The UK general election is a crucial moment for the relationship between Britain and Ukraine, with the public deciding how Britain will engage with Russia and assist Ukraine, in the polls on the 4th of July. With defense and security matters reaching the highest level of priorities for the public since April 2022, as evidenced by YouGov polling, what do electoral promises mean for Ukraine and British national security?

This election is not just about Ukraine and the Ukrainians in the UK. For Britain to support Ukraine means upholding what people globally associate with the UK: a steadfast defender of democracy and human rights.

Many countries, especially in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, still see the UK as a major player on the international stage, continuing its historic tradition of significant involvement in global events. Today's Britain is a democracy, a shining example of a state oriented towards human rights.

Advertisement

To abandon Ukraine, or to fail to increase military support for Ukraine, would be to abandon a people fighting for freedom from totalitarian tyranny and a departure from British interests.

Russia has always been, and continues to be, one of the main challengers to British security and the democratic way of life. Supporting Ukraine is not only a matter of aiding a nation in need but also a critical component of maintaining the UK's role and reputation as a global leader in the defense of freedom and democracy.

MH17 Disaster: 10-Year Quest for Justice for 298 Victims as Australia Vows to Hold Russia Accountable
Other Topics of Interest

MH17 Disaster: 10-Year Quest for Justice for 298 Victims as Australia Vows to Hold Russia Accountable

"In the end, we were unable to put anyone behind bars," Dutch PM Dick Schoof told NOS on the eve of the MH17 disaster's tenth anniversary. "Justice is there, but not as it should have been."

As the UK approaches the general election, the stakes are high. The outcome will not only shape the future of the UK but also have significant implications for Ukraine and the broader international community. The need for clear, detailed, and robust policies on Ukraine is paramount and party election manifestos are the very source of future policies we are to expect from the next government.

If mentions equate to action, the Conservatives would be clear winners, referencing Ukraine ten times, compared to Labour's five mentions, and the Liberal Democrats' four. However, quantity does not always translate to quality or effectiveness of support – or does it?

Advertisement

Labour’s commitment to Ukraine is succinctly captured in one paragraph of their manifesto, which is as vague as one would expect from a party gearing up for government:

“With Labour, the UK’s military, financial, diplomatic and political support for Ukraine will remain steadfast. Labour will support efforts to hold Putin’s Russia to account for its illegal war, backing calls for a Special Tribunal for the Crime of Aggression. We will work with our allies to enable the seizure and repurposing of frozen Russian state assets to support Ukraine. And we will play a leading role in providing Ukraine with a clear path to NATO membership.”

While this paragraph promises to hold Putin and his cronies accountable, it carefully avoids extending the same commitment to the Russian people, focusing instead on "Putin’s Russia."

This approach, avoiding collective responsibility for the war, might be applauded by entities like the Anti-Corruption Foundation. However, over two years of war and thousands of interviews with Russian POWs, along with horrific accounts of Ukrainian POWs in Russian captivity, indicate that the issue extends beyond Putin.

Advertisement

The Russian population is actively participating in the aggression, and acknowledging this broader complicity is crucial, as is a strategy to deal with this pressing issue.

A significant omission in Labour’s manifesto is their stance on the Ukraine scheme. The scheme not only provides refuge for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict but also contributes to the UK economy. With over 50,000 Ukrainians employed in the UK, contributing significantly to the economy, losing this workforce, largely composed of women aged 25-44 who can continue contributing for decades, would be detrimental, especially in the context of post-Brexit Britain.

Added to that, the statement on "steadfast" support is vague and leaves room for interpretation. Does this imply more or less support than currently provided?

This ambiguity could be problematic, especially given the current geopolitical climate. The potential re-election of Trump in the US and the uncertain future of US aid to Ukraine make it imperative for the UK to have a clear and robust strategy in place. Failure to do so could lead to a war on NATO soil and direct involvement of UK troops.

The Conservative manifesto more explicitly outlines their plans regarding Ukraine:

Advertisement

“Guaranteeing Ukraine the support it needs for the long haul, assuring current levels of support for as long as they are required. We will secure additional military supplies for Ukraine and build an international agreement to use immobilized Russian assets to support Ukraine.”

“In addition to maintaining visa schemes for people fleeing Hong Kong, Ukraine and our Afghan settlement schemes, we will give parliament control of how many places we offer on safe and legal routes to support those in genuine need from around the world, with a cap based on the capacity of local areas.”

The Conservatives address two critical points for the UK economy and security: securing Ukrainians in the UK as contributors to the economy while providing refuge from Russian aggression and ensuring continuous and increased military supplies to Ukraine. If there is a pro-Ukraine manifesto, it is the Conservative one.

The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, are less verbose in their policy towards Ukraine:

“Stand with the people of Ukraine and provide them with the support that they need in the face of Putin’s illegal invasion.”

The Liberal Democrats’ brief mention of support for Ukraine lacks the depth and specificity needed to assure voters and the international community of their commitment and the lack of detailed plans or clear policies makes their stance less convincing. What support? For how long? Military or economic?

Advertisement

There is also no mention of commitments to Ukraine scheme holders. In times of conflict and uncertainty, vague promises are insufficient. Detailed and actionable plans are necessary to ensure effective support and to address the complexities of the situation.

While the presence of pro-Ukrainian figures like Edward Lucas in the Liberal Democratic party offers some hope, the ambiguity on an integral national security issue suggests a party with no expectation of winning the election.

The UK's political election manifestos reveal stark differences in their approach to supporting Ukraine and the perceived importance of the war in Ukraine to gaining support amongst the electorate.

The Conservatives provide a detailed and robust plan, Labour offers vague assurances, and the Liberal Democrats fall short in specifics.

As defense and security remain top priorities, the need for clear and actionable plans is crucial, just as the need for clarity and detail in manifestos to inform the public of expected actions in defense of national security cannot be overstated, especially on critical issues like the war in Ukraine.

Voters need to understand the specifics of each party's plans and how they intend to support Ukraine, how it impacts their lives and how they benefit from supporting Ukraine. Similarly, the international community needs to feel prepared for the electoral results, no matter the victor, and plan ahead for all eventualities of British inclement. Vague promises and general statements are not enough.

Advertisement

With the Conservatives being the party of government for the entirety of the ten years Russia has been at war with Ukraine, it would be fair to assume, especially having looked at the manifesto, that we are to expect a similar level of support.

But that is not visible in Labour’s promises, and given the high likelihood of their victory, the new ambassador of Ukraine to the UK may well have an uphill battle of his own come July.

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter