Dannatt: UK needs to retain 3,000 troops in Germany


Lord Dannatt: "This is not a time for the West... to appear weak"

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The UK should recruit more soldiers in light of the Ukraine and Syria crises and retain 3,000 troops in Germany, the former head of the Army has said.

Lord Dannatt said that amid Nato concerns over Russian forces in Crimea, the West must have "muscle behind our message".

But the Ministry of Defence currently plans to reduce the size of the Army.

And Prime Minister David Cameron said he didn't think it was "necessary" to change those restructuring plans.

Lord Dannatt, who was chief of the general staff between 2006 and 2008, warned that despite the "war-weariness and war-wariness" felt by the UK, if the country was going to send "diplomatic messages" it was "better to do it from a position of some strength rather than a position of weakness".

He said that extra troops would signify that the UK took "defence and security seriously".

"What I'm saying is the strategic circumstances in the world have changed. And perhaps we should consider a pause in reducing our armed services and our capability, and make a small increase," he told the BBC's Today programme.

"It sends a message that actually we take our defence and security seriously and that he [Russian President Vladimir Putin] should think twice before he considers any further expeditions and expansion."

Start Quote

Many people think that 82,000 is too small a regular army for the UK to have, I am certainly one of those”

End Quote Lord Dannatt
'Wrong-footed ourselves'

There has been a British army presence in Germany for nearly 70 years, and Lord Dannatt called upon the government to "rethink" its plans to end it.

Under the 2010 strategic defence review, the government announced it wanted to withdraw all 20,000 troops in Germany, plus their families, by 2020.

And current plans for cuts to the Army will see personnel numbers reduced from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2018. The number of part-time soldiers will double, from 15,000 to 30,000.

Lord Dannatt told the BBC: "It's very hard to predict the future; if our defence capability is weak then at some point in the future, we may find that we have wrong-footed ourselves.

"Many people think that 82,000 is too small a regular army for the UK to have, I am certainly one of those."

A British Warrior Armoured Infantry Fighting vehicle patrols down the live firing range in Grafenwöhr, Germany The MoD plans to take all British troops out of Germany by 2020
British troops in Afghanistan The MoD said it was "reshaping" the armed forces to ensure they were "properly equipped and more adaptable"
Pro-Russian protesters in Donetsk Pro-Russian protesters have been taking part in rallies in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine

He said that recruiting troops "would send a message to Mr Putin and others that diplomacy and economic sanctions are one thing, but there is muscle behind our message".

Nato's military commander in Europe said Russian forces at the Ukrainian border were "very, very sizeable and very, very ready".

Supreme Allied Commander in Europe Gen Philip Breedlove expressed specific concerns about the threat to Moldova's Trans-Dniester region.

The build-up has been linked to Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, following the removal of Ukraine's pro-Moscow president. Russia said its forces east of Ukraine complied with international agreements.

Lord Dannatt made his comments ahead of a meeting between President Barack Obama and other world leaders in the Netherlands later, where the crisis in Crimea and Ukraine will be discussed.

'Properly equipped'

Start Quote

Peter Quentin, RUSI

It is unclear how a brigade's worth of additional troops would have a deterrent effect without the political will to deploy them”

End Quote Peter Quentin

Lord Dannatt suggested the Defence Reform Bill, which is going through the House of Lords, could be the opportunity to alter the balance between regular and reserve soldiers in the Army.

Responding to the comments, Mr Cameron said: "I don't think its necessary to change our plans to base British soldiers in Britain.

"But what I think is important that we send a very clear message to our Nato partners and allies that we believe in Nato and we believe in their security."

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: "The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review set out how the armed forces would be restructured to meet future threats, including managing risks before they materialise in the UK, and maintaining a broad spectrum of defence capabilities.

"With the fourth largest defence budget in the world we are reshaping our armed forces to ensure that they are properly equipped and more adaptable to future challenges and to bring the UK into line with our closest allies, who make much more use of reserve forces."

Peter Quentin, from military think tank the Royal United Services Institute, said it was an "awkward" moment to be "seen to be reducing defence capabilities".

'Salami slicing'

He said: "These comments are not about what is happening in Crimea but in Whitehall - Lord Dannatt is using the crisis to illustrate the levels of threat and uncertainty in the international landscape and, therefore, the risks of current defence cuts.

"The Army remains particularly vulnerable to further reductions in its manpower, as the most scalable of the three services and without a clearly articulated case for why 82,000 regular troops constitutes its 'critical mass'.

"Calling for 3,000 more troops only reinforces this notion - salami slicing cuts both ways - but regardless of their numbers or capabilities it is unclear how a brigade's worth of additional troops would have a deterrent effect without the political will to deploy them.

"The public's 'war-weariness and war-wariness' has led to the disarmament of both moral and physical fighting power - there are no popular protests marching on Whitehall demanding increased defence expenditure."

Top locations for UK troops in the world

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1236.

