strategies of a kind that will serve for the long term and could be described as being “all-weather” in nature. I will give an example. Are we going to sit back and watch Russian and Chinese efforts to peel off the global South gather pace, or will we actively support the institutions of the liberal international order? That requires a policy with many facets and will be an important part of depriving Russia of the international support it seeks to develop in order to underpin its view of the way the world should go. It is clear that it is not just concentrating on Ukraine but developing a broad underpinning for a long-term strategy where the West has become the enemy. We have to face up to these changes.

I will make one last point. There has been comment in the past couple of days about needing to be ready for war. Preventing war is certainly about deterrence and deterrence is about being credibly ready to fight. We certainly need to spend more money on defence—the House is united on that, I think; I hope that the Government understand this and will act—but I am worried about us talking about being in a pre-war situation, as though we were on tram tracks towards the unavoidable destination called war. I do not think that this is wise. We need to develop what I described as “all-weather” strategies, precisely not to appease but to win the battle. But that means taking measures that will allow us success on the one hand and the avoidance of war on the other.

So, although this situation is different from the Cold War, those of us who are old enough will remember when we developed the so-called twin-track approach. On the one hand, we offered greater co-operation, on terms; on the other, we maintained with steady determination the defence of our assets and national interests. We need similar policies now. It is a time for clarity on our long-term aims, the capabilities that we need to develop to defend them and the risks that we are prepared to take in order to realise our long-term interests.

Photo of The Earl of Oxford and Asquith The Earl of Oxford and Asquith Non-affiliated 12:17, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, first, I warmly welcome the noble Lord, Lord Camoys, to this House and congratulate him on his speech.

In the course of this war, much has been said about possible territorial concessions to Russia by Ukraine as the condition for resolving the so-called stalemate of the present moment. I should like simply to sound a cautionary note. If you analyse everything said or written by Vladimir Putin since at least June 2021—more than eight months before the invasion of Ukraine—you see that he has made it very clear that he sees no reason why Ukraine should exist as a separate sovereign state; that Ukrainians and Russians are a single nation; and that the so-called artificial division between Russia and Ukraine is a ploy devised by Washington and NATO to weaken and partition Russia. In summary, like Carthage in the second century BC, Ukraine is to be destroyed.

We have known for a long time that Mr Putin has a peculiarly delusional relationship with history. It has also been argued that he has long aspired to restore the Russian empire. Today’s Russian elites certainly aspire to assert that Russia is a great power—if you do not sign up to that, you are not a member of the Russian elite—and that, without Ukraine, Russia cannot be counted as a Eurasian imperial power. In my experience, if you suggest to an otherwise reasonable-sounding member of Mr Putin’s circle that Russia would ultimately be better off if it let go of Ukraine, you will be met with a fierce snarl of denial.

Let me recall the early months of 2014, when President Yanukovych of Ukraine and some EU Foreign Ministers havered over the negotiations on a treaty with the EU that might have given Ukraine some trading benefits. What sparked the revolution at that time was when some Kyiv university students demonstrated in favour of what they called “European values”, and more specifically against Yanukovych personally: his criminal record and his thuggish regime. I was there on the streets and saw them hunted down at night and shot dead the next morning by Yanukovych’s security forces. Ukrainian society boiled over in disgust and Yanukovych fled. That revolution convinced Mr Putin to intervene in Donbass and Crimea.

Whatever mistakes the Ukrainians and their leaders had made since independence in 1991, whatever their complicity in corrupt practices and political foot-dragging, as of 2014 Ukraine society had been moving in a direction that resulted in greater prosperity, greater responsibility and more diversified individual and collective freedoms. By 2014, let alone by 2022, Ukraine in Mr Putin’s eyes was on completely the wrong course of development—a course that was entirely antithetical to the model of government and state that Mr Putin espouses and that, in his view, threatened Russia.

It is sometimes said that Mr Putin wants to rewrite history. I think a better way to describe the mentality that dominates him and his circle of ideologues is that he wants to rerun history to achieve a different or better result in his eyes. Of course, we know that that is a nonsensical absurdity: that way madness lies. But we must understand that, in the last 20 years, Mr Putin has presented himself to his population much as the Russian tsars used to—as the embodiment of Russia itself and as a quasi-mystical expression of Russian state and country. He often says that the war against Ukraine is being fought to preserve the existential integrity of Russia, as a defence against the corrupting infiltration of western ideas and values through Ukraine into Russia. He frequently details—as recently as last week to his soldiers—almost any excess he can ascribe to western cultural decline. Of course, in our terms he is talking strange nonsense. But in his terms the narrative makes sense—and Ukraine’s liberty does indeed represent an existential threat to Mr Putin himself.

We discount this mentality at our peril. The cautionary note that we must bear in mind is that, even if Ukraine were to make territorial concessions in this war, why would Mr Putin be content to remain in possession of 15% or 20% of Ukraine? What assurances could we ever accept that he would not continue to suborn and destroy the sovereignty of the whole country, as he set out to do in February 2022? It is my belief that, while hostilities may be suspended in Ukraine for a time, underlying the causes of this war there is a war under way against everything that we hold dear in Europe and among our transatlantic allies. That is the narrative which Mr Putin constantly repeats to his fellow Russians. They are told every day that in the West we have only enemies and that the West’s encouragement of Ukrainian statehood is a key element of its general anti-Russian strategy.

Russian prison guards now say to their Ukrainian prisoners, “It’s very simple; we want you to be with us, otherwise we will kill every one of you”. The truly sadistic violence and cruelty exercised by Russian soldiers and their adherents, and the kidnapping and deportation of Ukrainian children by their puppets, will take Ukrainians a long time to forget. Nor should we forget that, in its present configuration, Russia resembles a gangster state, addicted to violence, from which we can accept no assurances of security while Mr Putin’s ideology prevails. I am not convinced that territorial concessions will end this war.

My second main point relates to the future reconstruction of Ukraine. It is a theme that we often address, and it will be a major subject of our discourse for years to come. We held a large conference on the subject here in London last autumn. But do we really understand what we have in mind? I have been asked by three significant business entities from Ukraine and the Far East to give, in a week’s time, some guidance on the British Government’s position. To be honest, apart from offering some obvious platitudes, I do not really know what to say. There is very little around which any practical discussion or action can coalesce. At least in 1948, at the time of the Marshall plan, there was a General Marshall. As yet we have identified no such figure: no special envoy for Ukraine around whom we can build an institution, a managing staff, a reputable audit mechanism or a programme of prioritisation.

We know very well that there are plenty of gangsters on the loose, not just in Russia but in Ukraine. We know the present Ukrainian Government’s lamentable record of so-called corporate raiding. It is very clear that many Ukrainians are looking to the United Kingdom to provide them with guidance and support for the rule of law, security of property and enforceable titled assets. We can talk about British Government-backed insurance policies and export guarantees, but these concepts cannot operate in a vacuum. Our Government must insist that, for public and financial aid to proceed, legal reform in Ukraine must be implemented, at least in parallel if not before. Otherwise, investors will simply not be forthcoming. But in the first place we need a person who can focus and explain our thinking on the reconstruction of Ukraine.

Photo of Baroness Anderson of Stoke-on-Trent Baroness Anderson of Stoke-on-Trent Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Defence) 12:26, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I refer to my interests in the register, and specifically to my roles with Index on Censorship and the Royal Navy.

As we once again come together to debate the current horrendous situation in Ukraine caused by Putin’s unlawful and appalling aggression, we must not allow news fatigue to distract us from the vicious war on our doorstep. It is almost two years since Russia launched its second invasion of Ukraine—two years of war, death and destruction, two years of unnecessary pain and fear. Since the invasion, military casualties are believed to exceed half a million combatants. There have been nearly 10,200 civilian deaths, 19,300 civilians injured, 5.1 million people internally displaced, 6.7 million people forced to flee Ukraine and 17.6 million people who now require humanitarian assistance. Unforgivably— as if any of the above was forgivable—this evil aggression has caused the abduction of nearly 20,000 Ukrainian children by Putin’s forces.

In less than two years, there have been over 123,000 individual war crimes registered. That is over 300 a day, each and every day since the invasion. Behind each statistic is a person, a family, a child. They each have their own story that must be told but, much more importantly, must be heard by the world. Throughout the last two years, we have seen the most inspirational resilience and determination from a people who are not prepared to lose; from a people determined to retain their freedom; from a people who will not bend to Putin’s will.

But we should not forget the huge cost that the people of Crimea have paid since 2014. It is their almost forgotten story which I want to touch on now. Some of your Lordships may have heard of Nariman Dzhelyal, but many will not have. Nariman is a Crimean Tatar—or rather, he is one of their leaders—and he is brave. After Putin’s invasion in 2014, Nariman refused to be silenced. He embodies the very definition of political dissidence. For seven years, Nariman was the face of non-violent opposition to Putin’s regime. He led the charge as Putin’s forces targeted the Sunni Muslim Crimean Tatars. He wrote blogs, he publicly advocated for those Tatars who were harassed and arrested by the FSB and he refused to let the Tatars lose their voice and their place in society.

In 2021, this became too much for Putin, and Nariman was arrested and charged with sabotage. After a trial that failed to meet international human rights standards, Nariman was found guilty and sentenced to 17 years. His detention is brutal and illegal. However, he continues to provide hope. Last year, the organisation that I run, Index on Censorship, was able to publish an essay from Nariman, Dignity Cannot Be Annexed, which was snuck out of prison. He continues to challenge Putin’s regime and provides a message of hope not just for the Tatars but for everyone who seeks to challenge tyrants and advocate for democracy around the world. It is his voice and his words that I hold on to when this conflict seems so bleak.

