Foreign Affairs - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 5:59 pm ar 5 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Neville-Jones Baroness Neville-Jones Ceidwadwyr 5:59, 5 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Goudie. I join others in thanking my noble friend the Foreign Secretary and the ministerial team in the Foreign Office for the impact they are bringing to British foreign policy. We have been asked to keep it short. I want to make just two points.

The first is about the increasingly turbulent and risk-laden era in which we live and which shows no sign of abating—on the contrary. The social and economic disturbance that western societies, and others, are encountering as the result of the major technological revolution we are undergoing is compounded by aggressive challenge from ideological competitors. It has been said, as a result, that we are in a pre-war situation. That description certainly has the effect of waking people up to the dangers of the highly unstable situation we now confront. It also recalls, perhaps with some justice, the folly of delay, producing the inadequate responses which characterised the 1930s.

However, I do not think it wise to talk about a pre-war world. The use of the term pre-war implies that we are on a treadmill to war, but this is the case only if we allow it to happen, and we must not do so. We need to build our defences, increase our capacity to deter our enemies and opponents, and convince them of the seriousness of our purpose and our resolve to prevent war. That is not appeasement; it is the opposite and, as others have said, it involves spending more money on defence now.

That brings me to my second point. In this House, and I think more widely in this country, we understand the supreme importance for our own security of a victorious Ukraine. We know that Russia does not need to succeed in her maximal ambition of controlling the whole of Ukrainian territory to deprive Ukrainians of the integration into the western economy and institutions that they wish and to create an indefinite and not so frozen conflict in the middle of our continent. I cannot imagine much more dangerous than that.

Although I have great respect for the judgment of the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, I disagree rather strongly with the notion that it would be good to accept a so-called armistice in the middle of Europe. It would demonstrate that we had lost control of events, and we cannot allow that to happen. It would certainly invite third parties to take advantage of our demonstration of weakness—Taiwan springs to mind.

It is good to learn from the press—and I hope it is true—that the Government are discussing with European partners how to aid Ukraine should the American arms package not pass Congress. I would like to take that a little further. I think the time has come when contingency planning could and should go further. I hope the Foreign Secretary will tell me that his department has started to think about what should happen when the war ends. Sadly, that is not going to be soon and, sadly, the longer the war, the more profound the consequences are likely to be.

That is a very good reason for thinking about the consequences. You might say that that is an ex-planner speaking but, if one recalls, during the Second World War—and fortunately we are not in a global war; I trust we will never get there—thinking about where the world was heading that we wanted to create started very early. It is not too soon to think about where we want to be at the end of the war.

There is another reason, which is that if you want to take measures during the course of a war you need to be very clear that as a result you are not going to engage in actions that you will regret subsequently, which, with the wisdom of hindsight, you should have realised would have worked to your disadvantage. The sanction money is a good example. We will need to get how we handle that right so that we are not put in a difficult position when it comes to the end of the conflict. I could cite other examples.

I do not want to take the argument any further and my point, in any case, is a general one. It is not too early to go beyond the slogan of supporting Ukraine whatever it takes—which is what we have been saying—to thinking through what our post-war aims ought to be and how to realise them. It may be argued that disagreement will arise out of this and it is a risky thing to do but I would argue that hiding from an unavoidable agenda would be a bigger mistake.