It is a great honour to be invited to give this lecture. It might seem counter-intuitive, even provocative, to invite a British government official to give a lecture named after one of the founding fathers of the European Union. At a minimum, it suggests some openness of mind, or perhaps just a good sense of humour, on the part of the UCC authorities. Whatever the reason, it’s a great pleasure to be here. And I should say at the outset that what follows is a personal reflection, not necessarily an expression of British government policy.
When I think of Britain’s relations with Europe, and in particular with the EU, I recall a quote, I think, from Jean Monnet’s memoirs, which goes a long way, I think to explaining that particular aspect of our history – Britain was different, Monnet said, from other Europeans: she alone after the last War “had not had to exorcise the ghosts of her history”.
In other words, Britain, unlike all the other protagonists in the war, had not experienced Nazism, Fascism, collaboration or occupation. And from that distinctive experience, at least in Monnet’s view, flowed a different perspective on the idea of European construction.
Today our TV screens are full of European destruction, which, sadly, has to be my focus today. Scenes of horror, which, for me, have awful echoes of the former Yugoslavia, in particular of Bosnia.
As a young diplomat I visited Sarajevo during the Bosnian Serb siege of that city. I stayed in the Holiday Inn, which was in itself a surreal experience. On one side of the corridor were normal bedrooms, with CNN blaring out, on the other side, the walls were gone, shelled to pieces by the Bosnian Serb soldiers in the hills around the city.
I remember crossing the road called Sniper Alley with our young interpreter. Despite the ceasefire he was unable to walk at normal speed across the road – after a year of shelling and sniping he could only run with his head covered – and his mind no doubt full of terrible memories – to the temporary safety of the other side.
The West’s apparent impunity in the face of the horrors of the Bosnian war led to many things, including the creation of a European Union security and defence policy and the adoption by the UN of the so-called Responsibility to Protect, in both of which I had the privilege to play a small part. But I never imagined that the war in Bosnia in the early 90s would be followed 3 decades later by a war in Ukraine. Historians in decades to come will evaluate the significance of the horrors of 2022. If journalism is the first draft of history, I can only agree with Tom Friedman’s assessment in the New York Times just before Easter that this year might be the most significant – and, assuredly, not in a good way – in European history since 1989 or even 1939.
For me personally, 1989, that great year of European hope, served as the bridge between my academic career, such as it was, and my public service career. I was in my final year at Glasgow University studying politics. In my third year, autumn 1988 to spring 1989, I had laboriously completed a module on the ‘comparative study of communist states’, meticulously examining the respective strengths and structures of the single party systems across Eastern Europe. By the time I sat my finals in spring 1990 those systems had been swept away and that paper of my politics finals could have been from the history school. The events of 1989 gave the whole of Europe new hope, indeed the hope that Europe could be whole and free again after 40 years of Cold War division.
I entered the civil service in the autumn of 1990. I remember vividly my first overseas trip as a young Ministry of Defence official to attend a seminar in Madrid in November 1990. It was the week Mrs. Thatcher resigned. And it was also the week of the CSCE summit in Paris, which she had been attending, which marked formally the end of the Cold War – and, as we hoped, would usher in a new era of cooperation across Europe and in the wider world. And indeed in the months that followed Russia cooperated with the West and others to reverse the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait with a UN-sanctioned military liberation operation.
Yet hardly had we savoured the optimism, indeed euphoria, of that moment than we saw old hatreds and new horrors emerging on the continent of Europe with the chaotic collapse of the former Yugoslavia.
I joined the Foreign Office, transferring from the Ministry of Defence, in the autumn of 1993. My final trip as a Ministry of Defence official had been to Moscow earlier that year. I recall noting to Russian counterparts that our visit came 25 years after the Prague Spring had been crushed by Soviet tanks. We then looked forward to a new era of cooperation between Russia and the rest of Europe.
Little did I think that 30 years later the great and beautiful European cities of Ukraine would be crushed by Russian weapons. Fukuyama’s end of history has assuredly been replaced by endless, grisly history.
My first job in the Foreign Office, from late 1993 to early 1995 was dealing with the conflict in Bosnia. I later worked on the Kosovo crisis. It seems to me in retrospect that the Western policy experience in the former Yugoslavia in those years was, to adopt a footballing metaphor, a game of two halves.
