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SPEECH: CONFLICT IN UKRAINE

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Categories: News

Martin led for the SNP frontbench in the House of Commons debate on the war in Ukraine. Here’s an extract of his speech transcribed via Hansard:

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP (SNP, West Dunbartonshire): It is a pleasure to speak from the Front Bench for, I think, the third time today. On this subject, however, I think there will be much more unanimity and agreement across the House.

As someone who has been speaking about the plight of Ukraine essentially since I was elected in 2015, I have always been happy to state my support and that of my party for the Ukrainians’ ongoing struggle to establish control of their homeland across the full extent of their 1991 borders—and as someone who it is fair to say has never been shy in criticising the Government when they deserve it, I think the political will they have shown to remain ahead of the curve when it comes to the international response is to be commended. Given that my opinions and those of my party are well understood and a matter of extensive record in the House, I intend to keep my remarks relatively short, but needless to say it is important to reflect on where we are at this stage in the war.

It is fair to say that a little too much pressure was put on the Ukrainian armed forces before their summer offensive. Not only is it an eternal adage that no plan survives contact with the enemy, but Russia had a significant amount of time to dig in as well as to learn from the mistakes it made at the beginning of the conflict and adapt. These Russian forces are riddled with corruption, clientelism, cronyism, racism and poor morale, as witnessed by the attempted coup, as was mentioned earlier. However, that does not mean that they are entirely incapable of learning on the battlefield and, as satisfying as the initial successes of capabilities such as Javelin or Himars were, there is no doubt that they adapted and changed their approach, becoming a harder opponent to break down in the process. That said, recent advances are to be welcomed, and the sacrifices made by the armed forces of Ukraine in advancing past those initial lines in certain areas should be recognised. While it may be all too soon to talk about whether this is a breach, a breakthrough or anything more, it is welcome news at the end of the summer.

I have always been one of those who have felt it important to allow Ukraine to lead this strategy. I hope that we will not be hearing anything more of the veiled criticisms of that that emerged from some allied quarters. It is a similarly solid adage that things always take a little longer in war than is initially anticipated, and we know that it will be perseverance and adaption in response to the battlefield in front of them that will win the war for Ukraine. Our patience and resolve are therefore needed at this time along with an ongoing appraisal of what we can do to continue supplying matériel to Ukraine that could prove decisive. In that context, the recent conversations about the army tactical missile system are most welcome and it will hopefully provide the opportunity to strike deep behind Russian lines and further disrupt the morale of those Russians preventing a Ukrainian advance.

Our patience and resolve must extend further. I will never tire of saying here that winning the peace in Ukraine, and providing the funding for the civilian authorities there to rebuild after the conflict is over, will be as important as winning the war. That work will probably take decades and I believe it is already beginning. Again, I commend the Government for the work they have started on that with this year’s donor conference held here in London, but we cannot take any of this for granted.

Let us not be naive. The Kremlin’s strategy is, as we have heard, to try to wait Ukraine and its allies out. It is placing a lot of hope in an amenable result in next year’s US presidential election. While we cannot thank our American friends enough for the breadth and depth of their bilateral military and economic aid to Ukraine, we know that that that has become something of a live question in that country’s political debate. We should prepare ourselves for the possibility that that bilateral support may not continue in its current form. It is therefore most disheartening to read reports in the press of former UK Prime Ministers stating publicly their preference for candidates in that election who have pledged to roll back support for Ukraine. It would be most disheartening should broader culture war tropes that have infected the American debate on Ukraine also cross the Atlantic. I therefore hope that we can continue the agreement on the broad strategy of aiding Ukraine, while of course reserving the right occasionally to disagree on how best to do that, and show patience and resolve as they go about liberating their homeland.

I am happy to say that I have the unwavering support of my party for those sentiments. It passed a motion on Ukraine at last year’s party conference, which stated unequivocally:

“As a party which has as its founding principle the ability of people to self-determine, Conference…states unequivocally that Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhizhia are all Ukraine.”

Watch the debate in full here.

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