Rushcliffe MP Ruth Edwards writes her monthly column for the community.
War is characterised for many of us by pictures taken on the field of battle. Who can forget the picture of Kim Phuc with her brothers and sisters, running from their village in Vietnam, which had just been bombed with Napalm? Or block out the footage of desperate people jumping from the Twin Towers on September the 11th?
Pictures of brutality, pictures of suffering. We see them now, every day, staring up at us from our newspapers. Pregnant women stumbling amidst the rubble of Mauripol’s maternity hospital. A doctor desperately trying to revive a six year old girl, still clad in her unicorn pyjamas, her mother weeping next to her, clutching her daughter’s pink bobble hat.
The images of Putin’s war show it for what it is – a barbaric attack on innocent people and the deliberate targeting of civilians, in an attempt to break the will of the Ukrainian people.
None of us really know how long the conflict will last, nor if it will grow or how much bloodshed there will be before it is over.
The UK’s response has been swift and decisive. For many years we have trained the Ukrainian military as part of Project Orbital. Now we have provided thousands of anti-tank and anti-air weapons and led the international response in sanctioning over 1000 individuals, banks and entities linked to Putin’s regime. We have also shut off Russian banks’ access to the global financial system by blocking access to SWIFT and banned all Russian companies from raising funds in the UK.
Between the Homes for Ukraine scheme and the family visa route, over 25,000 visas granted have so far been granted for refugees. We are also the biggest bilateral donor to Ukraine in terms of humanitarian assistance.
This war is an attack on democracy itself, on our core democratic values of liberty, equality and justice and on the freedom of other nations to choose that path.
Across the world, we see the rise of autocratic regimes that challenge the fundamental tenants of democratic societies.
How should we respond?
Firstly, I believe we must strengthen our defence and security alliances. It is not just troops and military hardware that guarantee security. We will also need to support allies with our world-leading cyber power, as we become increasingly reliant on digital technology.
Secondly, we must strengthen our trading relationships to secure supply lines. This has already been a strong area of the Government’s focus since Brexit. We must now look, not just at where the strongest opportunities for growth lie, but also at how we can secure our supply chains. Whether that’s in terms of food, oil, gas or critical materials such as palladium and neon, used to manufacture electronic chips. The new energy security strategy for the UK, announced by the Prime Minister will be critical.
Finally, we must redouble our diplomatic efforts to embed British values into international norms. We have seen China spreading its soft power all over the world. We need to be investing in developing countries, building partnerships with them in key areas of R&D. We need to be flooding the bodies of international institutions, such as the UN’s International Telecommunications Union and all its many committees. Why? Because it is here that global standards for the technologies and networks that shape our world are developed.
These actions are not cost-free. We may not be called upon to defend our land against invading forces but we will be called upon to pay a price for supporting those that are. In the very immediate term, we feel it, as energy prices and inflation grow even higher than predicted.
It is right therefore that the Government is working to support people across Rushcliffe and the UK. In his Spring Statement, the Chancellor announced a host of measures to help with the cost of living, such as cutting fuel duty, raising the threshold at which people and businesses start paying National Insurance and doubling the Household Support Fund for the most vulnerable. This builds on the £9bn package announced last month to help people meet the cost of higher energy bills.
I wont pretend the Government can take all the pain away, or solve global issues such as energy shortages and conflict at the flick of a switch, but we will continue to do all we can to support people, as we defend our values and way of life and the right of every nation to do the same.