In my own personal view, Britain and France accepted perhaps too easily the Serbian and Russian contention that what was happening in Bosnia in 1992 to 1994 was essentially a civil war which the Western powers would do well to stay out of. This led to our sub-contracting our intervention to a well-intentioned but hopelessly under-resourced and poorly mandated UN peacekeeping force.
In my first job in the Foreign Office, as desk officer for Bosnia, I acted also as private secretary to Lord Owen, who was the European Union’s envoy for the crisis in the former Yugoslavia, who worked alongside Cyrus Vance as the UN representative. Their attempts, on behalf of the UN and EU, to secure a peace plan for Bosnia, failed.
And they were succeeded in late 1994 by a Contact Group bringing together, initially, Britain, France, Germany, the United States and Russia to seek to coordinate their diplomacy to end the crisis in Bosnia. This was the West treating Russia as a fully equal partner in a multinational effort to end a European crisis. I took part in the early meetings of the Contact Group and recall well the disagreement, essentially between the US and the Germans on one side, and Britain France and Russia on the other about how interventionist we should be in the Bosnian conflict.
That debate was largely swept away by the terrible events of the summer of 1995 not least the massacre of thousands of innocent Muslims at Srebrenica. That led, finally, to significant NATO intervention and to the display of American power and diplomacy at the Dayton peace conference in the autumn of that year. By then I was in the British Embassy in Paris where I continued to work on the former Yugoslavia. Many Balkans experts were predicting that the Serbian leader Milosevic, having failed in his attempts to dismember Bosnia, would next turn his attention towards Kosovo. And indeed you didn’t need to be a clairvoyant to see that coming as he had come to prominence years before championing the cause of the Kosovo Serbs. And sure enough in the summer and autumn of 1998 the threat of massive ethnic cleansing by Serbia against the ethnic Albanian majority province of Kosovo reared its head.
This time, unlike over Bosnia, the West was not prepared to be passive. That was good. But sadly, the Russians were not prepared to cooperate with the West. Indeed they made clear they would veto Security Council resolutions authorising the use of force to prevent ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. I went as part of the British delegation to the Kosovo peace talks at the chateau de Rambouillet outside Paris in early 1999. These were billed as a final chance to avert conflict in Kosovo. Britain and France co-chaired those talks, ironically, as it may now appear, in the chateau where Harold McMillan had in 1962 tried to persuade de Gaulle that the UK should join the European Community.
Only a few months before those crisis talks at Rambouillet, Britain and France had agreed the St Malo declaration, proposing that the European Union should be able to develop the capacity to conduct military crisis management operations in circumstances where NATO as a whole was not operating. Much can be said about the European Union security and defence policy. It has been an object of controversy, I know, at times, in your country as well as mine. With debate in Ireland evolving on your own future defence and security choices I will choose my words even more carefully on this sensitive issue.
What I would say, on a personal level, as one of the policy architects over a period of more than 10 years, was that it was a consistent British government objective to ensure, first, that there would be no such thing as a European army, something we wrote into the European Council conclusions of December 2000; secondly, that decisions on deploying national military forces would be for EU nation states only and individually, not for the institutions, thirdly, that the collective defence of NATO countries would be for NATO alone and, fourthly, that the particular character of the security policy of EU member states, be they in NATO or outside, would be respected as ESDP developed, a point to which Ireland attaches great importance.
It’s fair to say that there was never complete convergence between Britain and France, the original architects of the European defence project, as to reconciling that balance between EU autonomy, a concept the French favoured, and NATO primacy, a reality on which we insisted. As often in these cases, it was easier to agree on how these things would work out in practice than it was to describe the theory involved. As one French official was reputed to have said, it might work in practice but does it work in principle? We tried to focus on how it would work on the ground, for all sorts of reasons.
Almost 25 years on from the original St Malo declaration European defence remains, shall we say, a work in progress. In my view, and indeed in the view of Christoph Heusgen, talking to the IIEA on Wednesday, the tragic events of recent months in Ukraine in particular have reminded us about the salience of collective defence and the crucial importance of the transatlantic link. In that context one sees the importance of NATO defence commitments to the Baltic states and, from my own time in Stockholm, I’m not surprised that Sweden and Finland, given their history and geography, are contemplating submitting applications for NATO membership.
