“I am not Amazon”

Are you as angry as I am by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace’s comments today? At the NATO summit, as a side issue, the G7 nations promised more military supplies for Ukraine. In a briefing to journalists Wallace said:

There is a slight word of caution here, which is that whether we like it or not people want to see gratitude.

My counsel to the Ukrainians is sometimes you’re persuading countries to give up their own stocks of weapons and yes the war is a noble war and yes we see it as you doing a war for – not just yourself – but our freedoms.

But sometimes you’ve got to persuade lawmakers on the Hill in America, you’ve got to persuade doubting politicians in other countries that you know that it’s worth it and it’s worthwhile and that they’re getting something for it.

And whether you like that or not, that is just the reality of it.

I said to the Ukrainians last year, when I drove 11 hours to Kyiv to be given a list – I said, I am not Amazon.

Earlier he had told Sky News that Ukraine is “always asking for more even after receiving the latest batch of arms”.

Richard Foord, our Defence spokesperson, shares my fury. He says:

Ukrainian people are dying every single day because of Russia’s illegal and unjust invasion – all they are asking for is the equipment needed to protect their country.

It is ill-judged to scold them for this and demand that they show more ‘gratitude’. Rishi Sunak should make clear that the Defence Secretary’s comments do not represent the UK’s position on our support for Ukraine.

It’s vital that we continue to stand for the rules-based order and with the Ukrainian people.

Quite apart from the appalling reminders of past imperial power, don’t we all know that threats to an ally are threats to all of us?

It also brings to mind the gung ho attitude of American film-makers who liked to make out that the US won World War 11 and saved Europe, for which we should be grateful. The truth was that their country sat on the sidelines while the UK was the only country left resisting the Nazification of Europe. The US only entered the war when their own direct interests were challenged at Pearl Harbour.

No, Ben Wallace. I do not expect Ukraine to lick our shoes in gratitude. We should be grateful to them for bravely defending the front line against Putin. Their efforts and sacrifice should make us all safer. It is in the UK’s interests, and the interests of all European nations, for Ukraine to resist the Russian invasion.

Rishi Sunak has indeed now distanced himself from Ben Wallace’s comments.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Mel Borthwaite 13th Jul '23 - 8:33am

    While Wallace’s comment is unacceptable, I think it suggests the underlying problem facing NATO countries – what they have supplied is being destroyed or used on the battlefield as quickly as it arrives and NATO itself is now running low. We see that the current Ukrainian offensive has failed to push the Russians back as hoped, yet at massive cost in both men and materials. At some point we will have to face the reality that a negotiated ending to this war will have to occur

  • Steve Trevethan 13th Jul '23 - 10:01am

    What makes me sad-angry about the Ukraine+ situation is our apparent or real failure to promote and work for a negotiated settlement as soon as possible.

    The attached piece shows that this was and is possible.


    Mr. Borthwaite is correct in his conclusion.

  • Wallace’s comment was indeed crass! Are those highlighting a negotiated settlement to the conflict accepting that Ukraine will have to give up territory?

  • Steve Trevethan 13th Jul '23 - 11:13am

    Might relevant territory factors be the wishes and the ethnicity of those living in/on a particular bit of land?

  • Beyond the comfort of an armchair, a negotiated settlement is unlikely unless something drastic changes. Russia doesn’t believe Ukraine should exist. At the very least it’s going to demand Ukraine relinquish all claims to Crimea and other occupied territories, leaving Ukrainians living in those areas facing torture and suffering under an authoritarian government. Ukraine, quite rightly, will demand that Ukraine be restored to the pre-2014 borders that existed prior to Russia’s invasions. Neither side is going to compromise unless they’re about to collapse completely (and if that happens, the other side is going to finish the job not negotiate anyway).

    I have Ukrainian and Russian friends. They all say the same thing: the only way to bring about peace for both countries (and others!) is for the Putin Regime to be defeated and Putin deposed. The West pandered to Putin for too long and allowed him to keep pushing his expansionism.

    It would be lovely to stop the bloodshed right this minute, I don’t think anyone would argue otherwise, but you’re not going to get a negotiated settlement. Even if you did, do you think Putin is going to stick to the agreement as soon as the West turns the other way?

