WE are at war. Last week the UK Government announced it was supplying Ukraine with powerful Storm Shadow cruise missiles, from existing British stocks.

These have twice the range of the American rockets already in Ukrainian hands, thus making Russian rear supply lines vulnerable for the first time.

News of the British move was buried on the inside pages of most newspapers, if it was reported at all. Then at the weekend – lost in the coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest – reports filtered out of the first use of Storm Shadow, to hit a Russian military depot in the occupied city of Luhansk, 80 miles behind the lines.

The significance of this development is that Britain has become even more embroiled in the Russo-Ukraine war than before.

And with minimal amount of public debate.

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There was a quick announcement in Parliament by Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, but this provoked little response. There were no anguished cries from the Labour or SNP benches for an emergency debate. If anything, the news was met with approval. How very different from the time, in 2015, when the Tories decided to support bombing of Syria and there was a full-scale parliamentary debate.

The difference, of course, is that all the main political parties – and most of the British public – support moves to help the Ukrainians. If anything, liberal public opinion veers towards the belligerent when it comes to opposing Vladimir Putin’s military adventure.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak even got a rousing cheer for his grandstanding (and rather silly) demand that Volodymyr Zelenskyy be allowed to address Eurovision.

Here are my worries. First, nobody in the British establishment or media seems willing to understand the implications for the UK of getting so deeply involved in the toxic Russo-Ukraine conflict.

Let me be clear that I am not advocating support for Putin or acting as his stooge in saying this. I am merely reflecting that there is practically zero debate in the UK regarding being so involved in a dangerous conflict that involves a nuclear power.

Giving the Ukrainians cruise missiles is an act of war, when seen from the Russian side. Decisions like this have consequences that need to be debated. Not debating them is stupid, to say the least.

My second point is that there is more to the decision to arm the Ukrainians with the Anglo-French Storm Shadow. Foremost, we need to ask why the Brits are sticking out their necks rather than the Americans, who (so far) have been more reluctant to supply Ukraine with long-range missiles.

Since the war started, the Tories have been only too willing to make the first moves in arming the Ukrainians. Boris Johnson, before his fall, was happy to play Winston Churchill and pledge all-out British military and financial aid to embattled Kyiv.

But the Tories are acting either as stooges of a more cautious Washington – as in “let the Brits go first”. Or they are trying to force President Biden’s hand, as they did over supplying battle tanks to Ukraine. Either way, Britain is in way over its head.

The decision to supply Storm Shadow missiles is being interpreted in Washington (as well as Kyiv) as a way of embarrassing Washington into supplying its own long-range cruise missiles. This is a dangerous strategy, especially if Donald Trump returns to the White House next year. Having shrugged off the New York indictment over his business expenses, The Donald has jumped ahead of Biden in recent opinion polls. Yet Trump continues to be ambivalent in his stance on the Russo-Ukraine conflict.

Again, all I am saying is that the UK is fishing in very troubled international political waters with scant debate. Or scant assessment of the possible negative outcomes.

I FEAR British politicians are still living with the consequences of the doctrine of liberal interventionism invented (or at least championed) by New Labour back in the days of Tony Blair and his first foreign secretary, the late Robin Cook.

Those were the days when Cook sent a British task force to liberate Sierra Leone and when defence boss George Robertson committed Labour to building two huge, unnecessary aircraft carriers to “project power” around the globe.

The Iraq debacle blunted this gung-ho politics but the Ukrainian crisis has given it a new lease of life, perhaps as a diversion from the endless Brexit mess.

But there is also a psychological element at work. We are now governed by politicians who have not experienced war at first hand. The last prime minister to have seen service during the Second World War was Ted Heath, who took part in the Normandy landings.

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Britain might have been embroiled in constant foreign wars over recent times but these were largely policing actions fought by professional soldiers. For my post-WW2 generation, war has been something to read about, not experience. This is very different from my grandfather, who fought in the Boer War and on the Western Front, or my father (Burma) or uncles, one of whom did not come back from a bomber mission over the Ruhr.

We are now paying the political price of this personal dissociation from the consequences of war. Even the memory of the Cold War and the imminent threat of nuclear annihilation has evaporated.

I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 when we all thought a nuclear holocaust was about to break out. Politicians may have indulged in nuclear brinkmanship back then, but they also knew the potential existential risks. I doubt very much if that is true today.

I remain both surprised and aghast that there are no moves anywhere to seek or promote a negotiated settlement to the war in Ukraine. The West – or at least the Biden administration and the EU – seems content to bleed Russia economically and militarily, in the hope the Putin regime either gets fed up or collapses internally.

That’s a risky proposition when dealing with a nuclear power. Again, the bellicose Western response to the Russo-Ukraine conflict is fuelling an equally antagonistic attitude to China. And that is a very different scale of potential conflict.

Essentially, the post-WW2 attempt to create an international conflict resolution architecture via the United Nations is now as dead as the dodo. In large part, this is a consequence of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq 20 years ago.

But there is still time to learn a few lessons and to chart a different international diplomatic course.

It is not a matter of letting Putin off the hook. Rather it is about the necessity of tempering a failed liberal interventionism with a more pragmatic response to existing great power rivalries.

And to debate the potential consequences of every escalation in Ukraine.

Much of the Global South remains neutral in the Russo-Ukraine war and in the West’s conflict with China. That affords a diplomatic fulcrum that can potentially limit further military insanities on any side. In particular it might re-invigorate international concern over nuclear proliferation, and over the erosion of nuclear arms limitation treaties.

There is a Storm Shadow over Ukraine. A British Storm Shadow. Let’s not turn it into a mushroom cloud.