Friday 25th February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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That this House takes note of the current situation in Ukraine.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, this is a sombre occasion, but I still welcome the opportunity to provide this House with an update on the latest situation inside Ukraine.

On Thursday, at 5 am Ukrainian time, Russia launched a wholly unprovoked and completely unjustified assault on a sovereign country by air, land and sea. After weeks of military build-up, false-flag events and cyberattacks, reinforced by incessant lies and shameless denial, President Putin finally gave the go-ahead for his so-called special military operation. By any other name, it is a blatantly illegal invasion—utterly shameful and completely shocking.

Since then, we have witnessed a procession of horror as an innocent population of some 45 million people is subjected to a relentless bombardment of missiles and bombs. As I speak, Russia, aided by its Belarusian ally, is invading on multiple fronts. Ukraine’s infrastructure is being blown up. Its cities are under siege. Despite claims in Russian media to the contrary, it is unlikely that Russia has achieved its planned day one military objectives. Ukrainian forces have presented fierce resistance across all axes of Russia’s advance. The Russian forces are likely consolidating their limited gains, but Russian strikes and exchanges of artillery fire have continued throughout the night. None the less, Ukrainians are maintaining a brave and doughty defence. Their courage and resolve are deserving of our highest admiration and respect. It is notable that there have been protests in Russia over Putin’s decision, including from Ksenia Sobchak, the daughter of Putin’s former boss, the late Anatoly Sobchak, the former mayor of St Petersburg.

As a United Nations Security Council member, Russia is charged with establishing and maintaining international peace and security. How hollow does that sound? Russia has made a mockery of those commitments. It has ripped up agreements that it signed up to: the Helsinki Final Act; the Charter of Paris; the Budapest memorandum; and the NATO-Russia Founding Act. All have been shredded. Instead of choosing the path of peace, President Putin has chosen the path of the warmongering pariah. His actions, and his alone, have brought about a continental conflict on a scale that we have not seen since the end of the Second World War. The Russian President has knowingly and wilfully precipitated a refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions and he has set in motion the catastrophic consequences that will not only kill many innocent Ukrainians but, tragically, see many young Russians return home in zinc-lined coffins.

Ukraine is not a NATO member but the United Kingdom was swift to recognise its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Today, we continue to stand up for its rights as a country with a legitimate, democratically elected Government. We remain committed to supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within internationally recognised borders.

It should be reiterated at every turn that the only reason why we have arrived at this appalling situation is because of decisions made by President Putin himself. He rejected every offer of diplomacy, even while the UK did all in its power to avoid this situation. In recent weeks, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary have all been engaged in numerous efforts with our international counterparts to reach out to Russia. Last week, the Defence Secretary met Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov in Moscow. During that meeting, Defence Minister Shoigu echoed President Putin’s assurances that there would be no invasion—lies. All the while, international leaders, including President Biden and President Macron, sought to offer President Putin a way out of this crisis. One by one, their overtures were rebuffed. The evidence is irrefutable: the Russian dictator’s mind was already made up.

Today, once again, we urge Russia in the strongest possible terms to call off its attack and return to the diplomatic table, but make no mistake: President Putin will pay the price for his barbarism. In concert with our allies, the UK is doing everything in its power to bring pressure to bear on the Kremlin.

First, as announced by the Prime Minister yesterday, we are introducing a massive package of sanctions designed to constrict the Russian economy. We will end Europe’s collective dependence on Russian energy. German Chancellor Scholz’s decision to stop Nord Stream 2 was a brave and welcome first step. He is absolutely right. We will also be maximising, in tandem with our US and European allies, economic pressure on Russia. Yesterday, the Prime Minister set out some of the steps that we are taking to limit its ability to do business. These include imposing a full asset freeze on state-owned Russian bank VTB, bringing in powers to exclude all Russian banks from the UK financial system and stopping them accessing sterling and clearing payments through the UK.

