Boris Johnson talks about 'tank battles' on the Ukraine-Russia border
Indepenent

A statement Boris Johnson made about military spending and the future of warfare has aged spectacturly badly in light of Russia invading Ukraine.

While giving evidence to the Liaison Committee in November last year - Johnson clashed with senior MP and former minister in the ministry of defence Tobias Ellwood over cuts to the defence budget and suggested they were acceptable because the days of "fighting big tank battles" were over.

He said: "It's now or never for the UK armed forces. We have to recognise that the old concepts of fighting big tank battles on the European land mass... are over and there are other better things that we should be investing in.

"The investments that we are making in new technology are absolutely indispensable to our ability to fight wars in the 21st century and I don't think that going back to a 1940s style approach will serve us well."

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He was responding to criticism Ellwood made about new plans for the army.

In March last year, it was announced that the size of the army will be reduced from 82,000 to 73,000 in the next four years as the government move towards drones and cyber warfare, a move that was criticised by the Labour party.

The government also announced that the number of tanks will be cut from 227 to 148 upgraded ones, the RAF will lose 24 of its older Typhoon jets and its fleet of Hercules transport aircraft, and a third of the 227 Challenger tanks will be scrapped, with the rest of the fleet being upgraded at a cost of £1.3bn.


Ellwood said: "We are cutting back on our tanks, what is amassing on the Ukrainian border its tanks.

"Step back, look at the wider security picture, look at our defence posture and see what needs to be done.

"48 aircrafts, F-45's, you promised 138. You've cut back to 48. You cut back on, not just tanks, warriors have been removed completely, Hercules aircraft - removed completely and then 10,000 troops have been removed.

"There are bigger threats coming over the horizon."

It soon became clear that bigger threats were indeed over the horizon. More than 100,000 Russian troops massed at Ukraine's border with tanks in late January.

And this week, Putin invaded Ukraine and warned western countries not to respond. He claimed it was a "military operation" but Ukraina and the west have regarded it as war and the UK, EU and US are all planning sanctions to thwack the Russian economy.

Ukraine says at least 137 people - civilians and soldiers - have been killed, with UN estimates suggesting more than 100,000 people have already fled from their homes and explosions heard in Kyiv.

As for Johnson and Ellwood, the relationship didn't improve and earlier this month, Ellwood revealed he had submitted a letter of no-confidence in the PM, citing concerns about the culture of No. 10 and Johnson's now infamous Jimmy Savile comment about Keir Starmer.

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