This article by Tobias Ellwood, the Chairman of our Commons Defence Select Committee, for the Telegraph dated 12.02.22 warned that "Had Western forces taken a confident approach, NATO would have dispatched a division to support Ukraine and averted disaster". It seems that he was right then and is right now. NATO and the UK and US governments should have listened.
The first rule of conflict is to know the higher commander’s intent. What does the supreme boss want to achieve? Understand this and your own orders for battle are placed into perspective.
Where is the international leadership, collective Western resolve, and mobilised hard power that would genuinely alter the current trajectory of events? In short, where is the deterrence? Simply put, we have no Russia strategy.
Additional Nato forces now surround Ukraine, but none are in it. To compound matters, we also fail to understand our adversary’s intent. We are missing the bigger picture.
This is a dictator who is still blaming the West for the demise of the Soviet Union. Mr Putin wants to make amends and is considering his legacy. The recent joint statement with Xi Jinping of China confirmed his intention to encourage Russia to look east in the long term rather than west.
A vigorous state-run disinformation campaign has already persuaded most Russians that Nato is the aggressor, intent on expanding its remit eastwards to threaten Moscow. Any Western sanctions imposed after an invasion will only assist Mr Putin in convincing Russians that their future is better served by looking east.
All this leads to the largest military build-up since the Cold War. More than half of Russia’s entire warfighting assets surround Ukraine. High-tech complex weaponry has recently arrived in Belarus and a significant maritime armada sits primed in the Sea of Azov. We’ve left Ukraine to face the inevitable, surrounded on three sides.
As soon as we ruled out sending Nato forces into Ukraine, we were no longer in control of events. The largest most formidable military alliance in the world, operationally benched.
Our excuse? “Ukraine is not a Nato member.” Hiding behind this line is a flagrant disregard for European security and glosses over previous out-of-theatre operational commitments to Afghanistan, Serbia and Kosovo.
It also suggests that we are blind to the bigger strategic picture. Any invasion will trigger higher food prices, as Ukraine’s vital grain exports are interrupted, along with oil and gas. And it will cement the Moscow-Beijing Axis as Nord Stream 2 is written off in favour of gas lines to China.
Teetering on the edge
This is about much more than Ukraine. It’s a totemic moment as we enter an era of increasing instability. How we handle this international challenge will have long-term security consequences.
A more confident and resolute approach would have resulted in Nato dispatching a division to support Ukraine. Instead, we have opted for a Chamberlain approach rather than Churchill.
It is true that the US has absented itself from the international stage. But as our history shows, that’s normally when Britain steps forward to fill the void. But the West has been found divided and with little appetite to stand firm.
It is not too late for Nato. Remember why it was formed and rekindle a sense of purpose in defending European security. This could be exhibited by introducing a Ukraine no-fly zone.
Right now, the two anti-Western presidents for life – Mr Putin and Mr Xi – smell weakness. As ever in history, a power vacuum is being exploited. If Ukraine falls, it will see the beginning of our modern world sliding into two spheres of competing geopolitical influence. Welcome back to the Cold War. We need leadership now.
Tobias Ellwood is the chairman of the Commons defence select committee
For this article in pdf, plese click here:
Speaking on the BBC Today programme on 22 January 2022, Tobias Ellwood endorsed a statement that had been made by Anne Applebaum on the same programme, to the effect that the concerns of the Russian Federation concerning the possible admission of the Ukraine to NATO were merely a cover for a fear of democracy developing on its frontiers. He called for the British public to be better informed. Applebaum had made no mention of Finland.
Whilst a member of the University Officers' Training Corps (UOTC), Ellwood was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Territorial Army in 1989. After completing the Regular Army commissioning course at Sandhurst he joined the Royal Green Jackets in 1991 and transferred from the active list to the Reserve of Officers in 1996 having reached the rank of Captain. In September 2018, Ellwood announced that he had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel as a reservist in the 77th Brigade.
The above military experience no doubt encouraged Tobias Ellwood to give an interview to Danielle Sheridan, Political and Defence Correspondent for the Telegraph on 21 .01.22 which led to an article which proposed bringing in a senior officer to take charge of day-to-day running of Downing Street would provide the public with a 'sense of assurance'. Sadly, his recommendation was ignored.