This brings me to the UK’s current commitment to defeating Putin in Ukraine. Everyone on these Benches, and, I hope, in this House, supports the Government’s new 10-year defence agreement with Ukraine and the renewed military aid commitment. However, if we have learned anything in the last decade since Putin’s initial invasion, it is that this war will not be over tomorrow; there are months, probably years, ahead, as the people of Ukraine fight every day for democracy and for our collective freedoms. They need the reassurance that we are in this for the long haul and will not be deviated from our commitment to them. They need to know that they do not stand alone, today, tomorrow, or next year. This is why it was so disappointing that the Government announced only a one-year funding commitment, as opposed to the multiyear deal that His Majesty’s Opposition support and have been calling for. We can but hope that, when the European Union’s leadership comes together next week, they are able to offer what we chose not to. In the coming months, we need to redouble our efforts at home and abroad to make sure that the armed forces of Ukraine have what they need to get the job done. We must never forget why we are investing so much in a war being fought 1,500 miles away.

This weekend marks international Holocaust Memorial Day, a subject that we will debate next week. But the theme of HMD is so pertinent to today’s debate that I wish to end on it. This year’s theme is the fragility of freedom. The people of Ukraine know that only too well, and it is up to us to make sure that we stand with them when they need us to.

Photo of Lord Risby Lord Risby Ceidwadwyr 12:31, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Ahmad for initiating this timely debate, and I warmly congratulate my noble friend Lord Camoys on his absolutely excellent speech.

Ukraine is at the receiving end of numerous cross-currents. The pre-winter attempts to roll back Russian forces were not as successful as had been hoped for, the divisions among European countries beset by economic difficulties have led to some Ukraine fatigue, and military equipment promises have not been realised. Nevertheless, the resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people remain extraordinary. We also need to acknowledge that our support for Ukraine is ultimately an investment in our own territorial security, as a guardian of democratic values. The gratitude towards the United Kingdom is profound, so I greatly welcome the security co-operation signed recently in Kyiv by our Prime Minister. Particularly gratifying is the knowledge that our support is totally cross-party and backed by the British people.

Rightly or wrongly, there is a sense emerging that this war is edging towards a conclusion. As part of this, we have seen recently an increase in businesses worldwide exploring opportunities in Ukraine. For example, the giant Korean company Hyundai has entered into a partnership with a Ukrainian company to co-operate in projects in construction and in the reconstruction of chemical plants for the production of fertilisers, and it is exploring the further building of gas and processing plants. All of this is underwritten by $3 billion in credit support by the Korean Government. Security guarantees are crucial for potential investors. It is worth reminding ourselves that, pre-conflict, Kyiv was a vibrant high-technology and digital centre, used by many British businesses.

Among other welcome developments, our Ministry of Defence has been working closely with the Department for Business and Trade in engaging with the commercial insurance industry directly to come forward with solutions. Can my noble friend the Minister comment on what progress has been made? Excellent foundation work was undertaken at the London Ukraine Recovery Conference, with Lloyd’s of London announcing a partnership to reopen reinsurance coverage in Ukraine. Again, can my noble friend comment on progress made?

I hope that we will firmly insist that Ukraine does its part. There is still a great deal to be done on judicial reform. I suggest that it would be good for Ukraine to establish a properly empowered judicial investment court, to make sure that there are clear rules on investor protection and transparency. This would be the clearest possible message of positive change, which we should encourage very strongly indeed.

I greatly welcome the memorandum of co-operation signed between the Ministry of Economy in Ukraine, the London Stock Exchange and TheCityUK with the objective of the long-term financing of Ukrainian companies post-conflict. This should help to attract foreign direct investment. I particularly welcome the focus on small and medium-sized businesses.

My noble friend is right to emphasise the role of the private sector. Would it be possible, for example, to create a government-backed fund of funds out of existing development funds, to be invested by vetted, UK-based investment managers who will then commit to raising additional capital, leveraging this fund of funds? There is much support for this already by potential participants.

Many of your Lordships will be aware, and have spoken very tellingly, of the massive humanitarian needs in Ukraine. Admirably, there are many UK charities, which are to be applauded, quietly helping with medical supplies, support for those with life-changing injuries, particularly amputees, and programmes to address the inevitable mental health crisis. It is not only the consequences of the destruction of residential buildings; there are also targeted killings, the wicked abduction of children, brutal torture and sexual violence, all adding to personal trauma.

As we look ahead, it is worth reminding ourselves of the trilateral memorandum of understanding signed between Poland, Ukraine and ourselves, pre-invasion, to deepen co-operation in three priority areas: combatting disinformation, boosting cyber and energy security, and securing Ukraine’s territorial cohesion through the Crimea Platform. Poland has, of course, suffered invasions and occupation. The Council on Geostrategy, of which I am a director, along with the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones, has assembled a commission of prominent individuals to determine how the three countries might deepen co-operation. Our concluding report will be published very soon. By joining forces, the three countries can pursue their agendas more effectively than alone. By advocating for Ukraine’s defence, which is so very critical, they can act as a vanguard within the Euro-Atlantic area at a time when any equivocation in the United States and the EU risks the country’s future.

Finally, as we examine all the strands at play in this conflict, and reflect on recovery and renewal, may I put a proposition to my noble friend the Minister? In so doing, I echo the sentiments of the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith. At different times historically, Members of your Lordships’ House and others have been appointed as special envoys, to be at the very epicentre of knitting together all political, military, commercial and humanitarian objectives. Is this not precisely the time to consider this role in Ukraine? Appointed by the Prime Minister, such an envoy would send a clear signal of our unwavering support to our Ukrainian friends, and potentially maximise the effectiveness of our multifaceted commitments, drawing together government departments here for the stability and renewal of the country. I hope that this suggestion will be given active and positive consideration.

Photo of Lord Anderson of Swansea Lord Anderson of Swansea Llafur 12:39, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I was in NATO headquarters just before the illegal invasion and can confirm that many thought Russia would take Kyiv within a few days. Indeed, Putin probably thought so too, given the disparity of resources. So we stand in awe of the magnificent response of the people of Ukraine. Putin has forged unity and, in the process, strengthened NATO with the accession of Finland and soon Sweden.

Since February 2022, however, there has been a massive loss of life on both sides, a great destruction of Ukraine’s infrastructure and, of course, an ebb and flow since, with some successes, such as in Crimea, but also the relative failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive. We now await the promised Russian counteroffensive. Now, I concede, we can see only through a glass darkly, and there many imponderables, such as the effect of a possible Trump victory in the US elections and, possibly, the success of the anti-Ukraine elements—the populists—in the European Parliament elections in the summer. Have we reached a stage where we should begin to think the unthinkable and look at the imponderables? Yes, there is some evidence of war fatigue, a lack of ammunition, the Ukrainian force’s disparity of firepower and the deployment by Ukraine of relatively elderly forces. There is some evidence of doubts within the West, clearly of Orbán in Hungary and now Fico in Slovakia—some might call them Putin’s fifth column in Europe.

One road ahead is clear: the continuation of the same loss of life and destruction. Another is constructively to ask what we understand to be the relative interests of both sides. For Ukraine, it is a future through NATO and allying itself more with the West and the European Union, and the expulsion of Russia—which, frankly, appears unlikely now, given the relative stalemate at the front. There is some evidence that Zelensky is preparing his people for this, and it could include some form of territorial concessions. I recall, historically, that a German observer at Versailles said, “The hand which signs this treaty will be signing its own death warrant”. Clearly, if Zelensky were to make these certain territorial concessions, he would need a referendum to buttress that with popular support.

Can security be obtained for Ukraine short of NATO membership, by prioritising EU membership with appropriate security guarantees? It is possibly too late now, and I note the scepticism of the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, about Putin’s worldview regarding the unity of Ukraine and Russia. Historically, Russia has sought a barrier to invasion from the west—it has memories of Napoleon and Hitler. Will historians in future see the offer of NATO membership at the Istanbul NATO summit as an historic mistake and unnecessary provocation? It is probably now too late to change that. Is it impossible to envisage a deal on NATO membership? It is claimed that, shortly after the invasion, at Istanbul, the Ukrainians were prepared at least to talk about something less than full NATO membership, but that was scuppered by the atrocities of the Russian forces at Bucha. I concede that it is probably premature to talk of that, but Putin is now planning a counteroffensive and awaiting Trump, so it will be some time before one can perhaps look at that.

I note the recent statement of the Italian Government. Giorgia Meloni has been far more positive in her supply of arms to Ukraine than one expected, but her Defence Minister Crosetto recently told the Italian defence committee—after drawing attention to Ukraine’s persistent problems numerically and in terms of the armament inferiority—that

“We must be realistic and cannot ignore the military situation on the field … The time seems to have come for effective diplomatic action”.

This point was well made by the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer. In effect, the Italians are coupling military support with a call for effective diplomatic action. If we analyse the war aims of both sides and the danger of this war continuing and even escalating, it is at least worth considering this, even if it will not fructify as we would hope.

In conclusion, all wars end sometime. They either end in complete victory for one side, as happened in 1918 and 1945—that appears very unlikely, given the disposition of forces in Ukraine—or they end in a messy deal, as at Dayton in 1995, which persists today. Alternative, they end by drawing a line where the forces stand, as in Korea. The Italian suggestion is worth considering. It is not defeatist, I would argue, but realistic at least to examine it—yes, accepting the heroism of the people of Ukraine, and accepting the passions of war. The Italian suggestion may at least be the least bad way forward.

Photo of Lord Bilimoria Lord Bilimoria Crossbench 12:46, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, on the 14th of this month, President Zelensky wrote an article in the Sunday Times, headed:

“With British help we can ensure freedom defeats aggression. The UK has taken a lead in galvanising Ukraine’s allies against Russian tyranny at a critical moment for the free world”.

He went on to say,

“Ukraine has beaten the odds, turning the tide of the war and defending every inch of our land against the forces of oppression and tyranny with the support of the British people”.

