Salisbury Incident

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:44 pm on 12th September 2018.

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Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Conservative, Aldershot 3:44 pm, 12th September 2018

I am very grateful for my hon. Friend’s contribution. Like him, I have enjoyed travelling in Russia—in Moscow, St Petersburg and many other cities—and I have always been very touched by the Russian people’s hospitality and tremendous sense of pride in the magnificent Russian heritage and culture, which we should all enjoy. He is right that our argument is with the Russian state, not the Russian people.

As I have said, our Prime Minister achieved a tremendous diplomatic coup, but our resolve and response must also be in the conventional sphere. I am very pleased, therefore, that we now contribute some 800 soldiers to the enhanced forward presence—a combined NATO presence in Estonia and other Baltic states and eastern countries. That is a very clear signal that we will commit conventional forces to deter Russian aggression on NATO’s borders.

We must also be aware that our deployment to Estonia and our contribution to the enhanced forward presence contains a lesson, which is that we urgently need to relearn our ability to exercise, deploy and sustain military force at scale. We have not done that since the end of the cold war. We must take note of the fact that, this week, the Russian military is conducting a large-scale military exercise—the Vostok manoeuvres—involving some 300,000 soldiers in eastern Siberia. Our NATO equivalent, which also takes place this month, will involve 40,000 soldiers. We need to relearn those lessons urgently, and I hope they will be incorporated into the modernising defence programme. Simply put, the British Army needs two fully manned, fully equipped divisions that can be deployed at reach and sustained for as long as we need them to complete those sorts of operations.