In light of Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine, the United Kingdom and its allies are in the midst of a “1937 moment” resulting to “mobilise” its military forces to “meet today’s threat and thereby prevent war in Europe,” the chief of the British Army said on Tuesday.
General Sir Patrick Sanders, who took over as Chief of the General Staff earlier this month, warned that while there isn’t an official war between the UK and Russia, it is imperative that “we act swiftly so that we aren’t drawn into one through a failure to contain territorial expansion” before the annual army conference in London.
“It is dangerous to assume that Ukraine is a limited conflict; one of its obvious lessons is that Putin’s calculations do not always follow our logic,” General Sanders said.
The Army chief went on to warn that while Ukraine may have secured early victories, he noted that the Russian military “wages war at the strategic, not the tactical level – its depth and resilience means it can suffer any number of campaigns, battles and engagements lost, regenerate and still ultimately prevail.”
“We don’t yet know how the war in Ukraine will end, but in most scenarios, Russia will be an even greater threat to European security after Ukraine than it was before. The Russian invasion has reminded us of the time-honoured maxim that if you want to avert conflict, you better be prepared to fight,” Sanders declared.
The United States will increase its military presence in the Pacific theatre as a result of the growing threat posed by communist China, he continued, and as a result, the United Kingdom and other European NATO members will inevitably shoulder a greater share of the burden in fending off the Russian threat.
Sanders stated that the UK and other allies must “mobilise” and “strengthen” their troops in order to appropriately counter the threat and, ideally, avert a war between NATO and the Russian Federation.
He listed seven crucial areas that needed improvement and suggested that the UK “re-build” its arsenals as well as assess the readiness of its fleet of vehicles for deployment in a combat zone. Another important aspect was the modernization of command structures and weaponry. He stated his intention to hasten the creation of new long-range weapons, attack aircraft, and surveillance technologies.
Sanders claimed that future wars will likely be similar to the situation in Ukraine, in which case ground power would be crucial and new NATO war plans should be “based in geography,” which may not come as a surprise coming from a soldier trying to increase money for the army.
“If this battle came, we would likely be outnumbered at the point of attack and fighting like hell. Standoff air, maritime or cyber fires are unlikely to dominate on their own – Land will still be the decisive domain. And though I bow to no one in my advocacy for the need for game-changing digital transformation, to put it bluntly, you can’t cyber your way across a river. No single platform, capability, or tactic will unlock the problem,” the army chief said.
Prior to the war in Ukraine, the British government announced that it would be looking to reduce the number of active soldiers in its ranks in favour of drones and other cyberwarfare due to the potential need for troops in a land war in Europe, describing the idea as “perverse.” This was done despite the government allocating £41 billion to Army equipment.
The G7 meeting was in the background as the senior British Army commander made his remarks. The most hawkish ally of Ukraine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said at the summit that the West should not engage in peace negotiations with Russia because the possibility of giving up Ukrainian territory in any deal would simply encourage further territorial expansions through armed conflict.