This weekend I will be in Bucharest for the Annual Assembly of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly as one of the UK Government’s representatives. There will be much to discuss.
There is the highly volatile situation in North Korea; the ongoing Russian occupation of Ukraine; the dangerously high tensions in the Black Sea; and the humanitarian crisis and ongoing war in Syria – with the consequential refugee crisis and the proxy battles through hybrid warfare enacted by Russia and Iran.
At this moment of such world instability, there has never been a more important time for stable alliances to provide effective counter measures.
Counterbalances, however, are only effective if they can be used, and President Putin certainly made geopolitical advances under the presidency of Barack Obama as he calculated there would not be any resistance to his actions.
President Obama stated that if Syria used chemical weapons, then that was a red line that would not be tolerated. When Syria did use chemical weapons, the US did little more than issue a strongly worded statement.
The above chronologically links to the fact that Russia then invaded Ukraine; ‘annexing’ Crimea, as the world sat back and did nothing, before pushing into East Ukraine – using the hybrid warfare that Russia has implemented so effectively to directly cause the death of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians as Putin seeks to re-establish the Soviet Union, of which he described the break-up as the biggest disaster of the 20th century.
It is sometimes difficult to see how these international events have a direct effect on us here in Wetherby and on my constituents.
These wars and political upheaval across the world are thousands of miles from home, and yet the reason our national politicians are engaged on the international stage is the very reason that all of these situations have a direct effect on the standard of living for us all.
Firstly, we have never been a country that is prepared to just stand by and remove ourselves from the world stage; letting millions of people suffer.
This is one of the key reasons that I am an unashamed supporter of our International Development budget, and work that not only serves to save lives and provide vital humanitarian aid in areas of natural or man-made disaster, but ultimately is a key aspect of our own stability and security agenda.
A failed state always has the same consequences. A massive refugee catastrophe and the growth and harbouring of bitter extremists who attack our country and citizens.
When the countries we trade with are dealing with consequences of these pressures, a decline in their economies is inevitable and thus our ability to grow our economy at home declines.
Ultimately our geopolitical objectives should be to create stability in people’s home nations through military counterbalance and investment though our International Development budget.
The last Labour Government’s Great Recession saw a six per cent loss of our GDP; pushed the poorest-paid out of work first; and saw a decline in living standards that we are still trying to rectify a decade later.
When Syria once again dropped chemical weapons, it was not by coincidence that there was now a new President in the White House. Russia was watching very closely. President Trump’s immediate reaction to unilaterally attack military installations showed Russia that the strategic analysis has changed. Russia has been much quieter since then.
In many ways, this creates the uneasy paradox that because the world believes that President Trump will take action, North Korea may rattle the sabre – but ultimately the war will probably stay cold.
It was, therefore, with despair that I observed the Labour Party last week question our commitment to our NATO obligations.
The only consequence of this is to allow countries like Russia and North Korea to seek to exploit weaknesses in global counterbalances, and as the world markets factor in this instability – through increased fuel prices for example – the poorest in my constituency will suffer first.
As a one-nation Conservative I fundamentally believe that we must do all we can to increase the wellbeing of everyone in our society. A stable economy and effective military presence in the world are a key aspect in being able to build that platform.