British troops must be prepared to fight, says Army Chief

‘Britain is facing its 1937 moment’: New head of the Army says UK must be prepared to ‘fight and win’ to ward off threat from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, as NATO announces plans to increase the number of troops it has on high alert SEVEN-fold to 300,000

  • General Sir Patrick Sanders will use a speech to insist that Britain needs to remain ready to fight Putin
  • He will liken the current geopolitical situation to the run-up to WWII – a so-called ‘1937 moment’ for Britain
  • It comes after NATO announced it would boost its high-readiness force from 40,000 to over 300,000
  • The speech came the same day that Putin’s missiles horrifically attacked a shopping mall in Kremenchuk
  • Boris Johnson condemned Vladimir Putin’s ‘cruelty and barbarism’ as Zelensky addressed the G7 in Bavaria

Britain’s armed forces must be prepared to ‘fight and win’ to prevent the spread of war in Europe, the new head of the Army is warning.

In a speech on Tuesday, General Sir Patrick Sanders, the Chief of the General Staff, will say he had never seen such a clear threat to peace and democracy as the ‘brutal aggression’ of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

He will liken the current situation to the run up to the Second World War, saying Britain must be prepared to ‘act rapidly’ to ensure it is not drawn into a full-scale conflict through its failure to contain Russian expansionism.

The calls for armament came as NATO said Monday it would boost its high readiness force from 40,000 to 300,000 troops and send more heavy weaponry to its eastern flank.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called it ‘the biggest overhaul of our collective defence and deterrence since the Cold War’.

His latest warning, in an address to a conference organised by the Royal United Services Institute think tank, comes after he wrote to all the troops under his command telling them they must prepare ‘to fight in Europe once again’.

In a speech on Tuesday, General Sir Patrick Sanders, the Chief of the General Staff, will say he had never seen such a clear threat to peace and democracy as the ‘brutal aggression’ of Russian president Vladimir Putin

Speaking at the same event, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is expected to issue a fresh call for increased defence spending in the years ahead to counter the growing threat.

His call comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to join other Nato leaders in Madrid for a summit at which they are expected to agree the biggest overhaul of the Western military alliance  since the end of the Cold War.

A defence source did not deny reports that Mr Wallace asked Mr Johnson in a letter to lift the annual military budget from the current Nato minimum target of 2% of GDP to 2.5% by 2028.

‘We do not comment on alleged leaks. The Defence Secretary and the Prime Minister have always said that the Government will respond to any changes in threat which is why in 2020 the Ministry of Defence received a record defence settlement,’ they said.

Liz Truss said Nato should focus on increasing flexibility in resource deployment, the use of modern techniques such as ‘hybrid warfare, the weaponisation of migration, the use of cyber attack’, and spending more on defence.

‘Two percent needs to be a floor, not a ceiling for defence spending’, the Foreign Secretary said in an interview with Die Welt, La Repubblica and El Pais.

In his first public engagement since taking up his post, Gen Sanders will say his focus is on mobilising the Army to help prevent the spread of war in Europe by being ‘ready to fight and win alongside our Nato allies and partners’.

‘In all my years in uniform, I haven’t known such a clear threat to the principles of sovereignty and democracy, and the freedom to live without fear of violence, as the brutal aggression of president Putin and his expansionist ambitions,’ he is expected to say.

The calls for armament came as NATO said Monday it would boost its high readiness force from 40,000 to 300,000 troops

Wallace calls for 20% hike in defence spending 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has reportedly asked Boris Johnson to hike UK defence spending to 2.5% of GDP – an additional 20% a year – by 2028 in the face of Russian aggression.

In his letter, Mr Wallace also urged the Prime Minister to call on Nato leaders at the upcoming Madrid summit to raise the spend per country from the current minimum target of 2% to 2.5% of national income, according to Talk TV’s The News Desk programme.

A defence source did not deny the reports, saying: ‘We do not comment on alleged leaks.

‘The Defence Secretary and the Prime Minister have always said that the Government will respond to any changes in threat which is why in 2020 the Ministry of Defence received a record defence settlement.’

Meanwhile, the Conservative chairman of the Defence Committee called for an even higher defence spending increase.

Tobias Ellwood tweeted: ‘Increasing NATO’s Rapid Reaction Force from 40k to 300k is the right call.

‘But if the UK’s to play it’s part (as Europe’s security declines) we must finally: increase defence spend to 3%, reverse troop number cuts, purchase all 138 F35’s, upgrade our land warfare assets’.

Mr Wallace reportedly highlighted deficiencies in the UK’s military capabilities which have been laid bare by the war in Ukraine in his letter to No 10 and subsequent conversations.

They include shortfalls of deep-strike weapons, artillery stocks and in the UK’s anti-air and anti-drone capabilities, too few pilots to fly new F35 strike jets and too few crew for ships and submarines, The News Desk reported.

Asked at a defence conference in May if he thought more spending on defence was justified as the cost-of-living crisis hit households, Mr Wallace said an extra £24 billion announced for the Ministry of Defence in 2020 had been ‘very important’ to ‘make sure that we modernise the Army’.

‘I mean, the Army’s land fleet is woefully behind its peers’.

The Defence Secretary wrote to the Chancellor in March warning that Britain risked missing the Nato commitment to spend 2% of national income on security by 2025.

The letter highlighted the cost of arming Ukraine and rising inflation as the primary reasons Britain was facing a real-terms cut in defence spending.

