Remembrance Day dates back to the armistice that ended the First World War, but Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine means this year’s two-minute silence for the fallen is about more than history.
According to US estimates, about 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers, 40,000 civilians and 100,000 Russian soldiers have now been killed since the Russian despot sent his forces into battle on February 24. All lives lost for no other reason but his bloodthirsty ambition.
One purpose of remembering the First and Second World Wars is to guard against complacent beliefs that such major conflicts have been consigned to history. There will probably always be tyrants whose longing for ever-more power is so strong that they are prepared to commit mass murder to achieve it. And Putin is certainly not the only one in the world today.
With Russia throwing around veiled threats to use nuclear weapons, it would be folly not to prepare the UK’s armed forces for what could turn into an even bigger conflict. Speaking after a meeting in Edinburgh of ministers from several countries, including Finland and other Baltic states, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he was “determined and keen” to increase defence spending towards the target of three per cent of GDP by 2030 and that modernising the Armed Forces was “incredibly important”.
Despite the severity of the cost-of-living crisis and the current pressure on UK Government finances, there is no escaping the pressing need to improve our defence capabilities. This is not warmongering, it is a necessary step – alongside increased co-operation within Nato and the continued supply of military hardware to Ukraine – to send a message to Putin that the democratic world will not submit to his desire to conquer and subjugate others.
All wars eventually end in negotiation, but Ukraine must be in a position of strength, not weakness, when they begin. If Putin emerges from this war with anything like a success, it will increase his power at home and embolden him to use his forces again.
Remembrance Day is a time to mourn lost loved ones but also a reminder of how brutal and cruel humans can be. Those who value peace must still be prepared for war.