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'We must be prepared for war,' says Spalding-area MP

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Here's the weekly Hayes in the House column, by MP Sir John Hayes...

The Roman maxim “If you want peace, prepare for war” remains timelessly wise. A wisdom that the West must live by in the face of Russian expansionism, as the Ukrainian war reminds us of what happens when wicked men believe they can bring the world to heel through force of arms.

From Napoleon to Hitler and the Soviets, for centuries the perverse desire to dominate has led to destruction across our continent. Sensible voices advertising reasonableness and common sense go unheard, drowned out by the marching feet of armies and the noise of gunfire. In order to preserve peace, the virtuous nations of the world must indeed be prepared for war.

The United Kingdom has a proud history of standing up for allies and friends facing the might of a violent neighbour. The reason we have been able to tilt the course of history away from despotic oppression is our nation’s willingness to back words with deeds.

MP Sir John Hayes (57855226)
MP Sir John Hayes (57855226)

With the third largest defence budget in the world, behind just the United States and China, and one of only nine NATO members to meet the requirement to spend at least 2.0% of GDP on defence, the United Kingdom adds muscle to the NATO alliance.

A strength of existential importance as Russian tanks invade Ukraine and Chinese warplanes violate Taiwanese airspace.

While the United Kingdom can be proud of defence commitments which allow us to play a leading role as a global guarantor of peace, we must now recalibrate what is required to confront threats from resurgent rogue states.

When Putin invaded Ukraine, the West rose to the occasion and nations which once hesitated are now pledging historic increases to their defence budgets.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has vowed to spend £69 billion to turn Germany into a more substantial military ally, while previously neutral Finland and Sweden are well on their way to swelling NATO’s ranks.

These seismic changes signal the dawn of a new era, in which Britannia must once again be ready to take up her shield in defence of the civilised world.

The current 2% of GDP target was admirable in times of peace, but in times of war it is just not enough.

Last year’s defence review, which signalled modest spending increases of 1.5% must be re-evaluated. We need a new review of spending which acknowledges that the peace dividend of recent times has come to an end.

The Defence Secretary, and the new head of the British Army, were right to call for an increase in British defence spending in light of the first European land war involving a major continental power since 1939.

The international status quo has changed irrevocably - not for the better - and so must our priorities.

More investment, not less, is needed for Britain to remain ready and able to stand against those who would change the world through fire and blood. Which is why last week’s commitment by Boris Johnson to spend what’s necessary must be realised as soon as possible.

For, in these troubled times, it is surely wrong to continue with cuts that would shrink the British army to its smallest size since the 18th century.

The war in Ukraine has reminded the world that – far from futuristic misjudgements commonly cited until it began - conventional warfare is not a thing of the past.

Boots on the ground; armour and artillery remain as critically relevant as ever.

Straightforwardly, the UK would be less safe, less secure, and less able to stand by its allies if cuts go ahead.

Times have changed, but Britain’s duty has not.

If the United Kingdom wants peace, we should speak the only language understood by aggressors. We must prepare for war, or war will find us unprepared.

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