‘We’re walking into World War III’: General Lord Richard Dannatt issues urgent call to ramp up military spending in face of Russian threat
- The former Army boss has said Britain must pump billions more into its military
- It comes amid fears it could be caught out like it was when Hitler invaded Poland
- The plea comes on the eve of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Britain must double-down on its support for Ukraine while urgently rearming and ramping up its own military spending or face sleepwalking into its own defence crisis, a top Army chief has said.
General Lord Richard Dannatt issued the warning ahead of the first anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s barbaric invasion of the former Soviet state on Friday, which has claimed the lives of thousands of people and cost the UK £2.3billion.
Speaking to MailOnline, the retired General said the conflict had exposed the British Army’s ‘deficiencies’ after decades of cuts hollowed out its ranks, seeing troop numbers shrink to 76,000 – its smallest size since Napoleonic times.
But he warned if Britain took its foot of the gas and did not support Kyiv’s forces ‘to the maximum’, it risked ‘selling Ukraine down the line’, potentially opening the doors to a deeper and more deadly conflict in the future.
‘Ukraine must be given the help they need to break the back of the Russian army,’ Lord Dannatt said. ‘If we’re serious about wanting to see Ukrainians win then we must do that.
A Ukrainian squad launches one of four rockets at a Russian infantry position from their BM-21 Grad 122mm multiple rocket launcher, in the southern Donbas region, Ukraine, on 20 February
And the former Army chief insisted the UK must also continue to support Ukraine ‘to the maximum’ to help it ‘break the back’ of Russia’s invading army. Pictured is UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace standing with Ukrainian troops training on a British Challenger 2 tank at Bovington Camp, Dorset on Wednesday
General Lord Richard Dannatt has warned that Britain faces a ‘1939’ moment if it does not pump in more cash to build up its weakened military firepower
‘If, however, people harbour some lingering aspiration to bring this war to a negotiated settlement we’re effectively going to sell the Ukrainians down the line because the only negotiated settlement that Putin is going to accept Is having control of Crimea and Donbass.’
READ MORE: ‘War is coming to Britain’ by the end of the decade, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace says as he warns Russia’s ‘meat grinder’ Ukraine invasion could last another year
The former Army boss’s warning comes ahead of a crucial decision in parliament next month over how much the Government will spend on its military budget.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt are facing increasing pressure to pump at least £3billion more into defence as well as reverse plans to shrink the Army further over the next two years.
But behind closed doors in Whitehall, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is fighting for £11billion from the Treasury invested into the MoD’s coffers, as he warned that ‘war is coming to Britain’ by the end of the decade.
As tensions mount between east and west, and Mr Wallace seeks a boost to defence in the March budget, he told The Sun: ‘In order to deter, you have to be ready, you have to be equipped and you have to stand with your friends and your allies.’
Warning Britain must brace for a conflict, hot or cold, he added: ‘Freedom isn’t free. Britain’s message to Russia is we are not giving up and we are not going away.’
The concern was echoed by Lord Dannatt, 72, who said the UK was on the cusp of repeating the errors of the 1930s, when it failed to boost military coffers in the run-up to the Second World War, as Nazi leader Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany.
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain waves at the crowd at Heston Airport as he declares ‘Peace in our Time’ after returning from signing the Munich Agreement on September 30, 1938. Less than a year later, on September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler launched the invasion of Poland, triggering the Second World War
Vladimir Putin thought he could defeat Ukraine and overthrow its government in just three days, according to leaked FSB intelligence. But on Friday the war will enter is 365 day. Pictured: Putin attends a rally-concert ‘Glory to defenders of the Fatherland’ dedicated to the Defender of the Fatherland Day at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, February 22
Ukrainian servicemen of the 3rd Separate Tank Iron Brigade take part in an exercise in the Kharkiv area on 23 February 2023, the day before the one year mark since the war began
‘I very much think there’s a danger that we’re walking into a 1939 scenario. We’re in the same position today. We haven’t just got the threat of a dictator in Europe, we have got actual aggression and violence from a dictator in Europe.’