But to return to Rambouillet, It was a remarkable, almost surreal, experience to spend 3 weeks in that chateau outside Paris. The goal of the negotiations was to avoid a new conflict in Europe and to prevent a return to ethnic cleansing and war crimes barely three years after the end of the Bosnia conflict. In retrospect – and indeed at the time – it was clear the Serbian side had no intention of making peace. As dispiriting as it was to watch them get drunk on French official Brandy it was inspiring and moving to watch the emergence of a Kosovo national identity as their delegation, including members of the Kosovo Liberation Army who had been only weeks before fighting in the hills of Kosovo, came together to form their negotiating team and in effect their provisional government.
When the negotiations failed and it was clear that Russia would block any action in the Security Council NATO agreed to authorise military action to prevent genocide and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo even though there was no explicit Security Council endorsement. I had a role in articulating the UK’s justification for this on the basis that we were clear that military action without Security Council authorisation can be justified if it is in pursuit of objectives laid down in existing Security Council resolutions and to prevent an imminent and overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe as was the case in Kosovo.
Fast forward 6 years and I had the role, on behalf of the European Union during what turned out to be Britain’s final EU Presidency, of negotiating the articulation at the global level of what the international community had done in Kosovo when the UN World Summit in 2005 adopted the Responsibility to Protect. We will come back to that shortly. Notwithstanding the fact of NATO action, including 78 days of air strikes against Serbia’s military machine, there had been some uncertainty as to whether there would be NATO consensus for prolonged air strikes and indeed for the possibility of a ground intervention by the West had the air activity failed to deter Serbia.
Thus the EU continued to pursue the development of the European Union Security and Defence policy. As the head of the FCO’s European Defence team in 2000 to 2001 and then as head of our Security Policy department from late 2002 to late 2004 I was involved in finalising the EU institutional arrangements, including agreements between the EU and NATO. That NATO endorsement was for us essential before we could launch operational ESDP. So it was not until that deal was sealed that in the spring of 2003 the EU conducted its first military operation, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as it was then still called, followed by the EU then taking over the stabilisation role in Bosnia, replacing a NATO operation there.
However, bigger security issues were coming to the fore. The political and institutional debates between Britain and France and within and between the EU and NATO over the architecture and plumbing of the European security structures looked like small beer in the Spring of 2003 when the UK the US and a number of other countries launched the invasion of Iraq. This followed some of the most profound and divisive debates that the Security Council had ever seen and in the teeth of opposition from France, Germany and Russia in particular.
This is not the place for an examination of the causes and consequences of the Iraq crisis. Others more closely connected with it than I was would be better placed to offer judgement. What struck me at the time was how quickly after the end of Iraq war the French in the form of President Chirac came to Prime Minister Blair and said that we as Europeans needed to work together to heal the wounds of Iraq.
As a result, it was agreed that the E3 – Britain France and Germany – should work together, not just on European security but also on the emerging threat of Iran becoming a nuclear power. Fast forward again a dozen years or so and we had the E3 plus the US, Russia and China reaching a landmark agreement with Iran on the nuclear non-proliferation issue in 2015. Returning to European security, it must have been soon after the Iraq crisis started, in 2004, that I attended a seminar in Warsaw. I remember distinctly an Eastern European colleague telling us that we as the West were being too credulous with regard to Putin, then still the relatively new President of the Russian Federation. Notwithstanding his cooperation with the West over the response to America’s 9/11, many Eastern Europeans were already worried that Putin’s agenda for his own neighbourhood would be less benign.
And thus it was that 15 years almost to the day before he launched his unprovoked and unjustified aggression on Ukraine Putin in his famously negative speech at the Munich security conference in the spring of 2007 attacked the very notion of NATO enlargement and sought to establish a Russian droit de regard over future such enlargements.
