Opinion: Next week Jacinda Ardern will attend and speak at the NATO Leaders’ Summit. The first New Zealand leader to do so.
In a suite of enormous international moments for our Prime Minister this year, this is the motherload.
It may not have the bells and whistles of a White House visit, it may not be as illustrious as a Harvard commencement address, it may not have the intimacy and symbolism of being the first foreign leader to drop in on the new Aussie PM but speaking to NATO leaders right now has more geopolitical heft than any of her other recent trips combined.
It may not be World War III yet but the world is at war. We may be at the ass end of the planet but relationships, common ground and good global citizenry are as important at this moment as at any other in our lifetime.
Leaving aside the need to reconnect after a global pandemic, heck, even leaving aside China’s influence in the Pacific - though that’s probably the main reason we’ve been invited - the war in Ukraine is a moment in our collective international history that we must do everything in our power to be on the right side of.
Alongside setting its strategy for the next decade, NATO leaders - and our cameo PM - will also discuss further support for Ukraine.
New Zealand has done ok in terms of its support of Ukraine but ‘ok’ ranks really really far behind other like-minded countries and allies like the US, UK, Canada and Australia per capita.
For every person in the United States, its government’s spent about $95. $95 a head on Ukraine military aid specifically.
For every Aussie, it’s about $6.40. For every Kiwi, it's $1.40. We’ve contributed one dollar and 40 cents each to helping arm Ukraine.
An army built largely of volunteers fighting to defend western democracy that we all benefit from.
I know things are tough at home right now and it’s hard to think about spending on other countries when we so desperately need to keep the home fires burning but think of Ukraine. What the people there are going through. And beyond that, think of what happens if they fail.
If this horror on earth gets even more horrific - like nuclear horrific - we’re going to have wished we’d used this comparative grace period to absolutely smash them with all we’ve got.
Sure NATO says a Russian nuclear attack is unlikely - there’s no higher level of readiness from Russian forces in that regard.
But no one accurately predicted Russia’s invasion either despite the troops lining up to flank the border.
And Putin has warned that Moscow will use nuclear weapons to defend its sovereignty.
I have no idea what will happen but the fact it’s even a live debate terrifies me and I want our country to be part of every international effort to shut it down.
That means sending more money for others like the US and UK to procure weapons and to work with the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence to ensure they’re getting to the people on the frontlines.
It also means sending more helmets, body armour and camo vests. We got off to a good start on this front. Now’s the time to find and send more.
This was the head of Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Committee on our show yesterday.
We also need to finally call what’s happening in Ukraine what it is. Genocide.
This again from Ukraine MP Oleksandr Merezhko.
Jacinda Ardern needs to recognise the genocide like other countries and independent international legal experts have done. Ukraine is begging us.
As the head of NATO said, “We must not let up in supporting Ukraine… even if the costs are high, that is no comparison to the price that the Ukrainians have to pay every day with many lives."
The US President and British PM have used the word genocide. They’ve both visited Ukraine. Perhaps our Prime Minister should consider doing the same while in Europe and she may have less trouble seeing the war for what it is and doing what is right.