The UK was one of the first countries to guarantee support to Ukraine with regard to NATO. Does the Minister agree that, when the time comes, we will support Ukraine’s membership of NATO? Is it not wonderful that President Putin has shot himself in the foot, with Finland having joined NATO and Sweden about to join—two nations with formidable capabilities, not only in armed forces and in the size of their armies but in manufacturing, whether in aerospace or armaments?

I am so proud that, the moment Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine started, we in Britain helped straightaway. I was then president of the CBI—the Confederation of British Industry. I contacted Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko on the Saturday, two days after the war started, and I met him on the Monday. On 1 March, I convened British industry and, from that day onwards, we started to help, sending millions of ration packs, medical kits and food packages, and helping to unblock the port of Odesa, in due course, for grain to flow. British business is a force for good.

Oleksiy Goncharenko, a Ukrainian MP, has said that the Ukrainian forces have forced a significant withdrawal of Russian forces. We all concentrate on the land front lines with Russia, but actually a major win has taken place in terms of Russia’s Black Sea fleet being pushed out of the north-western Black Sea. This is great news and a cause for optimism. But, he says, Ukraine needs additional air defence systems to guard Ukrainian ports.

Last year, many of us were in Westminster Hall when President Zelensky came and gave that inspirational speech. He presented the helmet to the Speaker and the Lord Speaker and said, “Give us wings”. But the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, talked about relying on America. The United States has, to date, provided $100 billion to Ukraine. The Minister, in his excellent opening speech, said that we have provided £7 billion of military support—compare £7 billion to $100 billion. Germany provides a little more than we do. If America withdraws its support for Ukraine, that will be it, so we have to make sure, as great allies of the United States, that that support from the United States continues, because without it, it will be disastrous. Despite urgent appeals, the US has withheld the F16 aircraft, and we have just heard that Russia will reach spending 40% of all budget expenditure on defence and security. This is frightening.

Ben Hodges, the former commanding general of the United States Army, has said that the F16s are going to be provided to Ukraine this summer. Could the Minister confirm that? Ukraine is hugely outnumbered 10:1 by Russia when it comes to air power. It needs that air power desperately.

Today is India’s Republic Day. There was a huge parade in India, with President Macron of France as the chief guest. That parade showcased India’s armed forces, which today total 1.4 million active personnel. India has the world’s second-largest military force but, more importantly, the world’s largest voluntary army. My late father, Lieutenant General Bilimoria, commanded the central Indian army. As commander-in-chief, he had 350,000 troops under his command. India’s reserve forces alone number 1.155 million. What do we have here in the UK? Our Armed Forces total a pathetic 184,860—half the size of my father’s army—with reserves of 33,210. Soon the Armed Forces will be 72,000—not even enough to fill Wembley Stadium. My friend General Sir Patrick Sanders, Chief of the General Staff, has said that, if we are not careful, we will need to recruit conscripts. Admiral Rob Bauer, chairman of NATO’s Military Committee, said just a few days ago that there is a potential for an all-out war with Russia in the next 20 years.

I remember attending a refresher course at Harvard Business School in January 2017, when Professor Rawi Abdelal put up a graph of globalisation, starting at the Battle of Waterloo when it was zero and going up to the beginning of the 1900s when it peaked. Then there was the First World War, which should never have happened. Then it dropped, it raised a bit, then there was the Second World War and it dropped again. After 1945, that graph went up to a peak in the early 2000s. He said that if history repeats itself we will have conflict in the world. How right he was, sadly, with the Ukraine war starting two years ago; the sad situation in Gaza and Israel, with the horrific attacks on 7 October and the sad deaths and wounding of innocent people in the three and half months since; the Houthis, sponsored by Iran, in the Red Sea; Hezbollah, supported by Iran, in Lebanon; and Pakistan and Iran attacking each other, let alone China and Taiwan and what might happen there. We are in a precarious position, with some people even warning of a World War Three. This is why this country should not be spending 2% of GDP on defence, or the 2.5% that the Government promise but never deliver. We should spend 3% of GDP on defence. Will the Government acknowledge this? This is a time to be bold. As the Duke of Wellington said, fortune favours the bold.

I conclude with what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said. The UK is already one of Ukraine’s closest partners because we recognise that its security is our security. The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has also said that. President Zelensky concluded his article by saying:

“The UK has always defended freedom. For the sake of the world and our collective futures, it must continue to do so … if we can overcome such a danger to the international order, then we will be able to convince even the most serious potential aggressors that war will be a loss for them as well. This is why we have to win. This is why we have to stand together. This is why our alliance does matter”.

Photo of Lord Glasman Lord Glasman Llafur 12:53, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, for initiating this debate and his excellent opening remarks. I am proud to sit behind my noble friend Lord Coaker and my party in relation to our approach to the war in Ukraine.

I have been to Ukraine for maybe up to four months since the war began. I have been four times, all over the country; I spent a lot of time in Kyiv and in Odesa. Two very intense and conflicting emotions characterise the people of Ukraine. The first is a visceral loathing of Russia and a desire to protect their homeland and their freedom. The second is a genuine weariness with the war and a genuine sense of grief over the loss. The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, mentioned the 300,000 Russian dead, but he did not mention what looks to be over 200,000 Ukrainian dead over this period—a huge number relative to the size of the country.

I also commend the Government on the policy they have pursued from the outset. One of the very strange experiences of being in Ukraine is the uniform affection for Britain that characterises people throughout it. We have established trust, which is an incredible thing. It is to be noted, as well, through the Belvedere process and other things that the noble Lord, Lord Risby, mentioned very powerfully, that we have assumed a leadership position in relation to the eastern European states, most particularly Poland but also the Baltic states. I noticed that Scandinavia too is looking to Britain for not just military leadership but political leadership.

This is an extraordinary circumstance, not unrelated to the fact that Germany and France both remain deeply confused, which we have not mentioned in this debate so far. The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, mentioned that one rule of politics is that it is not what you say but what is heard; I commend to the House the other golden rule of politics, as developed by Muhammad Ali, which is that you never get knocked down by a punch you see coming. It seems that Germany and France are still both reeling around; they still cannot comprehend the scale of this. It is important to note that the two new parties that have come out explicitly for peace in Germany—the AfD and the Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance —are both now polling above any of the coalition partners in the German Government. There is a very strong feeling within Germany; we also know that Le Pen in France, who is most in favour of peace in the Russia-Ukraine war, is also leading in the polls. Extraordinarily, we have an outstanding capacity, as the noble Lord, Lord Risby, pointed out, to actually take a leading role if we can co-ordinate with the different aspects of the help.

I also commend the speech by the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith. I do not think that there is any significant difference between Vladimir Putin, Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great and Catherine the Great in terms of besieged imperial Russia. But I have one element of dissent; the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said that this is not an academic debate, and I apologise to him—it is really difficult to leave the field. In international relations terms, I am a realist. The words of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, have to be heard very strongly in the long-term development of our capacity within defence, most particularly the Navy.

That brings me to my one area of dissent with the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, which is also with the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria. The port of Odesa is essentially besieged by the Russian army. Very little gets in. Some stuff is allowed out, but this is leading to long-term consequences for the import of the fundamental needs of Ukraine, such as white goods and medicines. Everything is coming in from Poland by land, which is 10 times the price. Effectively, Ukraine has been cut off from Black Sea trade, which is stymied.

Building on other contributions—I will be as brief as I can—we have to conceptualise some form of ceasefire here strategically, so that we can build up our arms and long-term strategic relationships with partners. Therefore, we have to acknowledge that the assumption that was very prevalent at the beginning of the war—that Russia would fall; that Putin would fall—is in the levels of fantasy. The Russian state has consolidated its alliances with China and North Korea, and, particularly in drone technology, with Iran. These are very serious, but the economic sanctions we imposed have not had the effect we wished. Therefore, Russian interests and capacities have to form part of our calculation of how we pursue this.

The first conclusion is that we need to build up our own, which will take several years to do, but we also have a great interest in some form of ceasefire because the losses inflicted on Ukraine are, frankly, unendurable. We have to notice the looming dark shadow: President Trump will not even meet representatives of the Ukrainian Government. It is not that he is indifferent; he is actively hostile. So we will have to bear an enormous burden. One aspect of the ceasefire would be to go back to a previous tradition: like Gdańsk or Danzig in the First World War, Odesa becomes a free city so that the Russians lift their naval blockade. That would enable Ukraine to reconstruct its economy and rebuild its civic institutions.

Photo of Lord Shinkwin Lord Shinkwin Ceidwadwyr 1:00, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Camoys, on his outstanding maiden speech.

Like other noble Lords, I applaud the consistent support that His Majesty’s Government have given to Ukraine since the completely unwarranted and illegitimate invasion by Russia almost two years ago. The Foreign Secretary is surely right to warn of how dangerous the world has become. Danger always exists, of course, but the international convergence of evil that Vladimir Putin has facilitated and is leading is truly frightening, such are the depths of his depravity.

I am afraid I must strongly disagree with the remarks of my noble friend Lord Balfe. Surely history teaches us that we cannot afford for Putin to prevail because the price is too high. As the Foreign Secretary has said, appeasement does not pay. I am not suggesting that my noble friend Lord Balfe was necessarily advocating that, but the lessons of the 1930s surely show us that evil begets evil. To think that a triumphant Putin would stop at Ukraine would be an incredibly costly delusion. Pain postponed would simply be pain magnified.

I am sure I am not alone in my humble gratitude to the people of Ukraine for their incredible courage, resolve and sacrifice. I say “sacrifice” because, while of course it is their country that is under brutal attack and whose existence President Zelensky and his countrymen and countrywomen are determined to defend, it is clear that they also understand the gravity of the threat to the free world. They are our buffer, the only thing standing between the democracies of the West and a much wider conflict that others have suggested would engulf the Baltic states, Poland and thus NATO. That is why I, like other noble Lords, welcome the Government’s commitment of £2.5 billion in military aid for 2024-25, because the increase of £200 million on last year is commensurate with the increased threat both to Ukraine and to us.

