Currently, my thoughts and prayers are of course with those who are enduring the ongoing invasion in Ukraine. The impact of the Western sanctions, which I fully support, should not be underestimated. Ordinary Russians are now feeling the financial pinch with dramatically increased interest rates and a plunging currency exchange rate, causing substantial hardship to the people of Russia.
The Government has advised against all travel to Ukraine and Russia - and rightfully provided broad-ranging assistance and support to the people of Ukraine, both in terms of military support and humanitarian aid to those who remain - and refuge to those who have fled the conflict.
The ongoing situation in Ukraine is a stark reminder of just how fragile peace and security can be – and why we should never take our freedoms and liberties for granted. It prompts us to reflect on our own Defence capabilities and the vital role our country is playing (and will continue to play) in protecting ourselves and our NATO allies.
Sadly, in my view, the Western world has in recent years given the impression that we are in retreat and unwilling to stay the course and honour our defence and security responsibilities. Of great significance, we recently saw the disgraceful and premature withdrawal from Afghanistan and previously from Iraq which led to the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the rise of Daesh in Iraq. This very much reminds me of the words of the former United States Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, who said: “If I know anything, I know that history shows that weakness is provocative. Weakness invites people into doing things they wouldn’t otherwise think of.”
Britain is one of the few NATO members which spends more than 2% of GDP on Defence (currently 2.2 %). Our world-class Defence industry has a substantial presence in our local area with Airbus, Rolls-Royce, GKN, BAE Systems, MBDA and Boeing being important local employers – as well as circa 8,000 MOD civil servants operating from DE&S Abbey Wood.
For information on how you can help the people of Ukraine, please see the Disaster Emergency Committee – Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal at: www.dec.org.uk and the Homes For Ukraine initiative here: https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk/
In Parliament on Tuesday, March 8, I was privileged to hear the Ukrainian President Zelensky deliver his powerful, historic address to the House of Commons and it was certainly a moment I shall never forget.
On Tuesday, March 15, I spoke in the House of Commons Ukraine debate and asked Colonel Bob Stewart MP how we can best militarily support the Ukrainians whilst remaining mindful of the risks of stoking an escalation. Colonel Stewart responded that he certainly did have concerns of an escalation and that Putin may once again resort to using chemical weapons in the same way that he did previously in Aleppo. On additional military support, he suggested that the deployment of MiG-29 fighter jets, piloted by Ukrainian pilots, may be required.
The following day in Prime Minister’s Questions, I also asked the Deputy Prime Minister, Dominic Raab to confirm that we will continue to deliver military aid and support to Ukraine and that we will supply the Starstreak anti-air missiles necessary to destroy Russian fighter jets. The Deputy Prime Minister responded that we have delivered over 3600 anti-tank weapons and a consignment of Javelin anti-tank missiles. He also confirmed that the Government is exploring the possibility of donating the Starstreak anti-air missiles.
I am incredibly proud of the humanitarian support and fundraising which is taking place in the constituency. From the bank in Filton, to the management team at Cribbs Causeway, I am moved by the huge fundraising and support efforts being made. I am maintaining regular contact with Ministers in the Foreign Office to identify what is most needed and where best for it to be delivered – and I am proud that members of our local communities are so keen to help our Ukrainian friends in this hour of desperate need.
Jack Lopresti MP.