We are five weeks into this war and its impact on the UK’s foreign policy is still emerging. Three weeks ago, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss argued that the invasion of Ukraine was a “paradigm shift on the scale of 9/11”. But it remains unclear what UK foreign policy changes the war will trigger. The head of the British Armed Forces, Antony Radakin, urged caution in reassessing Britain’s defence strategy yesterday and said the military’s priority remained implementing last year’s Integrated Review, which set out the government’s security plans.
David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, called for a rethink of the review yesterday, stressing that its plan for a tilt to the Indo-Pacific must not come at the cost of European security. But Radakin argued the move wouldn’t prevent the military from operating in the Euro-Atlantic.
[See also: “We want to be free”: video diary of a Ukrainian refugee]
Lammy was setting out Labour’s foreign policy in a speech at Tufts University, Massachusetts. He criticised the Tories for not recognising that the UK’s domestic policy, such as energy security, and its foreign policy were intimately linked. But he also had a few choice words for his own side. “For too long parts of the left even some members of my own party falsely divided the world into two camps: America and the West on one side and their victims on the other,” Lammy said. “The world’s wrongs do not all stem from Western actions.” It’s a stark rejection of the Corbyn years and a reaffirmation of Labour’s commitment to traditional security. In a move which may raise some eyebrows given Labour’s steadfast refusal to talk about Brexit, Lammy also called for a “a new UK-EU security pact”.
As for the government, Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, stepped up support for Ukraine yesterday, committing to send armoured vehicles and air defence systems after hosting a donor conference of 35 international partners. The decision reaffirms Britain’s position as one of Ukraine’s most active supporters. But whether Western allies remain united over the crisis is a central question as negotiations between Russia and Ukraine continue. President Zelensky already identified a split among Western nations in an interview earlier this month, and the Times has quoted a source this morning claiming the government is worried its allies will press Ukraine to accept Russian demands in peace talks.
Five weeks into the war, the question hanging over the UK’s foreign policy debate is whether to stick or twist. It will take more than another five weeks for a definite answer to emerge.
[See also: The new Iron Curtain]