  • Pamela J Manning 13th Jul '23 - 11:40am

    Totally agree with suggestion in counterpoint article that a negotiated settlement should be encouraged with UN supervised referenda to establish wishes of the population resident in Crimea and Donbass.

  • Nonconformistradical 13th Jul '23 - 12:02pm

    @Steve Trevethan
    “Might relevant territory factors be the wishes and the ethnicity of those living in/on a particular bit of land?”
    Doesn’t that presuppose a very large percentage of those living on that land are of like ethnicity and wishes?

    And if there are 2 ethnic groups, one in a majority – which prevails over the other in any referendum etc. what about the risk of the minority being driven from their homes?

  • Steve Trevethan 13th Jul '23 - 12:18pm

    Might questions connected to nationalities, languages, wishes, fears, hopes, beliefs etc of any set of people living on and off a particular piece of land be complex and mixed and so need negotiation?

  • The Defence Secretary is only spelling out the reality.
    As for the criticism of the USA “winning the war”, well that is very ungrateful in itself. Come on Mary, without the USA, its manpower , industry, money and even lend lease, we would never have survived. Western Europe was built up after the war on Marshall Aid, without that God knows what would have happened, Italy and France going Communist, the Welfare systems incapable of getting off the ground, including the NHS, etc, etc.
    I for one am eternally grateful to the USA, and to the many if its citizens who gave their lives whether on Omaha beach, in Flying Fortresses conducting daylight bombing, Guadacanal, Okinawa I could go on and on, who let us not forget could not realistically get fully into war unless and until they had been attacked, just in order to overcome the isolationist group in Congress and the country.
    PS They were unofficially helping to guard convoys in the Atlantic before Pearl Harbour.

  • Mel Borthwaite 13th Jul '23 - 1:03pm

    @Robert Hale
    Unless NATO is willing to join this war, Russia is not going to be defeated – therefore, the best outcome Ukraine can achieve will be a negotiated settlement. Ukraine has to make the terrible choice of making some concessions to secure its continuing independence, plus EU and NATO membership, or make the choice to continue fighting and risk ultimate defeat and whatever terms Russia chooses to impose upon it – likely greater territorial losses and enforced neutrality. Meanwhile several hundred Ukrainians are dying every day.

  • Steve Trevethan 13th Jul '23 - 4:28pm

    Might the Russians have played a significant part in the defeat of W. W. 2 Germany?

  • The Russians had little or nothing to do with defeating the Japanese and I am referring to Western Europe and the highly significant role the USA played, without them being in the war and enabling North Africa, Italy, D Day and Southern France the Germans may well have had the manpower to transfer east and who knows what might have happened. We owe the USA a vote of thanks not criticism.

  • What very few people seem to acknowledge is Putin does not want to negotiate a settlement. Sanctions are not working. Western news is effectively blocked. Only unacceptable Russian losses will open the door to talks.

  • Steve Trevethan 13th Jul '23 - 7:02pm

    Where is the verification for the assertion that Mr. Putin does not want to negotiate a settlement?
    A look at the internet gives different statements/views on this matter.

    Currently it seem to be impossible to access R. T./ Russia Today.

  • Chris Moore 13th Jul '23 - 7:20pm

    Heartening to see several posters on here keen to reward imperialist aggression with tracts of another country’s territory.

    Ah, UN supervised referendums: I do not doubt for a moment that Russia will enthusiastically agree to such referenda in its own territories with very large non-Russian populations.

  • A “negotiated settlement” implies compromise, which in Ukraine’s case would mean ceding territory. That in turn is a reward for aggression.

    Some negotiation may be involved eventually, but that is up to the Ukrainians themselves and should not be imposed on them by the West. We are rightly supporting Ukraine so that they either win or negotiate from the best position possible for them, because we don’t want to see aggression rewarded with territorial gains.

    @Steve Trevathan – “Might relevant territory factors be the wishes and the ethnicity of those living in/on a particular bit of land?”. Does that mean that following a period of ethnic cleansing, deportation and kidnapping of children any gain of territory via invasion would be justified? Once you invade a neighbour you don’t get to play that card via a sham referendum – that situation is genuinely something that should be resolved via a “negotiated settlement”, not aggression.

