Wallace warns Russia may ‘lash out’ as he calls for rise in defence spending

The Defence Secretary said the armed forces have lived on ‘a diet of smoke and mirrors, hollowed-out formations and fantasy savings’.

28 June 2022

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has called for increased investment in Britain’s armed forces as he warned there was a “real risk” Russia could “lash out” against the UK and its European allies.

As Nato leaders gathered for a major summit in Madrid, Mr Wallace said the British military had for too long had to survive on “a diet of smoke and mirrors, hollowed-out formations and fantasy savings”.

His call came amid reports that he has submitted a formal letter to Boris Johnson calling for a 20% increase in defence spending to make up for shortfalls in capability and counter the growing threat.

Ben Wallace speech
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace speaks at the RUSI Land Warfare Conference 2022 (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The Prime Minister, heading for the Spanish capital, defended the Government’s record saying it had presided over the biggest increase in defence spending since the Cold War.

However Government sources admitted that with inflation forecast to reach 11%, a Conservative manifesto pledge to raise the annual defence budget by 0.5% over the rate of inflation may have to be abandoned.

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute land warfare conference in London, Mr Wallace said the £24 billion increase announced in the 2020 spending review had been a “strong start”.

However he said more action was needed to reverse the cuts made by successive governments – Conservative and Labour – following the Cold War to cash in on the “peace dividend”.

“If governments historically responded every time the NHS has a winter crisis so must they when the threat to the very security which underpins our way of life increases,” he said.

“For too long defence has lived on a diet of smoke and mirrors, hollowed-out formations and fantasy savings when in the last few years threats from states have started to increase.

“Right now Russia is the most direct and pressing threat to Europe, to our allies and these shores. I am serious when I say there is a very real danger Russia will lash out against wider Europe. In these days of long-range missiles and stealth, distance is no protection.

“It is now time to signal that the peace dividend is over and investment needs to continue to grow before it becomes too late to address the resurgent threat and the lessons learned in Ukraine. It is time to mobilise, be ready and be relevant.”

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