EXCL Britain’s enemies ‘perilously close’ to calling UK’s ‘bluff’ on defence, warns ex-Army chief
Britain's enemies are "perilously close" to testing the strength of the country's Armed Forces because the Government is not spending enough money on defence, a former military chief has warned.
General David Richards, who was Chief of the Defence Staff between 2010 and 2013, said foreign aggressors will "seek to call our bluff" if the Government does not invest "substantial amounts" in the Armed Forces over the next ten years.
He also urged other European countries to boost their defence spending in the face of increased Russian aggression.
And he said Britain's global reputation was at risk as a result of Brexit.
In an interview with The House magazine, Lord Richards said: “What’s been happening in the last two months should bring home to one the parlous state of our Armed Forces and the need to invest in them more.
“You could chuck a bit of money at them and it would have no material effect on them at all. It’s got to be substantial amounts of money that the Government must spend on the Armed Forces over the next ten years if they’re to provide or achieve the influence on a day-to-day basis that we need in the post-Brexit era and secondly if they are to equip themselves efficiently and effectively in battle, which is our ultimate requirement of them.
“If there is any doubt about that, then the chances of conflict are increased because our opponents will call our bluff or seek to call our bluff.
“Some of what I’m seeing suggests that we are getting perilously close to that.”
Lord Richards argued that the UK does not face “any major threat” in the short term, but warned that ministers must take a long-term view on investment as upgrades can take more than ten years to reach fruition.
“If all countries continue relatively not to invest in their Armed Forces over the next few years, and there are sad signs that many haven’t yet got the message, particularly in Europe, then there will be a risk at some point over the next ten years that Russian and other adventurism will catch us out and we won’t be in a position to do what we need to do,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s an immediate risk. But what’s been happening recently suggests that we need to understand those longer-term risks now and start warding them off by increasing the amount we spend on defence soon and appreciable amounts if it’s to work.
“Russia, I think, is more sensible than we give it credit for on occasion.
“But, there’s all the other risks of overpopulation, jihadism, extremism, water wars, instability in various parts of the world which will affect us and to which we ought to contribute solutions, usually with allies both because it’s right but also because it’s in our narrow national interest to make sure these things don’t escalate because we’ve allowed them to."
Lord Richards also warned that the UK’s global position could be diminished after leaving the European Union unless ministers invest in its national assets – including its defences.
“There is the grand strategic requirement for Britain in an era when she’s more carving out an independent route to invest in those assets that bring us influence and other countries appreciate that will lead in due course to more trade and better relationships, one of which most certainly is the Armed Forces,” he said.
“Right now, I can see there is a big risk that our influence declines post-Brexit at the very moment that it should improve. We need to work to improve it.”