The Kremlin as seen from Bolshoy Kamenny Most, Moscow, Russia (Picture: Nadia Isakova/Alamy Stock Photo).
The Kremlin, as seen from Bolshoy Kamenny Most, Moscow, Russia (Picture: Nadia Isakova/Alamy Stock Photo).
Ukraine

Wallace: Putin 'highly unlikely' to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine conflict

The Kremlin as seen from Bolshoy Kamenny Most, Moscow, Russia (Picture: Nadia Isakova/Alamy Stock Photo).
The Kremlin, as seen from Bolshoy Kamenny Most, Moscow, Russia (Picture: Nadia Isakova/Alamy Stock Photo).

Vladimir Putin is "highly unlikely" to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict, but he is not acting in a "rational" way, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

The Russian president has threatened to use "all the means at our disposal" if his country is threatened, seen as a sign that he could use tactical nuclear weapons in response to attacks on parts of Ukraine he has annexed.

But Mr Wallace played down the prospect, telling a fringe meeting at the Tory party conference it would be unacceptable to Moscow's allies India and China.

He said Mr Putin "was given a very clear sense what is acceptable and unacceptable" in meetings with the Indian and Chinese leaderships.

However, Mr Wallace added that the Russian leader's actions, from the nerve agent attack in Salisbury to the invasion of Ukraine, were "totally irrational".

Mr Wallace will join a crisis meeting of northern European nations on Monday to discuss the security of pipelines and undersea cables.

It comes as Prime Minister Liz Truss said she believed a series of explosions that caused major damage to Russia's undersea Nord Stream gas pipelines were "clearly an act of sabotage".

Mr Wallace said the UK and the Nordic nations were "deeply vulnerable" to acts of sabotage against cables and pipelines.

Mr Wallace added that the prolonged war in Ukraine had shown the need to make sure stockpiles of equipment and supply chains were protected, as he admitted some stocks were running "fairly low".

WATCH: Ukrainians have momentum in war – former Joint Forces Command chief.

Defence spending had been "hollowed out" over 30 to 40 years so "unsexy parts" of the budget had been neglected, he said.

The Defence Secretary said the Russians were suffering badly, in part because some of their suppliers were in Ukraine and had been bombed – a sign of the "strategic genius that President Putin is clearly proving to be".

Asked whether he would like to succeed Jens Stoltenberg in the NATO head role when his term ends in 2023, Mr Wallace said: "I love doing the Defence Secretary job, I genuinely do. I don't know how long the Prime Minister wants me to do it.

"(NATO) would be a nice job, but I love this.

"I want to hold the Prime Minister to account on her pledges to defence," he added.