Britain risks falling behind her enemies if the Government doesn’t sufficiently invest in modern capabilities, the head of the Army will warn.
General Sir Nick Carter will directly compare Britain’s military to Russia’s and say there are areas where the UK is worse off in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute today.
“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.”
Gen Carter will warn that Russia, in building an increasingly aggressive and expeditionary force, already boasts capabilities that the UK would struggle to match.
He will point to Syria where Russia has very publicly demonstrated its long-range strike capability on numerous occasions.
Inevitably some commentators will also view the one-off speech as Gen 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.
It is also understood that the Defence Secretary is encouraging senior military leaders to speak publicly to help him make the case for more money.
Gavin Williamson has 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 Mr Williamson fails to secure more funding.
A security review currently being carried out by National Security Adviser Mark Sedwill is expected to be published within weeks.
Mr Williamson is believed to have successfully argued that defence should be removed from the review so it can be given more time and consideration before decisions are made ahead of next Autumn’s budget.
It is an indication of how desperate the MoD is to win the argument that the head of the Army feels it necessary to publicly play up Russian superiority.
He will also highlight that while the traditional threat still remains, the Armed Forces must also look closely at how countries are now being more creative in the way they exploit the seams between peace and war.
“We must take notice of what is going on around us or our ability to take action will be massively constrained. Speed of decision-making, speed of deployment and modern capability are essential if we wish to provide realistic deterrence.
“The time to address these threats is now – we cannot afford to sit back.”
Conservative MP Jonny Mercer, who sits on the Defence Select Committee, supports Gen Carter’s view.