It was regrettable and typical that a confidential meeting involving the Defence Committee meant that I had to miss the first Front Bench speech and was therefore not allowed to speak. However, below is what I would have said had I been able to speak.
IT is sobering how volatile the world is now.
And it’s increasingly alarming how the war in Ukraine has the very real potential to drag NATO in.
Who would have thought that nearly 80 years after the end of World War II we’d see another war in Europe.
Let me first pay tribute to the brave men and women of Ukraine who are fighting to safeguard their homeland.
We only hear snippets on the sheer horror of this war … and its effect on both those fighting it … and those waiting at home for the return of their loved ones.
We do know, though, that it’s bloody and many thousands have been killed and wounded on both sides.
I’d also like to pay tribute to our former Prime Minister, without whom I doubt Ukraine would be receiving the level of support it currently is.
Boris Johnson not only led the call to arm the Ukrainians … but he bravely went there on several occasions.
The question now on everyone’s lips after 18 months of war … is for how much longer can Ukraine sustain the level of casualties it is … and for how much longer the West will continue to supply essential arms and equipment.
How many times have I heard it said that ‘we cannot let Ukraine fall’.
If that is genuinely the case … the West (NATO) must give Ukraine the military hardware to not only defend itself … but to push Russian troops out of their country.
The UK has been admirable in its support for Ukraine – and all credit to those in our Armed Forces who are training theirs.
The US has spent a generous 77 BN euros so far on support for Ukraine … while the EU is doubling its contribution with a new 50 BN euro .. multi-year package .. through to 2027.
These massive contributions cannot falter … for if Ukraine is to win this war … it needs the equipment and a reliable supply chain to do the job.
Wars are won or lost on logistics.
One hears rumours that support for Ukraine is waning.
I truly hope that is not the case … as we in the West must understand what a Russian victory would mean.
There is no doubt it would further destabilise European security dramatically … and increase the likelihood of a larger war with Russia.
And, if not war, then permanent economic conflict … more sanctions … cyber-attacks … energy blackmail … and potentially border incursions with NATO members.
Right now, NATO troops are training in Eastern Europe to counter the unthinkable.
Putin has shown he is willing to invade countries to achieve his well-publicised goal of recreated the former USSR.
We must not underestimate him … nor fear upping our game.
Putin has used the West’s fear of escalation to his advantage … with tanks and planes taken far too long to get to the front line.
While we witness this serious risk to world peace … here at home we are planning on cutting the army by a further 10,000.
Neither does the RAF nor the Royal Navy have enough planes and ships.
We are not alone.
Many NATO members are not even paying the required 2% of GDP.
This paltry and arbitrary figure must be reviewed in the face of the very real threats we face.
It’s simply not right to expect the US to go on shouldering most of the burden … especially when their military are more and more concerned about the threat in the East from China.
This is just the sort of tension that Putin will be looking to exploit.
I’d like to conclude by telling the House how moved I was when I met some Ukrainians at Warminster … where they were training to use the Challenger.
The eldest was over 60 … the youngest only 19.
Two others had actual experience on the front line.
It was their humility and gratitude that struck me most … and of course their determination to rid all of their country of Russian troops.
Their commitment was total … and I can only imagine how those brave men are today … and hope they are still alive.
As many invaders have found to their cost … those who fight best are those who are defending their country … their families and friends.