We will also be introducing new powers to ban Russian state and private companies from raising funds in the UK, as well as stopping them dealing in securities and loans. Russian nationals will find that there are limits to the amount of money that they can deposit in UK bank accounts. The Russian puppet state, Belarus, will also face sanctions. To further constrain the Kremlin, we will be placing asset freezes on hundreds more entities and individuals, including all major manufacturers that support President Putin’s war machine. Russian airline Aeroflot is now banned from the UK and there will be legislation to ban export of all dual-use items to Russia, including a range of high-end, critical technological equipment and components in sectors including electronics, telecommunications, and aerospace. Russian oligarchs will also find that there is nowhere to hide. A new kleptocracy cell in the National Crime Agency will be targeting sanctions evasion and corrupt Russian assets hidden in the UK. In relation to SWIFT, as the Prime Minister has said, nothing is off the table. We are working with international partners.

Secondly, we are upping our defensive military support to Ukraine. The UK was one of the first countries in Europe to send defensive weaponry to help the Ukrainians and we remain an agile defence partner, responding to their request for defensive capability. We have also helped to train more than 22,000 Ukrainian troops. Last month, we also took the decision to provide lethal aid to Ukraine, complementing support from allies and partners. Thirdly, we are bolstering our support for NATO. It is vital at this time to show our iron-clad commitment to Article 5 of the NATO treaty. It is not the disposition of NATO forces but the appeal of its values that threatens the Kremlin. President Putin has made no secret of the fact that he regards the demise of the Soviet Union as

“the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”.

His recent pronouncements should leave no one in any doubt about the serious threat that he poses to his neighbours. Nor can we forget his chilling warning to the West that any attempt to stop or interfere with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would lead to

“consequences never encountered in your history”.

Yesterday, all 30 members of the North Atlantic Council met in emergency session and agreed to activate NATO’s defence plans. Consequently, the alliance is now strengthening collective defence across every domain. The NAC has deployed thousands more troops to the eastern NATO flank. It has more than 100 jets at high alert to protect airspace and more than 120 allied ships at sea from high north to the Mediterranean. The UK is supporting these efforts. We are sending troops to augment the British-led NATO battle group in Estonia. We are deploying RAF Typhoon fighters and Royal Navy warships to protect south-eastern Europe. Our newest aircraft carrier, HMS “Prince of Wales”, now the afloat command platform of NATO’s maritime high-readiness force, is on standby.

The NAC also addressed a request by Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia to hold urgent consultations under Article 4 of the Washington treaty. These allow members states to start consultations whenever they believe that the territorial integrity, political independence or security of an ally is under threat. All NATO members share the same common values and the same willingness to defend those values, come what may. Today, NATO is convening once more to discuss next steps.

Meanwhile, the UK is also shoring up its other partnerships with like-minded allies. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, the Defence Secretary met leaders of our 10-nation joint expeditionary force at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire. There he underlined our collective resolve to stand together for security and stability in our region and announced that we will shortly conduct an exercise demonstrating JEF nations’ freedom of movement in the Baltic Sea. Finally, we are taking immediate steps to provide humanitarian aid for those who now find themselves displaced. We have put a thousand troops on standby to deal with the exodus of people from Ukraine. When it comes to UK citizens, we continue to support our colleagues in the embassy, which has relocated from Kyiv to the city of Lviv in western Ukraine.

It goes without saying that our thoughts and prayers remain with the Ukrainian people, many of whom have family and friends in the UK, and who now find themselves under attack for no reason whatsoever. At the same time, we remain on guard. While there is no indication at present that Russia intends to directly target British or NATO forces, we should expect their forces and proxies to launch cyberattacks and misinformation campaigns, seeking opportunities to embarrass the UK or NATO and to undermine our resolve. We stand ready to protect our country against any threats, whether conventional or in cyberspace.

