Ben Wallace, a former British defense secretary, said the Russian army is “cracking” under Kyiv’s offensive amid “the beginnings” of the battle for Crimea, but he suggested Ukraine must ramp up mobilization to match Vladimir Putin‘s draft.
In July, he announced that he intended to stand down at an approaching reshuffle of the Conservative cabinet. The former soldier was a central figure in the government for several years and he formally resigned as defense secretary in August.
In an op-ed for The Daily Telegraph, Wallace said that the push launched by Kyiv around June 4 to recapture Russian-occupied territory is “succeeding, slowly but surely,” as he wrote how Kyiv’s forces “are breaking through the Russian lines.”
“Ukraine has momentum and is pressing forward,” he said of the gains in the counteroffensive, although its slow progress have raised concerns among Western allies, which have provided equipment and training.
His piece championed how Ukrainian forces held off Russia in the early stages of the war, were “learning on the job” and had managed to adapt their tactics. Ukraine has made the most of Western-supplied equipment and achieved success that was “far beyond expectations,” he wrote.
“We have a chance to help finish this. The Russian army is cracking,” he said. “We are witnessing the beginnings of the battle for Crimea,” he added, with recapturing the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014 remaining a major war aim for Kyiv.
Wallace called for the West to help Ukraine “maintain its momentum” by providing more munitions like ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile Systems) and Storm Shadows. Last month, the U.S. agreed to supply ATACMS as part of a military package for Kyiv.
But he also said Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky should address the issue that the average age of his soldiers at the front was over 40. “I understand President Zelensky’s desire to preserve the young for the future, but the fact is that Russia is mobilizing the whole country by stealth,” he wrote.
In September 2022, Putin announced a partial mobilization, which he has not rescinded. Russian lawmakers have clamped down on those dodging the draft. High wages and propaganda are also being used to entice Russians to join the fight in Ukraine.
“Putin knows a pause will hand him time to build a new army,” said Wallace. “So just as Britain did in 1939 and 1941, perhaps it is time to reassess the scale of Ukraine’s mobilization.”
Newsweek has contacted Ukraine’s defense ministry for comment.