In addition to the essential military support that we give Ukraine, it must be right to consider what more we can do to support it in other ways. How can we use our formidable legal authority and expertise to secure justice for those so brutally butchered in Bucha and elsewhere? How do we support its refugees, as the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, asked?

What is being done to ensure that the UK is leading the efforts to establish an ad hoc tribunal for the crime of aggression and exploring how our courts can play a role in prosecuting the perpetrators? My noble friend the Minister will know that the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws KC, have introduced respectively the Genocide Determination Bill and the Genocide (Prevention and Response) Bill. I hope very much that, in preparing their response for the Second Reading of each Bill, the Government will engage constructively with both esteemed Members of your Lordships’ House, in particular to recognise the urgent need to be seen to facilitate justice for the people of Ukraine in the face of Putin’s seemingly insatiable appetite for atrocity.

Closer to home, according to published government statistics, as of this month arrivals under the two main refugee schemes totalled more than 198,000, of which the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain estimates that more than 30,000 are children in school or college. The first visas are due to expire in March 2025. The critical question is not the actual date of expiry but how long before expiry people will have to apply for whatever new visa scheme the Government announce.

I fully appreciate that my noble friend Lord Minto, who is responding to this debate, may not be in a position to answer these questions today, but I ask him either to write to me, following consultation with Home Office colleagues, or to ask them to write to me, saying: when the Government intend to make an announcement on the new policy; that they will ensure that the process is announced at the same time as the policy and that it is robust enough to cope with the likely number of applications at any given time; that they will develop a programme of information, including printed and online material in Ukrainian and English and webinars, to explain choices and processes clearly; that they will create an application window of at least six months before visa expiry, by no later than this September, so as to allow the refugees sufficient time; and that they will set up a staffed helpline to answer queries and respond to specific issues relating to a personal application in real time.

My noble friend will know how much the Government’s work in this area is hugely appreciated by the Ukrainian community, whether that is in education, employment or housing. I end by asking my noble friend whether he can use his influence to establish when the Prime Minister intends to respond to the recent letter to him and other party leaders from Bishop Nowakowski, bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family of London, who is leading tremendous efforts to support the Ukrainian community in the UK concerning the visa scheme and continuing support for refugees.

Photo of Baroness Goudie Baroness Goudie Llafur 1:08, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I extend my sincere gratitude to my noble friend Lord Ahmad for bringing the crucial issue of Ukraine to the forefront of our discussions today. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Camoys on his maiden speech and welcome him to the House.

As we find ourselves entering the third calendar year of the Ukraine conflict, it is with a heavy heart that we acknowledge Russia’s control over large swathes of the country. The global community must rally together, for without the collective support of the global community, Ukraine faces the perilous risk of permanent fracture. Such an outcome not only poses an existential threat to Europe’s security and democracy but risks the potential creation of a new division akin to a modern Berlin Wall. Our responsibility to our European neighbours demands that we take every measure possible to prevent such a dire scenario.

While the stakes are undeniably high on a large scale, we must not lose sight of the individual lives and livelihoods at risk. Each Ukrainian citizen, subjected to this uninvited barrage of assaults on their fundamental right to a decent life and a decent education, deserves our unwavering support for their future. The consequences of the displacement caused by the conflict—more than 60% of those displaced are women—are stark, creating distinctive needs and heightened vulnerabilities.

The human cost of this conflict is immeasurable, with families torn apart and the risks of sexual violence and exploitation intensified, because these predators are everywhere. Women, children and babies, as my noble friend Lady Amos mentioned earlier, are being taken away as we speak. Let us not forget the evidence that war crimes, including rape and the deportation of children, are occurring within Europe itself. These harrowing realities should weigh heavily on our minds as we debate the level of our support.

Last year, the United Kingdom hosted the Ukrainian recovery conference, aimed at rehabilitating Ukraine and laying the foundation for its inclusive and sustainable recovery. Placing gender equality and women’s meaningful participation at the forefront is not just a moral imperative but a strategic necessity for success. Women and civil society, indispensable as first responders in the war, should be central to the planning, distribution and oversight of funds in the reconstructive effort—in health and education, investment from around the world, and jobs.

As we know from the DRC, which is not quite relevant to this, women and children have not been being educated. It is really difficult to bring in employment for those who have to be trained before they can be employed in even the most basic tasks.

Ukrainian women leading humanitarian relief work are crucial to the recovery discussions. With their access to marginalised communities, they are best suited to contributing to these efforts. Moreover, women represent most of the highly educated and skilled workforce in Ukraine. They are capable of strengthening anti-corruption measures, modernising the energy sector and driving Ukraine’s reform agenda. The inclusion of women, particularly local Ukrainian women, at all levels of the negotiations is not just vital but essential.

The shocking reality that, on average, women constitute only 14% of the negotiating teams in current conflicts demands our attention. Peace agreements signed by women delegates correlate with lasting peace, as we all know, which emphasises the urgency of promoting women’s participation in conflict negotiations. In the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, women have been largely excluded as peace negotiators despite their active involvement in the conflict, with some 60,000 women serving in the Ukrainian armed forces, including 5,000 on the front line.

It is disheartening to note the absence of women on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides during peace talks. While Russia has undermined the women, peace, and security agenda, Ukraine is committed to its own policy for its implementation, and we must address this concern. Women’s inclusion must not be an afterthought; it must be at the forefront, as a principle for achieving more inclusive outcomes in the long term.

I urge the Government to shed light on their efforts to ensure women’s presence at all levels of negotiation between Ukraine and Russia, including saying that if we cannot have the right proportion of women, we are not prepared to sit down. I know that this is a risk, but it has to be so, and that the Minister has given undertakings on different issues around this one. Upholding the security of our democracy and its values in Parliament, and including women in that process, is a proven strategy for success. Let us not merely add women and stir, but rather embrace women’s representation at the peace table as an indispensable means to secure a more inclusive and just future for all.

Photo of Lord Houghton of Richmond Lord Houghton of Richmond Crossbench 1:13, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I offer my own welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Camoys, and congratulate him on an excellent maiden speech. If I may make so bold, his relative youth, which I welcome, reminds me that the Oxford Union will debate the situation in Ukraine at its meeting on 22 February. The motion will be:

“This house believes Ukraine should negotiate with Russia to end the war now”.

I have been invited to speak in that debate and although I have much sympathy with the motion, I intend to oppose it. My grounds for doing so will undoubtedly benefit from what I have already heard and will hear today, but they are primarily based on a self-derived and clinically strategic view that it is not in our national interest to encourage or pressurise Ukraine to seek peace.

Why do I say this? If we pause to remind ourselves of the situation at the outbreak of the current phase of Russian aggression in Ukraine two years ago, there is a general consensus that Putin made a strategic miscalculation in ordering his invasion. The miscalculation was based on three underpinning assumptions. He assumed that Ukraine’s armed forces were weak, that Russia’s armed forces were strong, and that NATO lacked the political integrity and military capability to act in a coherent way. All three assumptions, in different ways, proved wrong.

The relevant issue from a UK position is not that Putin was internally misled about the quality of his own armed forces or that he misjudged the integrity and resilience of the Ukrainian people, but that he did not think that NATO would respond in a united or militarily meaningful way. Putin thought this because he had more than enough evidence to support the view that NATO was internally fractured, underfunded, globally distracted, wafer thin in respect of war-fighting resilience, and optimised for cyclical training rather than conventional deterrence. Remarkably, the UK’s refresh of the integrated review did not concede this major strategic point: that NATO, and the UK as the leading European nation in NATO, had failed in their primary task of conventional deterrence in Europe.

In fairness, NATO and the UK should be congratulated in that they have done rather better than Putin assumed. Indeed, the subsequent success of NATO has been in its ability to maintain the war in Ukraine as—in terms that military professionals would use—limited: limited in both geography and the means employed. The limitation on the means employed needs further explanation.

The calibration of NATO support for Ukraine must be, and is being, very carefully assessed as sufficient to keep Ukraine in the fight, but not so significant as to bring about a humiliation of Russia that risks an escalation of force beyond the tactical nuclear threshold. I wholly accept the moral and ethical challenge that this situation represents. To sustain an ally in a war that it cannot be permitted to decisively win is a deeply questionable policy from a moral perspective. However, the risk of nuclear escalation, even of a tactical nature, represents an overriding concern that justifies the questionable morality of the policy.

The situation on the ground in Ukraine today has many of the hallmarks of a self-hurting stalemate en route to a frozen conflict, but only in a localised sense. The frozen conflict on land might result in some element of conflict termination, but there are absolutely no grounds to pursue any hope yet of conflict resolution. I do not believe, as many others have said today, that military means alone will bring about the context for such a resolution.

In the meantime, what should the UK and NATO do in military terms? I offer three things. First, NATO should continue to calibrate its military support for Ukraine in an ever more coherently funded and programmed way, but also in a way that maintains the limited nature of the conflict. The desire should, of course, be for Ukraine to enjoy incremental tactical advantage on land, but it should also recognise that a decisive outcome of the land battle is highly unlikely. A greater strategic advantage can more easily be achieved, for example, in the Black Sea, or by the wider erosion of the Russian will.

Secondly, and as a part of the erosion of Russian will, NATO should re-establish the effective conventional deterrence of Russia. A lot is involved in this, but primarily it is about providing the resources to re-establish NATO’s war-fighting resilience. It is also about deploying NATO forces, not in some elegant and wholly inefficient force-generation cycle, but in accordance with a general defence plan optimised to convey an unmistakable deterrent message.

