Geoffrey Miller writes:
jacinda Ardern's decision to attend the upcoming North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (nato) summit in Spain, but to skip the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in Rwanda symbolises the changes she is making to New Zealand foreign policy.
Chogm starts today in Kigali, while the Nato summit will be held in Madrid next week.
However, Ardern is only attending the Nato summit. She is sending her foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta, to attend the Commonwealth meeting in her place.
I'm delighted to see Ardern attending a NATO summit. There are many issues I disagree with the Government on, but the decision to clearly back NATO and Ukraine vs Russia is the right call.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed the world. Sweden and finland are joining NATO. Ukraine is joining the EU. Switzerland has abandoned neutrality. And China's implicit backing of Russia has made people realise that China is far from benign.
As the facts change, so should stances. It is very pleasing that Labour has realised there is no sitting on the fence with these conflicts. An independent foreign policy is not the same as a neutral one. Independent means we independently decide who we think is right and wrong. It doesn't mean we don't back democratic countries who are threatened and invaded by authoritarian countries.
Ardern's invitation to attend the Madrid summit will also be something of a reward for aligning New Zealand's foreign policy more closely with Nato – and the West generally – over the past few months.
After all, Ardern has overhauled New Zealand's foreign policy by introducing sanctions against Russia and sending military equipment and weapons to Ukraine – and by making a symbolic contribution of New Zealand troops to Europe to assist with the war effort.
Ardern is probably the most pro-NATO Labour PM since Peter Fraser. Not because her views have changed, but because the world has changed. Again we should all fully support her Government's work in this area.
It does make me wonder if one day, there will be an impetus for New Zealand to join NATO. At present it doesn't really make sense, but if China turns into the Russia of the Pacific, then it may. Time will tell.