UK may reverse decision to pull out of Germany over threat from Russia

The head of the British Army has paved the way for a potential U-turn on the decision to pull back troops from Germany owing to the growing threat of Russian aggression.

General Sir Nick Carter highlighted how the Kremlin, in building an increasingly aggressive and expeditionary force, already boasts capabilities the UK would struggle to match.

And that Britain needs to prepare to "fight the war we might have to fight" as he said hostilities from Moscow could be initiated sooner than expected.

Under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, all British troops in Germany were earmarked for recall back to the UK, with the final units set to leave the county in 2019 and the bases there closed.

DEFENCE Carter
(PA Graphics)

But Gen Carter said when it comes to threats, it is important to recognise that "readiness is about speed of recognition, speed of decision-making and speed of assembly".

He said the Army is testing the ability to deploy over land by using road and rail, but that it is "also important to stress the need for a forward mounting base".

"Therefore we are actively examining the retention of our infrastructure in Germany, where we store our vehicles in Ayrshire Barracks in Rheindahlen, and our training facilities in Sennelager, as well as our heavy equipment transporters that are based there, and our stockpiling and ammunition storage," he revealed.

To a packed room at the Royal United Services Institute in London for his speech on Monday, Gen Carter also showed a Russian military propaganda video that detailed their vast equipment and ammunition.

He said we have to accept the three-minute video is "information warfare at its best" and that it showed the Kremlin has an "eye watering quantity of capability".

It won't start with little green men - it will start with something we don't expect - @ArmyCGS@BritishArmy#DynamicSecurity

-- RUSI (@RUSI_org) January 22, 2018

Gen Carter said "not in any way" does he want to suggest that Russia would go to war in the traditional sense, but that Moscow "could initiate hostilities sooner than we expect".

"I don't think it will start with little green men, it will start with something we don't expect. We should not take what we have seen so far as a template for the future," he added.

Gen Carter also stressed how the UK needs to "prepare ourselves to fight the war we might have to fight".

"I think it is an important point, because in being prepared to fight the war we might have to fight, there is a sporting chance that we will prevent it from happening," he added.

"And I think the 100th anniversary of World War One gives us the great chance to actually think about what the war might look like."

The 58-year-old highlighted how Russia has used the conflict in Syria to "develop an expeditionary capability", giving their officers "high-end war fighting experience" they had not been able to garner in Ukraine.

And that as an ally of Bashar al-Assad, Moscow used the war to "combat-test their long range strike missiles and over 150 new weapons and items of
equipment".

During his speech Gen Carter stressed that Britain "must take notice of what is going on around us" or that the ability by the UK to take action will be "massively constrained".

He said: "I believe our ability to pre-empt or respond to these threats will be eroded if we don't match up to them now.

"They represent a clear and present danger - they are not thousands of miles away they are now on Europe's doorstep and the character of warfare is making it much harder for us to recognise true intentions and thus distinguish between what is peace and what is war."

Gen Carter's comments come during a period of widespread speculation about possible cuts to personnel and equipment amid major pressure on the UK's defence budget.

There have been calls to increase defence spending to 3% of GDP from some MPs, and reports there are plans to cut the armed forces' strength by more than 14,000, as well as the combination of elite units of paratroopers and Royal Marines to save cash.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Speculation about defence cuts has mounted in recent months since the launch of a review led by the Prime Minister's national security adviser Mark Sedwill.

The review is examining all aspects of national security capabilities, fuelling concerns it will prioritise measures to counter cyber attacks and terrorism rather than major defence projects.

Gen Carter said that "contrary to speculation no decisions have yet been made".

During a question and answer section of the event he confirmed the defence strand of the review will "run on for longer".

"How long it takes, I don't know, but I think that you will hear quite soon how it will be handled," he added.

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