UK will be 'in a conflict' by 2030, outgoing defence secretary Ben Wallace suggests

VER-SUR-MER, FRANCE - JUNE 06, 2023:   
Ben Wallace, Secretary of State for Defence, seen during the commemorations of the 79th Anniversary of D-Day, in Ver-sur-Mer, France, on June 06, 2023.
The Normandy landing on June 6, 1944, which will forever go down in history, was the epitome of an unparalleled naval invasion, driving the Allies' noble quest to liberate France and transform the waves of the Western Front, ultimately paving the way for triumphant victory in World War II. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Ben Wallace said he is standing down as defence secretary. (Getty Images)

The UK will be "in a conflict" by the end of the decade, outgoing defence secretary Ben Wallace has suggested.

Wallace has also expressed concern about what a "deeply wounded" Vladimir Putin will do if Russia is defeated in the war he started in Ukraine.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Wallace announced he will quit the government when Rishi Sunak announces a ministerial reshuffle. This is expected in September. He will also stand down as an MP at next year’s general election.

Reflecting on his four years as defence secretary, Wallace, who has been one of the faces of the UK's support for Ukraine, said the government needs to spend more on defence in the face of threats such as Putin, China and still-prominent terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and Isis.

Watch: Ben Wallace to 'quit government at next reshuffle and not stand again as MP'

Noting this global instability, he told the paper: "Towards the end of the decade, the world is going to be much more unsafe, more insecure. I think we will find ourselves in a conflict. Whether it is a cold or a warm conflict, I think we'll be in a difficult position."

But he said his biggest concern is Russia: "If Putin loses in Ukraine, he will be deeply wounded.

“He's still got an air force and he's still got a navy – and we see his navy do quite aggressive manoeuvres. Putin is not done with us yet.

"There is an ability for him, in the next three or four years, to lash out. He's not finished. He will look for people to blame."

TOPSHOT - Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the Naryn-Kala fortress in Derbent in Russia's Republic of Dagestan on June 28, 2023. (Photo by Gavriil GRIGOROV / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by GAVRIIL GRIGOROV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
'There is an ability for Vladimir Putin to lash out,' Wallace said. (AFP via Getty Images)

However, Wallace’s warning on defence spending – Sunak committed earlier this year to increasing it to 2.5% of GDP – came at the same time as it was reported former soldiers could be called on to join a reserve force in future crises.

This is part of a planned overhaul of the military which would cut the number of UK troops.

The Sunday Telegraph reported the long-awaited defence command paper will reduce the British Army to its smallest size since the Napoleonic wars.

Read more: 'No point climbing the greasy pole': Tory ministers want out in reshuffle

Ministers are expected to defend the proposals, insisting the war in Ukraine shows how UK forces can become "fleeter of foot", according to the paper.

Former regular soldiers, including those no longer serving as reservists, will reportedly be sought to help "revitalise" a strategic "surge" force.

The Army currently has more than 75,000 personnel and there has been speculation that the paper will announce a reduction to the size, with a potential boost for research into drone technology.