The British government today appointed former energy secretary Grant Shapps as the country’s new defense secretary, replacing Ben Wallace, who said he wanted to leave after four years in the role and would stand down as an MP at the next national election.
This will be Sapps’ fifth government post in the last year, having served in four different ministries – Transport, Home Affairs, Business and then Energy.
Wallace, who had been tipped as a possible successor to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, whose term was extended by a year, had taken a leading role in shaping Britain’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
Under him, Britain provided 2.3 billion pounds ($2.9 billion) in military aid to Kiev by 2022 and became the first country to start supplying Ukraine with long-range cruise missiles in May this year to help to end Europe’s largest land war since World War II.
Wallace remained in office last year as Britain went through one of the most tumultuous periods in its political history, with two prime ministers leaving amid scandals and economic turmoil.
The departure of the popular Wallace upset some within the Conservative Party, but it is not expected to change Britain’s support for Ukraine over Russia.
In his resignation letter sent today to the country’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Wallace declares his continued support for the government, while warning the British Prime Minister not to treat defense as a “discretionary expenditure” given that he has been a known advocate of increasing defense spending .
Sunak praised Wallace for his work, saying in his reply letter: “You have served our country in three of the most demanding positions in government: Secretary of State for Defence, Secretary of State for Security and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I fully understand your desire to resign after eight years of ministerial duties.”
The man who wanted to be c.g. of NATO
A former British army captain, Wallace, 53, was appointed defense secretary in 2019 by his friend and ally, former prime minister Boris Johnson, after serving in junior cabinet positions in previous governments: under the May government, he served as secretary of state for security and Financial Crime, from 2016 to 2019, and under the Cameron government, he served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from 2015 to 2016.
Along with Johnson, Wallace soon became a staunch supporter of Ukraine after Russia invaded last year, luring other countries to help supply Ukraine with weapons requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
However, his disappointment at not being given the post of NATO secretary general earlier this year could not be hidden at the Alliance’s summit last month, when he said Ukraine should show gratitude and not treat its allies like “Amazon”.
He then wrote in Ukrainian on Twitter that his comments were “misinterpreted to an extent” and that, instead, he wanted to emphasize that London’s relationship with Kiev is not one of trade, but of cooperation.