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Ben Wallace is the Secretary of State for Defence.

Somewhere out in the mud and snow of Ukraine, brave men and women are trying to resist the overwhelming forces of the Russian Army. The Russian doctrine will insist on escalating violence and brutality in order to overcome a population that will not immediately capitulate.

Whether this invasion lasts days or months, the consequences for Vladimir Putin will endure for years. How many Western leaders were lied to, and by now, feel taken for fools? How many times did we all hear the promise that “Russia will not invade Ukraine”?

In early February, I sat opposite two of the most powerful of Putin’s inner circle, General Shoygu and General Gerasimov, and I heard the same assurances.

My experience with the Russian administration has taught me to judge them only by their actions, not their words. I was so unconvinced by their phoney performance when we sat and discussed Ukraine, I immediately ordered more aid to Ukraine as soon as I got back to the UK. I am glad my instincts were proved correct.

There was a moment in the bilateral tête-à-tête where I felt like saying: “You know you are lying and you know I know you are lying, so why don’t we just end it all here.”

In Russia, they actually have a word for this type of deception, ‘vranyo’. It is viewed as the ultimate demonstration of power. The fact one side knows it is being lied to and can do nothing about it.

At the time, I thought it would be best to sit and listen to their deception; to let them think that they were cleverer than us and assume we were just another foreign delegation to be lectured at and put in our place. It was that same arrogance, from that same building, that is responsible for the Russian military plan we now see grinding to a halt before our eyes.

No one can say they weren’t warned. Prime ministers and presidents repeatedly warned that the Ukrainians would fight and that the international community would sanction the Kremlin. I warned that as a consequence of invasion, they would get more defence spending and more NATO on their borders. Every single consequence that we warned Russia about has now come to pass.

But briefly, the mask slipped, and that was all it took to know the truth. To know that somewhere in the same building was another room and with another map. Marked with army units and Ukrainian cities.

The slip occurred as I was leaving. I complimented Gerasimov on his military doctrine that had influenced our own defence reform. I said how much I agreed that ‘speed and readiness’ of armed forces was so important in today’s world.  Probably not prepared for a compliment, he replied: “I have 136 Battalion Combat tactical groups ready. Never again will we have to be number three to the US and China.”

His determination to be able to correct some Russian perceived historical inadequacy and humiliation levelled towards his country after the Cold War was overwhelming.  Just as he said it, another senior General walked past and said in perfect English: “Yes, speed and readiness… and intimidation.”

In January, I wrote that the world was in danger of engaging in Putin’s ‘straw man’ of NATO encirclement and not focusing on his deep held beliefs: that Ukraine was really Russian and that sovereign Ukraine was desperate to be liberated from a government of Nazis.

All the evidence was from Putin’s own words over the years. But still people didn’t want to hear it. In fact, even now there are still Kremlin ‘useful idiots’ who naively parrot his straw man that ‘NATO ambitions provoked Russia’.

No one should doubt that what we are seeing unfolding before our eyes is a planned invasion, not to nullify non-existent Ukrainian threats, but a deliberate attempt to occupy and annex a sovereign country. Russia is doing this despite signing agreements and communiqués over the last two decades respecting the rights of all countries to be free to choose their alliances.  It is an act of unprovoked aggression the scale of which we haven’t seen in Europe for 77 years.

As the Russian military effort falters and their plan unravels, what can we expect to happen next?

First, Putin will be determined not to fail in any way. He is unlikely to be told the truth about the scale of the failures. The first response, as we have already seen, is to blow the dust off the old Soviet doctrine and resort to encirclement, followed by persistent bombardment and siege.

The second will perhaps be the introduction of chemical weapons into the conflict. Either using a false flag operation to attempt to justify more violence, or as a straight military tactic in the same way that we saw Sarin gas deployed in Syria.

Third could be an attempt to widen the conflict to distract from failure. Putin may feel that the way out of the hole that he has made for himself is to lash out and hope other nations will join in the fight and therefore give him an excuse to escalate. He might also be foolish or desperate enough to think that his destruction of Ukraine would go unnoticed amidst a wider war.

The United Kingdom and the Ministry of Defence are prepared for all of the potential ‘next steps.’ NATO is militarily stronger than Russia and every response will make it even harder for Putin to succeed in Ukraine. The sanctions have proved that his assumption of a weak, decadent West being unable to come together was wrong.

The first scenario is already happening with devastating loss of civilian life. That is why I took the decision to increase and upgrade provision of lethal aid to the Ukrainian forces. The high velocity anti-air missiles will seriously challenge Russian air.

The Kremlin should not doubt, for one second, that the other scenarios will be met with a similar robust response – both from the international community and from Britain. It would be unwise to test us.

Europe and the US will not make the same mistake it did in 2014 after the invasion of Crimea. We will stand united.