Dr Julian Lewis: I begin by congratulating the three Front-Bench spokesmen on the eloquence and unanimity that has been displayed. In studying the depravity of dictators, one quickly understands that cynicism has no limits and hypocrisy no boundaries. Putin likes to draw parallels with the second world war, and there are indeed parallels to be drawn. For example, the false flag operations go back to the very outbreak of that war. On 31 August 1939, Hitler would have had it that the war began because Poles attacked a radio station at Gleiwitz, on the east German border. They were in fact Nazis dressed up in Polish uniforms, and they even left the dead bodies of concentration camp victims as props in that scheme. It is a sign that Putin’s comparisons are insufficiently accurate or insufficiently free of hypocrisy that he does not recognise that what started that war was Stalin’s pact with the Nazis to divide up Poland between them.
This is necessarily a short debate, which is just as well, because I side with those who do not think it is a very good idea for us to discuss military strategy in an ongoing campaign on the Floor of this House. What we can observe is that one complicating factor in a dictatorship such as Putin’s Russia is that there are no mechanisms whereby a leader who is unethical, irresponsible, incompetent and indeed murderous can constitutionally be removed. That has to be a factor in our considerations.
If it were not too flippant, I would be tempted to remark that it is truly a sign of desperation and indeed substandard propaganda that a cheerleader for Putin yesterday threatened a nuclear strike on London if we continue to help Ukraine defend territory that is being illegally annexed. Given the extent of the property portfolios of so many of Putin’s oligarchs in the centre of this great city, they would, I think, have a word or two of objection to a Russian strategy of that sort.
The beginning of the invasion left quite a few people thinking that resistance was unlikely to be successful. Indeed, it probably would not have been successful but for the supply of complex weapons systems that had taken place since the earlier invasion of Crimea. As a result, we have seen the Russians’ air arm neutralised, the Russian fleet’s major surface unit in the area sunk, tanks and other vehicles destroyed, and ground troops decimated. The only tactic that has been left to the Russian dictator has been the physical destruction – usually by long-range artillery – of territory that the Russians cannot take and hold.
Bob Stewart: I totally agree with the comments of my right hon. Friend. I am sure this is happening, but combat supplies and spare parts need to be reinforced, because complex weapon systems go wrong and need to be repaired. While we are at it, as we come into winter, it would be good to provide the Ukrainian armed forces with simple little things such as face masks so they can go through the winter, because they probably do not have them.
Dr Lewis: Not for the first time, my right hon. and gallant Friend anticipates my next but one point. I will make the next point first, which is that, because the only tactic left is destruction, the area of doubt is how far Putin will go. Will he simply think that by escalating destruction, the Ukrainians will suddenly say, “We can’t take any more of this and we’re going to surrender”? Surely the events of the past months have shown that any such approach would be completely counter-productive. The more he behaves atrociously, the stronger the resistance will be and rightly so.
My right hon. and gallant Friend referred to the supplies that we give. Of course it is greatly to the credit of the previous Government and, indeed, the previous Prime Minister, who spoke earlier in this debate, that we have given such substantial supplies, but in giving those supplies, we have seriously depleted our own stocks. What I need to hear from the Minister is that a full-scale effort is being made and will be increased to ensure that the more we give, the higher our rate of replacement will be, because an effort cannot be sustained if the people who are resisting run out of supplies.
Finally, it would be remiss of me to conclude any debate about defence without making a reference to the need to reach 3% of GDP. We have made progress: we now have a pledge to reach 3% of GDP by 2030, but the situation in 2030 is a long way away – it is longer than the second world war, with which I began. We need to reach it sooner than that.
[The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Leo Docherty): ... My right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, pointed out that when it comes to tyrants such as Putin,
“cynicism has no limits and hypocrisy no boundaries”.
That was extremely useful historical context. However, I can assure my right hon. Friend that we are energetically making plans to ensure that the provision of munitions for Ukraine, as well as for ourselves, is sufficient. I know that collectively we all hope to see 3% spent on our own domestic defence sooner rather than later, and the Government have commendable plans in place. ...]