Thirdly, NATO should have the strategic patience to accept that, so long as Ukraine is prepared to fight—and, in truth, continue to erode the Russian threat to Europe by proxy—we should not dictate the terms on which Ukraine should seek to resolve the conflict. It must certainly not be pressured into seeking to resolve the conflict on terms that its people cannot accept or that Russia could present as victory, or from which Russia could seek to derive encouragement for future aggression.

The lesson in all this for the current or any future UK Government is simple. They and we must remember the simple paradox on which armed forces are built: the better they are, the less likely they will need to be used. The hollowing out of the United Kingdom’s conventional Armed Forces over the last 20 years has been a significant contributory factor to recent Russian aggression. Governments should take serious and urgent note of military advocacy that seeks to rebuild military deterrent capability. The failure to make that investment has brought about the current more dangerous and far more expensive situation.

I look forward to finding out in a couple of weeks what the young and lively minds of Oxford are thinking. I travel in the perhaps naive hope that, in the strategic context of 2024, they may be thinking that investing in defence is more important than tax giveaways.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Ceidwadwyr 1:21, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I have become aware of an interesting quote from Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis from 22 January:

“Nobody knows the exact timeline of Russia’s madness, but we know Ukraine is buying us time and paying for it with blood. If Ukraine wins, Russia’s expansionism will be halted. If not, we will be wishing we had used the bought time more efficiently”.

As noble Lords have observed, we are in exceptionally perilous times. We need to avoid unnecessary and out-of-control escalation, as the noble and gallant Lord has just told us, and get off that track of doom, but we must not be too timid either.

I have been going through my paternal grandfather’s library, which is now mine, and it is interesting to see what he kept from the 1930s and read many times. Obviously there are several Liddell Harts, but also a most interesting book by JR Kennedy. These books all drew attention to our then poorly equipped Army and its recruiting difficulties. Most importantly, the Army was configured only for bush warfare and protection of the home base—as the noble and gallant Lord was saying about our current situation—and there was a lack of large-scale exercises that properly tested commanders and supporting logistics. We left rearming far too late. We know what happened next: we were regularly defeated for quite some time and, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said, appeasement did not work.

That is why I have asked on numerous occasions when the British Army last deployed a largely fully formed and supported division for manoeuvre and deployment training. The answer is more than 30 years ago. Ministers sometimes got muddled up between just exercising a divisional headquarters and the staff term “largely fully formed and supported division”. That is why I am so pleased to hear about Exercise Steadfast Defender, which is really good news.

The Government have done very well in responding to the invasion of Ukraine and have usually been on the front foot. However, as many noble Lords have observed, especially the noble and gallant Lord, we and our allies have done enough only to prevent Ukraine being defeated, not enough or quickly enough to enable the Ukrainian forces to eject Russian forces from their territory. It was very helpful for the noble and gallant Lord to explain why that might be. Furthermore, we have been sending the wrong signals of deterrence from at least 2014, and possibly 2010, by running down the British Army to meet voter aspirations—spending their money elsewhere while not educating the public about the consequences of a 100% debt to GDP ratio.

I note what noble Lords, especially the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, have said about the situation in the US and the need for us, in Europe, to find a solution to the problem. As I have said before, and as my noble friend the Minister explained today, in Europe we have vastly more economic and industrial capability than the Russians. With the Americans otherwise engaged, it will be difficult and painful, but we now have to rearm ourselves, especially but not exclusively in the land component. What systems we invest in is a matter for the capability managers in the Ministry of Defence. However, I envisage having the military effect equivalent to at least two armoured divisions with full logistic support back to the home bank. That would still be less than what we had in the old BAOR days.

In answer to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, hitherto the minimal increases in defence expenditure have not been detectable by the general public—that will change. We have maxed out our national credit card by having a good time, and many believe that we have reached the limit of our taxation capacity. To deter by rearming, the necessary cutbacks elsewhere will be unbelievably tough and there will be howls of pain. It will be extremely difficult to convince the public of the necessity—and, by the way, 3% might not be enough—but it will always be more cost effective to ramp up now than later and, in doing so, avoid a war by means of deterring further military activity by the Russians. We must not fritter away the time bought by the Ukrainians at such high costs. The difficulty is that we cannot ramp up defence expenditure and hard capability quickly—and we will not directly intervene in Ukraine in any case. Any new capability would be only to meet our Article 5 commitments and provide deterrence.

On munitions, my understanding is that we are still pussyfooting around, trying to determine by when we should have our stocks replenished. As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, and my noble friend Lord Vaizey indicated, at European NATO level we need to co-ordinate which country makes what defence materiel for Ukraine—and fast. For example, if it were agreed that we made 155-millimetre and even 152-millimetre artillery natures, we should build a new, fully integrated Royal Ordnance factory and task it with making at least 100,000 rounds per month, commencing production within a few months. To do that, as a minimum Ministers would need to take drastic powers to disregard all planning laws, to direct industrial production and to requisition existing machine tools from the rest of industry. If all European states were to do something similar for other capabilities, it is just possible that Putin might feel the ground shifting under him, in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, described. The alternative is too dreadful to think about.

Photo of Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government) 1:28, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Camoys, on his maiden speech and welcome him to your Lordships’ House.

One of the great privileges of being a newish Member of this House is listening to debates conducted by so many eminent experts on the great geopolitical issues of our time. I do not pretend to be one of those, but I wanted to speak to highlight some of the outstanding work that has been done by our people, communities and councils around the United Kingdom to welcome refugees from Ukraine, which has done very much to strengthen the bond between our two countries.

Before I do so, I echo what other noble Lords have said about the huge courage, determination and resolve of the people of Ukraine and their leaders in defending their country—and the rest of Europe, because that is what it means—from the undiluted evil of Putin and his regime. I also pay tribute to local leaders in the cities of Ukraine. Their mayors and leaders have been ever present in supporting their people and communities through this dreadful war.

Here in the UK, in spite of the awful battering that local government funding has taken, its remarkable ability to step up in a crisis has been powerfully demonstrated recently, both during the pandemic and again, so soon afterwards, in 2022, when called on after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Councils have a proud history of welcoming new arrivals, stepping forward at times of crisis to offer homes and support so that families and individuals can build new lives in the UK. Supporting arrivals from Ukraine required a redesign of council services at pace and at scale to ensure that vital host arrangements were safe and supported. There are nearly 200,000 visa holders in UK schemes. Local authorities have been at the forefront of the Ukrainian refugee response and have stepped up fast-paced, holistic integration support, working closely with the Government, health partners, the voluntary and community sector, and many other key partners.

Local authorities are responsible for arranging well-being checks on Homes for Ukraine scheme arrivals, which have helped identify the needs of Ukrainian refugees, and for ensuring appropriate support referrals. Councils have provided a wide range of services and support, including safeguarding and accommodation checks; well-being checks; welcome arrangements; supporting Ukrainians to understand their status and entitlements, including benefits; GP registrations; setting up bank accounts; housing and homeless support; supporting children into school and with additional educational needs, as well as with ESOL—English for speakers of other languages—access; employment support; and a wide range of other community engagement and integration support. Councils have played a key role in building cohesion across local communities, helping to build a sense of belonging for all and facilitating opportunities for those from different backgrounds to form relationships with others, and in responding to cohesion challenges and community tensions where they arise.

A collaborative effort from a wide range of council and local services continues to take place, including support for hosts, housing and homelessness support, health and mental health support, ESOL, childcare, and job advice and access. Many local authorities also have regular drop-in events and support hubs, open to Ukrainian arrivals and other refugees to help them address their needs.

It is absolutely right, in accordance with our long history of welcoming refugees, that this open and welcoming approach has been taken on behalf of British communities to our Ukrainian refugees. Of course, there are remaining challenges to overcome to enable us to provide the very best support. I ask the Minister to address some of those in his response today, but I would also be happy if he would meet me and representatives of local government to look at them in more detail.

First, on a positive note, there has been no reduction in funding for unaccompanied minors and the additional funding for year 2, which we welcome, but we have seen a reduction in funding for arrivals since January 2023, from £10,500 to £5,900, and there are still disparities between the Ukrainian and Afghan refugee resettlement schemes. There are no family payments for hosts using the Ukrainian family visa scheme—is that being reviewed?

We are hearing concerns about increased homelessness among Ukrainian refugees. Of course, we have discussed many times in your Lordships’ House the national housing crisis, which impacts on refugees as well. Last year, 8,900 Ukrainian refugee households presented as homeless and 870 were placed in temporary accommodation. We are still waiting to hear the outcome of the review of allocations to 127 councils of European structural funding for housing, as the funds were placed on hold while the DWP explored an alternative model of funding. It would be helpful to know how that funding is to be split between devolved Administrations. Can the Minister tell us what efforts are being made to attract new sponsors and whether we will see a confirmation of thank you payments?

With 23% of Ukrainian refugees telling us that they have struggled to access ESOL services, what more can be done to support that access? Our councils are telling us that there is an urgent need for more support with the mental health needs of refugees, including trauma-informed support. What is being done to ensure that this is available with language support and with attention to ensure that mental health support is culturally appropriate?

There have been issues relating to the provision of data on visa issuance to local authorities. If this can be improved, it would allow collective oversight of numbers and needs. We have already heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester and the noble Lord, Lord Shinkwin, about the issues and the need for more certainty around the current visa scheme, as original visas reach their expiry dates.

Although there are remaining challenges, the British people have rightly opened their hearts and homes to the people of Ukraine. The councils that represent British people have stepped up with support, as we would anticipate and expect. Local government, like our national Government, stands with the people of Ukraine. We stand with them today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes.

Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 1:35, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness and the pertinent questions she asked. They are valid questions, and I hope the Minister will reply to them in detail when he winds up.

I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Camoys, to his place and note his excellent maiden speech. He remarked what a relief it is when people get your name correct at the start. In my first week here, I received a bill from the restaurant addressed to “Lord Pelvis”, but I dutifully paid.