READ MORE: Members of Putin’s inner circle are now spying for Ukraine, with more willing to turn as the situation in Russia worsens, Kyiv intelligence chief says
The concern was repeated by Robert Clark, director of defence and security at UK think-tank Civitas.
The military veteran told MailOnline: ‘As Russia ravages Europe and China menaces Asia, British defence is woefully underfunded to face the very real threats that the government acknowledges exist.
‘Without further funding from the Treasury, then the UK risks failing its Nato commitment of two per cent of GDP for defence. The very first responsibility of government is the defence and security of the UK – and right now this government risks failing in that most basic commitment.’
Earlier this year, a senior US general is reported to have privately told Mr Wallace the British Army was no longer regarded as a top-level fighting force.
Britain has already invested heavily in supporting Ukraine, donating tanks, helicopters, missiles and countless artillery rounds.
But it is facing calls from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to donate Typhoon fighter jets – a plea supported by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Liz Truss but that has so far been rejected by current incumbent, Mr Sunak.
Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky remains in power while Russian gains have been modest over the winter, which has seen a stalemate take hold in the east of Ukraine – despite Putin reportedly planning on his armies taking Kyiv within three days
Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace speaks to the crew of an Ajax Ares Armoured Fighting Vehicle, on the training range at Bovington Camp, a British Army military base on Wednesday
Britain has helped to train hundreds of Ukrainian troops since the war begun. Pictured are Ukrainian recruits training at Salisbury on Thursday ahead of the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine on Friday
The Russian despot launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 – almost one year to the day – leading to tens of thousands of casualties on both sides. Pictured: Destroyed Russian military vehicles are seen in the snow in March
With the weather and ground conditions improving in Ukraine, the conflict is braced for a Russian spring offensive and subsequent counter by Kyiv’s military in the coming weeks and months.
Mr Putin’s original plan of taking the country in only a matter of days failed, with a vast amount of the current fighting centring around the battle for the east of Ukraine.
READ MORE: 365 days of Putin’s bloodshed: As the anniversary of the Ukraine invasion nears, a comprehensive look at how the war unfolded, how close we are to WW3 and all the key aspects of the conflict
Mr Wallace, asked whether he could envisage the war between Ukraine and Russia going on for a further 12 months, told the radio station: ‘I think we will.
‘I think Russia has shown a complete disregard, not only for the lives of the people of Ukraine, but for its own soldiers.
‘We are sitting here 12 months in and 188,000, actually more now, Russian soldiers are dead or injured as a result of this catastrophic miscalculation and aggression by President Putin.
‘When someone has crossed the line and thinks it is OK to do that to your own people, running effectively a meat grinder for an army, I think he is not going to stop.’
Lord Dannatt, speaking to MailOnline after an event in London, felt the war was likely to rumble on for the rest of the year.
He added: ‘The potential negotiating positions of Zelensky and Putin are mutual irreconcilable, this conflict is going to have to be ended on the battlefield which is why we must absolutely support the Ukrainians to the maximum so that they can achieve battlefield success with our help and defeat the Russian army.
‘I believe it is quite possible to do that this year.’
Speaking on Thursday, Mr Wallace stressed the battle in Ukraine was ‘not a Nato conflict’ but suggested he was not opposed to alliance member Poland sending MiG-29 aircraft to its neighbour.
‘We’re not going to see Nato [supply planes]. We’re going to see countries that are members of Nato potentially put in air force equipment or MiG-29,’ he said.
The MiG-29 is a Soviet-era fighter jet still in operation worldwide.
In September, Mr Wallace said that Britain’s defence spending would double, reaching over £100billion per year by 2030.
This was in response to a commitment by then-PM Liz Truss to raise spending to three per cent of GDP.
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