Former army chief Lord Dannatt says 3,000 soldiers should stay in Germany as part of ‘statement of military capability to underpin diplomacy’
Britain should keep 3,000 soldiers in Germany and reconsider cuts to its armed forces to send a statement to a “resurgent” Russia, according to the former head of the British army.
Lord Dannatt, who was chief of the general staff from 2006 to 2008, said recent crises in Syria and Ukraine meant the international landscape was more challenging than when the coalition government came to power in 2010.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Dannatt said: “The Russian takeover of Crimea may not have been conducted to Vladimir Putin’s timing, but it certainly suits his agenda and aspirations. Whether his ambition reaches into eastern Ukraine or elsewhere, only he knows.”
He continued: “However, with a resurgent Russia, this is a poor moment for the US-led west to be weak in resolve and muscle. Diplomacy and sanctions may be the right response for now to the Russian president, but he will look beyond those things to see where the real check on his actions might come from.”
The coalition government is cutting the regular army from 102,000 to 82,000 personnel by 2020, while the newly-renamed Army Reserve – formerly the Territorial Army – is being expanded from 19,000 to 30,000. The changes include withdrawing all 20,000 troops from its bases in Germany – ending the British army’s 70-year presence there.
Instead of cutting back the military, Dannatt said the government should consider making a statement that greater military capability must underpin its diplomacy.
“The defence reform bill, currently going through the House of Lords, provides an opportunity to make such a statement,” he said. “An additional 3,000 regular soldiers would provide an extra deployable brigade – a useful increase in capability in itself, sending the signal that Britain takes its defence responsibilities seriously, not only on behalf of its citizens but on behalf of our EU and Nato allies, too.
“Were we to keep that additional brigade stationed in Germany, it would further underline our commitment to peace and security.”
Dannatt’s comments came as the US president, Barack Obama, was to meet leaders from the G7 group of industrialised countries to discuss possible responses to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, including throwing Russia out of the G8 club of rich countries.
In an interview with the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant published ahead of his arrival in the Netherlands, Obama said his message to European leaders was that Putin needed to “understand the economic and political consequences of his actions in Ukraine”.
Still, he said he did not view Europe as a battleground between the east and the west. “That’s the kind of thinking that should have ended with the cold war,” he said. “On the contrary, it’s important that Ukraine have good relations with the United States, Russia and Europe.”
In his comment piece in the Telegraph, Dannatt said tensions between the west and Russia were “uncomfortable shadows of the Thirties. While economies are still struggling to recover from the epic downturn of …read more