‘War is coming to Britain’ by the end of the decade, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace says as he warns Russia’s ‘meat grinder’ Ukraine invasion could last another year
- Defence Secretary urges for better funding of British military ahead of budget
- Warns Putin is ‘not going to stop’ and the invasion may drag on another year
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has warned ‘war is coming to Britain’ by the end of the decade and must invest in its military to prepare.
The former Scots Guard also stressed that Russia’s ‘meat grinder’ tactics could drag out the war in Ukraine for another year, with Putin ‘not going to stop’, on the eve of the anniversary of the invasion tomorrow.
As tensions mount between east and west, and Wallace seeks a boost to defence in the March budget, he told The Sun: ‘In order to deter, you have to be ready, you have to be equipped and you have to stand with your friends and your allies.’
While Britain continues to pledge material support to Ukraine, he urged that the nation must brace for conflict, hot or cold, and ‘be ready for whatever could happen’.
‘Freedom isn’t free,’ he said.
‘Britain’s message to Russia is we are not giving up and we are not going away.’
Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace speaks to the crew of an Ajax Ares Armoured Fighting Vehicle, on the training range at Bovington Camp, a British Army military base on Wednesday
A Ukrainian squad launches one of four rockets at a Russian infantry position from their BM-21 Grad 122mm multiple rocket launcher, in the southern Donbas region, Ukraine, on 20 February
In an interview with LBC, Mr Wallace added that he was ‘open’ to sending more British tanks to Kyiv and suggested Ukraine was likely to receive fighter jets from NATO member countries.
But he hinted it was eastern European members of the alliance, which have Soviet-era planes more like the ones the Ukrainian air force is used to, that were more likely to supply the jets than Britain.
READ MORE: 365 days of Putin’s bloodshed: As the anniversary of the Ukraine invasion nears, a comprehensive look at how the war unfolded, how close we are to WW3 and all the key aspects of the conflict
With the weather and ground conditions improving in Ukraine, the conflict is braced for a Russian spring offensive and subsequent counter by Kyiv’s military in the coming weeks and months.
Mr Putin’s original plan of taking the country in only a matter of days failed, with a vast amount of the current fighting centring around the battle for the east of Ukraine.
Mr Wallace, asked whether he could envisage the war between Ukraine and Russia going on for a further 12 months, told the radio station: ‘I think we will.
‘I think Russia has shown a complete disregard, not only for the lives of the people of Ukraine, but for its own soldiers.
‘We are sitting here 12 months in and 188,000, actually more now, Russian soldiers are dead or injured as a result of this catastrophic miscalculation and aggression by President Putin.
‘When someone has crossed the line and thinks it is OK to do that to your own people, running effectively a meat grinder for an army, I think he is not going to stop.’
He stressed that the battle in Ukraine was ‘not a NATO conflict’ but suggested he was not opposed to alliance member Poland sending MiG-29 aircraft to its neighbour.
‘We’re not going to see NATO [supply planes]. We’re going to see countries that are members of NATO potentially put in air force equipment or MiG-29,’ he said.
The MiG-29 is a Soviet-era fighter jet still in operation worldwide.
The UK has been a prominent supporter of Ukraine’s military efforts to push back the Kremlin’s troops, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announcing earlier this year that Britain would be the first country to supply tanks to its armed forces.
Mr Sunak announced that 14 Challenger 2 tanks would be supplied, with the war machines set to arrive in eastern Europe next month.
Ukrainian servicemen of the 3rd Separate Tank Iron Brigde take part in an exercise in the Kharkiv area on 23 February 2023, the day before the one year mark since the war began
Mr Wallace made the comments on sending more British tanks to Ukraine after spending Wednesday at Bovington Camp in Dorset to see Ukrainian troops being trained on the Challengers.
The Defence Secretary has been seen to be lobbying Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in recent weeks to increase Ministry of Defence spending in the face of Russia’s aggression and growing Chinese influence on the world stage.
Facing criticism, including from veterans’ minister Johnny Mercer, for his remarks about Britain’s armed forces being ‘hollowed out’, Mr Wallace said it was ‘not unheard of’ for a defence secretary to push for more money ahead of a Budget.
In the run-up to Mr Hunt’s fiscal announcement on March 15, the Conservative minister said he was ‘asking for relief from pressures that have occurred since the last settlements’, adding: ‘We’re not in a position where we want transformational money in the next few years.’
In September, Mr Wallace said that Britain’s defence spending would double, reaching over £100bn per year by 2030.
This was in response to a commitment by then-Prime Minister Liz Truss to raise spending to 3% of GDP.
Last week he acknowledged he was fighting to boost spending by £11bn in this year’s March budget.
A vigil, jointly co-ordinated by the US and Ukraine embassies in London, will be held in Trafalgar Square on Thursday evening between 6pm and 8pm to mark the first anniversary of Russia’s assault on Ukraine.
The latest Government figures show that as of February 20, 163,500 people had arrived in the UK under the Ukraine schemes.
Of these, 47,800 arrived via the Ukraine Family Scheme and 115,800 via the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme.
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