Defence secretary calls for further spending to answer Russian aggression

Published by Scott Challinor on June 29th 2022, 12:01am

UK defence secretary Ben Wallace has called for an increase to the defence budget, in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Speaking at a Royal United Services Institute conference, Wallace warned that Russia posed a “direct” threat to European security and the defence budget needed to respond to it.

NATO currently sets targets for each member state to spend two per cent of GDP on defence. While the UK has matched this, Wallace has stressed that now is the time for more investment into the Armed Forces before it is “too late”.

Wallace said: “I am serious when I say there is a very real danger that Russia will lash out against wider Europe.”

The defence secretary also suggested that it was becoming “increasingly clear” that Russia would not be deterred by the “threat of punishment” or “costs imposed” upon Russia’s people, such as through economic sanctions.

While prime minister Boris Johnson would not comment on future defence spending during the G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps, he did say that the two per cent of GDP currently allocated to defence was a “floor, not a ceiling.”

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, has also stated that he wants the two per cent of GDP investment figure to work as a baseline amount.

The UK government had been cutting defence spending each year from 2010, before Boris Johnson’s ministry announced a spending increase of £16.5 billion over four years in 2020.

However, the real-terms value of that investment will be hampered by ongoing inflation, and the defence secretary believes that funding must now go up to reflect those changes in response to Russian aggression.

The BBC reports that in a leaked letter to the PM, Wallace asked for Johnson to call on NATO members to raise defence expenditure to 2.5 per cent of GDP.

However, the PM responded that the UK was already a “massive” spender on defensive measures and was leading the way on spending among allied nations. Johnson added that the UK had already pledged the “biggest increase” in defence investment “since the end of the Cold War”.

The UK government has separately said that £1.3 billion worth of military support is being provided to Ukrainian forces for defensive measures, including anti-tank weaponry, short-range missiles, drones and air defence systems, and armoured vehicles.

Speaking earlier at the same conference as the defence secretary, new Armed Forces chief General Sir Patrick Sanders referred to Russia’s movements as being akin to those of Nazi Germany in the build-up to the Second World War.

General Sir Patrick said: “We're living through a period of history as profound as the one our forebears did 80 years ago.”

The Armed Forces head said that UK forces ought to be mobilised now in order to prevent war becoming more widespread, rather than inciting further hostility.

He also recently warned in a message to all Armed Forces ranks and civil servants that British troops needed to be ready to fight Russia if required, with the invasion of Ukraine showing an urgent need to be ready to “protect the UK and be ready to fight and win wars on land.”

NATO leaders are due to meet in Madrid this week for a summit, where allied nations are expected to discuss defence spending and readiness to respond to aggression.

Image by Chris McAndrew on Wikimedia Commons

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Scott Challinor
Business Editor
June 29th 2022, 12:01am

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