However, I am afraid that there is no disguising that a dark new chapter has opened in our history. Those of us who, like me, recall the euphoria at the fall of the Berlin Wall and the lifting of the Iron Curtain never imagined that the day would dawn when war would once more cast its long shadow across the European continent. Yet President Putin has decided to redraw the map of Europe and to heat up the frozen conflicts of the Cold War. His pointless actions do not just strike at an innocent sovereign nation but show contempt for the very ideals of the democracy that we cherish.

We now face a serious threat to our rules-based order and all the risk of miscalculation that that brings. This is a watershed moment in the life of Euro-Atlantic security, but if there is any solace to be taken from recent days, it is in the solidarity that our allies have shown in the face of aggression. Countries across the world have condemned the Kremlin’s atrocities. The G7 and NATO stand united. As the Prime Minister has said, President Putin’s outrageous attempts to destroy democracy cannot be allowed to succeed, so we will continue working with our allies for as long as it takes to ensure that diplomatically, politically, economically and militarily Putin is not allowed to realise his appalling ambitions. We will continue to do all that is necessary to defend the cause of peace and justice.

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their insightful contributions to today’s debate. It would be remiss of me not to immediately acknowledge the tour de force of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and his full alignment with the Government’s position. I include in those remarks, along with my deep thanks, the noble Lord, Lord Collins. I give my personal assurance to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Collins, that, as we move forward through this crisis, I will continue to engage practically and readily with all noble Lords, but in particular the Front Benches. I know I speak for my noble friend Lady Goldie as well. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked whether we are working together. I hope the fact that the two of us appear together on this Bench today indicates how the Ministry of Defence and the FCDO, as well as the Home Office, are working very much as one Government.

I am grateful to noble Lords for their contributions. I noted what the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, said: that people are perhaps noted by who is here and who is absent. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, reminded us, we have had contributions from former Defence Secretaries, the former Secretary-General of NATO, former Permanent Under-Secretaries and former diplomats.

I am particularly reminded of my own time on the Front Bench, and I can count at least two Members of your Lordships’ House who I have had the honour to serve with as a Minister and who have given me invaluable advice as Permanent Secretaries at the Home Office—I refer to the noble Lord, Lord Sedwill, and of course to the noble Lord, Lord McDonald. The advice they offered was so invaluable to Ministers.

On that note, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sedwill, as others have done, on a customary contribution; by that I mean that he got to the point, which was reflective of the debate. To make a personal reflection, I remember that when I was a Home Office Minister, as Minister for Countering Extremism, I faced a particular challenge. Many noble Lords will recall the awful and appalling “Kill a Muslim Day”. On that particular occasion—it was Eid—I received a call from the noble Lord. In a very calm way he said, “Tariq, I need you to come in; we need to have a chat.” I was one of the recipients of what was, thankfully, only white chalk. The noble Lord talked me through what the next steps were, very calmly and with great expertise, and I am grateful to him. I share that with noble Lords because it reflects the real strength that we bring in our collaborative approach.

Today is a testament to that, in the collaborative and collective response that we are giving unequivocally to President Putin. His actions are appalling: he has invaded a sovereign state and the best thing he can do right now is to withdraw.

As I came here I was checking my phone; the numbers are now, regrettably and tragically, rising, and there is a cost on all sides. As my noble friend Lord Tugendhat, among others, reminded us, our fight is not with the Russian people. There is a cost of lives. Perhaps even many of the Russian soldiers who are going to war and who are now in Ukraine are being forced to do so; they have families and lives. But the cost and toll of this is not just to Ukraine or Russia but to us all. Many noble Lords reminded us of that poignant fact.

It is clear that this House today stands united with the Government in their position of condemnation of the actions of the Russian Government. Their invasion of Ukraine was an unprovoked and premeditated attack against a sovereign democratic state, and a flagrant violation of international law and the UN charter.

