The West will pay the price despite avoiding the worst of the Ukraine crisis

The West will pay the price despite avoiding the worst of the Ukraine crisis

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US President Joe Biden. (Reuters)

The UK continues to digest the impact of the conflict in Ukraine, with its wider influence on close neighbors and those further afield, such as in the Middle East. The upheaval of alliances is carefully observed through the analysis of votes at the UN, visits by foreign and other dignitaries and an appreciation of recent Western decisions, which may have contributed to rolling back expectations of current relations. .
Closer to home, a foreign policy – ​​temptingly called ‘Global Britain’ – came under scrutiny just weeks ago. Brexit was not yet over and bringing ends closer to the EU was proving as difficult as many had predicted. Irascible words accompanied angry media. Solving the regulations controlling trade flows across the only land border with the EU, between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, was difficult enough. But the issue had also sparked US interest and concern because of its effects both on the peace accord nearly 25 years ago and on a president fiercely proud of his Irish roots. . Global Britain was expressly aiming for a fresh start and the bizarre skirmish to project a new identity was not contrary to Downing Street’s wishes.
What a difference a few weeks made. For those disappointed by the UK’s departure from the EU, but determined to support a new and close relationship with friends, the nature of Europe’s rapprochement as a whole has been heartening. It was as if we had suddenly discovered what our lives were really like after 1945. For all their flaws, liberal democracies, in which the people choose the direction of their sovereign states, are after all worth fighting for and it remains value judgments about good and evil to consider in a world where relativism had prevailed perhaps too long.
Likewise, a NATO that had been considered almost superfluous by President Donald Trump has found new vitality. Eastern European states no longer felt “technically” vulnerable to potential, albeit unlikely, events like a Russian invasion, but were genuinely afraid of what they had seen unfold. The rapid reversal of long-held political positions on military spending, energy sources and diplomatic relations brought about, at this initial stage, a remarkable rapprochement.
That was the easy part. Hitting Ukraine, with full support and no commitment of real forces, was the right answer. But as everyone knows, the longer the conflict between Ukraine and Russia drags on, the more difficult the issues can become. The problems between the EU and the UK are not based on Ukraine. It should be axiomatic that efforts should be made by both parties to find a reasonable compromise to cement the new opportunity and avoid future clashes and political points for election purposes. Similarly, NATO must define the new commitments necessary for its future, not as a challenge to Moscow, but rather as a certainty of response that prevents inappropriate risk-taking.
However, another problem looms. Most voters pay relatively little attention to global affairs until they encroach on them at the national level. They’re going to be careful now, and they’re going to be mad about it.
The post-war Western world devoted many resources to improving living standards, including spending on health, pensions, education, and personal leisure and entertainment. Defense and security spending was often contrasted with it in times of economic pressure. People cheekily demanded that the defense be supported by charity, not their social welfare campaigns. British governments made much of the ‘peace dividend’ after 1989 and regularly cut back on investment in the armed forces, saying their impact remained as powerful as before thanks to new technology and improved kit.

Western Europe will have to spend more on defense and preparation, and less on what we have grown accustomed to.

Alistair Burt

We cannot continue like this. The real horror of Ukraine – the war crimes, destruction and mass movement of people (shamefully less considered in the Middle East conflicts than in Europe) – is not inflicted on the people of Europe western. But they will be asked by their leaders to bear new costs. Food and energy prices will rise due to factors that may be beyond their control and economic growth will be halted. But we will have to spend more on defense and preparation, with less on what we have become accustomed to. Our commitment to humanitarian assistance will be further reduced, as the UN has already noted.
It is unclear exactly where this will leave elected governments when they face their next elections. People will be angry, but they should reserve their anger at the regime and the man responsible for it, tighten their belts accordingly and remember that their freedom has been bought at a price in the past. They will also ask that more of our friends bear this burden in the world, for the lower the final cost will be.

  • Alistair Burt is a former British MP who held two cabinet posts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office — as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State from 2010 to 2013 and as Minister of State for the Middle East from 2017 to 2019. Twitter: @AlistairBurtUK

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

Christi C. Elwood