Russia doesn't have 'the moral component' needed to win Ukraine conflict, UK defense secretary says

Russia doesn't have 'the moral component' needed to win Ukraine conflict, UK defense secretary says
Britain's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is seen at Downing Street in London, Britain, January 6, 2020REUTERS/Toby Melville
  • The UK defense secretary says Russia lacks the "moral component" to achieve its goals in Ukraine.
  • Ben Wallace told "BBC Breakfast" that Russia was behind schedule "by days not hours."

The British defense secretary said Wednesday that Russia was lacking the "moral component" to achieve its goals in its war with Ukraine.

Entering the seventh day of Russia's invasion, the UK government believes Russia is behind its schedule by "days not hours," the minister said Wednesday morning.

Ben Wallace told "BBC Breakfast" that the Russians were "starting to change their tactics as a result of the poor start," in which they've failed to take control of major cities such as Kyiv and Kharkiv.

"That means we're seeing much more of those awful artillery bombardments into the city, not just Kyiv, Kharkiv every night has seen horrendous bombardment," he said. "Those are happening predominantly at nighttime in an attempt to break the cities. And that is what is their current tactic, to try and surround a city and bombard it into submission then come into the city."

Should the Russians decide to enter Ukrainian cities, troops would encounter further difficulties with the prospect of resistance from volunteer civilian fighters and conventional armed forces equipped with Western anti-tank weapons, Wallace suggested.


"That's the big challenge for the Russians, coming into the city," he said. "That's where everyone from civilians throwing Molotov cocktails to soldiers with anti-tank weapons can inflict very serious damage onto armed forces. I was a former soldier — we always accepted the casualty rates in cities and urban areas was very, very high. That's when Russia will have a real problem in the next phase."

In the face of mounting Russian casualties, Wallace also speculated that morale issues in the Russian military and, perhaps, an unwillingness by Russian infantry to fight could lead what he called the "very ruthless Russian Armed Forces leadership" and President Vladimir Putin to increase the violence.

"This phase is pretty grim because of the bombardment of the cities by Russia, but at the moment we're in a position where Russia has not achieved its goals," he said. "It is still the overwhelming force on the ground compared to the Ukrainians in size, but it doesn't have the moral component, which is really important for a soldier.

"We've seen a number of anecdotal reports by young Russian soldiers saying, 'I didn't even know I was here, I thought I was on exercises, no one told me I was going to war, no one told me I was going to kill Ukrainians,' who of course to many of them are related to them.

"So there's huge amounts of low morale in the Russian forces. We've seen lots of surrenders, but that doesn't take away from the fact you have a very ruthless Russian Armed Forces leadership and a president who seems to know no limit to how much violence they will use to achieve their aim."


But he told LBC the situation was likely "to take a very, very long time" to resolve.

"Anyone who thinks logically would not do what he is doing," Wallace said of Putin, adding that he expected to see "his brutality increase."

Wallace said evidence was being collected and catalogued amid allegations of war crimes, with the potential eventually for trials at the International Criminal Court.

"We will collect evidence of a range of these incidents, catalogue them, and when time permits or occasion happens, if there is enough evidence for a war crime, people will be prosecuted," he said. "That's not just the political leadership — remember, that is the military leadership of the Russian army should they be involved in such events."

"Justice will catch up for some of these people," he added.