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It’s rare at the moment for this Government to get good press, but even critics seem to be offering grudging respect to Ben Wallace following the publication, on the Gov.uk website, of his essay setting out his thinking on “the situation in Ukraine”.

In it, the Defence Secretary sets out, and then tackles, the ideological basis for Russia’s aggressive posture. Not, as their media ‘air war’ suggests, the fear of NATO encirclement, but rather:

“One: that the West seeks to use division to “rule” Russia. Two: that anything other than a single nation of Great Russia, Little Russia and White Russia (Velikorussians, Malorussians, Belorussians) in the image advanced in the 17th Century is an artificial construct and defies the desires of a single people, with a single language and church. Third, that anyone who disagrees does so out of a hatred or phobia of Russia.”

Such interventions are, these days, unusual in British politics – one need only think back to the mockery that Sir Keir Starmer met in some quarters for penning a rather anodyne 14,000 essay on his own beliefs.

But it shows a welcome level of intellectual engagement and historical awareness, and it is informing the Government’s broader rhetoric: this morning’s Times quotes Liz Truss as saying that Kremlin policy is directed towards recreating “Greater Russia”.

This in turn seems to have helped Wallace steer the UK towards perhaps the most muscular approach towards supporting Ukraine of any European nation; all whilst Germany shutters its nuclear plants (increasing its dependence on Russian gas) and Joe Biden introduces the world to the difference between an invasion and a “minor incursion”.

The sight of London is supplying Kiev with ships and defensive weaponry, and having to avoid German airspace to do it, flies in the face of many assumptions about a smaller, more isolated post-Brexit nation.

Nor is this the first time the Defence Secretary has come through a crisis with his reputation intact. I wrote at the time of the evacuation of Kabul how angry he seemed about the decision to dedicate scarce military resources to Pen Farthing’s flying circus, a stance which only seems wiser in light of Raffy Marshall’s revelations of December last.

Perhaps that’s why he has been quietly climbing the ranks in our Cabinet League Table, emerging last month as our panel’s second-most highly rated Secretary of State with a net score of +61.7.

Yet despite that, we see scant evidence of any careful positioning for the looming battle to succeed Boris Johnson; instead he seems to channel the spirit of Fred Potter and the honourable tradition of his newspaper, the Skibbereen Eagle, which in 1898 famously pledged to “keep its eye on the Emperor of Russia and all such despotic enemies”.