Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I call the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns.

Alicia Kearns Portrait Alicia Kearns (Rutland and Melton) (Con)
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his calmness, and for the consistency of his support for our friends in Ukraine. Our leadership on defence spending matters, and it is important that we meet the target of 2.5% of GDP by 2026, because between now and 2050 it is spending on, and investing in, artificial intelligence, quantum and other new technologies that will allow us best to protect ourselves from hostile states. However, I am concerned about the escalation over the Black sea. I know that my right hon. Friend has a close relationship with his Turkish counterpart. Can he please give us an insight into how he is working with our allies in Turkey and Romania to protect air policing?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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One of the allies with which I discussed this incident was Turkey, at the time when it happened. I have a good and close relationship with the Turkish Government, and I will be visiting Turkey next week. The Turkish Government are aware of the position, and, as ever, offered as much assistance with this process as we wished.

We do not consider this incident to constitute a deliberate escalation on the part of the Russians, and our analysis concurs that it was due to a malfunction, but it is nevertheless a reminder of quite how dangerous things can be when you choose to use your fighters in the manner in which the Russians have used them. While this obviously involved the release of a weapon, we have seen very close flying next to United States, United Kingdom and NATO assets over the last few years. In one case, a Russian fighter went within 15 feet of a NATO aircraft. Such action is reckless and unnecessary, and puts many people’s lives at risk.

I am not naive. We are incredibly lucky that what we saw over the Black sea did not become worse. I am not trying to trivialise it, but we do not consider it to have been a deliberate escalation on the part of the Russian state.