UK 'has to wake up to Russian threat' as Putin 'has hostile intent to UK', warns Defence Secretary

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made it ‘quite clear’ he has hostile intent towards the UK (PA)

Vladimir Putin has ‘hostile intent’ towards the UK, according to the Defence Secretary.

Gavin Williamson said it was ‘wake up’ time in regards to the threat posed by Russia.

He said that the country needed to ‘match what Putin is doing with Russian forces’.

Mr Williamson was quizzed by Labour’s Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) about comments Mr Putin made in a state-of-the-nation speech last week.

During Defence questions, Mr Sheerman asked: ‘Surely the Secretary of State knows that what Mr Putin announced a few days ago was basically a new Cold War.

Gavin Williamson said it’s time to ‘wake up’ to the threat presented by Russia (AFP)

‘And it’s not just cyber warfare – it’s every kind of warfare, at a time when Europe seems to be fragmenting, our commitment to Nato is deeply hurt by Donald Trump moving into a new phase of withdrawal.

‘What are we going to do about all this?’

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Mr Williamson said: ‘Putin has made it quite clear that he has hostile intent towards this country.

‘We’ve been seeing the build up of his forces across the Eastern Front and in terms of what they’re doing over many years now – we have to wake up to that threat and we have to respond to it.

‘And it is not just through nuclear weapons – our continuous at sea nuclear deterrent is absolutely integral to maintaining the peace – but it is also through conventional armed forces.

‘We have to match what Putin is doing with Russian forces, we have to be aware of the challenges that they face and that’s very much why we are engaging in the Modernising Defence Programme to ensure that we can match the Russians going forward.’

 

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) later asked what the Government’s policy response was to ‘these worrying developments as the world slides needlessly into a second Cold War’.

Mr Williamson said: ‘Let’s be really clear: President Putin has been developing a much more hostile and aggressive posture towards the United Kingdom, towards the United States, towards our allies, for an awful lot longer than the last 12 months.

‘They want to assert their rights… we’ve seen an increased Russian activity in the North Atlantic, a 10-fold increase over the last few years.

‘And do we sit submissively by, do we just accept that President Putin can do whatever he wishes to do or do we have to look at how we respond and make it clear that we’re not willing to stand up to bullying – the fact that nations are being subjected to attacks by Russia.

‘We need to deal with that, that’s what we will do and that’s why I am proud we have a continuous at sea nuclear deterrent.’