  • There has been a referendum on Ukrainian independence on 1 December 1991. Ukrainian Citizens, when given the opportunity, went to the Polls to decide if they wanted independence for their country. The turnout exceeded 84% of eligible voters and more than 92% of them chose independence. Even residents of the Ukrainian Donbas adjoining Russia’s border voted for independence by a margin of almost 84%. In the Crimea, the only region of Ukraine with a majority Russian population, 54% supported independence. In Sevastopol, the home port of the Black Sea Fleet, the result was even more resounding, with 57% support for Ukrainian Independence. The Ukrainian referendum set the seal on the dissolution of the USSR.
    The soon to be elected President of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk (a former communist party boss), rejected proposals by Gorbachev to form a new Union with Russia.
    Ukraine was a key element of Russian imperial and Soviet history and mythology. As Zbigniew Brzezinksi noted years later “Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire”. The same could be said of the British empire and India or the French empire and Algeria.
    There is no negotiation to be had over the sovereignty of Ukrainian territory. Putin’s Russia will either succeed in its conquest and enslavement of Ukraine or the Russian army will be defeated and return to its own borders.

  • Zachary Adam Barker 13th Jul '23 - 10:16pm

    -“Heartening to see several posters on here keen to reward imperialist aggression with tracts of another country’s territory.”
    Well said Chris Moore. I am appalled that this appears to be the minority opinion on here.
    -Putin will win if he believes that our staying power and the Ukrainian’s is less than his. The Ukrainians should have our help up to the point where they don’t want to fight any longer.
    -The US and UK brass are taking their own cowardice out on Zelensky. The US, UK and Europe need to coordinate and develop plan IMMEDIATELY to increase their defence production beyond peace time levels to give Ukraine all it needs AND replenish our arsenals. We need to do this and tell our population’s straight that we live in dangerous times, but appeasement will lead to a more dangerous world, not a safer one. So far Western leaders have been pretending that we can support Ukraine ad hoc. We need long term funding structures, plans, increased production and the logistics for rapid war material delivery to Ukraine. That commitment should be for as long as Ukraine’s security is threatened.
    -What is a UN referendum worth if the Eastern Ukrainian regions fear a Russian return? They cannot possibly be expected to make their intentions known without duress. This is what caused the break up of the Minsk Process. The Ukrainians agreed on a referendum on self determination AFTER Russian troops left. Unsurprisingly, Putin refused.

  • Michael Kilpatrick Michael Kilpatrick 13th Jul '23 - 10:42pm

    What I hate most is how many of us have known all along that we would eventually be giving Ukraine the equipment that we initially showed reluctance to give a year ago, and in the meantime, more have died and the drip-feed and the ridiculously slow ramping up of support was excruciating to watch. All the while, the doom-mongers were exclaiming how Putin would push the big red button if we got too involved, but it was all hot air. For me, that was obvious all along, as was the fact of there being no negotiated settlement, only the defeat of all occupying Russian forces. There won’t be talks and there never would have been at any point.

    Being a jolly good Amazon and giving even more weapons to Ukraine as quickly as we can is, I reckon, one of the best investments the UK and others could make. The war would be shorter – less death and destruction – and an even greater part of Europe would be solidly democratic, wealthier and stable in the long-term, and NATO-aligned.

  • Zachary Barker 14th Jul '23 - 12:05am

    Exactly my sentiments Michael Kilpatrick. Well done for saying it and expressing it so well.

    For too long we have allowed Putin’s threats to allow him to dictate events. How has that worked out for us?

    We have to be brave. We cannot accept imperialist conquests to be acceptable in the 21st Century.

  • Jason Connor 14th Jul '23 - 1:02pm

    Yes I agree with the author of the article, Zachary and Michael. I am quite disturbed by some of the comments on here. They even seem to go as far as supporting aggressive Russian aggrandisement whether that be by some form of plebiscite or force. It beggars belief. You only have to look back at history to see how the Czars operated in Eastern Europe. Russia is essentially a continuous imperialist power whereas other countries have left that behind. If Ukraine is not supported with the military aid it needs by the EU, NATO and other allies to repel the Russian invasion then who will be next on their radar – Poland? No wonder my Polish neighbour is so worried. Perhaps some people on here need to talk to Polish nationals and those of other neighbouring countries about their very real concerns.

