Conservative leadership frontrunner Liz Truss said she is “ready” to launch nuclear war if she becomes prime minister next month.
The foreign secretary told a Tory hustings event in Birmingham that she was willing to hit Britain’s nuclear button if necessary – even if meant “global annihilation”.
Hustings host John Pienaar asked the strong favourite to win the contest about facing a decision which would make him feel “physically sick”.
“Your orders to our Trident boat captain on whether you, prime minister, is giving the order to unleash nuclear weapons. It would mean global annihilation … How does that thought make you feel?” he asked.
Truss appeared without emotion as she replied: “I think it’s an important duty of the prime minister and I’m ready to do that.” She added: “I’m ready to do that.”
It comes as Truss pledged to declassify more British intelligence to expose more of efforts by Russia to undermine the west.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Ukraine’s independence day, Ms Truss pointed to the government’s current attempts to “counter the Kremlin’s false narratives”.
“I will go further as prime minister by doing everything possible – including declassifying more intelligence – to expose Putin’s playbook to the world,” she wrote.
Truss added: “My government will use intelligence strategically to reveal the Kremlin’s attempts to undermine and destabilise freedom-loving democracies.”
Her rival Rishi Sunak has written a letter to the people of Ukraine to be published in the Kyiv Post. “Whatever the changes here in our country, we Brits will always remain your strongest ally,” he stated.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace said Russia remains in a “very fragile position” and is making little progress in Ukraine.
“I spoke to my intelligence chiefs this morning before coming on, you know, Russia’s advance can be measured in metres per week, not miles,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Asked whether Ukraine was realistically in a position to retake territory, Wallace said: “I think Ukraine is getting itself into that position.”
The defence secretary also suggested he wanted the government to “toughen up” its visa conditions for Russians, but expressed doubt that a total ban was the solution. He said it was “a matter for the home secretary to look at”.
Earlier on Wednesday, Armed Forces minister James Heappey said any move to re-establish relations with Russia would make the cost of living crisis “100 times worse” – saying there was no “going back” to the old energy market.
Sir Keir Starmer visited Ukrainian and British Army personnel training on Salisbury Plain on Wednesday, saying he had “reiterated the Labour party’s unrelenting support for Ukrainian sovereignty”.
The Labour leader said: “Our commitment to the Ukrainian people will never waver. British defence and security services will continue to be a vital force for countering Russian aggression, and they will always have our full backing.”