Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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The positive side is that the Ukrainians are incredibly skilled at being able to fix, repair and build their equipment. In many cases they have managed to turn around the shortages of electricity in a matter of days and Putin has not been successful. On wider skills, I offered at one stage to send Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, not into Ukraine but into neighbouring countries to assist with the refurbishment of tanks and such things. Those are some of the skills we can provide. In my experience, this is about “Mechanics, mechanics, mechanics”, as they will fix a Challenger tank as quickly as they will fix a T-72. They are always on offer; if the Ukrainians ask, we will be happy to help.

Margaret Ferrier Portrait Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Ind)
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I agree with Members from across the Chamber in praising the right hon. Gentleman and his handling of the Ukraine-Russia situation. After the NATO Secretary-General said that NATO allies will act if Sweden or Finland comes under pressure from Russia or another adversary before they become full members of the alliance, how does the Defence Secretary predict that that might antagonise Putin and what risk does he assess there to be for the UK?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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If Putin attacks Sweden and Finland, the Russians will antagonise Sweden and Finland; I do not think they will antagonise themselves. If Russia chooses to lash out at Sweden and Finland, not only would NATO meet and discuss what it can do to protect some of its closest allies, who are choosing to join, but the UK has a number of security arrangements we have made recently with both Sweden and Finland, and we would ensure, even bilaterally, that we would step up to the plate. However, what we can see is that because of Russia’s poor and failing invasion of Ukraine, the conventional military forces it would have previously had near those countries are hollowed out or have been destroyed, so Russia has much less to threaten them with. However, we are alert for things around critical national infrastructure, pipelines and electricity cables, which is why I recently deployed two ships to the area—I believe one was HMS Enterprise and the other a Type-23 frigate—to make sure we help to protect Norway’s pipelines and our infrastructure.