Troop cuts are “madness” and will put the Army at breaking point, its former head has warned.
General Lord Dannatt spoke out against the Government’s decision to cut the Army by 10,000 soldiers over the next few years, despite the war in Ukraine.
It comes after Boris Johnson agreed to increase the defence budget to 2.5 per cent of GDP by the end of the decade.
However, Lord Dannatt said it “makes no sense whatsoever” to go ahead with the cuts to troops, set out in last year’s Integrated Review, when Nato plans to put 300,000 troops at high readiness.
“It’s a mere fact of life we’ll break the remainder of our Army if our Army is not large enough … to do what the government of the day wants us to do,” he told Sky News.
“You can’t make people work endlessly with too small numbers. So numbers in the terms of our land forces really, really matter.”
Lord Dannatt called on the Government to reverse the cuts and instead increase its investment in “our land warfighting capability”.
“I’m afraid the future is not going to be returned to things pre 24th of February, the future is going to be a grumpy, resurgent Russia on the borders of countries in Eastern Europe,” he said. “We’ve got to play our part in deterring Russian aggression.”
Lord Dannatt added: “When it comes to old fashioned fighting, numbers do matter and to have an Army of only just over 70,000 30 per cent down from where we were 10 years ago is going to leave us woefully short if we find that we’ve got to maintain large number of troops at high readiness forward-deployed in Eastern Europe.”
Last week, Mr Johnson said the UK would boost its defence spending in the wake of the war in Ukraine, as he warned of a “very different era” of insecurity in Europe. However, his official spokesman also insisted that UK troop numbers were “the right size”.
The spokesman added that it was “wrong to focus solely on the numbers” and stressed that the Government was investing in cyber warfare and other new technology.
However, General Sir Patrick Sanders, the new head of the Army, warned last week that “it would be perverse” for himself to advocate for reducing the size of the Army “as a land war rages in Europe and [Vladimir] Putin’s territorial ambitions extend into the rest of the decade and beyond Ukraine”.
Lord Dannatt also said he anticpated that Russia would take Donetsk and Luhansk in the “next few days and weeks”.
However, he cautioned that in doing so Russia would not have won the war, nor would Ukrainians have lost. He said that instead, the war would go “into the deep trees”.