That speech, now seen as a turning point, came only 2 years after Russia had supported the establishment of the International Criminal Court by voting for the UN Security Council resolution in Spring 2005, which gave the Court its first case concerning the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan. Later that year Russia not only accepted the establishment of the Responsibility to Protect, but also of the UN’s Human Rights Council. How extraordinary that Russia now stands – rightly – suspended from the Human Rights Council by the UN General Assembly which itself adopted the Responsibility to Protect, which Russia’s actions in Syria and now in Ukraine have so blatantly violated.
To return to my own journey, after 3 years in New York leading our Security Council team in our mission to the UN, I returned to London in 2008 as International Security Director in the Foreign Office, covering UN, NATO and European security. My final weeks in New York had seen a distinctive moment in European security, indeed modern European history, the birth of a new state. After many years of patient negotiation the former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari had failed in his attempts to secure Security Council consensus around the notion of independence for Kosovo. This had been foreseen in the Security Council resolution which marked the end of the Kosovo crisis in 1999, but Serbia and its Russian sponsor continued to argue that Kosovo could return to Serbian sovereignty. Most of the West was clear that this was not on the cards and therefore we backed Kosovo’s unilateral Declaration of Independence in February of 2008.
I remember a dramatic Security Council session on a Sunday morning in which we justified our decision as Europeans to recognise Kosovo’s independence. This was just one of many examples stacking up in those years which showed that Russia was increasingly adopting a blatantly zero sum view of its neighbourhood, fearing the emergence of genuinely independent nations outside its control, fearing the development of successful democracies and market economies in its neighbourhood, fearing above all counter-examples which would show the people of Russia that there was a better alternative for them than the corrupt, kleptocratic regime under which they were living.
To me and to many much more expert than me, it’s clear that it was this fear of political change in Russia’s near abroad, rather than the distant and uncertain prospect of actual NATO enlargement that really alarmed Russia. I know from my own time working on NATO issues, in London and in Brussels, that the Alliance always weighs its decisions on enlargement very carefully. These were often the source of differences among Allies. It’s no secret that there was no agreement back at the NATO Summit in Spring 2008 to give even Membership Action Plan status – essentially a preparatory step with no commitment to membership itself – to either Ukraine or Georgia. But the NATO leaders affirmed their long term aspiration that both countries would one day join the Alliance.
This led to two reactions from Moscow: both equally unacceptable. In June 2008, Russia proposed a European Security Treaty, which many thought was a Trojan Horse whose real objective was to create some sort of condominium above the EU and NATO with Moscow having a right to approve or not future enlargement decisions. My US and E3 counterparts and I – and more to the point our leaders – were clear that while European security architecture, including arms control agreements, was a legitimate issue for discussion there was no way we could compromise the decision-making autonomy of the EU and NATO and the right of third countries to apply to join these organisations.
Making a mockery of their principled language in their Treaty proposals about respect for national sovereignty, the Russians in August 2008 intervened in the sovereign state of Georgia, a UN member state, provoking violence and illegitimately recognising the so-called independence of 2 provinces. In practice, as the ECHR ruled in 2021, Russia had established direct control over the 2 separatist regions, an appalling and cynical pattern of behaviour that was sadly going to be repeated.
There were some who felt at the time that the international, including EU, response to that crisis, while effective in terms of halting the immediate fighting, could have been stronger in its rejection of Russia’s illegal action. Various governments tried over succeeding years either to “reset” relations with Russia or to argue for Russia as a partner in future European security arrangements.
Clearly, Russia is a major player in European and international security but I was always personally doubtful whether a genuinely positive response to these overtures would ever be received. In the end, as Christoph Heusgen again recognised in his speech this week, those at the more sceptical end of the international spectrum, not least those in central and eastern Europe, turned out to be more prescient in their fundamental doubts about Russia’s underlying intentions.
I was never quite clear whether the Russians knew that the so-called Medvedev Treaty was a trial balloon that was inevitably going to fall to earth and that they therefore simply feigned surprise and disappointment when their ideas did not prosper. Or did they seriously think that they had some chance of succeeding with their goals, or at least – and probably more realistically – getting far enough to seriously divide the western world. Only when the Russian archives are opened by the historians of the future will we get a sense of what their real thinking was. But the pattern of 2008 repeated itself less than 6 years later in Ukraine.
