My visit to Malta on Tuesday comes at a critical moment in our long-shared history. European and global security is uppermost in all of our minds.

Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion of Ukraine one year ago is the greatest threat to Europe’s security since 1945. Let there be no doubt.

Vladimir Putin’s ambitions do not end with the conquest and annexation of Ukraine. He wants to upend world politics and call time on the international order. And if he succeeds, he will drag us all back to an age of violence and conquest.

But we cannot and will not let Putin win. Malta and the United Kingdom will never accept his invasion of Ukraine. Nor his forced annexations. His brutal acts are a clear violation of the UN Charter.

Ukraine bears the brunt of Putin’s savagery. But the whole world is paying an exorbitant price for Putin’s war of choice. A tsunami of hunger threatens the poorest countries in the world. Rising energy prices will push millions back into poverty, all across the globe. And we should not forget the Russian people. They too have been taken prisoner by Putin.

Like all authoritarian rulers, Putin responds only to strength in his opponents. He rejected Volodymyr Zelensky’s 10-point plan for peace last December. That is why the UK and Ukraine’s friends are doing all they can to bring Ukraine success on the battlefield. And it’s why I’m delighted that Germany and the US are joining the UK in sending tanks to the Ukrainians. Giving the Ukrainians the tools they need to finish the job is the swiftest – indeed the only – path to peace.

As our international system stands at the crossroads, I am delighted that Malta has returned to the United Nations Security Council. Malta is known as a strong defender of the international order and the UN Charter. It is also an old friend of the United Kingdom and a valued Commonwealth partner.

Our two countries share a common international outlook. We are natural partners. Our priorities in the UNSC are the same. We both want to see peace, justice and continued economic development across the world. Tackling climate change and defending human rights are equally dear to us both.

For centuries, our histories have long been intertwined, in peace and war. Family ties and the bonds of a shared culture bring us close together. Our late Queen Elizabeth II spoke of Malta as her “isle of happy memories”.

But it is our shared future that excites me most of all.

Next week, Foreign Minister Ian Borg and I will sign a landmark Bilateral Cooperation Framework. This historic agreement provides a firm platform for our future collaboration, alongside our joint endeavours in the Commonwealth and the UN.

I am delighted Malta has returned to the UN Security Council- James Cleverly

Our current set of international institutions, including the UNSC, may well be far from perfect. But not for one moment do I think that the alternative is any better. No one understands this better than the Maltese. For centuries, your home has been a fortress. Strategic Mediterranean islands set hard against the frontline of conflict between great powers in Europe and Africa.

Eighty years ago, Malta’s courage in the face of Axis bombing was a beacon of hope in the darkness of World War II. In awarding the George Cross to Malta in 1942, King George VI praised a “heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history”.

The United Kingdom will never forget the debt of thanks we owe to the people of Malta for their heroism amid the horrors of that terrible war.

Today, Malta and the UK share a collective duty to stand up for the ideas bequeathed to us by our predecessors in 1945.

Together, we have to make the international system work better. Because we are not mere commentators or analysts. We are players with agency, determination and courage.

As we enter the second year of war in Europe, we will need resolution and strength of will. It’s going to be difficult. There are many trials ahead. But our work together as equal partners on the UNSC can make the world a better place.

James Cleverly is UK Foreign Secretary.

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