  • Jenny Barnes 14th Jul '23 - 4:11pm

    Michael “What I hate most is how many of us have known all along that we would eventually be giving Ukraine the equipment that we initially showed reluctance to give a year ago, …”
    Exactly. Why give them only 14 Challenger tanks, for example? Internet sources indicate that theUK has 157 in operational or near operational condition, with a further 70 in storage which may or may not be usable in any reasonable timescale. Further, there are plans to upgrade 148 of them to “Challenger 3” spec (“featuring active protection systems, improved sensors and optics, as well as a new turret and the Rheinmetall L55A1 120mm smoothbore gun.”) And what are they for? Fighting Russia on the European plains. So it would make sense to send the 150 or to Ukraine in operational condition, scrap the rest, and buy new from South Korea or
    Germany. Poland is buying some 980 K2 Black Panthers to replace the soviet era tanks they have already sent to Ukraine and deter any potential Russian ground attack. And of course the German Leopard is well proven as a NATO compatible MBT.

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Jul '23 - 4:21pm

    @Jenny Barnes
    “Why give them only 14 Challenger tanks, for example? Internet sources indicate that theUK has 157 in operational or near operational condition, with a further 70 in storage which may or may not be usable in any reasonable timescale.”

    MOD doesn’t appearto have a great track record on equipment procurement. I wonder how many tanks needed to be kept in reserve and how quickly more tanks could have been supplied to Ukraine……….

  • Jenny Barnes 15th Jul '23 - 10:17am

    Poland is also spending 1.4 Bn USD (1.1 Bn GBPs) on 116 Abrams tanks from the USA.
    Now, contracts have just been signed to build a tunnel next to Stonehenge for 1.3 Bn USD
    One has to wonder about the priorities. I mean, it’s nice to improve the journey west down the A303, but the Ukraine conflict feels a bit more important.

  • Steve Trevethan 15th Jul '23 - 3:23pm

    Attached is a piece on the historical background to the Ukraine bloodbath./www.theguardian.com/education/
    Please bear in mind:
    * American powerplay involvement
    * The problems of the “Russian” minority
    * The Azov group
    * The possible profit motives of arms manufacturers and their promoters
    * All conflicts end with negotiations
    * The longer negotiations are delayed, the more soldiers, civilians and children are killed and maimed

    P. S. Because some seek a prompt end to human butchery does not mean that they seek the advancement of any “empire”

    P. P. S. How do we justify giving away £millions when are children are chronically malnourished, their bodies damaged and their expectations deformed?

  • Jason Connor 16th Jul '23 - 3:09pm

    So enslavement by coercive control is a prompt end to this conflict is it. You totally ignore the number of civilians; women and children killed innocently so far and the right of nations to defend themselves when under attack whoever the aggressor.

  • Zachary Barker 20th Jul '23 - 10:07pm

    Steve Trevethan, the peace at any price approach has never stopped butchery. Only delayed it up to the point where yet another treaty is violated and the killing continues again. If we effectively reward Putin for his butchery there will be more.

    Please do not patronise us about domestic spending priorities. It need not be an either or. We are the party of David Lloyd-George after all who paid for arms and the start of the welfare state at the same time.

  • In his essay on the American Civil war and the fight against slavery , John Stuart Mill was adamant that morally the attitude should be to wish to see the defeat of the Southern rebellion.
    “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice, — is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other “The Contest in America,” Fraser’s Magazine (February 1862) John Stuart Mill on Slavery and the American Civil War. I expect he would voice a similar opinion today on Ukraine’s struggle to retain its freedom.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Simon R
    I'm also rather puzzled by Michael's post to me. In particular, I've said a couple of times that any job guarantee scheme would have to somehow provide for peop...
  • Simon R
    The ONS figures (https://uk.indeed.com/career-advice/pay-salary/average-uk-salary) show £38 600 was the mean gross salary for full-time workers in 2020....
  • Paul Holmes
    @Mick Taylor. What happened post 2010 is an entirely different matter. The best Target Seat campaign in the world would have made little difference to the self ...
  • Paul Holmes
    @Mick Taylor. Except that what you say is totally untrue of the period I referred to. From 1997 to 2001 to 2005 to 2010 the number of Target Seats grew at each ...
  • Mary Fulton
    Nonconformistradical I would define ready as having our candidates in place in all constituencies. I don’t know how far down the road we are on this across t...