This Labour Government will have a ‘Nato first’ defence strategy


Seventy-five years ago, British foreign secretary Ernest Bevin had the vision and determination to bring 12 nations from Western Europe and North America together to create the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato).

Today, the Nato alliance spans 32 nations. Thirty-two allies committed to the key principle that an attack on one is an attack on us all.

This, as Bevin said, “brings us under a wider roof of security, a roof which stretches over the Atlantic Ocean and gives us the assurance of great preponderance of power, which will be used on the side of peace [and] security”.

This week, we are travelling with the Prime Minister to Washington DC, joining our allies in marking this 75th anniversary. And we meet at a time of unprecedented volatility and insecurity. The whole alliance faces rising global threats – both conventional and hybrid. With authoritarianism and greater geopolitical competition on the one hand, and rapid technological development on the other.

The first duty of any government is to keep the country safe and protect its citizens. We cannot have stability and prosperity without security. Nato is therefore the ultimate guarantor of all allies’ ability to live freely and build a secure, more prosperous future for their people.

Ernest BevinErnest Bevin

Ernest Bevin brought 12 nations from Western Europe and North America together 75 years ago to create Nato – Masterman

Our Government’s commitment to Nato is therefore unshakeable. We will have a “Nato first” defence strategy. European security will be our foreign and defence priority. Our commitment to Britain’s nuclear deterrent is absolute.

We will increase spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence as soon as possible, whilst arguing all Nato allies should adopt this as a new defence target. And we will launch a Strategic Defence Review, so we are fighting fit to defend against any adversary.

Foremost amongst these adversaries is Russia. We must strengthen our defences to deter Putin effectively. And we must reinvigorate our support for the brave people of Ukraine, as they defend their freedom against Vladimir Putin’s new form of fascism.

Before the general election, we both travelled to Kyiv and assured the Ukrainians of our ironclad commitment in person.

But Britain is always stronger when we work with others. That is why we want to reset our relations with Europe. With a return of war to our continent and security threats rising, Britain must also restore trust to our partnership with our closest neighbours. This includes new security and defence agreements with close allies and partners in Europe, such as Germany.

We have underlined this commitment within days of being appointed by our new Prime Minister Keir Starmer, with John travelling to Ukraine and David visiting Germany, Poland and Sweden.

On these visits, our new Government has increased support for Ukraine, including new military support – a clear signal of our determination to outlast the Kremlin.

UK-EU Security Pact

And we have begun discussions about how we can do more with European partners. Bilaterally, we will leverage our tightly connected defence industries to strengthen our defences and support Ukraine. And our plan for an ambitious and broad-ranging UK-EU Security Pact would underpin closer cooperation between us, enshrining a new geopolitical partnership that complements the wider Nato alliance.

As we, alongside Keir Starmer, look to reconnect Britain on the world stage, we will be fully committed to strengthening other alliances that enhance British security in this increasingly insecure world. We will ensure AUKUS, the trilateral security partnership with Australia and the United States, fully delivers its potential.

As negotiations on Nato concluded, Bevin forecast that “the step that is now being taken will bring peace and security… for many generations to come”. How right he was. His vision has grown into the most successful peacetime military alliance in the world.

Our generation faces a darkening global landscape. Those who believe in freedom and international law must stand together, stand for what’s right – just as Bevin did 75 years ago.

This requires a strong and reconnected Britain. Under our Government, Britain will be confident in our purpose, clear-eyed about the challenges and determined to invest in our collective strength. A formidable and reliable ally and partner. A country building the foundations of an era of renewal. The spirit of Bevin will live on in this new Government.

David Lammy is the Foreign Secretary

John Healey is the Defence Secretary

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