UK should focus on building a 'war economy' similar to Russia's, former NATO chief says

8 February 2023, 19:44

Former NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson calls for the UK to focus on building a 'war economy' similar to Russia's
Former NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson calls for the UK to focus on building a 'war economy' similar to Russia's. Picture: LBC/Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The UK should spend "much more" in an attempt to build up a war economy to rival Russia's, a former NATO Secretary General has said.

Lord George Robertson, who also served as Defence Secretary under Tony Blair, told LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr that the UK needs to spend more on building equipment that can be given to Ukraine and kept by the British army.

"I think it's very important that we replenish what we've sent to Ukraine and indeed increase it," Lord Robertson told Andrew Marr.

"President Putin is in a war economy. The figures that have been published this week show that Russian defence expenditure has gone up even as their revenue from oil and gas has gone down."

He added: "We're not in a war economy - we should be devoting much more in terms of resources to building the kind of equipment that we can give to the Ukrainians and that are required for our own defences."

"If Putin is at war with us, why on earth is there not a sense of urgency and determination in this country to counter that kind of war like attitude," the ex Nato chief asked.

Ex-NATO general says it's unlikely we'll see British jets over Ukraine

Read More: Sunak insists 'nothing is off the table' as Zelenskyy reiterates call for British fighter jets

Read more: 'Wings for freedom': Zelenskyy thanks Britain for support as he asks for fighter jets in historic Parliamentary address

Lord Robertson's comments come after current Defence Secretary Ben Wallace admitted the government had "hollowed out and underfunded" the army following claims by an American general that the UK is no longer a top-tier fighting force.

Last week, Mr Wallace was briefed by a senior US general, who described the British army as "no longer" being considered one of the world's premier fighting forces, according to Sky.

Meanwhile, one UK defence source said: "Bottom line... it's an entire service unable to protect the UK and our allies for a decade."

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace previously admitted the government had "hollowed out" defence spending
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace previously admitted the government had "hollowed out" defence spending. Picture: Getty

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the UK on Wednesday in his first visit since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Zelenskyy thanked Britain for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine following the provision of game-changing tanks to the war-torn country.

Mr Zelenskyy said he looked forward to the day of victory for Ukraine but, until then, "evil" is still present.

He said he was "proud" of his air force but the country needs more planes to fight the war.

"We pay with our lives... with the lives of our heroes who risk life and death every day," he explained.

In a press conference this evening, Mr Sunak said "nothing is off the table" as the Ukrainian President reiterated his call for the UK to provide them with British fighter jets.

Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hold a news conference at an army camp
Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hold a news conference at an army camp. Picture: Getty

When asked if he could provide clarity on whether Ukraine will be given fighter jets from the UK, Mr Sunak said he has been "very clear" when it comes to arming the country that "nothing is off the table".

He added: "When it comes to fighter combat air force, of course they are part of the conversation... that's why we've announced today that we'll train Ukrainian air force on Nato-standard platforms."

Zelenskyy added that Ukraine still needs a lot of equipment and warned his country faces stagnation against Russian forces if they not be given fighter jets.

Mr Sunak said that if the UK was to provide fighter jets to Ukraine, conversations would need to happen with allies who provide the aircraft.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a visit to the UK
Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a visit to the UK. Picture: Getty

The prime minister said: "There is a supply chain around such sophisticated aircraft.

"Those are conversations that the president and I are having and making sure we understand all the supply chain needs that go alongside aircraft like that - making sure they can be used and used safely, kept safely.

"And it is also a conversation we are having with our allies because, particularly some of the aircraft we have, are done through joint treaty with multiple other countries - I think we have seen that with previous bits of kit that others have had to give."

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