Russia again intervened to seek to dismember and destabilise a sovereign European state, with no other agenda than halting that country’s progress and undermining its ability to choose its own future. Its illegal annexation of Crimea was a further outrageous and unjustified move, which the West made clear it would not recognise. And in Syria, Russia’s blatant disregard for rules based behaviour had become apparent in their backing for the appalling Assad regime and its crimes.
By 2015 in the aftermath of the Ukraine intervention I had become the UK’s deputy Ambassador to NATO. On arrival I was told that one of my priorities would be to be the lead UK negotiator for the 2016 NATO Warsaw Summit, in which the Alliance would be required to confront not only Russia’s malign activity in Ukraine but the instability in the Middle East. Working closely with my American and key European counterparts I argued that we needed a strong outcome from the Warsaw summit that not only articulated NATO’s principles and values in the face of these new security challenges to the East and the South, but which also laid out a programme of action to give effect to our political objectives.
Thus the Warsaw summit adopted the idea initially put forward by Britain of so-called ‘enhanced forward presences’ of NATO troops in the Baltic States and in Poland and similar, ‘tailored forward presences’ in South Eastern Europe. The idea was to create a form of tripwire, ie that Russia would know that were it to consider any action against those territories there would be the physical presence of a range of Allied nations, not just the host country’s troops, on the frontier. This seemed to us important both practically and psychologically, to demonstrate NATO’s commitment to the defence of its territory, but also politically a strong expression of Allied solidarity – all for one and one for all.
We were also clear, notwithstanding the nonsense emanating from the Kremlin’s disinformation factories and history rewriting plants, that the idea was fully in keeping with the commitments the Alliance had given to Russia not permanently to station a ‘substantial military presence’ in the new Eastern member states of NATO. These new presences were in no sense substantial, they amounted to about a battle group or battalion size, ie around 1,000 to 1,500 soldiers. But, to the front line states facing an increasingly belligerent Russia they were – and are, even more so now, I’m sure – an important physical and political expression of our commitment to collective Alliance defence.
To secure consensus on our approach towards Russia at the Warsaw Summit we needed to devise a posture that was not just about defence and deterrence but also about readiness for dialogue. This was contentious with many of the Eastern European countries feeling that this was at best a waste of time and worse a credulous indulgence. Equally, it was very clear that for other NATO countries a decision to deploy troops to Eastern Europe and more generally to strengthen NATO’s deterrence posture including in the nuclear domain would not be politically sellable at home without a complementary commitment of readiness for dialogue with Russia.
It proved one of the most intractable aspects of the negotiations in the run-up to the Warsaw Summit. I had a strong underlying sense that we essentially agreed on what we wanted to achieve but couldn’t find the words to express it. After many hours of fruitless discussion and with only days to go before leaders arrived in Moscow, we were stuck. I recall going back to my office in the UK delegation around midnight three days before the Summit armed with the draft Summit outcome document. This needed to be agreed line by line by all NATO nations. With the clock ticking towards the start of the Summit itself, the Russia section was full of square brackets, different versions of language and a long way from the consensus which had proved elusive but which I felt was there somewhere.
So, over the course of the next two hours, burning the midnight electricity, if not the midnight oil, I produced what became, with a few subsequent tweaks, the final agreement on the Russia policy as set out in the Leaders’ declaration. This made clear that on the one hand we continued to reject and deprecate what Russia had done in Ukraine and before that in Georgia, and that we remained committed to the sovereignty of those 2 countries and to their Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
Therefore we decided not only to strengthen our deterrence posture as an Alliance but also to send new NATO troops, primarily from the UK US Germany and Canada, to the three Baltic States and Poland.
We matched this – and this was the crucial political linkage – with a readiness to revive dialogue with Moscow, through meetings of the NATO- Russia Council. But – and this was a red line for the UK – we made clear also that our overall policy, which was to seek a restoration of a normal and functional NATO-Russia relationship could not be achieved unless there was a “clear, constructive change in Russia’s actions that demonstrates compliance with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities.” Until then, we said, “we cannot return to business as usual”.
