Former defence minister Ron Mark has warned New Zealand needs to keep its military guard up amid the war in Ukraine.
Mark told Q+A with Jack Tame that in hindsight, his 2018 policy statement that warned of threats and "got a few people quite excited" might in fact have been too conservative.
"They got quite exercised at how bold it was. Well, look at today," said Mark.
Referencing the recent draft security agreement signed between China and the Solomon Islands, he said "those people who consistently say that there is no threat from China were probably the same people who were saying there is no threat from Russia".
While he acknowledged they were decisions only prime ministers could make, Mark also suggested New Zealand should consider a deployment of the SAS special forces in a training role in Ukraine.
"The steer I would give you is that Helen Clark made such a decision when she deployed the SAS into Afghanistan, totally against the views we know of her party. But I would say that'd be probably one of the most useful things New Zealand could do," Mark said.
His comments come at a time of high staffing attrition rates and reports of low morale within the Defence Force, particularly after their extended deployment to MIQ facilities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The question, 'Well, why are we here?' starts to rise."
"You compound that by then locking them into an MIQ for considerably longer than was ever intended, having them do work that the Ministry of Health should have been doing itself for that protracted period just gutted them," Mark said.
He said army tradespeople had been raided particularly heavily by the private sector, because of their expertise in infrastructure and construction.
“The military as a whole is one of the best providers of trained, competent, skilled tradespeople, and they are prime targets for the private sector, who are always willing to pay them more.”