Foreign Affairs - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 6:47 pm ar 5 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Fall Baroness Fall Ceidwadwyr 6:47, 5 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, 2024 is turning out to be every bit as challenging and volatile as expected. Of the three most pressing geopolitical issues of the day—Ukraine, the Middle East and China—two are live, kinetic even, and China is in the waiting room. Meanwhile, half the world is going to the polls in elections which will profoundly affect us all, from Taiwan at the beginning of the year to India and of course the USA towards the end of the year, elections which also drive a degree of introspection, which is difficult at a time when global leadership is so needed. I can think of few more important moments to be a British Foreign Secretary. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, for their leadership, judgment and humanity on the world stage to date. My question today is: what, within the confines of British influence, can we do to help? Given the time constraints, I am going to touch just on the three issues we cannot ignore: Ukraine, the Middle East and China.

Following a bleak winter of stalemate, we arrive at the grim second anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine. Navalny’s death is a stark reminder of how those who oppose the Russian regime are treated but also, in Navalny’s bravery, that Putin does not speak for all Russia. However, with Putin’s imminent re-election and Russian troops on the offensive, we must be prepared for things to get worse, all at a time when American willingness to stay the course is called into question. What can be done? First, hold fast: let us remember that Putin is fighting a costly war which he had hoped to win in just a few months. Ukraine may not be winning as it enters its third year, but nor is Putin.

Secondly, we must continue with the reinvigoration and expansion of NATO, which is exactly what Putin never wanted, and be resilient to Trump’s taunts. But that also means meeting the 2% target, especially among those who seek to lead the organisation.

Thirdly, Europe must be wary of losing heart and fast fixes. It has been a while since we have paid the price for peace. There is a danger that those who might seek a Finnish-style resolution, for example, just enable Putin to pause and then come back for more.

Fourthly, I urge the Foreign Secretary to continue to make the case to our American allies that, for a relatively low price, they are fighting a war that we—the West—cannot afford to lose. But we must build our resilience and be prepared to step up, if needs be.

I turn next to the Middle East. I commend the Foreign Secretary on the steadfast support for Israel following the terrible atrocities of 7 October, but also on being the first to call for a sustainable ceasefire, urging caution and prioritising humanitarianism. In this, we have acted as a trusted friend to Israel: one who can always be counted on but who also does not fear to flag concerns. Surely, Rafah is one such. We have a two-week opportunity before Ramadan; this is surely a moment to use our influence and urge Israel not to move into a tiny area inhabited by so many, with nowhere to go.

I also urge the Foreign Secretary to continue work with the Americans to have the hostages released and to bring radical improvement to the humanitarian situation. A two-state solution should be kept firmly on the table, as a long-held British foreign policy objective and, surely, the best hope for securing long-term peace and security for Israel in the region.

I will say a brief word on China. I commend the Government’s policy, which has been largely consistent over the last decade in balancing national security, human rights, sovereignty and economic considerations. The variable here has been Xi’s trajectory, which has hardened in recent years. We are right to be vigilant but, alongside building a credible deterrent to China, we should also be mindful to keep channels of communication open. The episode of the spy balloon showed us that whereas with the Soviet cohort we had a red phone to pick up, we had no such device for Beijing. This is dangerous, especially when some of the world’s most pressing problems, such as climate, require some sort of co-operation.

I end by coming to the US election. We must always remember that we work with our allies whoever they choose as their leader, but we should also be building our resilience and preparing for the unpredictable as we come to the end of the year.