The Summit also adopted a new approach to helping states on the Alliance’s southern arc, eg in the wider middle east, build their capacity to tackle instability and insecurity, strengthened NATO’s partnership with the EU and committed to ambitious internal reform, another UK priority, to make the Alliance ‘adaptable by design’.
The NATO Warsaw summit took place in July 2016 just a few weeks after the referendum in which the UK voted to leave the European Union.
Just as this is not a lecture about the Iraq war it is not a lecture about the Brexit referendum and its aftermath. But it would be wrong to leave that issue entirely to one side because it is relevant to European security.
In the days and weeks after the referendum not least at the NATO Warsaw Summit itself we were at pains to make clear, in a phrase which has now become somewhat cliched but still has its underlying value, that while we were leaving the European Union we were not leaving Europe. We would remain one of the 2 western European permanent members of the UN Security Council. We would remain the leading European NATO ally in terms of defence investment and outputs. We would remain active in the OSCE and the Council of Europe, and we would want strong relations with all our European neighbours.
As is well known, the British government eventually chose not to seek a formal structured treaty relationship with the European Union in the foreign and security policy field but made clear that we would of course work very closely with the EU – its institutions and its member states – in pursuit of common interests. And we see that strong practical co-operation at work in the coordinated approach the West, not least through the G7, is taking in response to the crisis in Ukraine.
It remains to be seen whether and how any more formal arrangement between the UK and the EU in this field might emerge in future. Ministers have said that they are open to this. To my mind, form is less important than function, outcomes more important than process. What the Ukraine crisis has shown us, as indeed did the Kosovo crisis a quarter of a century before, is that the interests and values which unite us as Europeans and indeed across the political West, are more important than the issues that can sometimes appear to divide us.
I titled this talk ‘Landscape with Ruins’ because I recall as a student that being the description a historian had given of Western Europe after the last war. The ruins were not just physical but also institutional. The League of Nations lay in ruins. But out of those ruins came new institutions, the UN, the Bretton Woods institutions, NATO and, not least, thanks to Jean Monnet, what became the European Union.
If we look now at the battered remains of Mariupol and Kharkiv, we see much worse than a landscape with ruins, a landscape with corpses, with a nation, its families and communities devastated by barbarism. Devastated, but not defeated. Confidence and determination shine from the face of President Zelenskyy. And those families and communities are being offered solidarity, shelter and support by countries across Europe, not least yours and mine. Because we have confidence in a better future, that we can rebuild upon the landscape with ruins.
W H Auden in his poem ‘1 September 1939’ talked of the 1930s with its failed record of appeasing dictators as a “low, dishonest decade”. The last 10 years have seen perhaps too many in the West being less than honest with themselves about the nature of the challenge we have faced from Russia and other autocratic states.
This was a theme of the speech our Foreign Minister gave last week in London. She noted that the international community had shown remarkable strength and unity in response to Putin’s invasion. Working together we have managed to impose an unprecedented package of sanctions to starve Putin’s war machine. We have also stripped Russia of ‘most favoured’ status in the World Trade organisation, and raised tariffs on Russian goods. As a result, Russia faces its first external debt default for a century. While doing this, we have also managed to provide desperately needed military support to Ukraine.
For Britain it’s clear that Ukraine’s victory is a strategic imperative for all of us. If Putin wins, it will encourage aggressors everywhere. We will never feel safe again. The continent which gave birth to the Enlightenment will be plunged into darkness. So it matters that we show the whole world what is at stake in Ukraine. Hence we have sought – with considerable success – to isolate Russia internationally. Over 140 countries have called out Russia in successive UN General Assembly votes. Russia has, as I noted earlier, been referred to the International Criminal Court and suspended from the Human Rights Council of the UN.
But we can’t be complacent – the fate of Ukraine remains in the balance. We need to go further, including by being even tougher on sanctions. We must cut off oil and gas imports so Putin has nowhere to go to fund his appalling war. And we must put in a place robust and sustained humanitarian response to support the Ukrainian people.
