Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “realism” has become a rather fashionable worldview in foreign policy circles. But over in the UK, it’s going through a mini-rebrand. In a new piece for Foreign Affairs magazine, UK Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy makes the case for “progressive realism”.

According to Lammy, the goal of “progressive realists is pursuing realist means for progressive ends”. “Instead of using the logic of realism solely to accumulate power,” he writes, “progressive realism uses it in service of just goals — for example, countering climate change and defending democracy.” But crucially it is the “pursuit of ideals without delusions about what is achievable”. This all sounds well and good — but how exactly does a realist framework deal with issues as woolly and far-reaching as climate change and democracy?