The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, who brings great insight and experience, highlighted the importance of upholding international law, but also of recognising the commitments that Mr Putin himself has signed. This is not just about international law, if he does not want to have regard for that; he signed these agreements himself.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, in his opening remarks talked about alliances and a strategic review. I assure him, as someone who very much lived through the challenges of Afghanistan—I am grateful to noble Lords for their support—that again, our response is being informed by the lessons learned from that particular crisis about how we can respond better.

Various statements were made about work and co-operation, whether at the European Union—I refer to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover—or at the United Nations. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, who I cannot see—

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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This is what happens during debates. I assure the noble Baroness that I was at the United Nations during the General Assembly debates. It is not just about shoring up support with our friends and allies but about doing so across the globe. We mentioned previously the contributions of the permanent representative of Kenya. Over the last few days and weeks, we have been working and shoring up support for any resolution. It is true that the UN Security Council resolution will no doubt be vetoed by Russia.

Important contributions were made by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and others about talking to other near neighbours. Indeed, right after the debate I intend to have a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan on various issues, including the very issue of support from the near neighbours of Russia.

Of course, it is important to consider our response, and I hope during the time I have to pick up on a number of the questions raised by noble Lords. Let me assure the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, from the outset that we are using Britain’s position on the world stage to condemn the onslaught against Ukraine, and we will counter the Kremlin’s blizzard of lies and disinformation by telling the truth about Putin’s war of aggression. We are working together with a number of key allies to ensure that we never give up on peace, as the most reverend Primate reminded us we should never do. He quoted the words, “Blessed are the peacekeepers”, and we keep that very much at the forefront of our minds. The door of diplomacy should always remain open. However, when the opposite side rejects, as Mr Putin has done, the very existence of the nation of Ukraine, the challenge becomes all the more difficult.

Many noble Lords alluded to what is happening in Russia, and it is right that we recognise the strong rejection of Russian actions. Yet we have seen, through Mr Putin’s action on Mr Navalny, for example, what he thinks of democracy in his own country.

My noble friend Lord King talked about the quality of today’s debate: he is quite right, and he is a good example of it. The House is a great source of wisdom. As the Minister responsible—and I know I speak for my noble friend as well—I can say that the contributions today, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, reminded us, inform our policy. I know that noble Lords regularly challenge us because there are things we are not doing or not doing fast enough, but I assure them that we reflect very carefully on the valued contributions that this House makes thanks to its wisdom, insight and expertise.

The past few hours have seen Russian forces approaching Kyiv, and we need to make sure that we focus on that and continue to work with allies to provide support, particularly to the brave President Zelensky. On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, we are in touch with the Ukrainians. I am in regular touch with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, as is my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has spoken regularly to President Zelensky, who has made a clear and courageous decision to remain in his country. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, mentioned the president’s address, in Russian, to the Russian people. It was a very poignant message, delivered in Russian, that his fight is not with the Russian people, and he therefore implored them to reject Mr Putin’s actions.

The Government and our allies have warned for weeks, as the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, acknowledged, that President Putin was preparing for the actions we have seen. As my noble friend Lord Howell reminded us, this is not limited to Europe, but goes way beyond. I assure my noble friend and my noble friend Lord King that colleagues, led by the Foreign Secretary, are speaking to Foreign Ministers around the clock to shore up support for the General Assembly vote at the UN.

We were constantly told by the Russian Government that there were no plans to invade Ukraine, but it is obvious to all of us, now that various events have come to pass, that, as the Russian Government have demonstrated, they were never serious about diplomacy. My noble friend Lady Meyer reminded us of their rejection of the Minsk accord. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, rightly spoke passionately, as he always does, about human rights. I intend to be at the Human Rights Council on Monday, events allowing, and will certainly be pursuing whatever further action can be taken at the HRC. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, reminded us of the importance of rights within country, and that will be central to our thinking and support of Ukraine’s position.

