Morality and Principle in Foreign Policy
How should we balance our moral responsibility to stand up for our principles and beliefs around the world with the forces of pragmatism? Engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk.
The stand-off over Ukraine between Russia and the West looks increasingly threatening and reminiscent of the Cold War. It also demonstrates vividly the limits of the place of morality in foreign policy. We may feel it's our moral duty to defend our commitments to democracy and self-determination in the Ukraine, just as we have done, often loudly and directly, during the Arab Spring. The reality is our principles have come up against the facts on the ground. There will be talk of sanctions and diplomatic isolation, but there's little more we can do. So where does that leave the Western Ukrainians that we've been so assiduously courting? If ultimately we are not willing to risk our own skins to defend Ukraine shouldn't we admit that our policy is driven by self-interest rather than give the Western Ukrainians the illusion that we will do anything brave about it? Aren't we guilty of encouraging people to take risks on the false prospectus that we will be there when they need us? Ultimately, isn't honest real politic more moral than hypocritical internationalism? Or is a foreign policy that has no moral reference points beyond naked self-interest a nihilistic counsel of despair? How should we balance our moral responsibility to stand up for our principles and beliefs around the world with the forces of pragmatism? Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk, with Melanie Phillips, Michael Portillo, Giles Fraser and Matthew Taylor.