When Ben Wallace claimed that Britain was taking a leading role in aiding Ukraine’s war effort, it was not just post-Brexit boosterism the UK defence secretary was voicing.
Volodymyr Zelensky has singled out the UK as one of the western allies doing most to help his country fight Russia — be that the thousands of anti-tank missiles London sent to Ukraine, or the training provided to the country’s armed forces by the British military since 2015.
“Britain is definitely on our side,” the Ukrainian president said in a recent interview. “Britain wants Ukraine to win and Russia to lose.”
Less clear cut, though, is what Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means for British security policy, as laid out in last year’s integrated review. This major strategy document sought to shape post-Brexit defence policy by tilting the UK away from Europe and towards Asia to counter China’s growing military assertiveness.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has posed an early test of the review and led some government and military officials to re-examine assumptions held when it was published last March.
“The world, especially Europe looks very different now,” said Tobias Ellwood, chair of the House of Commons’ defence select committee. “The type, scale and enduring characteristics of the threat requires a review of our entire defence posture — especially if we have any intentions to play a leading role in shaping Europe’s collective security strategy.”
In some ways, the review called it right, analysts and defence officials said, even if parts may require reinterpretation. The head of Britain’s armed forces, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, and the government’s main civilian adviser on defence, David Williams, will discuss UK defence priorities at a seminar on Thursday.
The review correctly identified Russia as Europe’s most acute security threat, even if as part of the Indo-Pacific tilt London’s participation in the Aukus nuclear submarine pact with…