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British defense chief warns war possible within 5 years with rivals China, Russia, Iran: 'Inflection point'


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British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps has warned that the world is in a "pre-war" phase, with conflict potentially breaking out within five years in key areas against major and rising world powers. 

"We find ourselves at the dawn of this new era – the Berlin Wall a distant memory – and we’ve come full circle, moving from a post-war to pre-war world," Shapps said during his first major speech after assuming his role in the summer of 2023. 

"An age of idealism has been replaced by a period of hard-headed realism," Shapps claimed. "Today our adversaries are busily rebuilding their barriers. Old enemies are reanimated. New foes are taking shape. Battle lines are being redrawn."

Shapps' speech largely aimed to lay out the argument for increased defense spending both as a means of deterrence and to prepare for potential conflicts, which he said could occur within five years. 

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"Because, as discussed, the era of the peace dividend is over," Shapps said. "In five years’ time, we could be looking at multiple theaters involving Russia, China, Iran and North Korea."

"Ask yourself, looking at today’s conflicts across the world, is it more likely that that number grows or reduces?" he continued. "I suspect we all know the answer: It’s likely to grow, so 2024 must mark an inflection point."

Shapps highlighted various major defense advancements the U.K. has contributed throughout the years, including radar and jet-engines, among others. He argued that the British spirit for invention and innovation remains strong, but that the creative powers of the nation must redirect themselves toward defensive pursuits once more. 

Shapps replaced Ben Wallace during a major cabinet reshuffle that saw British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak bring one of his predecessors, David Cameron, back into the political fold after a period of self-imposed exile. 

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Wallace, a former soldier and one of the most ardent supporters of Ukraine during the Russian invasion, resigned from his post and declared he would not seek re-election in the next general election, which will occur sometime in 2024. 

Some speculated that Wallace vacated the role after failing in his bid for NATO's presidency, which fell apart when the United States indicated a preference to keep Jens Stoltenberg in the role. The disagreement proved one of the few truly contentious points between steadfast allies. 

Shapps previously held the role of secretary of state for energy security and net zero for just seven months before taking over as defense secretary. He held several previous roles, including chairman of the Conservative Party from 2012 to 2015 before taking appointments in several cabinets, culminating in his current – and most high-profile – role. 

Now, Shapps has adopted a bleak view of the international security landscape following the outbreak of war in the Middle East and the threat of further escalation, largely backed by Iran and motivated by its various proxy groups across the region, including (most directly) Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. 

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The U.S. and its allies, including the U.K., retaliated against the Houthis for their raids on international shipping routes, which the Houthis claimed as retaliation for Israel’s operations in the Gaza Strip – another domino in an already fragile chain in the region. 

Shapps directly addressed the conflict, praising the "brilliant" Royal Navy for defending itself and the shipping lanes from "the intolerable and growing number of Houthi attacks." 

"Earlier this month the world sent a very clear message to the Iranian-backed Houthis: End your illegal and unjustified actions. Stop risking innocent lives. Cease threatening the global economy," Shapps stressed.

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"We could not have been clearer with our warnings, which they chose to ignore," he said, referring to the Houthis, adding that the "decisive" response in the Red Sea would serve as "a direct blueprint for how the U.K. must continue to lead in the future." 

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