War with Russia not likely next year, says Defence Secretary Michael Fallon

Predictions of a conflict in 2017 were ‘too extreme’, Mr Fallon said

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 01 November 2016 14:39 GMT
Michael Fallon speaking in the House of Commons this month
Michael Fallon speaking in the House of Commons this month (PA)

Suggestions that Britain could go to war with Russia next year are “too extreme”, the Defence Secretary has said.

In a hearing of the Commons Defence Committee Michael Fallon said while there had been “much greater Russian aggression” in 2015, a war next year was not likely.

When a member of the committee suggested to the minister that a new book by General Sir Richard Shirreff predicted a war with Russia in 2017, Mr Fallon said:

“Well, there are a lot of people writing books and trying to sell them, and his is a very good one. However, I don’t agree that war with Russia is likely next year. I think that is too extreme.

“We have seen much greater Russian aggression this year, and in previous years, in terms of long-range aviation, in terms of submarine activity, and the carrier task group that sailed through our waters, the role of Russia in Syria, and elsewhere. But I don’t think that presages an open conflict next year.

“And I hope than General Shirreff would – and I think he does this – recognise that Nato is now responding. So, Nato is waking up to the challenge.”

He notably did not rule out conflict in the future.

Mr Fallon’s warning comes days after Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg warned that the alliance’s countries are not spending up to their required targets on defence.

Russia and Nato are holding parallel wargames in two Balkan countries, Serbia and Montenegro.

The two exercises come amid rising tensions over Russian intervention in Syria, where it has been accused of war crimes.

A recent poll by the independent Levada research centre found that nearly half of Russians fear the country’s intervention there could spark World War III.

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