Thursday 20th October 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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My hon. Friend will have noticed two things in the last few weeks. First, we had our NATO Defence Ministers meeting last week. The resolve is absolutely rock solid. When it comes to the nuclear issue, the line is consistent that there would be severe consequences for Russia if it uses tactical nuclear weapons. Our commitment to responding to such issues and the threat they pose to the world order in breaking the nuclear taboo is determined and united.

My hon. Friend will also have noticed that the European Union has started to use much more hawkish phrases about this issue. That is because its member states are clearly resolved. They want this issue to be concluded successfully. They recognise that constituents in all our countries face higher food and energy prices because of what is going on in Ukraine. The quicker and more permanently we can solve that, the better for all of us. We can then get on and deal with the inflationary pressures and all the other stuff.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
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I thank the Secretary of State for his statement; his transparency is welcome and serves to prevent misreporting of the Rivet Joint incident and inadvertent escalation. We in the Liberal Democrats would like to add that we also pay tribute to the professionalism, values and standards of the Royal Air Force and all our armed forces.

I particularly appreciate the Secretary of State’s recognition that communication is crucial to ensure that we avoid miscalculation. He said that he has communicated his concern directly to his Russian counterpart, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, and that the Chief of the Defence Staff has done the same using his channels. On 7 March this year, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, said lines of communication were

“not as strong as we would want them to be”.

Can the Secretary of State comment on whether top-level lines of communication with Russian counterparts have deteriorated further or improved since then?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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It is possible for us to communicate with the leadership of the Russian Ministry of Defence and the leadership of the Russian Government when we need to, and there is a constant capability to do that. That is not particularly easy across the international community at the moment, because General Gerasimov and Minister Shoigu are clearly engaged in the activity that has led us all to the House today, and they are busy doing that. Communication is possible, and I assure the House that, if it became impossible, I would seek other ways of making sure. I also have close allies and partners who can make calls, if necessary, and we utilise them where needed.