The UK military is “too small” to survive a war if the Russian invasion of Ukraine escalates to NATO, the British Army’s highest-ranking official has said, adding that the public may be called up to fight.
The statement comes amid concerns that Moscow might soon defeat Ukraine amid dwindling Western supplies and wage another armed conflict with a NATO member state.
According to General Patrick Sanders, it is essential to take preparatory steps to place the UK on a war footing.
Although he does not support conscription, he said there should be a shift in the mindset of regular British people to be mentally prepared for the possibility of a war with Russia.
“Our friends in eastern and northern Europe, who feel the proximity of the Russian threat more acutely, are already acting prudently, laying the foundations for national mobilization,” he said. “Ukraine brutally illustrates that regular armies start wars; citizen armies win them.”
Winning Wars on Land
Speaking at an armored vehicles conference in London, Sanders said the UK should not rely solely on its naval and aerial power in a war.
He argued that the country must be able to credibly fight and win wars on land, as its allies are preparing for.
He added that the army must have a strength of 120,000 troops within three years, including regular soldiers, reserves, and a strategic reserve group or retired troops who have been recalled.
The current strength of the British Army stands at 75,983.
“We need an army designed to expand rapidly to enable the first echelon, resource the second echelon, and train and equip the citizen army that must follow,” Sanders said.
Sanders’ remarks come days after NATO military commander Admiral Rob Bauer said the alliance needs to prepare for conflict with Russia in the next 20 years.
He said many civilians would have to be mobilized if conflict escalated in Europe.
“The discussion is much wider… People have to understand they play a role… The realization [is] that not everything is plannable and not everything is going to be hunky dory in the next 20 years,” Bauer explained, as quoted by The Independent.
Sander’s statement about needing to mobilize the public comes amid London’s decision to reduce the number of its military personnel and focus on modernization.
By 2025, the country expects an army strength of just 73,000 troops.
The combined number of regular troops and volunteer reserves in all services also fell to 184,865 — 7,440 lower than last year.
The figures reflect that the UK military is experiencing its lowest number of active-duty personnel since the Napoleonic wars in 1815.