April 28, 2023 - 1:39pm

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has highlighted British writers J.R.R. Tolkien and Sir Roger Scruton as inspirations for supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia. Speaking at a private event at Policy Exchange think tank in Westminster on Friday, while accepting the Hugo Grotius award from the think tank director Lord Godson, she referred to a warm conversation with “my friend Rishi Sunak” the previous day.

UnHerd had exclusive access to the event, and reports the key extracts below. In the highly rhetorical speech, Meloni attempted to position robust support for Ukraine in line with conservative values, and in so doing see off domestic critics of her foreign policy stance.

Today, more than ever, freedom, peace, independence, sovereignty are principles worth reaffirming and, more importantly, fighting for literally. Today, more than ever, we are called to defend these principles — the very foundations of international law, without which we would be in a chaotic situation.

The Ukrainian people have proven that there is something stronger than missiles and tanks, and it is the love for freedom, an unbreakable force”… As Winston Churchill once said, “all the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honour, duty, mercy, hope. This is the true lesson that Ukrainian patriots have reminded each of us.

On February 24th 2022 the Russian Federation shocked the world by invading Ukraine. Putin’s goal was to make Ukraine a vassal state, denying its national identity. But that plan failed. Against the courage of those who love their nation and are not willing to lose their identity, their sovereignty, their freedom. It shattered against the reaction of the free world, which did not hesitate for a moment to take sides. The reaction — united, strong, determined — showed how much we are willing to fight to reaffirm our founding values and defend our achievements. Values and achievements that should never be taken for granted.

The Russian aggression is not simply an act of war. It is an assault against the fundamental principles of civilisation, and we cannot allow the law of the strongest to overcome the strength of law. This is not exclusively in the interests of Europe: it is the basis for the peaceful coexistence of all nations.

I know that there are many who feel that Europe has in the past failed to acknowledge that the world’s problems are also ours. Until the past few years our vision and actions have been dramatically short-sighted. This should no longer be the case. We have to boldly tackle together the challenges of the 21st century — and the time is now.

Will the nations we call the global south follow us? Most of the abstentions on UN resolutions come from African nations. We cannot give the impression that we do not dedicate the right attention to other key strategic areas of the world. The rest of the world is watching us: we have to counter the risk of polarisation between the North and South – between the West and the rest.…

This is a time of uncertainty and crisis. A time in which all of us as individuals, populations and nations have the opportunity to prove ourselves. A crisis can be the engine of a choice, an action or a change. From a crisis we can emerge stronger and freer — and we can track the direction of a new path, a path in which we must have the ability to preserve what is precious and irreplaceable. Our identity, our history, our values, the civilisation we built.

We don’t stand with Ukraine because we like the war. We stand with Ukraine because what we want to defend is stronger than the fear of war. Sir John Ronald [Reuel] Tolkien wrote: “I do not love the bright sword for its sharp edge, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for its glory. I only love that which I defend.”

The way is not to erase our home, it is not to give up our freedom or our values: the way is to love our home and to make it even more solid and strong in bad weather. Roger Scruton said it best: “the real reason people are conservative is that they are attached to the things they love.”