Robert Tyler

The conservative defence of Ukraine

Conservatism, amongst many values, extols the virtue of national sovereignty – the right for independent nations to determine their own destiny free from external interference. Without the centrality of the nation state, it is hard to argue for other conservative values, such as the defence of history, tradition, family, patriotism, or the creation of stable atmosphere for the growth of business. In other words respect for national sovereignty is one of the pillars from which the whole ideological foundation is based.

Indeed, respect for national sovereignty extends to the defence of other nations sovereignty. That is to say that in our right to enjoy our own freedom, we have duty to ensure that other states are free to enjoy their own in the international order. That we, as conservatives, support the right for free and democratic governments to rule themselves without fear of being subverted.

These two ideas are self-evident in conservative belief, and almost universally accepted within the movement. It therefore then stands to reason that in the current climate, in which the democratic and free nation of Ukraine is under threat from its autocratic neighbours, that conservatives in the West have a duty to stand up and defend it. Least of all because all the values that we hold dear are under attack at once in Ukraine.

For centuries Ukraine has found itself the victim of Russia – with relentless assaults on the traditional values of the nation. From the forced absorption of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church into the Russian Patriarchy, and systemic harassment of Catholics in the West of the country under Russian rule, to the countless attempts to expunge the Ukrainian language. Ukraine is a nation whose independent identity has been under threat – and yet in the face of all this has bravely defended it.

Since winning it’s independence thirty years ago, Ukraine has steadfastly defended and promoted its culture, language, and traditional values. It has westernised and committed itself to becoming a firm part of the democratic global order – with high levels of support for becoming a fully-fledged member of the Transatlantic community through membership of NATO. Ukraine, has in many ways, become the model for the type of civic patriotism that conservatives seek to promote in the West.

It is for these reasons that there is no excuse for conservatives in the west to side with Ukraine against the threat from Russia. This struggle of David and Goliath pitches our conservative values in Ukraine, against the revisionist and revolutionary ideas of Russia – a nation that has rejected western philosophy in favour of a warped hybrid of populism, extortion, and demagoguery.

In defending Ukraine we are defending the basic principle that nation states are free to choose their own destiny free from the interference of authoritarian regimes or kleptocratic mafia states. That they can promote their own historic cultures, languages, and identities as we do our own. Or that nations can choose to belong to whichever global alliance they want – and which they believe fits their values. Yet beyond this there is a conservative view of the world that needs defending.

The brewing conflict is much larger than Ukraine, NATO, and Russia – it is about a clash of world views. Russia under its present leadership is part of a loose confederation of nations that want nothing more than to undermine our Western way of life. With China, Iran, and their proxies, Russia wants to break the international order established at first in the defeat of fascism at the end of the Second World War and again after the defeat of Communism in the 1990s.

This is the global order that conservatives such as Adenauer, de Gaulle, Eisenhower and Churchill, helped to build in the 1950s, and that which Thatcher, Reagan and John Paul II helped to build during the closing years of the Cold War. One in which the democratic, free trading, nations of the world stand shoulder to shoulder against the forces of autocracy and collectivism. A world order that recognises the hegemony of Western thinking.

Already we have watched, as through the use of ‘active measures’, the Kremlin and her proxies have sought to destabilase the free world. From assassinations on territory, to cyber attacks on our infrastructure, to backing anti-democratic movements, to the spread of disinformation, and recently the weaponization of migrants. We have watched as Russia, and her allies, have attempted to unilaterally re-write history, redraw boundaries, and undermine our way of life.

What is ultimately at stake is how the  rest of the world views the West when it comes ot their attitude towards those countries choosing to join us in the free world. Should we decide not to defend Ukraine, then it is an admission of defeat on behalf of the democratic world, a capitulation of our belief in national sovereignty and value of self-determination.

By letting Ukraine fall, we are in effect sending the message to our enemies that they can dictate the internal and foreign policies of any nation around the world.

To China it means that Taiwan, Mongolia, and Southeast Asia are their puppets. To Russia it is the right for them to bully Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Central Asia into their sphere of influence. For Iran it is a blank cheque to export its Islamist revolution across the Middle East, openly backing rebel groups and militias in toppling the governments of Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, and Syria. In Latina America it is the permission that Narco-cartels and corrupt socialist regimes need to take over and exploit the region. Terror groups and non-state actors will seize on the opportunities.

However, should we rightly choose to defend Ukraine offering it every support – we send a clear message that we still stand as the beacon of freedom. That ultimately in the West we still value the liberty of every individual across the world, free from life under tyranny, and free to choose for themselves how best to live their lives.

In recent years the West reputation as the defender of global order has been tarnished – the retreat from Afghanistan, wars in the Caucasus and Horn of Africa, the militarisation of the Pacific. On top of this, the institutional capture of international organisations such as the UN, WHO, WTO, and others have weakened the international order. As a result, democratic backsliding has set in.

For conservatives who want to defend the Wests place in the world, now is the time to act. Now is the time to defend the legacy of everything that has been built over past decades. And now is the time to set the tone for the decades to come. 

Geoffrey Van Orden

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