The new head of the army believes British soldiers must be ready to ‘fight and win’, likening the situation in Europe to the run up to the Second World War.
Speaking a day after a bloody day for Ukraine, General Sir Patrick Sanders, the Chief of the General Staff, will warn the army must be ready face down the ‘brutal aggression’ of Vladimir Putin.
In a speech on Tuesday, he will say the armed forces must be placed on a war-footing to ensure they can ‘act rapidly’ if the conflict on Nato’s eastern frontier spreads.
He has previously told men and women under his command that they must be prepared ‘to fight in Europe once again’.
At least 28 civilians were killed in Russian attacks on Monday, including a missile strike on a crowded shopping centre.
Gen Sanders will address a conference organised by the Royal United Services Institute think tank alongside defence secretary Ben Wallace, who is expected to call for increased spending.
In his first public speech since taking up the role, the general will say: ‘In all my years in uniform, I haven’t known such a clear threat to the principles of sovereignty and democracy, and the freedom to live without fear of violence, as the brutal aggression of president Putin and his expansionist ambitions.
‘This is our 1937 moment. We are not at war but must act rapidly so that we aren’t drawn into one through a failure to contain territorial expansion.
‘I will do everything in my power to ensure that the British Army plays its part in averting war.’
He will call for more combat readiness to act as a deterrent to Kremlin ambitions and prevent a full-scale conflict.
In a boost to Mr Wallace’s efforts to secure more funding from the Treasury, Gen Sanders will issue a rebuke to voices in Whitehall who have called for a shift away from land forces to more modern capabilities in recent years, saying: ‘You can’t cyber your way across a river.’
The defence secretary wrote to chancellor Rishi Sunak ahead of his spring statement warning UK defence spending was set to drop below the Nato minimum of 2% of GDP by the middle of the decade unless the Treasury committed more resources.
A defence source said Mr Wallace ‘is expected to emphasise that now that the threat has changed, governments must be prepared to invest to keep us safe’.
Boris Johnson is meeting with other Nato leaders in Madrid for a summit to discuss overhauling the military alliance to reflect Russia’s assault on Ukraine.
In a joint statement, leaders of the G7 said Vladimir Putin’s attacks aimed at civilians were a ‘war crime’.
The statement said: ‘We, the leaders of the G7, solemnly condemn the abominable attack on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk.
‘We stand united with Ukraine in mourning the innocent victims of this brutal attack.
‘Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime. Russian president Putin and those responsible will be held to account.
‘Today, we underlined our unwavering support for Ukraine in the face of the Russian aggression, an unjustified war of choice that has been raging for 124 days.’
They said they would ‘continue to provide financial, humanitarian as well as military support for Ukraine, for as long as it takes’.
‘We will not rest until Russia ends its cruel and senseless war on Ukraine.’
At least eight civilians were killed and 21 wounded in Russian missile attack on Lysychansk on Monday, Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said.
The small city is one of the last settlements in the oblast still under the control of Ukrainian forces.
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