Putin's war effort hampered by 'Stalin taxi factory attitude', says UK's Ben Wallace

Moscow has resorted to attacking energy facilities in Ukraine following setbacks on the battlefield

A Russian soldier wipes down his T-72 tank on the eve of the Victory Day military parade in St Petersburg earlier this year. AP
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Russian soldiers are fighting in Ukraine with “rubbish equipment” due to the Kremlin’s “Stalin taxi factory attitude”, the UK’s defence secretary has said.

In contrast, Ben Wallace said, the British military was equipped with “cutting-edge” weapons because it was open to collaboration with allies around the globe.

Mr Wallace made the comments to MPs in the House of Commons on Monday as he faced questions about the Ministry of Defence.

Asked by shadow defence minister Chris Evans about international partners’ involvement in the Fleet Solid Support contract, Mr Wallace hailed the UK’s co-operation with foreign powers on military matters.

He argued the UK’s willingness to work with other countries marked the difference “between us and Russia”.

“The GMB union have raised concerns that only significant parts of the build and assembly work will be carried out in this country rather than all the work,” Mr Evans said.

“Will the secretary of state address what the term ‘significant’ means in a practical sense, and if a foreign manufacturer does win the contract, how will our sovereign defence manufacturing capabilities be protected?”

In response, Mr Wallace said: “If the honourable gentleman can point to a single complex military contract, whether in air, land or sea that does not use international or partner supply chains, I will be amazed.

“Typhoon, made in Lancashire, uses partners from Italy, Spain, Germany to create one of the most successful fighter programmes in the world.”

He added: “Complex military machines that keep us at the cutting edge of the world involve international collaboration — that’s the difference between us and Russia that has the Stalin taxi factory attitude and ends up with rubbish equipment.

We end up with the best because I also have the duty of giving the best to the men and women of the Royal Navy.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has not gone according to President Vladimir Putin’s plan. Military analysts have said Soviet-era equipment may be partly to blame for the army’s sluggish performance on the battlefield.

Earlier this year, after weeks of trying to take control of the capital Kyiv, Russian soldiers were forced to retreat from the surrounding villages and towns.

In recent months, forces loyal to Moscow have seen vast parts of captured territory returned to Ukrainian control as Kyiv made land gains with its counter-offensive.

Russian forces are becoming increasingly reliant on heavy weapons from the 1960s, British and US defence officials have said.

Also in recent weeks, Russian bombers are reported to have launched anti-ship Kh-22 missiles, which can cause significant collateral damage in their bid to reach a target.

The invading army’s resources and manpower have been significantly depleted since the full-scale invasion was launched on February 24. This has led to more desperate tactics being employed, including attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, resulting in power cuts for millions.

Mr Wallace also told MPS he is still waiting for Russia to provide its “ground-breaking evidence” in support of allegations made against the UK.

On Thursday, the British ambassador to Moscow Deborah Bronnert was summoned to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs over alleged UK involvement in a drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea fleet the previous weekend.

In London, Andrey Kelin, the Russian ambassador to the UK, claimed British “specialists” had been involved in the “training, preparation and execution” of the raid. He warned the UK that it was being drawn “too deep” into the conflict.

Mr Wallace told MPs that the allegations were “clearly designed to distract the attention from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine”.

He added that he does not expect any evidence to be presented because “what we know is that Russia is involved in misinformation”.

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Updated: November 07, 2022, 5:20 PM