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Labour's Commitment To Nato Must Never Be Allowed To Be Questioned Again

Labour's Commitment To Nato Must Never Be Allowed To Be Questioned Again
4 min read

Labour's commitment to Nato must be for the very long haul in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Our thoughts, our solidarity, and our resolve, are with the Ukrainian people,” Keir Starmer told the nation on the day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It is a sentiment shared across the political spectrum and in every part of our country. That is why, within hours of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we set up Labour Friends of Ukraine: to bring together all strands of the Labour movement who support Ukrainians as they fight to restore peace, democracy and their nation’s freedom.

Labour’s support for Ukraine extends well beyond the views of the Labour front bench. Trade unions have backed workers who are refusing to unload Russian gas from tankers; Labour councils have helped collect huge donations of urgently needed supplies for refugees; and members of the Labour Party across the United Kingdom have shown an enthusiasm to support Ukraine in any way they can in its hour of greatest need.

Internationalism is a core Labour value, expressed through a commitment to a rules-based world to enable nations to be truly self-governing. The Labour family shares a profound belief that people have the right to determine their own future, no matter who their neighbours are or what their history has been; a belief that national cultures should be celebrated and praised, not repressed; and a belief that imperialism is always wrong and must be forcefully opposed. We also believe that connections between working people across borders are a force for peace and mutual understanding (expressed in the old Labour Party slogan: “The cause of labour is the hope of the world”).

That’s why we want to stand by the Ukrainian people, and support the UK government’s opposition to Russian aggression.

What is striking about the last two weeks is that the British public is ahead of the government. When our country sees the astonishingly compassionate response of Poles to well over a million refugees arriving in their country, people in Britain – of all parties and none – demand that our country does more, and acts faster. The UK’s two-tier visa system must be urgently adapted to allow emergency entry for Ukrainians fleeing for their lives. Clarity and simplicity rather than bureaucracy and delay should be the hallmarks of the schemes set up to allow families to host Ukrainian refugees. And when it comes to sanctions on Russia, strong action by the government on excluding Russia from the international trade system needs to be matched by much tougher action on individual Russians who have businesses, homes and other assets in the UK.

In recent years Labour’s commitment to the defensive alliance of Nato has been questioned and, like the Conservative government, we have been accused of not being strong enough in standing up to Putin’s regime. That can never happen again, and our commitment must be for what may be a very long haul. If Russian aggression defeats the international rules-based order over Ukraine, the security of those facing threats elsewhere – including in Taiwan and the Baltics – becomes more precarious.

However the war resolves, its consequences will be far-reaching and dramatic, for Ukrainians but also for all of us. Labour Friends of Ukraine will help make sure that when Westminster’s attention moves on, it will not mean the end of UK support for Ukraine’s people and its right to self-determination. We can begin with a better-informed Labour movement: a trade union movement better connected with Ukrainian workers, MPs in closer touch with politicians from the Rada (Ukrainian parliament), and Labour members learning more about Ukraine’s history and culture.

In the meantime, the complacent idea that foreign policy was peripheral to British politics has been exposed. Labour’s preparation for returning to power must have foreign policy at its core. When it comes to developing the policies needed for a durable, just and secure restoration of stable democracy to the people of Ukraine, Labour Friends of Ukraine will be there to help.

Lord Wood is a Labour peer, Tony Wright is Labour MP for Rochdale and Siobhain McDonagh is Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden

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