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The Speech of UK Consul General Peter Abbott OBE at the Conference “Remaking Ukraine – Toward an Age of Global Enlightenment”

Professor Ozolina, thank you very much indeed for those kind words of welcome. Professor Thomas Patterson, co-founder of the Boston Global Forum, governor Dukakis in absentia, the Dukakis Institute, President Levitz the president of Latvia, ambassador Makarova, fellow consuls general, distinguished speakers, and thank you very much indeed for having me here today. Before I start, I just wanted to pay tribute, as many have done before me, to president Zelensky and to the extraordinary bravery, tenacity, and commitment that the Ukrainian people have shown over the last two months. It is truly extraordinary, and I think an example to all of us. So, my name is Peter Abbott. I’m the British consul general to new England. I have something of a graveyard slot; I see people already leaving to get coffee, so I hope I can give you a sort of a reasonably entertaining next five or six minutes before we break. I want to talk this morning about two things: firstly, what the UK has done to support Ukraine, and secondly what we think the lessons might be for the conflict and further future conflicts in the in the coming months and years.

Firstly, as others have said, the international community has shown remarkable strength and unity in response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and the UK has worked closely with those allies, particularly in the G7, NATO, and the United Nations to impose an unprecedented package of sanctions and other economic measures. In fact, the UK has imposed sanctions on more individuals and more organizations in Russia than any other nation, starving them of their access to finance with asset freezes on 18 banks, with global assets of over a trillion US dollars, removal of selected Russian banks from the SWIFT system, and ending all our new outward investment to Russia. We’ve also taken decisive action on trade, stripping Russia of most favored nation status at the WTO, and stopping Russian aircraft from flying or landing in the UK, and banning their vessels from our ports by the end of this year. The UK will end all dependency on Russian coal and oil, and end imports of gas as soon as possible thereafter. We’ve also worked to isolate Russia diplomatically, using our presidency of the UN security council to lead the push to suspend Russia from the UN human rights council and to expose Russian war crimes, including the appalling rape and sexual violence that we have seen systematically used in Ukraine. Last month, alongside Nobel peace prize laureate Nadia Murad, the UK launched a new global code of conduct to gather information from survivors of sexual violence in war more safely and more effectively to improve the chance of justice, and we have also worked with our allies to refer Russia to the international criminal court. Perhaps like no other conflict before, the past two months have been something of a battle of truth, as much as a battle for territory, and as professor Ozolina mentioned, the UK has played its part here too in helping to counter Russian disinformation. For the first time ever, the UK ministry of defense is posting twice daily on social media our latest military intelligence about the state of play on the Ukrainian battlefield, where Russian troops are, what moves they’re making, and which regions are most under threat. Some of you might know that the UK intelligence services are some of the most secretive in the world, so it really is a remarkable change of culture to see that intelligence being posted on a daily basis, and this has helped the UK and our allies dominate the information space and counter Russian narratives. the UK has also helped give president Zelensky the extraordinary international platform that he has built so quickly. His address to the British parliament on the 8th of march was one of his first and received a prolonged and standing ovation from MPs and peers. My prime minister’s visit to Kyiv on 9th of April was the first by a G7 leader, and we are delighted that thanks to the bravery and fortitude of the Ukrainian people, we’re able to join our allies in reopening our embassy in the capital. Finally, we have provided desperately needed military and other practical support to Ukraine. The UK in fact was the first European country to provide lethal aid. We have already supplied 6000 anti-tank weapons, 10000 missiles, and 120 armored fighting vehicles, as well as ammunition body armor and other weapons. We have provided maritime support and trained more than twenty thousand Ukrainian soldiers via joint exercises. The UK has also committed nearly half a billion US dollars of aid, urgent humanitarian support, and donated more than 500 mobile generators, and earlier this week, two convoys of more than 40 fire engines arrived in Ukraine, packed with rescue equipment. This follows the donation of more than 20 ambulances equipped with paramedic kits and medical grab bags, and overall, the UK’s package of humanitarian economic and military support is worth more than two billion us dollars.

Collectively though, we need to go further. We need to bring even tougher sanctions and cut off oil and gas imports entirely from Russia. We must also put in place, as many have said, a robust humanitarian response to support the Ukrainian people, including with the involvement of the United Nations, and this is the second and final point I want to come to. What lessons have we learned? The primary lesson that we’ve learned is, I think, don’t mess with Ukraine. Secondly, the lesson that we’ve learned is that the economic and security structures developed after World War II have failed, as my German and French colleagues have said, Russia’s invasion has destroyed the idea that economic integration alone can drive political change.

So I think we need three things in a new approach based on military strength, economic security, and deeper global alliances. First, we need to strengthen our defense. There is no substitute for hard military power, backed by intelligence and diplomacy. That means a stronger NATO, with a sacrosanct open-door policy and a more global outlook. It means investing in both traditional defense and modern capabilities, and it means greater collective spending on defense, correcting a generation of under investment. NATO’s target of spending two percent on GDP must be a floor and not a ceiling. Second, we need to recognize and respond to the growing role that the economy plays in our collective security. We must take an assertive approach to economic policy to reduce strategic dependency on authoritarian regimes. We should expand trade investment and science and technology ties with countries who play by the rules, pursuing what the Dutch have described as open autonomy, and we need a better, more coordinated approach on international development, including in this case helping vulnerable countries whether the storm of rising food and energy prices. Third and finally, we must broaden our network of partnerships to promote collective security partnerships that stand up for sovereignty and self-determination, and are built on shared prosperity. What my foreign secretary has described as a network of liberty. The UK will continue to invest in existing partnerships and alliances, such as NATO, the G7, and the five eyes intelligence sharing network, and we will build new ones as well, such as the strategic defense alliance that the UK formed with the United States and Australia last year, illustrating our joint commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, and I hope this crisis will give greater impetus to deepening and strengthening UK cooperation on foreign policy and defense issues with our friends and neighbors in the European Union.

There is a Ukrainian expression which says that the church is near but the way is icy. I say victory is near for Ukraine, but the way will be tough, and the UK will be with you every step of that way with our prayers, and yes with our weapons too. Thank you very much.