To some extent, this debate marks the 10th anniversary of Russian aggression, as alluded to by the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith. It is not two years since the war started; it has been going on for a decade. I will start where my noble friend Lady Suttie started in her excellent contribution: the human toll and the traumatised communities. She was absolutely right to single out the elderly in Ukraine.

My noble friend Lady Suttie also mentioned, as did my noble friend Lady Brinton, those oppressed within Russia. There are those who have not had the economic means of avoiding the consequences of the sanctions or who have even been sent to fight on the front line based on a lie, being lied to on the way. There are also those like Vladimir Kara-Murza, who received the Liberal International Prize for Freedom. I had the pleasure of speaking at the presentation of the award to his wife with my noble friend Lady Brinton. These individuals within Russia should be part of our consideration during these debates because they are also victims of Putin’s aggression.

We also know that those Ukrainians we have provided shelter to in a storm require ongoing support. That has been an interesting thread throughout this debate: many spoke about the need for the UK to offer continuing support. This means that it will be not just FCDO and Defence Ministers—as grateful as we are for them—but, as was alluded to, Home Office and DWP Ministers who are now part of this priority.

I and my noble friends have visited the Verkhovna Rada on a number of occasions. Indeed, I was in the Maidan in 2014 shortly after, and I saw the charred buildings that have been referred to. I have seen the resilience of the parliament in the Rada; let us not forget that, at the outset of the aggression two years ago, Russian special forces were sent there to assassinate and kidnap. Throughout the horrors of the attacks in Kyiv since, MPs are still active in their committees and debates, as a parliament. Yes, as one MP told me, they have received AK47 training, but, equally, they are working in their constituencies and ensuring there is remediate recovery and restoration of services. The bravery of MPs, civil servants and those ensuring that services continue is a testimony to the resilience of the Ukrainian people and what it represents. It represents democracy being strong in war, not weak. A democracy defending itself against autocratic aggression and attempts at subjugation is a model for the rest of the world.

At the beginning of the year, the Financial Times highlighted that about half of adults globally will be voting in elections in 2024. It is a remarkable feat. However, it also said that democracy is not just about voting in occasional elections:

“Respect for human rights, rule of law and checks and balances, including robust institutions and independent media are also indispensable”.

It said:

“By these measures, freedom is in retreat or on the defensive in much of the world”.

As we have this debate today, we would think that that is the case. However, it ended by saying:

“Democrats should not despair”.

For every sham election that there will be in Russia in March or in Iran coming up, there have been elections in Taiwan and Poland, where we have seen democrats and liberals—with big and small “l”s—be successful.

Another thread in this debate has been the question of what success or failure may look like for Putin and what may be the ingredients that might bring this about. On one reading, it is, of course, territorial possession and the subjugation of Ukraine. On another reading—this is where I have more sympathy—it is halting the advance of the rules-based international order. We need to be clear-eyed. A new, dysfunctional Security Council, a re-establishment of a form of non-aligned movements and divisions within the global South and richer countries, including within the Commonwealth, are one element of this. If the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, in his excellent contribution, is correct that one man can end this, unfortunately we may need to rely on elections to do with some other men, including that between Biden and Trump, or those within the Senate. It is out of our hands.

Nevertheless, we see Prime Minister Tusk now taking on Prime Minister Orbán. There are those who will be supporting the rules-based international order. Of course, what is the alternative? Russia and China, which do not support the rules-based international order, prefer a multipolar world, as they would term it. For them, a rules-based international order is one of hypocrisy—one where there are double standards in the United States, Europe and the UK. However, from our perspective, a multipolar world is one where Russia and China will seek to impose their systems on their near neighbours and to disrupt and to divide.

These elements and their likely impact are of a global nature. What are the elements that are within our hands here at home? There are elements that we have in our own command. The first are the UK’s relationships with the global South. Ministers will not be surprised that I mention the fact that from these Benches we have regretted the retreat on the UK commitment for official development assistance. This is not only just noticed in the global South but has an impact. Every time a rich country retreats on its official development assistance, Sergey Lavrov is there on a visit to highlight the hypocrisy and the double standards. It is in our strategic interest that we have official development assistance at the 0.7% level.

We have heard much about defence increase and I support that, including the calls from the noble and gallant Lord. However, defence increase without requisite diplomacy and development increases will simply not be effective or proactive. When it comes to delays in visa applications, or when, as the Foreign Secretary said to me, funds have been diverted away from supporting minorities such as the Rohingyas because of our support for the Ukrainians, this plays into a narrative from Moscow.

Secondly, like my noble friends Lady Suttie and Lady Brinton, I welcome what the Government have done on immobilised assets in the UK. The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, and other Ministers know that when we have debated Russian sanctions, these Benches have offered our strong support at every opportunity. As the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, said, we now have £21.6 billion of immobilised assets within the UK. Across Europe as a whole, there is €300 billion.

I asked the Minister about this yesterday and I will repeat that, from our perspective, there is an extremely strong case to look with urgency at a windfall tax on the interest and the assets that are immobilised. The European Union has now decided to do this. This will release €2.3 billion, which it will use as part of the funds to support the Ukrainian people. The UK now has measures in place through legislation that will allow us to do that. What we need is the political will and consensus for us to act quickly. Our friends in Ukraine and in its parliament are calling on us to do it. We should heed those calls and act. Not only will that mean that we will release much-needed funds for the Ukrainian people, but it will send a strong signal about the proper use of the rule of law and our intent that those with wealth will not circumvent sanctions and frozen assets to the countries that unfortunately harbour many of those people.

As the noble Earl, Lord Minto, is winding, I would be grateful if he could clarify the welcome commitment for military support that the UK has provided. A year ago we debated this in the House and the Government gave their commitment to provide Challenger 2 tanks and other military equipment. Will the Minister make it clear that what we committed to last year has been deployed and is operational? There is little point in us making announcements that we will give military support if it is not operational and not deployed. In her frank new year address, the Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, said:

“Ukraine lacks ammunition. Europe has not delivered what is needed. We will press for more European production. It’s urgent”.

She also highlighted the fact that, of the 1 million artillery rounds that the EU had promised Ukraine by March this year, less than a third have so far been delivered.

I will close with some recent words from the historian Timothy Garton Ash that go back to the challenge that we ultimately will face as the United Kingdom within the rules-based international order:

Vladimir Putin is determined to defeat and destroy an independent Ukraine. Ukraine is equally determined to resist. But what are the rest of the world’s democracies resolved to achieve in this epoch-defining struggle? The answer we give in 2024 will not only shape the future of Europe. It will also tell us something important about the relative strengths of early 21st-century democracy and autocracy”.

That is correct. Ukraine’s war is our war. Indeed, it is for the very world that we believe in.

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 1:47, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I, too, start by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Camoys, on his excellent maiden speech. His career in foreign affairs and diplomacy will greatly add to our debates in the future, so I very much welcome him here today.

I know that I have said this on previous occasions, and the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, has stressed it, too, but the fact that this Parliament and the peoples of the United Kingdom remain united in supporting Ukraine sends a strong message to Putin and his allies. We stand with NATO allies in providing military, economic, diplomatic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine in the face of this illegal invasion. We have heard in this debate about the remarkable courage and resilience of Ukraine’s brave defenders and we should take huge pride in the training and aid that our Armed Forces and NATO allies are providing.

It is clear—we have heard it strongly through this debate—that Putin must be defeated in Ukraine. The cost of this war has been horrendous. We have heard how he has used food supplies to Africa, weaponising important humanitarian aid in periods of drought, and we have heard about the terrible crimes that have been committed. We have also heard about the huge loss of life, not least of the brave servicemen fighting for Ukraine, but also of the hundreds of thousands of Russian forces who have been sacrificed. It is outrageous and terrible and I just hope that that message gets through, despite Putin’s attempts to hide all the news in Russia.

We must stand full square behind Ukraine, strengthening its hand on the battlefield, supporting relief and reconstruction, maintaining western unity, isolating Putin and undermining his war effort. We must ensure that our diplomatic coalition remains robust and committed to Ukraine’s victory.

As ever, our Armed Forces have played a key role, including, as I have mentioned, in our training efforts. Some 30,000 Ukrainian recruits have been trained here, and the RAF has transported hundreds of thousands of pieces of aid. We thank them for all the support they are providing.

As my noble friend Lord Coaker said in his introduction, with a general election coming there may be a change of government, but there will be no change to Britain’s resolve in confronting Russia’s aggression and pursuing Putin’s crimes, and in standing with Ukraine. We are in this for absolutely the long term.

I, too, welcome the 10-year defence agreement. As we have heard in the debate, it is vital that Ukraine has a better idea of what it will receive over the next 10 years—it cannot be on just a year-by-year basis. We need urgently to ramp up our own industry, encourage our allies to do more and make it clear to Putin, as my noble friend Lord Robertson said, that things will get worse, not better, for Russia and that he cannot win.

There needs to be a stockpile strategy to sustain and support Ukraine and rearm Britain, as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said. Ukraine is depleting our military stockpiles and, unfortunately, the Government are acting too slowly to replenish them. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, is absolutely right in this regard. We need to shift parts of our defence industry and MoD procurement on to an urgent operational footing in order to support Ukraine for the long term and to rebuild our stocks for the future, as the noble Lord, Lord Camoys, ably argued.

As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, said, the Government indicated, I think for the first time in October 2022, that they were in principle supportive of seizing Russian state assets to fund Ukraine’s reconstruction. I certainly welcomed the reconstruction conference that was held, but no specific proposals have been forthcoming. Yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, said that G7 partners are urgently discussing this, ensuring that any action we take is legally robust. Well, we need a little more urgency to ensure that we can effectively use these assets and take up some of the initiatives pursued in the European Union.

