"The era of peace dividend is over. Moving from a post-war to a pre-war world." Historic speech by UK Defence Secretary

Tuesday, 16 January 2024 — Grant Shapps, British Defence Secretary

Here, European Pravda publishes an abridged version of the speech delivered by UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps on 16 January at Lancaster House. This speech, without any exaggeration, is historic. The UK official has announced the beginning of a new era for the entire world. He has also outlined the UK’s role under these new circumstances.

He points out that the year 2024 could be decisive for Ukraine.

This speech is well worth reading. We have summarised it for you, keeping the key points relating to the Russian war against Ukraine, the future of Europe, and the new international security order. You can also read the full speech here.

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Thirty-five years ago, Margaret Thatcher gave a short speech here in Lancaster House. She spoke of her optimism about the changes taking place between East and West. Barely two weeks later the Berlin Wall fell.

It was the dawn of a new era. Existential threats were banished. And a new global feel good factor spread to Defence.

This was the age of the peace dividend. The notion that while our defences should be maximised at times of tension they could be minimised in times of peace.

Conflict didn’t disappear of course. But with no great power menacing the continent, peace gave the impression of being just around the corner.

Yet, not everyone got the memo. In fact our adversaries were mobilising.

The belligerent autocratic state was making a comeback – having got away with the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, Putin launched his brutal invasion of Ukraine eight years later. And as Russia continues its illegal campaign in Ukraine, China is assessing whether the West loses its patience.

Today, Russia and China have been joined by new nuclear, and soon to be nuclear, powers.

North Korea promising to expand its own nuclear arsenal.

And then there is Iran, whose enriched uranium is up to 83.7%, a level at which there is no civilian application.

Back in the days of the Cold War there remained a sense that we were dealing with rational actors.

But these new powers are far more unstable, and irrational.

Can we really assume the strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction that stopped wars in the past will stop them in future, when applied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or North Korea?

I am afraid we cannot.

(Note: It's about the concept of mutual deterrence between the USSR and the USA: each of these nuclear states knows that in the event of a nuclear strike by its opponent, the latter will automatically inflict a devastating counterstrike in response.)

Particularly since there is now another new worrying consideration: Our adversaries are now more connected with each other. For example, we have seen how Iranian proxies are causing havoc from Israel to the Red Sea. That Russia has what the two countries describe as a "no limits partnership" with China – with whom they conduct regular joint exercises.

Meanwhile, Putin is relying on Iranian drones and North Korean ballistic missiles to fuel his illegal bombardment in Ukraine.

With friends like these, the world is becoming more dangerous and has done in recent years.


Now some argue these threats are not existential to the UK.

And yet, what happens elsewhere, quickly happens here.

In the past few years we’ve seen terror attacks on the streets of London, attempted assassinations in Salisbury, theft of Intellectual Property, attempted interference in our political processes, a cost-of-living crisis, brought to you by Putin, that’s hurting families here at home.

And now, our trade. 90 per cent of which comes by sea, is the target of terrorists.

In our online world our adversaries don’t need to jump in a tank board a sub or strap into a fighter jet to hurt us. Cyber warfare simply means hacking into our networks and watching the economic carnage unfold.

Last year, almost a third of businesses in the UK suffered a cyber breach or attack. And the total cost to the UK economy runs into billions.

We know significant numbers of these attacks come from Russia and China.

Even mass migration can be cynically used against us as a weapon of war, as Poland, Norway, and Finland have been experiencing.

Over the last decade this government has made great strides to turn the Defence tanker around.

And when the world needed us, we have risen to the moment.

Giving Ukraine our unwavering support and galvanising others to their cause, including with our biggest ever funding package, announced last week.


Today, for the very first time this government is spending more than £50bn a year on Defence in cash terms, more than ever before. And we have made the critical decision to set out our aspiration to reach 2.5% of GDP spent on defence.

And as we stabilise and grow the economy, we will continue to strive to reach it as soon as possible.   

But now is the time for all allied and democratic nations across the world to do the same, ensuring their defence spending is growing.

Because the era of the peace dividend is over.

In five years’ time we could be looking at multiple theatres involving Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Ask yourselves – looking at today’s conflicts across the world - is it more likely that the number grows, or reduces? I suspect we all know the answer – it’s likely to grow.

So, 2024 must mark an inflexion point.

For Ukraine, this will be a year when the fate of their nation may be decided.

For the world, this will be the greatest democratic year in history with nearly half of the world’s population going to the polls.

And for the UK it must also be a moment to decide the future of our national defences. The choice is stark.


We are in a new era and we must be prepared to deter our enemies, lead our allies, and defend our nation.

In terms of deterrence, it’s about the UK gaining a strategic advantage over our enemies. The foundation of that advantage is, of course, our nuclear enterprise. At a time of mounting nuclear danger, our continuous at sea deterrent provides the ultimate protection.

