British backing for Ukraine and NATO in the struggle against the Russian invasion would continue in the event the opposition Labour Party wins the next general election, the man who would lead the UK’s defense ministry in a Labor government said Tuesday.
After a long time out of power, a slew of polls show Labour about 10 points ahead of Prime Minister Liz Truss’s ruling Conservative Party with a general election due by 2024 — and perhaps sooner.
“There is a great deal more to do, but this is nevertheless a remarkable restoration in public confidence in Labor,” John Healey said at the Wilson Center on a visit to Washington this week.
Labour suffered its worst defeat in decades three years ago during the last general election, when the party trailed the Conservatives on defense issues by 61 points, Mr. Healey said. Britain under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson emerged as one of the most active and vocal supporters of Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February.
“Never again will Labour go into an election not trusted on national security,” he said. “The first duty of any government is to defend the country and keep the citizens safe. We also know it’s the public’s first test of any party aspiring to govern.”
He called NATO the most successful alliance in history and said it embodies values that Ukraine is fighting to preserve.
“The war in Ukraine is a war in general for these values. This is a war all over the world,” Mr. Healey said. Russian President Vladimir Putin “is fighting his current war in Ukraine but he’s also waging his wider hybrid war on the West.”
He said standing up to Russia’s threats to cut off vital energy exports to Europe is essential.
“High energy costs in Europe are not a direct result of the war in Ukraine. They’re an essential element of it,” he said. Mr. Putin “may be losing the military battle but he still believes he can bully the West into softening support for Ukraine and leaning on [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy for a cease-fire.”
It is the duty of democratic countries like Great Britain and the U.S. to ensure Ukraine wins the war against Russia, both by providing immediate military support and developing a long-term strategy for military, economic and diplomatic assistance throughout 2023 and beyond, Mr. Healey said.
“That would reassure the Ukrainians but also reinforce the message to Putin that things will get worse, not better, for Russia,” he said.
A Labour government would emphasize supporting the North Atlantic alliance as its highest priority and would apply a “NATO test” to all major defense projects in its first 100 days in power, Mr. Healey said.
“We would make sure Britain’s NATO obligations are back on track,” he said. “If there are capability gaps, we would fill them. If there are funding gaps, we will fix them. If there are tough decisions, we will take them.”