Turning to the issue of sanctions, the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, and my noble friends Lady Neville-Jones and Lord Tugendhat talked about the public register and the economic crime Bill. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced yesterday that we will bring forward measures on unexplained wealth orders. I have heard again the strength of feeling on expediting the economic crime Bill, a point made well by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover. We will be laying further legislation, starting next week, to broaden the scope to allow us to act quicker and more broadly on the issue of sanctions as a whole.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, also asked about what is happening currently in Hong Kong and Singapore. I know my right honourable friend the Trade Secretary is currently visiting that region. The points she made about how quickly centres can move is not lost on me, as I spent 20 years in the City of London, but I assure her that we are ensuring that we work with key partners. Hong Kong poses its own challenge, for obvious reasons, but we can work with Singapore as a partner and an ally.

Noble Lords made a point about ensuring that we talk to China. Only this morning my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to State Councillor Wang Yi about the position of China, including at the UN Security Council, and we again impressed on China the importance of unity and purpose, not just on the Security Council but further afield. As the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, reminded us, the Chinese are no fans of annexation in terms of republics declaring self-determination. Nevertheless, we will continue to work to the wire at the UNSC.

The noble Lords, Lord McDonald, Lord Adonis and Lord Alderdice, my noble friends Lord Robathan and Lord Tugendhat, the noble Baronesses, Lady Kramer and Lady Wheatcroft, and others rightly raised the issue of sanctions. We intend to freeze the assets of Russian banks, totally shutting out Russian banks from today.

A number of noble Lords raised the cost. It is, of course, real. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, talked poignantly in this remarks about the cost. The cost is not just to the Ukrainian people or to those who neighbour Ukraine; it will be felt by all of us. As someone who has some insight into banking, the freezing of the assets of organisations such as VTB will have an impact on many businesses that operate within the UK, but severe restrictions will hammer Russia’s leading defence companies and significantly degrade Russia’s economic and military development. The sanctions will also have an immediate impact on Russia’s wealthy elite and Putin’s inner circle. We have targeted specifically his former son-in-law. The noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, talked about ensuring that we meet our obligations in this regard and about the long-term impacts being understood. We are going to introduce further legislation allowing us to ban Russian state and private companies from raising funds in the UK.

On SWIFT, which the noble Lords, Lord Adonis, Lord Alderdice and Lord Coaker, and many other noble Lords mentioned specifically, we believe that Russia should be cut out of SWIFT. That is not a shared view, but we continue to work with our European allies and friends to ensure that we can move forward as quickly as possible on that.

We will impose asset freezes on more than 100 entities and individuals and we will limit the amount of money that Russian nationals hold in their UK bank accounts. We will ban the Russian carrier Aeroflot. There is the tat-for-tat that also takes place. I assure the noble Lords, Lord Kerr and Lord Hannay, that we are scaling up trade measures on high-tech goods, which will erode Russia’s strategic development with immediate effect. All existing export licences for dual-use items going to Russia will be suspended and no new licences will be granted. I will write to the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, on numbers in the kleptocrat unit within the NCA—but, yes, it is important that it is properly resourced and funded. That point was made by my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones.

The UK sanctions that currently exist against 120 businesses and oligarchs are part of a concerted strike against Mr Putin’s regime and are carefully co-ordinated with our international allies, including the US, the EU and other G7 partners. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, that when we look across the G7—I am a big advocate of it—there is an increasing number of women Foreign Ministers, including in the Five Eyes, where I believe the only male member is the United States Secretary of State. There is a real move to ensure that women are rightly in key leadership positions.

The UK will also take decisive action against Belarus for its part in the wholly unjustified attack on Ukraine.

I note very carefully the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, on legal registers et cetera, and I would of course be keen to hear more details and thoughts on how that can perhaps be incorporated into future consideration.

VTB, Russia’s second-largest bank, is worth £154 billion, so there are impacts to be felt.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett and Lady Kramer, raised specific names. As I have already said, we have taken action against elites. I cannot go into future designations, but noble Lords will be kept up to speed by the fact that the broader legislation will allow us to capture more people. The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, also asked about the applicability of sanctions to the overseas territories and the Crown dependencies. The sanctions instrument which we plan to lay will apply to the OTs and CDs.

