"For Ukraine, This Will Be a Year When the Fate of Their Nation May Be Decided." Key Statements of British Defence Minister

Wednesday, 17 January 2024

UK Defence Minister Grant Shapps delivered, without any exaggeration, a historical speech on 16 January at Lancaster House.

You can read a shortened version in the article The Era of the Peace Is Over. Moving from a Post-war to a Pre-war World." Historical Speech of British Defence Minister.

We have summarised the most crucial points in this text.

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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

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. 

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