    Mixing up military capability with the intention to use it or not is not the point.
    The Cold War was not fought or won on battlefields, but on capability.
    Reduced capability lead to both the first and second world wars.
    So, why have we reduced our capability? The few billions saved will look stupid if we accidentally end up with another world war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1235.

    The phrase 'walk softly but carry a big stick' comes to mind for this scenario - unfortunately the UK's current crop of politicians can seemingly do neither.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1234.

    As an American I can say I feel for Europe and the Ukraine. We have such weak leaders with weak responses. Not to say war should be the go to, but there comes a point were threats have to be met with conviction. I hope Europe is ready for a possible conflict, because it sure looks like that in the future. I just hope my country is wise enough to get involved instead of waiting 3 years to help out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1233.

    1219. Jack Napier.
    Democracy works on which ever level your accustomed to. Russia has always been a strict authoritarian regime due to it's soviet background.
    My democracy has been ground down by consecutive lying governments who are only too happy to play lip service to a ever demanding, unelected EU.
    The Ukraine is no more our problem than the Middle East but look at the can of worms there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1232.


    You don't know your left from your right. When you first started contributing I wondered how you expect to be taken seriously, but then I realise you don't. You just howl at the wind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1231.


    Germany is a nominal force? What? Germany has almost as many military personel as the UK has and will have more once the cuts go through. They have far more tanks and aircraft. They spend less but that is mostly down to the UK having Trident and expensive toys like carriers. In the unlikley event of a war in Europe it would be the Germans and Poles supplying most of the NATO forces.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1230.

    Assuming the UK borrows Putin as one of candidates for the next election, would he win?

    Everyone apart seems to have forgotten what got us into WW2. Nazi Germany annexing Poland

    == So did the "Bristish empire", sorry, what is your point?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1229.


    ... as largest consumers of Fish & Chips ... is secure.

    There is no one who can knock us off our throne !!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1228.

    Nah leave it alone the Russians can look after their own they don't need the Brits sticking their noses in it was only the other month a Russian was calling the UK insignificant -I do hope it's not the Politicians trying to get their own back and using Young men to make a point

  • rate this

    Comment number 1227.

    Who needs more troops when we have Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1226.

    I think the entire thing has been handled appallingly by everyone involved, in particular the begining when Ukrainian demonstrators acted like anarchic thugs. An elected government is never overthrown by force, you DO NOT loot, vandalise and occupy gov buildings, attacking the police force in the process. Because, if you do, your action is going to provoke a similar reaction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1225.

    # 1209 lackey of the right

    we are indeed writing half of them and we can also trace you by your ISP address amongst other methods , we may be under your bed , yes that's right reds under the beds .... sleep well .

  • rate this

    Comment number 1224.


    In fact, the Swiss cantons simply capitulated to Napoleon and once again we saved Europe's bacon.

    So much for the cookoo-clockers.

    I wouldn't hold my breath to rely upon them to save us if the roles were reversed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1223.

    Let Germany (supposedly the economic powerhouse of Europe) defend its own borders, we're not the German Defence Force. We're broke enough, with failing infrastructure, without having to field 3,000 troops in a foreign 1st world nation.

    It is revealing that when someone disagrees with you, you enter into a slew of insults and condescension; the hallmarks of an insecure mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1222.

    Everyone apart seems to have forgotten what got us into WW2. Nazi Germany annexing Poland just to remind everyone. Joe Stalin did the same to parts of Finland. Putin seems to believe he can pull a Stalin over Ukrain and possibly other Baltic states. That type of person doesn't just stop and go away, they need to be checked at the onset, or worse happens. Time to rebuild our Forces and deploy them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1221.

    There may be trouble ahead.

    Doncaster & Carlisle are still legally Scottish because they have never officially been signed back over to England.

    Hence I am waiting for kilted hoards to come to Donny & stick the Saltire up the Mayor

  • rate this

    Comment number 1220.

    @KenB - yes, treaties agreed by Russia regarding the status of Ukraine, and here we are. Now they'll play the game with nearby territories that they played with the Austro-Hungarian Empire just over a century ago (irredentism), and if we don't know how that turned out, we can always do some research into the origins of WW1 - which is fashionable this year. Never trust a Russian treaty signature.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1219.

    1208.Essex Serpent

    Is that the same 'democracy' as our government and the EU preach too?


    Are you really trying to compare the Russian regime, where Putin's political opponents are frequently imprisoned & anybody who speaks out against him is likely to be beaten up or 'go missing' with the EU or UK?

    You seem to seriously under-apreciate the freedoms we enjoy in the west.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1218.

    1180 mod

    "we are more concerned about energy bills"

    Perhaps this is all hyped up for the fracking companies to get the go-ahead to operate across Europe without encountering too much opposition from the people

    No doubt the bankers can smell vast new opportunities to fill their bulging coffers

  • rate this

    Comment number 1217.

    Reminds of bygone days when a piece of paper re-assures everyone!
    This is about Russia holding on what little military strategic hold they have in the black sea.
    For the Americans it's getting McDonalds restaurants strategically placed throughout the world. LOL


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