Ben Wallace, the UK’s defence minister, played a mischievous prank on his opposite number in Moscow just before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
Knowing that the invasion was coming, Wallace had been talking to Ukraine’s defence minister Oleksii Reznikov about shipments weapons from the UK.
They came up with their own private code – where Wallace would refer to NLAW anti-tank missiles as Glenfiddich or Harpoon anti-ship missiles as Islay.
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“I would text him saying ‘I’ve got some whisky for you’ or ‘the whisky is on its way,” he told The Times. “We just picked codewords, minister to minister.”
And when Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu promised Wallace there was no invasion planned, just days before Russian forces began streaming across the border, the former Scots Guards captain had his own little joke at the Putin henchman’s expense.
“We were exchanging gifts and I gave him a bottle of Glenfiddich,” Wallace chuckled. “He didn’t know what it meant. The joke was on him.”
But more serious times lie ahead, Wallace warns.
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He says that the British government "will find ourselves in a conflict" by 2030, with threats of a direct military confrontation with Russia, a Cold War with China and clashes with terror groups in Africa.
He said that however the Ukraine war develops, Russian leader Vladimir Putin will continue to carry a grudge against the UK.
"If Putin loses in Ukraine, he will be deeply wounded. He's still got an air force and he's still got a navy. Putin is not done with us yet,” he said.
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Warning that tensions over Taiwan and the South China Sea will continue to grow, he added that we could see a new “Cold War” with China by 2030.
But perhaps Britain’s most unpredictable challenge in the coming years will come from the African continent.
“We could see a resurgence of Isis or al-Qaeda in Africa that would trigger us internationally coming to the aid of a nation,” he said.
“Al-Qaeda in Africa is growing because some of the governments aren’t able to withstand them. Al-Shabaab in Somalia is al-Qaeda’s biggest faction. In North Africa and in west Africa — Mali, Burkina Faso — it’s a threat. Isis took over a town last year in Mozambique out of nowhere.”
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