We must be the great arsenal of democracy

“We must be the great arsenal of democracy.
For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself.”

US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) 29th December 1940

When FDR broadcast those words to his countrymen, the UK was experiencing the height of the Blitz. The Luftwaffe had changed its strategy and was starting to target industrial cities around the UK. My home city of Bristol was yet to experience its worst bout of bombing in less than a week from when FDR gave his speech. In the days and months to come many UK cities experienced scenes that have now become all too familiar in Ukraine.

In an end of year interview with the Economist, General Valery Zaluzhny, head of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, was forthright. As it stands now Ukraine can stand its ground. However, he warned that without an especially large infusion of munitions Ukraine will not be able to repeat the extraordinary success of their August Southern Counter Offensive. He admitted that he feared that this munitions supply is beyond the current capacity of Western allies to supply.

FDR gave the above speech to the American people to explain why it was important that American industry worked to bolster the Allies, even when at that time the US was not an official Allied Power. He argued that the price of inaction would be too high for all free nations.

I believe that the West has now reached its own ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ moment with Ukraine. Very simply, Ukraine has to be supplied with the munitions it needs to use in order to free its territory from Russian Fascism.

Meeting this challenge will not be easy. But we can at least try to set an example for our fellow European nations. Efforts have to be redoubled in Europe. Not in the least because the generous military support the US has given Ukraine is under threat from a Republican controlled House of Representatives.

I would suggest that our government considers proposing a summit to convene all countries that have given military aid to Ukraine. This summit should be concise in its purpose and only be allowed to be formally closed when a definite plan of forward action is agreed upon. Sadly, attendees genuinely interested in the cause of Ukraine may need to be warry of potential filibuster tactics deployed by Hungary.

We should challenge our government to meet their rhetorical commitment to Ukraine with action. Out of the box solutions should not be discounted such as Guest Worker programmes to help counter labour shortages in munitions production. But efforts on a government scale need to go much further, including coming up with an industrial strategy to help meet the huge challenge.

Vladimir Putin is betting that a long war will wear down the West’s resolve. The West in turn need to make clear that it’s response to Russian aggression will always be evolutionary and enduring.

* Zachary Barker is a the Chair of the Bristol Liberal Democrat Council Group.

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9 Comments

  • The collapse of the USSR confirmed what many of us had understood during the cold war; that Russian people want much the same thing as the rest of us. To live in a peaceful world without the horror of industrial war.
    Russia under Putin has moved from an authoritarian state to a totalitarian one prepared to employ brutal military force to maintain a small clique of Oligarchs and former apparatchiks in power and retain their tight grip on the Russian economy.
    The ambition of the Putin regime to return to the pre-1945 imperial world of balance of power and spheres of influence geopolitics has to be resisted by the combined effort of democratic governments and the United Nations.
    While the supply of weapons to Ukraine is an essential element in that resistance (just as the supply of weapons to the USSR was in WW2) the objective is not unconditional surrender of the Russian army, but a cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory.
    It seems clear as we begin 2023 that only military setbacks can bring about meaningful negotiations. Ukraine has to be enabled to bring about those military setbacks for Russia to get us to a point where a UN brokered peace deal becomes a realistic possibility.

  • I am sorry to say that we may have to escalate the war in order to finish it sooner. The supply of Patriot surface to air missiles will help with defence. If Ukraine asks for the ability to launch pre emptive strikes against Russian missile launchers we may well have to say yes.

  • Tony Vickers 3rd Jan '23 - 9:30am

    Have just read “The Gates ofEurope” published by Penguin in 2014. A short history of Ukraine it explains why the Ukrainians are both utterly resilient and utterly determined to join with democratic Europe. Their culture is very different from that of Russia under Stalin and now Putin.
    We must not stop giving them every assistance we can. They are fighting our fight – for Liberal Democracy.

