NATO’s 70th anniversary and corresponding summit in London is an opportunity to remind ourselves of what can be achieved when countries work together. This post-war multilateral organisation has now helped to keep generations safe and encouraged stability across Western Europe. Liberal Democrats are internationalists. This is at the core of who we are as a party. That is why we are committed to ensuring the UK upholds our NATO responsibilities, including spending 2% of GDP on defence.
NATO has been key to Britain’s security since its foundation. In the aftermath of the Second World War, NATO, along with the EU and its predecessors, played a central role in restoring peace, stability and prosperity to a Europe ravaged by conflict. In the contemporary world, many of the security challenges the UK faces we share with our allies in NATO. We can best meet these challenges by facing them together. Liberal Democrats know that that Britain is safer and stronger standing together with our friends and partners in organisations such as NATO than we could ever be alone.
Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit. In doing so we will protect our economy, unlocking the Remain Bonus. This will mean billions more in funding for our schools and other key public services. Crucially for our armed forces, this would mean over £900 million more investment by 2024/25 than they would see under the Tories. That money would enhance our ability to contribute to NATO and maintain our security. It would mean our armed services have the support and resources they need.
Along with economic damage, Brexit threatens to seriously curtail Britain’s voice and influence in international organisations like NATO. If Brexit happens the UK’s global engagement will be significantly weaker than it is currently, and our influence over crucial EU-NATO coordination will be non-existent. This influence has been vital in the face of rising tensions and challenges facing EU states.
A central emerging challenge is cybersecurity. Through our commitment to NATO, a Liberal Democrat government would work with our allies to counter the damage done by foreign electoral interference and emerging nationalism. Right wing nationalism and isolationism, expressed by Boris Johnson’s commitment to Brexit, and Donald Trump’s “America First” rhetoric threaten the integrity of international organisations like NATO. Increasingly, Johnson is revealing himself as a knock-off Trump. We know now that Putin’s Russia interfered in America’s 2016 elections. The Tories’ suppression of the Security and Intelligence Committee’s report on interference in the Brexit referendum raises questions as to whether our democratic process was also under attack in 2016.
The Tories’ aren’t alone in undermining the integrity of NATO and other multilateral international organisations. Labour holds that it is committed to NATO, yet Jeremy Corbyn has been candid about his views of the alliance’s place in the modern world. In 2012, he authored a Morning Star article titled “High Time for an End to NATO”. He’s made it clear that he thinks NATO should have been dissolved with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and as recently as 2014 he’s parroted the old line of Eastern Bloc propaganda, that NATO was founded simply to “promote a cold war with the Soviet Union”. Even more outlandishly, Corbyn has regurgitated the conspiratorial notion that NATO has “become the tools of US policy in Europe”.
Neither the Labour Party nor the Tories have a functional plan for today’s British foreign policy. Labour’s vision is the fantasy of a 70’s socialist, while the Tories are stuck dreaming of the age of Empire – the Liberal Democrats are looking to the future. Both the Tories and Labour are parties of Leave. Both would see Britain’s influence recede ever further from multilateral organisations like NATO and become increasingly isolated and impotent. We must not allow this NATO summit to be the last where we are serious players at the table. In government, Liberal Democrats will build a different, better and brighter future for a Britain that is as engaged as ever with our friends and allies in NATO, the EU and around the world.
Chuka Umunna is Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.