This has been a lecture about history, albeit recent history. But history has value only if we learn from it and we must learn the lessons from Ukraine. The international structures which we developed after WWII and which we evolved after the Cold War have failed Ukraine or more accurately have failed to deal with the challenge posed by Russia.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and indeed China’s growing assertiveness – have destroyed the idea that economic integration alone can drive political change or that countries will naturally evolve towards democracy and human rights without help or indeed protection. In that respect, inaction can be the greatest provocation to aggression. For evil to triumph all this is required is for good men to do nothing is a sentiment usually attributed to Edmumd Burke, although experts say it actually originated in the John Stuart Mill’s inaugural address as rector at St Andrew’s University. Whoever said it first, it still rings true.
For my government, at least 3 broad courses of action are required for evil not to triumph in the east of our shared continent, and indeed beyond:
First, we need to strengthen our defences, broadly defined. There is no substitute for hard military power, backed by intelligence and diplomacy. That means:
A stronger NATO with a sacrosanct open door policy and a global outlook, that works more closely with Pacific partners to deter future threats
Investing in both traditional defence and modern capabilities. We need to defend ourselves against attacks in space and cyberspace as well as by land, air and sea
Greater collective spending on defence, correcting a generation of underinvestment. I recognise that Ireland starts from a different place in terms of your history and politics. It’s not for me or my government to tell you where to go, as it were, but we do believe that the Western world collectively needs to back its diplomacy with stronger defence
Secondly, we need to recognise and respond to the growing role that the economy plays in security:
We must take an assertive approach to economic policy to constrain our rivals and reduce strategic dependency on authoritarian regimes, as we are doing with Russia. And if the economy of a partner is being targeted by an aggressive regime we should act to support them
We should expand trade, investment and tech ties with countries who play by the rules. We are working more closely with our allies old and new to build trade links and share expertise in science and tech. This should not be a pretext for protectionism: autonomy can be open and inclusive
We will provide a better offer on development. We are putting a new approach to international development at the centre of our foreign policy. That includes helping vulnerable countries to weather the storm of rising food and energy prices as a result of Russia’s actions
And we will stand together with the most vulnerable countries in the face of Russian barbarism. Just last month, together with our partners, we helped to secure $170 billion from the World Bank to help low income countries facing economic hardship as a result of Russian aggression. This is the largest ever World Bank financial commitment to low income countries around the world
Thirdly, we must broaden and deepen our network of partnerships to promote our collective security and prosperity:
We want to build new partnerships that stand up for sovereignty and self – determination and build on shared prosperity – what the Foreign Secretary describes as the ‘network of liberty’
The UK will therefore continue to invest in existing partnerships and alliances such as NATO, the G7, Commonwealth, UK led Joint Expeditionary Force, 5 Eyes, and AUKUS and growing our ties with countries like Japan, India and Indonesia. And we will also continue to work closely with alliances that the UK is not a part of (including, of course, the EU, plus ASEAN, and the African Union)
For reasons of history and geography, shared interests and shared values, and indeed a shared island, Ireland will always be a key partner, listed in our government’s Integrated Review at the top of our priority list, with the US, France and Germany
I want to end on an optimistic note. I don’t think we are fated to live forever in a landscape with ruins. If you google that phrase, as I did in the unsuccessful search for the name of the historian who coined it, the search engine generates images and words mainly from art history. That’s not perhaps inappropriate, as art is one of the great glories and treasures of Europe. In his wonderful book on European civilisation, the historian Kenneth Clark defined confidence as the wellspring of civilisation. The Romans, the Venetians, the Hapsburgs. the architects of Edinburgh’s New Town, of Georgian Dublin, and of Paris’ boulevards, and indeed of Kyiv, they had one great thing in common – the confidence that what they were building would survive and was therefore worth the investment, worth the risk, worth the sacrifice.
We may face some difficult reckonings in the years to come and no doubt cost, complexity and complications as well. But if we have confidence, in ourselves and in our shared values and interests, as Europeans, and as part of the free and civilised world, I remain optimistic that those values and interests, ultimately, will prevail.
Jean Monnet once said that people “only act in a state of necessity and usually only recognise necessity in a situation of crisis”. I hope that this crisis will enable us all to recognise the necessity of working together to defend and promote the values we all share. In that way the landscape with ruins can also be a great rebuilding project.
Thank you very much.
- May 8, 2022 at 12:29 am by Editor (displayed above)
- May 8, 2022 at 12:29 am by Editor