This issue has not simply been started here. Again, I reflect the point made by my noble friend Lord Robertson: it is not just Democrats in the US who support seizing these assets to rebuild Ukraine; there is very strong support among the Republican Party too. Legislation has been drafted and supported by Republicans, and while I absolutely share the concern expressed about the future, we should not simply see the United States as a one-person country. It is made up of many states and politicians, a large number of whom strongly back Ukraine in its fight against Putin.

I have been concerned for some time that the Government have been too slow in ridding the United Kingdom of illicit finance and fully implementing the recommendations of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s 2020 Russia report. We must never allow London to act as an ecosystem of lawyers, accountants, company formation agents and others who are facilitating the very people behind the Russian regime and, ultimately, aiding Putin’s illegal war.

We heard three clear messages from this debate. The first, I suppose, is that the priority is to urge the United States and the European Union to deliver support urgently, and to commit to that as quickly as possible. The second is to focus on our diplomatic efforts, particularly broadening the alliance we have established so far. We have a very strong alliance in NATO, but I welcome the efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, in building that alliance beyond, including through our engagement at the General Assembly. We need to refocus our activities, not just at the Security Council level, but looking to UNGA as a way of building those links and deepening the alliance.

The third message, which, sadly, we did not hear much about in the debate, is to strengthen our sanctions and our ability to undermine the Russian economy and Russia’s ability to fight this war. We need to close the loopholes and step up enforcement. In Tuesday’s debate on Russian sanctions, I mentioned the letter from Anne-Marie Trevelyan to all MPs, in which she said that the UK, the EU and the US had sent joint delegations to Russia’s neighbours, particularly Uzbekistan, Georgia and Armenia, and that bilateral arrangements had been made with Turkey and Serbia. She also said that these were yielding positive results. I know from my own recent visit to Georgia that there has been a huge increase in luxury car imports, which do not stay very long in Georgia and are moved to Russia. We need to understand just how these loopholes are operating and what we can do; certainly, we could take action on oil and gas. Can the Minister tell us what the positive results are from those arrangements? How are we evaluating them? It certainly looks like sanctions are failing.

The creation of the Office of Trade Sanctions Implementation, announced on 11 December, is very welcome. On Tuesday, the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, said that the Government are planning to legislate to give this new body a toolkit of civil enforcement powers, including the ability to levy civil monetary penalties—similar to the powers of the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation—but he did not give us a timetable. We are now an urgent situation, and we need to make people aware of these powers. We need to have them, so I hope the Minister can explain the position today.

On Tuesday, the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, also addressed the many unintentional breaches of sanctions that arise because of a lack of awareness. We now have this body, and what we really want to know is how we can build a campaign to make people incredibly aware—all businesses in all communities—of the importance of complying with and implementing sanctions. This brings me to my final point on this issue: can we make these bodies more open to parliamentary scrutiny by subjecting their activities to a quarterly report, rather than the current annual one, which leaves things a bit too late?

I conclude in relation to what we have heard across the Chamber, which is that horrendous war crimes are being committed by Russian troops. My noble friend Lady Anderson of Stoke-on-Trent highlighted this. I welcome what the Minister said about our support to the ICC and our efforts to build a very strong case, but since March 2022 Labour has been calling for a special international tribunal to prosecute Putin and members of his armed forces for the crime of aggression. The EU backs the plan and so do the Ukrainian Government. I hope that we can give more positive support to this because we need to ensure that in future people who commit these acts know that they will be held to account by this country and allied countries. I very much welcome this debate and the Minister’s commitment so far.

Photo of The Earl of Minto The Earl of Minto The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence 2:01, 26 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I am very grateful for the constructive, thoughtful and high-quality debate today, as indeed one would expect from so many distinguished former Defence Ministers, heads of our services, senior diplomats and many other noble Lords with relevant experience and interests. I too congratulate my noble friend Lord Camoys on his excellent maiden speech. As somebody relatively new to the role, I have certainly found the thoughtful and insightful contributions of noble Lords immensely valuable and broad-ranging.

I continue to be moved by the enduring feeling of support for Ukraine, not only in this Chamber but internationally. As just as one example, I had the pleasure of attending a charity art exhibition last night hosted by our Canadian friends to raise funds for the people of Ukraine. I spoke with representatives from Japan, Bangladesh, Qatar, Ukraine and Canada, to name a few, and without exception they all expressed admiration for the UK’s stance in its support for Ukraine.

I shall recap briefly how we got here. Next month, as many noble Lords have mentioned, marks two years since Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine and fully a decade since he invaded and annexed Crimea and sowed division in the Donbass. As Russian forces massed on the border for their assault on Kyiv, Putin believed the Ukrainian army would be overrun in the matter of days, but President Zelensky declined to go quietly. Instead, and in no small part thanks to UK training and weaponry, Russian soldiers were forced to retreat. Ukrainian forces have pushed the invading Russians out of more than half the territory that they stole.

Given that we are still in the middle of winter, it is unsurprising that our most recent assessment concludes that the conflict remains largely static, with both sides conducting operations across the front line. However, the deputy chief of mission at the Ukrainian embassy said last night that what is going on is definitely not stalemate—far from it. Intense battles are being waged constantly, and he is worried that the allies do not fully appreciate this, which is a very interesting perspective, particularly in the light of my noble friend Lady Meyer’s comments. I confirm the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, about the Ukraine parliament’s solidarity and the resilience of the population—it was confirmed by the noble Lord, Lord Glasman —and their determination to prevail. The deputy chief of mission was absolutely determined about that last night.

Here is what we know. Putin’s imperial ambitions have suffered a severe blow, and the West will continue to drive this point into Putin’s mind—I echo the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. Around 300,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded, and Russia’s much-vaunted Black Sea fleet has scattered eastwards. As for Putin himself, he suffers the dual humiliation of an attempted coup and being wanted by the International Criminal Court.

The Russian economy is reeling from the most severe package of sanctions ever imposed on a major state—a problem exacerbated by the Kremlin’s need to keep nigh on 400,000 troops in Ukraine and spend nearly 40% of public expenditure on defence and security, just to keep hold of what Putin has taken. The noble Lord, Lord McDonald of Salford, makes a very good point on the Russian appetite for risk, with a long war expected and Ukraine fighting with western equipment.

Ukrainian forces, on the other hand, have been able to conduct pinpoint strikes against Russian military targets deep in Crimea—recently downing, as we heard, the A-50 Mainstay radar detection aircraft over the Sea of Azov and damaging a command-and-control Coot aircraft. They have destroyed more than 15% of Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet, enabling them to re-establish a critical maritime corridor for exports in the Black Sea, particularly for grain to feed some of the poorest on the planet, which is so important to Black Sea trade, as the noble Lord, Lord Glasman, reminded us.

Meanwhile, NATO and the freedom-loving democracies have been galvanised. As we have heard, the alliance is now larger and stronger than ever. We are just beginning Operation Steadfast Defender, in which some 20,000 British personnel will be taking part.

But we must never forget the terrible toll this conflict has taken on Ukraine. Many thousands have been killed. Critical national infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, and millions have been displaced. Parts of the country have faced ecological catastrophe, and the east and south-east of the country remain spliced in two by an 800 kilometre-long heavily mined and fortified Russian line. This is all a tragic reminder of why it is so essential for Ukraine to win.

Equally, it presents a dire warning to the West of what will happen if we do not face down Putin’s threat. If we do not prevail, he will surely take this as an opportunity to go for further aggressive, illegal action. Our challenge as we enter 2024 is to ensure that the West and our partners across the world do not lose resolve but continue giving Ukraine all that it needs to overcome the invader.

The Ukrainian armed forces are not going to give in any time soon. They remain well motivated, increasingly well trained, well led and increasingly well equipped. The UK is determined to keep providing Ukraine with what it needs to prevail and ultimately triumph, however long it may take. European support, temporarily held up, will hopefully be released by Hungary dropping its objection, to be concluded at the EU Council on 1 February.

Ten years ago, we were there to help train Ukrainian forces as the storm gathered. A decade later, we are still by their side, providing support and training across a wide range of skills.

I will now address some of the key issues raised by your Lordships. If I do not address every question in the allotted time, I commit to a full written follow-up.

First, several noble Lords mentioned national expenditure on defence. This is a very important point, of which everybody in the Government is acutely aware. The Prime Minister is absolutely clear on the direction of travel and has stated that 2.5% is a target he intends to achieve once it is fiscally advisable to do so. But there are other constraints that the Government have to determine and that must influence the absolute amount. They include the whole question, raised today, of industrial capacity. All this could not be more in focus.

Linked to that, my noble friend Lord Vaizey of Didcot mentioned the MoD working with SMEs in defence, what level of appetite there is for risk and influence and the temptation to rely on the larger partners. I do not think that is accurate. In my experience in the Ministry of Defence so far, there is a plethora of SMEs working either directly with the ministry or for the large organisations that then ultimately work for the ministry. It is a very integrated supply chain, so far as I can see.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Swansea, and several others issued the warning about Ukraine’s European Union and NATO membership. This is obviously high on the agenda, but must be dependent on events.

The question of visas for the Ukrainians already in this country and the involvement of the Home Office and DWP was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle and my noble friend Lord Shinkwin. The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, rightly pointed out the tremendous efforts that local authorities and families have made to welcome displaced Ukrainian refugees. I would be delighted to meet and discuss this and, as far as the Home Office is concerned, we will take that message back and make it absolutely clear.

There was a specific point from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, about development funds. The Government have issued a White Paper on international development and, again, the Government’s strategic direction is clear.

In Kyiv earlier this month, the Prime Minister upped our financial commitment to military aid to record levels by announcing a £2.5 billion military aid package for the year ahead; that is a £200 million uplift on the previous two years, in a period of clear financial stricture—a bold commitment. A longer-term commitment, while encompassed in the agreement recently signed by the Prime Minister and the President, depends very much on what the Ukrainian military plans become. It will mobilise the UK’s best military expertise and defence capabilities, including in air defence, artillery ammunition, long-range missiles and maritime security, in support of Ukraine’s self-defence and its battle to regain its territory. Everything promised last year has been sent to Ukraine. Whether Ukraine deploys it is a decision for its forces, not us.

