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Lord Frost said ‘tough choices’ must be made while Sir Michael Fallon said the case for more spending was now ‘unanswerable’

By Edward Malnick, Sunday Political Editor

Sunday Telegraph – 6 March 2022

Lord Frost, the former Cabinet Office minister, and Sir Michael Fallon, the ex-defence secretary, have warned that defence spending must increase following Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, as senior Tories insisted that funding should rise immediately by at least 25 per cent.

Writing in this newspaper, Lord Frost warns that 

“we are going to have to spend more on defence and that will mean tough choices. We need to reform and liberalise so that investment keeps coming”.

Sir Michael Fallon, who served in David Cameron and Theresa May’s cabinets, told The Sunday Telegraph that the case for more spending was now “unanswerable”, adding that the “ambition” of Boris Johnson’s integrated security and defence review must be “matched by a significant further uplift” in funding.

Their interventions come after the Polish and German governments both indicated that they will increase national defence spending in light of the invasion.

Julian Lewis, a former chairman of the Commons defence committee, said that Mr Putin’s behaviour had 

“dispelled any illusion people might have had about the nature of our adversary”. 

Until now, political leaders had 

“lulled themselves into a false sense of security”, 

he warned.

The Russian president's bloody offensive against Ukraine has reignited a debate within the Conservatives over Britain’s level of defence expenditure, which currently sits at 2.2 per cent.

In an interview with this newspaper, Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, states: 

“This war will give us lots of pause to think about the balance of investment decisions.

“What I'm seeing anecdotally at the moment, is that armour doesn’t fare very well against modern personal weapons, if you can call it that. The proliferation of precision and technology that allows an NLAW (next-generation light anti-tank weapon) to destroy tanks such as T-80s has got to mean you ask questions about where you put your investments.

“Can we change those choices? I think we'll look at the lessons of Ukraine. And the Prime Minister has always been open to, if the threat changes then, of course, we look at those funding levels.”

Mr Lewis, who now chairs Parliament’s intelligence and security committee but was speaking in a personal capacity, said: 

“Before this present crisis quite a number of us were calling for 3 per cent as a medium-term target and that must now become an immediate target.”

Sir Michael said that 2.7 per cent of GDP should be the Government’s 

“minimum medium-term target”. 

“In 1999, long before 9/11, before Russian aggression, before Kim Jong-il had nuclear missiles, we were spending 2.7 per cent.”

Last week, General Lord Dannatt, a former Chief of the General Staff, told The Telegraph that the UK needed to cease 

“cutting the size of the army any further”, while Lord West, the former First Sea Lord, said “we should be looking at a minimum of 3 per cent of GDP for defence”.

A Budget document published last year said that the 2020 spending review had provided 

“the largest sustained increase in defence spending since the Cold War”, 

with overall expenditure exceeding the Nato target of at least 2 per cent of GDP.

‘False sense of security’

But Mr Lewis pointed out that Cold War levels of defence spending exceeded 4 per cent and added: 

“People have lulled themselves into a false sense of security by looking at the absolute size of the Russian economy without taking into account that a little money in the Russian economy buys a great deal more in terms of personnel and hardware than in a western economy.

“There has been a tendency to say that in the 21st century what you have to worry about are new forms of conflict such as cyber and even space, whereas those are additional threats and not substitutes for the threats that require substantial naval, military and air forces.”

Sir Michael said: 

“[My] only criticism of last year’s integrated review [of security and defence] was that its ambition wasn't matched by significant further uplift.

“I absolutely welcome both the review and the previous very welcome increase in 2020. But... its ambition wasn’t matched by a further increase building beyond 2.5 per cent by the end of the Parliament. That's the kind of ambition we need.”

Boris Johnson has been criticised in recent days after it emerged that he insisted that the age of “big tank battles” on European soil were over, just four months ago. Defending cuts to conventional forces, the Prime Minister said in November: 

“It’s now or never for the UK armed forces.

“We have to recognise that the old concept of fighting big tank battles on European landmass is over.”

He added: 

“I think the investments that we are making in new technology are absolutely indispensable to our ability to fight wars of the 21st century.”