U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak picks Grant Shapps as defense chief after Ben Wallace resigns

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak picks Grant Shapps as defense chief after Ben Wallace resigns

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday picked his government’s energy secretary to take over as defense chief in a Cabinet reshuffle following the resignation of Ben Wallace, a leading promoter of the U.K.’s support of Ukraine.

Grant Shapps said he was honored to be Britain’s next defense secretary and paid tribute to the “enormous contribution” Mr. Wallace made to Britain’s defense and global security the past four years.

“I am looking forward to working with the brave men and women of our armed forces who defend our nation’s security and continuing the U.K.’s support for Ukraine in their fight against [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s barbaric invasion,” Mr. Shapps said.

Mr. Shapps was elected to Great Britain’s House of Commons in 2005 and has held a variety of high-level positions in government. He has much less security and defense experience than his predecessor. Mr. Wallace graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the U.K.’s equivalent of West Point. He spent seven years in the army as an officer in the Scots Guards regiment before he entered politics.

In his resignation letter, Mr. Wallace said the Defense Ministry is “more modern, better funded and more confident” than the organization he took over in 2019.

“I genuinely believe that over the next decade, the world will get more insecure and more unstable,” he wrote. “We must not return to the days where defense was viewed as a discretionary spend by government and savings were achieved by hollowing out.”

With his extensive military and government experience, Mr. Wallace was considered a leading candidate for the top civilian position at NATO, but the leaders of the alliance opted to extend the contract of current Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg for a year.

Mr. Sunak named Claire Coutinho, one of his allies in the House of Commons, to replace Mr. Shapps as energy secretary.