And that’s why we are spending around £31bn to bring in next generation Dreadnought submarines and upgrade our deterrent.

In a more contested world, we need to bring that same goal of deterrence to our conventional forces – so we have made modernisation a critical priority. Taking the long-term capability decisions we need to transform our Armed Forces into a formidable deterrent.

In a complex world, no nation can afford to go it alone, so we must continue strengthening our alliances so the world knows they cannot be broken. Defence is in many ways the cornerstone of our relations across the world.

And among our partnerships, NATO remains pre-eminent.


But it’s not enough to deter. We must lead. Standing up for our values around the world.

And Ukraine is a test case. This year, its future may well be decided. 

Valiant Ukrainian warriors have had incredible success pushing back invading Russian forces, retaking 50 per cent of the territory stolen by Russia, opening up a maritime passage in the Black Sea. 

But the West must not let them down.

British leadership has already had a galvanising effect. We’ve convened some 10 countries to help Ukrainians train here in the UK. And today I can announce that our programmes have now trained over 60,000 Ukrainian troops since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

Last month, I launched a new maritime coalition with Norway to defend Ukraine’s maritime flank. Since then, over 20 partner nations have joined that coalition.

But the international community cannot let this support slip.

Putin believes the West lacks staying power.

And since the future of the world order is at stake, we must prove him wrong.

Rewarding his war with victory would only increase the risk of escalation. Not only because he’s hell bent on rebuilding the Russian empire. But because it would signal weakness to other would-be aggressors.

That is why on Friday the Prime Minister signed the historic UK-Ukraine Agreement on Security Cooperation.

The start of a 100-year alliance that we are building with our Ukrainian friends.

It sees us increasing our military support to £2.5bn – taking the total of UK military aid to more than £7bn. With even more gifted directly from the UK’s equipment inventory. £200m will be pressed into producing and procuring thousands of drones, including surveillance and long-range strike drones.

This continues the UK’s proud record as a leading donor - always being the first to get Ukraine exactly what they need.

The UK was the first to provide Ukraine with weapons training, the first to provide NLAW anti-tank missiles, the first to give modern tanks, the first to send long range missiles.

Now we will become the largest provider of drones too.

These will be manufactured here in the UK in tandem with international partners, helping to enhance our unmanned vehicle capabilities at home too.

But our new agreement with Ukraine is about so much more than money. It formalises our support in everything from intelligence sharing and cyber security to medical and military training. And it sees us taking the first giant step towards a century long partnership.

Britain understands that the battle in Ukraine is existential, it proves there is no such thing as an isolated conflict.


So, deter and lead, which brings me to the final essential element of being prepared. Defending our nation.

If we are to defend our homeland, we must ensure our entire defence eco-system is ready.

Firstly, we must make our industry more resilient to empower us to re-arm, re-supply and innovate far faster than our opponents. There’s a huge opportunity here for British industry.

The UK has long been a by-word for pioneering technologies. We gave the world radar, the jet-engine and the world wide web.

We’ve not lost that spark of creativity. On the contrary, today the UK is one of only three $1 trillion tech economies. But just imagine what we could do if we managed to better harness that latent inspiration, ingenuity and invention for the Defence of our nation?

Just think about the game-changing tech we could supply to our brave men and women. From the pilots ready to scramble at a moment’s notice to the soldiers protecting NATO’s flanks from Putin’s fury – to the sailors deployed across the seven seas to secure our prosperity.

After all, our greatest resource has always been the men and women who work tirelessly to protect our great nation.

But to defend our nation from the increasing dangers of tomorrow, they must have what they need to do the job.

And we will use our influence to ensure other allies and friends, faced with this new reality, and match our commitment. So, we find ourselves at the dawn of a new era. The Berlin Wall a distant memory.

And we have come full circle.

Moving from a post-war to a pre-war world.

An age of idealism has been replaced by a period of hard-headed realism. 

Today our adversaries are busily rebuilding their barriers. Old enemies are reanimated. New foes are taking shape. Battle lines are being redrawn. The tanks are literally on Europe’s Ukrainian lawn. And the foundations of the world order are being shaken to their core.

We stand at this crossroads – whether to surrender to a sea of troubles, or do everything we can to deter the danger.

I believe that, in reality, it’s no choice at all.

To guarantee our freedoms, we must be prepared.

Prepared to deter – the enemies who are gathering all around us. Lead our allies in whatever conflicts are to come. Defend our nation whatever threat should arise. This is what Britain has always done.

And it is what we must do again if we, like Margaret Thatcher speaking here 35 years ago, are once more to dream of a future without walls.

Grant Shapps, 

16 January 2024, London

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