At least £200 million will be spent on producing and procuring thousands of military drones for Ukraine, including surveillance, sea and long-range strike drones. Having been the first to deliver NLAW anti-tank missiles, modern battle tanks and Storm Shadow long-range missiles, we are now becoming the largest supplier of drones to Ukraine from any nation, and we expect to manufacture most of them here in the UK. This contribution comes hot on the heels of 200 air defence missiles that we gifted in December 2023.

I am acutely aware that your Lordships are rightly concerned about the maintenance and currency of UK weapon stockpiles. In 2023, the Government allocated £2.5 billion specifically to address the issue. Any restocking must be a holistic exercise, not a like-for-like one; we no longer require some of the weapons that we have gifted, as weapons development is, by nature, dynamic. I confirm that orders have been placed across replenishment and updating Starstreak high-velocity missiles, new versions of high-velocity missiles, several thousand anti-tank weapons in the next two and a half years with 500 already delivered, 155-millimetre artillery shells, 30-millimetre cannon rounds, and 5.65-millimetre rifle ammunition. The point is well made by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, that this is such an important issue that it needs to be front of mind at almost the entire time that defence is being discussed. The Government are acutely aware of this issue.

On the humanitarian support side, our support goes far beyond weaponry. We have given Ukraine £4.7 billion of non-military support, including £357 million in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and the region; a £99 million fiscal support grant through the World Bank trust fund; £140 million to support Ukraine’s energy security and resilience; and £2.5 million for Ukraine’s domestic prosecution of international crimes. We have also arranged £4.2 billion in fiscal support through World Bank loan guarantees. In total, the latest package will take the UK’s military, humanitarian and economic support committed for Ukraine to almost £12 billion across three years. We should be immensely proud of this as a nation.

Significantly, our investment in Ukraine is for the long term, which is why the Prime Minister and President Zelensky signed an historic security co-operation agreement earlier this month. It formalises our assistance across a wide range of areas, from intelligence sharing, cybersecurity and medical and military training to maritime assistance and defence industrial co-operation. This represents a first step in an unshakeable 100-year partnership between our two countries.

Putin’s invasion has galvanised NATO, solidifying its position as a truly united alliance. We hope that that situation continues; the threat of what might happen in the United States is an issue that we have to live with. This is evidenced by the Defence Secretary announcing earlier this month that the UK will contribute 20,000 personnel across all domains to take part in NATO’s Exercise Steadfast Defender, one of the alliance’s largest deployments since the end of the Cold War, involving 30 member countries—including Finland—plus Sweden. Your Lordships may like to know that the Foreign Secretary is in Turkey today, and hopefully that situation will also get approved.

At the NATO summit last year, 30 countries promised to sign long-term pledges of security support to Ukraine. In Kyiv earlier this month, the Prime Minister was the first NATO leader to deliver on that promise, signing the century-long security pact with President Zelensky. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Houghton of Richmond, made an interesting and valid point about NATO’s role in both the immediate future and future deployment to establish the clarity of deterrence.

We have also taken a number of steps to galvanise support for Ukraine from our allies. We established the International Fund for Ukraine to bolster and speed the acquisition of intelligence, surveillance, electronic warfare and air defence capabilities. To date, it has already attracted £896 million of pledges and enabled 25 separate defence contracts worth £328 million to be signed. We have worked with the 50-nation Ukraine Defense Contact Group, to which the Defence Secretary spoke earlier this week—noble Lords have probably read the words he used—to co-ordinate and bolster support on land, at sea and in the air, encouraging all members to step up their support and commitment to Ukraine.

Alongside his Norwegian counterpart, the Defence Secretary also launched the maritime capability coalition in December 2023 to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to operate at sea—so important in this war. The coalition now has a dozen member countries, with others interested. It will provide Ukraine with ships, deliver long-term support and infrastructure to bolster security in the Black Sea and ensure that Ukraine can protect its territorial waters, which is so crucial for Ukrainian exports.

We have continued to deliver a massive programme of training to Ukrainian forces here in the UK through Operation Interflex; we have expanded our capacity to do so through co-operation, with 10 allied nations taking part. As a result, we have trained more than 34,000 Ukrainian personnel in the UK since June 2022 and more than 60,000 since Russia launched its initial invasion in 2014. Another 10,000 will go through the process during the first six months of this year.

Furthermore, six Ukrainian pilots have been trained in the UK and are now learning to fly F-16s in Denmark. A further 26 Ukrainian pilots are currently training here, with more expected to arrive in the coming months. Our forces are also engaged in other varied training programmes with our allies across medical, marine and engineering specialities.

On the question of sanctions, with our international partners, we have unleashed the largest and most severe package of sanctions on Russia ever imposed on a major economy. The unprecedented package of sanctions that we have implemented, alongside our allies, has deprived Putin of more than $400 billion. We continually look at ways to further enhance these restrictive measures, and we are clamping down on those who seek to circumnavigate them.

The Government have committed £50 million to support our new economic deterrence initiative, which strengthens our diplomatic and economic tools to improve sanctions implementation and enforcement. The noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, made points about frozen assets. That is under legal consideration, along with the options available and sanctions evasion. I will write in detail on that matter. The new Office of Trade Sanctions Implementation will further strengthen the enforcement of our trade sanctions and ensure that the UK’s sanctions remain as impactful as possible. My noble friend Lady Neville-Jones rightly identifies the evident risk of pushing Putin’s Russia towards other totalitarian regimes, such as China and North Korea. There is always a balance in making sure that sanctions are not counterproductive; that has to be kept in mind.

The question of international law and war crimes is an enormous subject. Ukraine’s office of the procurator —sorry, the prosecutor-general; that shows where I come from—has recorded more than 120,000 incidents of alleged war crimes, including murder, rape, torture and the deportation of children. It is vital that Russia is held to account for its actions. Since February 2022, we have provided an additional £2 million to the International Criminal Court to enable it to collect evidence and support survivors. The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, will note that the ICC prosecutor has issued warrants against Putin and the Russian children’s commissioner. We have also established the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group, alongside the EU and the US, to support Ukrainian investigators and prosecutors.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, who does excellent work with children, rightly identifies the appalling stories of subversion and identity destruction and the plethora of laws being flouted by the Putin regime. My noble friend Lord Ahmad is meeting the Ukraine prosecutor-general next week and has committed to bringing this up.

On the question of rebuilding, since February 2022, the UK has committed over £4.7 billion in non-military support, including fiscal support for Ukraine’s vital public services and bilateral assistance. The UK hosted the Ukraine Recovery Conference in June 2023, raising over $60 billion towards Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction, including a €50 billion EU facility; $3 billion of UK guarantees to World Bank lending; UK commitments of up to £250 million of new capital for British International Investment to leverage private investment; and £20 million for the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency trust fund to expand war risk insurance for Ukraine.

I must admit that I am not sure I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, about the strength of rebuilding purpose, though I appreciate his point about the legal environment being paramount to allow and encourage investment. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, that British business is indeed a force for good.

My noble friend Lord Risby made a valid point about the current investment and security guarantees. In October 2023, the UK signed a statement of intent on war risk with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to facilitate UK companies trading with and investing in Ukraine to help it rebuild. I will write to my noble friend with the latest situation on investor protection and transparency.

Importantly, on 15 January 2024, the UK and Ukraine launched a new UK-Ukraine TechBridge, which aims to support economic resilience for Ukraine while bringing benefits to the tech sectors in both countries, which is so important, as my noble friend Lord Vaizey rightly confirmed.

We will certainly reflect on the suggestion made by more than one noble Lord of having a special envoy to Ukraine.

The noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, made an important point about gender equality and the involvement of women in the recovery, rebuilding and reconstruction of Ukraine. I will definitely take up this point at every opportunity.

Photo of Lord Vaizey of Didcot Lord Vaizey of Didcot Ceidwadwyr

My noble friend was very reassuring on how the Ministry of Defence works with small enterprises in defence tech, if I can call it that. I would be most grateful if he could find time to write to me to give some examples of the small businesses the MoD is working with, and of how it has changed its procurement practices to facilitate that.

Photo of The Earl of Minto The Earl of Minto The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I certainly will. The International Fund for Ukraine is a good example of how that has been working.

In conclusion, I hugely appreciate the wisdom and expertise that colleagues have expressed. I am equally heartened by the solidarity shown from across all these Benches. Although we face this serious threat, the truth is that, as our Ukrainian partners have demonstrated so clearly, we are far stronger as a country when we stand together.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of Putin’s invasion of Crimea and the second anniversary of his botched full-scale invasion, it is time to redouble our resolve while showing genuine gratitude to all UK forces who have been engaged in this struggle. As the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, explained, we must be clear about—and make clear to Putin—the theoretical yet flawed ideology of his position on the challenge of this endeavour. Ukraine’s fight is indeed our fight. It is a fight for freedom, which is suddenly fragile, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anderson of Stoke-on-Trent, so eloquently put it. It is a fight for democracy and for the preservation of the rules-based order clearly promoted by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, which has given us an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity.

Ukraine is effectively fighting for us, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, so eloquently confirmed. The media gaze might have turned in part towards the Middle East, but we must never take our eye off Ukraine’s struggle for freedom. That is why the UK continues to step up, showing the leadership necessary, showing a partnership to last a century and continuing to urge our allies to step up alongside us, so that Putin can be left in no doubt that we—all of us who value freedom—are in this for the long term until we prevail. This year, Ukraine’s fate may well be decided. Our clear resolve is to ensure that it is decided in Ukraine’s favour and in ours.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 2.28 pm.