Gazprom was raised by several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. We are co-ordinating with our allies to maximise the economic cost. This must include addressing the issue of European dependence on gas companies such as Gazprom. VTB and VEB are prevented, under existing sanctions, from raising further finance in the City of London and the UK. As I have said, further legislation will be made next week. In the time that I have, I hope that this gives a sense of the sanctions issue, our intent and our direction of travel. We are working tirelessly with our allies and partners to co-ordinate our response in this respect.

I assure the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, that the Council of Europe is very much on our agenda. I welcome further thoughts—following what the noble Lord talked about—on the exclusion of Russia from European bodies. That is very much for the bodies themselves to decide, but there is a point to be made on ensuring that Russia knows that there is a sanction for its actions.

We are also currently looking at energy, which was referred to by my noble friend Lord Howell, among others. We welcome the statements made recently by the German Chancellor on Nord Stream 2. At the G7 meeting yesterday, the UK agreed to work in unity to maximise the economic price that Mr Putin will pay for his aggression. I agree with noble Lords that this must include ending Europeans’ collective dependence on Russian oil and gas. Ours is circa 3%. We are moving to other sustainable sources. Nevertheless, it is important that we work together with our European colleagues and friends.

Rightly so, humanitarian support is high up on our agenda. On this, I assure noble Lords, as someone who is now responsible for humanitarian thematic work within the FCDO. The UK has already committed funding and technical expertise to agencies working on responses to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Earlier this week, I met the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, to outline our support. We are finalising the financial package and working hand in glove with OCHA to ensure that we provide the support to the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund that is needed. These concerns were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, as well as my noble friend Lord Davies. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, that, in all our support, and particularly on humanitarian matters, the issue of girls and women will be central to our thinking and support.

I turn to visas and help for refugees, raised by the noble Lords, Lord Newby and Lord Hannay, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and others. The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, also flagged this as a specific issue. Today, the Home Secretary has confirmed that Ukrainians here in the UK on work or study visas will have their visas extended and will be able to switch to different visa routes. All visa routes are also based on what noble Lords have said. I share the sentiments that were expressed, including by my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones. It is my strong personal view that if people are fleeing persecution and need assistance, the United Kingdom has been and will—I hope, always—remain a country that is open. We need to work to ensure that we stand firm in this commitment, as we have done previously. I am sure that the Home Secretary will have listened to the comments made today, and we will continue to work in this respect to ensure that we provide the support that the Ukrainians need.

I will indulge the House slightly further on important issues of defence and NATO. Defence is playing a central role in the UK’s response to the Russian invasion, and we will ensure that the UK and our security interests are secured. Secondly, we will work through NATO and closely with our allies and partners—including Ukraine, of course—in the hours and days ahead. Working together is a real strength. I hope the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, is reassured that we are ensuring that we provide security to all parts of NATO. This was a key point raised by the noble Lord, Lord West. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, and the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, reminded us of the importance of our security and defence partnerships.

The question of whether we are sending further troops to Ukraine was asked. We have stood up support, such as helping with humanitarian support. I was in Estonia a couple of weeks ago when we announced the increase in the support we provide to Estonia through NATO and doubled our number of troops; that has been stood up. We are offering further military support, in terms of defensive capabilities, to Ukraine directly. We have already begun our military support to NATO allies and partners. An initial deployment of Royal Marines has arrived in Poland. On a bilateral basis, we are strengthening our solidarity with our NATO allies. In addition, the further Typhoon aircraft that my noble friend Lady Goldie mentioned will allow us to establish a full squadron at RAF Akrotiri. Over the coming months we will also maintain our activities to provide further reassurance.

