Ukraine war: UK must rapidly increase its military capabilities to help Nato defend the free world from tyranny – Scotsman comment

In its Madrid Summit Declaration, Nato spells out a commitment to “democracy, individual liberty, human rights, and the rule of law”.

Soldiers take part in a military exercise at the Longmoor training area, Hampshire, in March (Picture: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)
Soldiers take part in a military exercise at the Longmoor training area, Hampshire, in March (Picture: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

These are assuredly values worth defending and, if necessary, dying for as previous generations once did. And the document makes clear who poses the greatest threat to those values.

“We condemn Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine in the strongest possible terms... Russia bears full responsibility for this humanitarian catastrophe,” it says, accusing Russia’s forces of war crimes, including “conflict-related sexual violence” and the Kremlin of having “intentionally exacerbated a food and energy crisis, affecting billions of people around the world”.

However, high ideals and stern condemnation will not prevent Russian tanks and artillery from continuing their killing spree in Ukraine. Only brave soldiers, equipped with modern military hardware, can do that.

So if Nato’s rhetoric is to have meaning, it must increase support for Ukraine and have armed forces able to confront and deter Russia and other potential threats.

The Madrid Declaration notes China is among those countries which “challenge our interests, security, and values and seek to undermine the rules-based international order”; and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss grimly warned of the “real risk” Beijing could make “a catastrophic miscalculation” and invade Taiwan.

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Nato is gaining strength with Sweden and Finland set to join and other countries drawing closer: Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand were among the non-Nato countries represented in Madrid. We should be thankful if the ‘North Atlantic’ Treaty Organisation is expanding to become the main defender of global democracy.

But individual members, particularly the UK as one of the alliance’s leading lights, also need to improve their armed forces’ capabilities. With the cost-of-living crisis and further economic trouble ahead, increasing military spending will be hard, but nevertheless it must be done.

Under plans drawn up last year, the regular British Army is due to be reduced from 82,000 soldiers to 72,500, but this week the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Patrick Sanders, warned any further cuts to its strength would be “perverse”. He is absolutely right.

If Nato is to “defend every inch of Allied territory at all times”, as the Madrid Declaration states, countries like the UK have no choice but to shoulder their responsibilities, to their own citizens and to the free world.

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