The UK Army chief is deploying one of Britain’s most well-tested military tactics – begging for money by using Russia to scare the public and government into action. To quote analyst Mark Galeotti, “Russia is being weaponised.”
General Sir Nick Carter will reportedly tell the Royal United Services Institute that he’s worried that Britain’s military is not keeping up with its adversaries – basically Russia – with particular concern about Moscow’s long-range missiles, “aggressive expeditionary force” and “cyber-warfare capabilities.”
If you’re wondering what he means, it’s kind of similar to the British missiles placed on Russia’s border in Estonia last year, or the expeditionary force deployed next to them, or the UK Army’s cyberwarfare specialists at 77th Brigade or GCHQ. So much for not keeping up!
The general is coming forward with his begging bowl, apparently under orders from Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, who’s held his position for about three months, which brings his military experience to… three months.
What heads of government departments want more than anything is extra cash; that is basically why they exist, yet they need to find reasons. Russia is so useful when it comes to demands for resources that Moscow should be receiving thank-you notes, or at the very least a Christmas card.
There is, however, a disconnect. The government and military expends a lot of hot air talking about the “Russia threat.” But when it comes to the crunch, the military budget gets cut. I personally would conclude that no one in the corridors of power is genuinely concerned about any looming war with Russia.
In fact, all parts of Britain’s armed forces have been asked to find more ways to cut back. Britain’s armed forces are now at their smallest since the Napoleonic wars, with 82,000 personnel.
Does that sound like a country worried about a major conflict?
General Carter – who, to be fair to him, is paid to worry – believes Britain would struggle to withstand Russian forces on the battlefield. I’ve got some great news for him: Britain won’t be facing Russia on a battlefield any time soon. Unless of course NATO decides it’s been talking about conflict so much it might as well start one. Even then, Britain would be surrounded by all the other NATO members, so no need to worry.
It’s thought that Carter is basing his concern partly on the “large-scale” Zapad military exercises held in western Russia last year. You’d think the head of the army would know that, generally speaking (no pun intended), soldiers do need to practice stuff, even Russian ones. Also, the best place to practice is close to your own border where the world’s biggest military alliance has been continuously deploying its own forces.
But, if he’s so against military exercises, then cancel all the ones Britain is planning. That would save loads of money.
There was the same kind of panic in November when Russian President Vladimir Putin told arms producers that they must be able to prepare for war. What else should he tell makers of weapons? Prepare for a bake sale?
There are a few other options possibly available to the British military. The UK could ask for some of the weapons it has sold to Saudi Arabia over the years to be returned or loaned back – the ones not being used against Yemen.
It could stop buying massive aircraft carriers designed for post-imperial willy-waving rather than the conflicts it’s actually likely to face.
It could stop finding wars in the Middle East to go and fight.
Or, it could even save the billions it spends on the Trident independent nuclear deterrent (that is independent apart from needing the US to run it) and spend it on some boots for the troops, and perhaps a few beds for the NHS.
What do you think, General?
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