  • Mel Borthwaite 3rd Jan '23 - 2:03pm

    Forgive me for watching the developing tragedy and coming to the conclusion that NATO does bear a responsibility for how events have unfolded. Ignoring the issue of whether assurances were ever given about NATO not expanding into former Warsaw Pact territories, I think NATO’s actions in Serbia in 1995 have directly contributed to Russia’s actions in Ukraine now. By way of a reminder, the situation in Serbia was that people in part of its territory (Kosovo) were engaging in fighting against Serbian authorities in an attempt to win independence while Serbia was restricting the use of the Albanian language. NATO -which claims to be an entirely defensive organisation – decided to intervene (without UN Security Council authorisation) and force Serbian forces to withdraw from part of its internationally recognised territory (Kosovo) by engaging in a huge bombing campaign. Eventually the Serbian government withdraw and NATO countries then decided to recognise Kosovo as an independent country. So in 2014, after a democratically elected pro-Russian government is overthrown, Russia believed it was justified in using force to protect the interests of those who resisted the newly installed government. From that, the tragedy has gradually unfolded.

  • Peter Hirst 3rd Jan '23 - 3:46pm

    Do I note a change in strategy from Ukraine? Is it beginning to take the war to Russia? Certainly bombs falling on Russian cities can only bring the terribe cost of this conflict home. Putin might be immune to domestic criticism for now but no-one can counter reality for ever.

  • William Wallace 3rd Jan '23 - 4:20pm

    Mel Borthwaite: conflict in the Balkans didn’t start with Kosovo. Serbian forces had besieged Sarajevo, rounded up and killed Bosnian men, in support of the ambitions for a ‘Greater Serbia’. Conflicts in the Balkans, and Russian (and NATO, and UN) involvement in them, are much more complex (and have much deeper historical roots) than you suggest here.

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Jan '23 - 5:33pm

    “Conflicts in the Balkans, and Russian (and NATO, and UN) involvement in them, are much more complex (and have much deeper historical roots) than you suggest here.”

    Example – what was going on during WW2 when the Serbian Chetniks spent more time fighting Croats than fighting the German invaders of Yugoslavia. See the relevant part of Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy MacLean – who was sent to Yugoslavia by Churchill to find out which faction was fighting most effectively agains the Germans. Answer – Tito’s partisans.

  • Zachary Adam Barker 3rd Jan '23 - 8:21pm

    I am with William Wallace on this one.

    I don’t buy the NATO guilt narrative. It would have been worse for NATO to not intervene at all in the Balkans. Meaning we would have both a European genocide, which could have been prevented in the 1990s (likely multiple genocides) to go with the African one in the case of Rwanda.

    A “democratic government” government in 2014 that beat and shot it’s own people Mel Borthwaite. The government wasn’t overthrown. The government fled. Those that remained were democratically elected as well.

  • Paddy Ashdown left an account of his meeting with Slobodan Milošević in September 1998 warning him that his actions were were illegal under international law and that the International community would intervene if he did not put a stop to the war crimes being committed in Kosovo https://www.icty.org/en/content/paddy-ashdown
    The conflict in the Donbass was virtually frozen in the years immediately prior to Russia’s 2022 invasion with the UK reporting civilian deaths on both sides from active hostilities at 8 for 2020 and 7 for 2021 Conflict-related civilian casualties in Ukraine
    The Russian nomenklatura has yet to come to terms with the collapse of the Soviet empire. The first president of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk was the head of the Ukrainian communist party and was followed by another member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma. Little changed in Ukraine after independence and the endemic corruption that prevailed under communist rule continued as before. It was not until the Orange revolution of 2004 and subsequently the Euromaiden protests of 2014 that Ukraine was able to begin the process of freeing itself of effective Kremlin control.
    The Suez crisis of 1956 was the moment when Britain understood most clearly that the British empire was seeing its final days. If this ill-judged invasion of Ukraine brings the same clarity to Russia that the time of empire is over, then perhaps some good will be salvaged from all the death and destruction.

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