We also remain supportive of Ukraine’s NATO membership application, in line with the 2008 Bucharest summit. I assure the noble Lords, Lord Sedwill and Lord Campbell-Savours, that we remain firm on what NATO is. It is a bedrock of European security, but it is a defensive alliance; that point needs to be understood.

I assure my noble friend Lady Rawlings that we are offering broader support to others. My noble friend Lady McIntosh mentioned discussions under Articles 4 and 5. Those are very much under way to ensure that all members of NATO receive the support and the reassurances they currently require as Russia continues to exercise its expansionist policies.

On wider defence issues, I welcome the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, about how we have increased spending. I listened carefully, as did my noble friend Lady Goldie, on the importance of ensuring that we are equipped in our defence responses to meet the requirements of the day. Meeting the challenges of cyber is not lost on us.

The UK leads as a European contributor to NATO’s defence capability, and it is important that other NATO partners step up in their response as well. We have readiness forces and make contributions to NATO formations. Our Armed Forces have been built up to face major state threats; that is why they include state-of-the-art capabilities such as F35 fifth-generation fighters, the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier and other assets. During this crisis, the UK is doubling the number of personnel in Estonia, as I said, and sending four additional UK Typhoon jets to Cyprus. HMS “Trent” is conducting patrols in the eastern Mediterranean and HMS “Diamond” is preparing to sail. Over the last week, 350 Royal Marines of 45 Commando committed to Poland have already been deployed. As I said, we have also put 1,000 more British personnel at a state of readiness to support the humanitarian response.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, talked of Russian election interference. We have taken steps to secure more mitigations against such interference, but we should be ever ready. The Russian state continues to disrupt Ukraine, Europe, the UK and the world, and we need to ensure our state-of-the-art response. Anyone who has had any engagement with the National Cyber Security Centre will know that we really are world leading in this respect.

My noble friend Lady Meyer asked about Russian and Ukrainian expertise in language training. That is very much at the forefront of how we deploy our diplomats, as I am sure other former Permanent Secretaries of the FCO will testify. The skills training for our diplomats, including our current diplomats serving in Moscow, reflects the language skills they require.

My noble friend Lord Cormack and the noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, raised the BBC World Service. Last year the FCDO announced £94.4 million to help the World Service build on its great work. I assure noble Lords that we are looking to see how, through an additional £3 million of funding, we can directly address additional investment to tackle disinformation.

We have had a very extensive debate. Over the next few hours and days, we will continue working with G7 partners. We are active at the UN Security Council, and working very closely with our NATO allies, in Brussels and bilaterally, but also more broadly in ensuring that our humanitarian, defence, security and cyberdefence response, and our continuing work on sanctions, are fully aligned.

In seeking to divide us, Mr Putin has done quite the opposite. This is, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said, one of those occasions when we have 99.9% unanimity and solidarity across your Lordships’ House. A clear message goes out from here: you have not only united us but you have united Europe, and we are working on uniting the world.

What has happened in Ukraine is blatantly against the UN charter. Russia is a P5 member that signs up to it. There is an extra responsibility. I was in that chamber when I heard the Russian representative, an ambassador whom I know, directly attack the Secretary-General of the United Nations. For what? Secretary-General Guterres was standing up against aggression and condemning it. That should not be happening in the United Nations. He was doing what he should as Secretary-General: bringing countries together. The 190-plus nations of the United Nations must stand together against that one nation which clearly has violated the sovereignty of another. NATO, the European Union and our work through all key alliances and the United Nations are central to our thinking and our actions.

In thanking all noble Lords for their very insightful, expert contributions today, I end with the words of an anthem known well to the Ukrainians, which perhaps embellishes our support and emboldens the spirit of Ukrainians. From this House and from the other place, from this Parliament and from our country, there is a message of solidarity and unity: we stand with you. In the words of the anthem:

“Glorious spirit of Ukraine shines and lives forever.

Blessed by fortune, brotherhood will stand up together.

Like the dew before the sun, enemies will fade,

We will further rule and prosper in our promised land.”

Motion agreed.