Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:18 pm on 26th January 2023.
I, too, rise to welcome this statement and I thank the Minister for advance sight of it. I will largely echo the comments of others, because clearly all of us in this place stand united behind Ukraine and welcome the steps that have been taken. I do not think any of us can underestimate the steps taken yesterday with the decision by Germany and how difficult a decision that was for the Germans. That is most certainly worth noting. I also note that there are concerns about this next wave of mobilisation of Russian troops, the suggestion that the Russians have drafted 500,000 new recruits into their army and how quickly they may be able to mobilise.
Although I welcome the moves we have made, there is, obviously, concern about the time it is going to take to get troops up and running and feet on the ground. I welcome the Defence Secretary’s authorisation of the shipment of the 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, although I note that Ukraine’s most senior military commander, General Valery Zaluzhny, said that it needs some 300 western tanks and about 600 western armoured fighting vehicles in order to make a difference. Will the Minister outline whether we will be sending any further Challenger 2 tanks, beyond this initial squadron? I note that in 2021 the Government announced that they were planning to retire about 80 tanks from the UK’s arsenal, so it is possible that some or all of those could be considered for repurposing for deployment to Ukraine, if they are fit enough for that? How is the Ministry of Defence assisting other NATO allies such as Spain that have not yet sent tanks but wish to do so?
Ukrainian forces will need time to learn how to operate this highly technical equipment, so how will UK armed forces collaborate with NATO counterparts to supply the necessary auxiliary equipment and training to make sure that Ukrainian forces can maximise that capability? Finally, what discussions has the Department had with allies to consider sending fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming weeks and months, so that we do everything we can to aid Ukraine’s struggle?