Philip Hammond 'tried to court-martial senior general', new book claims

Posted On: 
19th May 2016

Philip Hammond tried to court-martial a senior army general for speaking our about cuts to defence spending, a new book has claimed.

‘2017: The War with Russia’ is published today
Credit: 
PA Images

General Sir Richard Shirreff, who served as Nato’s deputy supreme allied commander for Europe until 2014, said before standing down from the post the Government was taking “one hell of a risk” by cutting the regular army.

In his book ‘2017: The War with Russia’, published today, Sir Richard claims he was summoned by the head of the Army after his remarks in March 2014, who told him the Foreign Secretary wanted disciplinary action against him.

“Formal action would have involved a court-martial and, fortunately for [Mr Hammond’s] political reputation — it also seems he had not appreciated that I reported to Nato and not to him — wiser counsel prevailed. But the damage to our armed forces… had already been done,” he writes.

He adds: “It’s the duty of senior soldiers engaged with politicians not to think like politicians, not to make life easier for politicians, but to be prepared to lay out the military consequences of political decisions, and I sense that is something that has got blurred in recent years.”

Sir Richard, who was the army’s third most senior officer, said the level of cutbacks to the British military means the armed forces might not be able to “deploy a division for war”.

“There has been a hollowing out, a cutting away at muscle and damn nearly bone in UK defences which puts us in a very different position from where we were even ten years ago,” he said.

“I would question whether the UK could deploy a division for war — I think that’s highly unlikely. The notion of deploying a division for war as the UK did in Iraq in 2003 and Iraq in 1991 is frankly almost inconceivable.”

Sir Richard also hit out at what he branded David Cameron’s “increasingly irrelevant” leadership and claimed Britain has become “semi pacifist” in recent years.

EU 'NO-BRAINER'

On the EU referendum, Sir Richard contended leaving the bloc would make Britain and the EU less safe.

“There is a real concern among our partners that if you start to pull out the bricks, the wall becomes rather more precarious.

“A weaker EU makes Britain in turn less secure. It seems to be a no-brainer that co-operation on intelligence-sharing, surveillance and border security must be better if you’re part of a bigger organisation with the protocols that make it easier.

"Yes, I know the EU is infuriatingly awkward and bureaucratic, but we’d be worse off not in it.”

His book depicts a scenario in which Russia invades the Baltic states and the consequences that stem from it.

The former general suggests Vladimir Putin’s regime “has set itself on a collision course with the West”.