UK Army chief calls for higher defence funding to keep up with Russia

British Army chief will warn that UK's armed forces risk falling behind Russia if the Government doesn’t sufficiently invest in modern capabilities

General Sir Nick Carter (Photo: BBC)
General Sir Nick Carter (Photo: BBC)

Britain’s armed forces risk falling behind Russia if the Government doesn’t sufficiently invest in modern capabilities, the head of army will warn.

General Sir Nick Carter will say that the British Army’s ability to respond to threats "will be eroded if we don't keep up with our adversaries".

The speech - approved by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, comes amid speculation of potential defence cuts.

In a speech at the Royal United Services Institute today, Sir Carter will directly compare Britain’s military to Russia’s, and say there are areas where the UK is worse off.

"Our ability to pre-empt or respond to threats will be eroded if we don't keep up with our adversaries," he will say.

"State-based competition is now being employed in more novel and increasingly integrated ways and we must be ready to deal with them. The threats we face are not thousands of miles away but are now on Europe's doorstep - we have seen how cyber-warfare can be both waged on the battlefield and to disrupt normal people's lives - we in the UK are not immune from that."

The warning comes after Russia practised simulated attacks across northern Europe.

In the speech, Carter will highlight Russia's new cyber warfare capabilities, which already boasts capabilities that the UK would struggle to match.

The Russian army conducted large scale military exercises last year, including simulated attacks across northern Europe, from Kaliningrad to Lithuania.

Gen Carter will also highlight the Russian army's long-range missile strike capability. While Russian forces were intervening in Syria, 26 missiles were deployed from a 1,500km range.

Potential military threats to the UK "are now on Europe's doorstep," Gen Carter will say.

Inevitably some will also view the one-off speech as General Carter's vision should he become the next Chief of the Defence Staff - the position is expected to be announced in the coming months and the experienced soldier is one of the leading candidates.

Last year, prime minister Theresa May said Russia had "mounted a sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption" against other nations.

This intervention from Carter is as much an appeal for more money to fund the armed forces and to avoid further cuts.

Carter will say the UK's ability to respond to threats will be eroded if it doesn't keep up with its adversaries, and he says the time to address these threats is now.

This appeal is being made with the approval of the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, who's made clear he wants more cash from the Treasury.

Gavin Williamson has approved an appeal asking the Treasury to invest more money (Photo: Sky news)
Gavin Williamson has approved an appeal asking the Treasury to invest more money (Photo: Sky news)

Williamson made the defence budget a priority since taking office last year. The Ministry of Defence faces a £20bn shortfall over the next 10 years and cuts will be almost inevitable if Williamson fails to secure more funding.

Last week Conservative MP Julian Lewis, chairman of the Commons defence select committee, posed an urgent question in the Commons after speculation that there were plans to cut the UK military by 14,000 service personnel, nine warships and 100 helicopters.

Williamson said "hard work" is taking place to give the armed forces the "right resources".

Some MPs  also have called to increase defence spending to 3% of GDP.

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