The former Commander Joint Forces Command General Sir Richard Barrons said he supported Mr Wallace’s latest demands.

‘I back him 100%, as will all the service chiefs and every serving officer that understands the current state of defence programme, the defence industry that supports the military and our allies that know we have to raise our game, within the envelope of collective defence, this is a very important moment at a very difficult time,’ he told The News Desk.

‘We need to understand that for the last 30 years or so since the end of the Cold War, the UK defence forces have not had to deal with existential peril, the sorts of threats that a power like Russia can pose to the UK’s homeland and security abroad.

‘We’re now back in an era that will feel like the Cold War, where we need our armed forces to be nearly all ready, nearly all the time.’

‘This is our 1937 moment. We are not at war – but must act rapidly so that we aren’t drawn into one through a failure to contain territorial expansion.

‘I will do everything in my power to ensure that the British Army plays its part in averting war.’

Despite the recent emphasis on new capabilities, such as drones and cyber warfare, he will say that land forces will remain crucial in any conflict, adding: ‘You can’t cyber your way across a river.’

In a reference to the start of the First War World, Gen Sanders will say that ‘this is not the rush to war at the speed of the railway timetables of 1914’.

Instead he will say deterring Russia means ‘more of the Army ready more of the time’ from ‘the general in (Ministry of Defence) Main Building, to the young lance corporal in the barrack room, from the reservist on a weekend exercise, to the civil servant in Army headquarters’.

In his speech, Mr Wallace will reiterate his call for increased investment in defence to meet the changing international environment.

In March the Defence Secretary wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak ahead of his spring statement warning UK defence spending was set to drop below the Nato minimum of 2% of GDP by the middle of the decade unless the Treasury committed more resources.

A defence source said: ‘The Defence Secretary is expected to emphasise that now that the threat has changed, governments must be prepared to invest to keep us safe.’

As well as Britain’s commitments, Washington has announced it plans to send Ukraine sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters, meeting a long-standing request from Zelensky.

The summit of the G7 – which comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – ends on Tuesday and will be immediately followed by a NATO meeting in Spain.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced plans to greatly expand the alliance’s rapid-reaction forces as part of its response to an ‘era of strategic competition.’ The NATO response force currently has about 40,000 soldiers. NATO will agree to deliver further military support to Ukraine – including secure communication and anti-drone systems – when its leaders convene in Spain for a summit later this week, Stoltenberg said.

Britain’s defense ministry said Russia is likely to rely increasingly on reserve forces in the coming weeks. Analysts have said a call-up of reservists by Russia could vastly alter the balance in the war but could also come with negative political consequences for President Vladimir Putin’s government.

It comes after Russia attacked a shopping centre – leaving at least 13 dead – in apparent provocation to coincide with the G7 summit in Bavaria.

Scores of civilians were feared killed or wounded in a Russian missile strike Monday on a crowded shopping mall in Ukraine’s central city of Kremenchuk, Ukrainian officials said.

At least 13 people were dead and more than 40 wounded by two long-range X-22 missiles fired from Tu-22M3 bombers that flew from Shaykovka airfield in Russia’s Kaluga region, said Ukraine’s air force command. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Telegram post that the number of victims was ‘unimaginable,’ citing reports that more than 1,000 civilians were inside at the time of the attack.

‘The Russian strike today on the shopping centre in Kremenchuk is one of the most brazen terrorist acts in European history,’ he said in his evening broadcast posted on Telegram. 

Images from the scene showed giant plumes of black smoke from a shopping center engulfed in flames, as emergency crews rushed in and onlookers watched in distress.

Zelensky said the target presented ‘no threat to the Russian army’ and had ‘no strategic value.’ He accused of Russia of sabotaging ‘people’s attempts to live a normal life, which make the occupiers so angry.’

Boris Johnson condemned Vladimir Putin’s ‘cruelty and barbarism’, speaking on the day Zelensky addressed the G7 summit

The crowded mall in Kremenchuk had around 1,000 shoppers inside when missiles rained down on the building this afternoon

A rescue operation is under way and at least nine of the wounded are in a serious condition after emergency services rushed to the scene

Russia has carried out a deadly missile strike on a busy shopping centre in Ukraine in Putin’s latest barbaric attack against civilians

A man is seen running from the burning building after the strike was carried out by Kremlin forces this afternoon, causing a huge fire

Panicked survivors desperately tried to flee for safety as the complex erupted in fire, with plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky

Putin’s propagandist-in-chief Vladimir Solovyov has already predictably dismissed the brutal assault as a ‘fake’ operation carried out by Kyiv

Boris Johnson condemned Vladimir Putin’s ‘cruelty and barbarism’, speaking on the day Zelensky addressed the G7 summit to urge G7 leaders to supply missile defence systems, and said it would strengthen the resolve of allies to resist Putin.

Mr Johnson said: ‘This appalling attack has shown once again the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which the Russian leader will sink.

‘Once again our thoughts are with the families of innocent victims in Ukraine.

‘Putin must realise that his behaviour will do nothing but strengthen the resolve of the Ukraine and every other G7 country to stand by the Ukraine for as long as it takes.’

Earlier, the Prime Minister said the ‘price of freedom is worth paying’ and the UK must be prepared to support Ukraine’s fight against Russia for as long as it takes despite the cost.

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