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 996.

    As I have mentioned numerous times over the years on HYS, all the rights & freedoms one takes for granted are only written on paper, they are not set in stone & can evapourate in a blink of an eye depending upon circumstance.

    My personal view, is based upon long evidential history, do NOT put all your trust into paper agreements because ALL human competition is for the right to existance itself

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    Let's think tactically about this...

    Firstly, confuse the Russians by invading Iceland, then we can 'arrange' a Free Trade agreement between Russia, China and India. As all the Europhiles will profess, you've got to HAVE free movement of people to be able to 'Trade' Freely. The Russians will be overrun by 100's of Millions of People.

    They'll come crawling back to the West saying sorry. Job Done!

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    Russia could be in Berlin within a week and still nobody in Europe would do anything. They could be having photo shoots at the Brandenburg gate and Merkel would still be more bothered about her oil pipeline and washing machine exports. This continent isn't worth defending, and it never was.

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    We had our time, we did incredibly well for such a small country. Talk about punching above our weight, we punched higher than any nation ever will. A country smaller than a single US state, and we controlled the majority of the planet.
    Time to rest on our laurels, a retired champ. That day won't come again. Let's now be lauded for domestic reasons, rather than military. We know we can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    I think the only winner here will be the same winner from the 2nd world war. You guessed right the USA. Since 2008 they have been printing Trillions of Dollars and now is the chance to recover these Huge Debts, Countries in Europe will be queuing up to buy their Military Equiptment to protect themselves from the enemy the west has created.

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    Germany's the country that ought to be increasing military spending. It can afford it and it's currently spending a lot less per head than us or France. It's also nearer to Russia. They don't need British help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    966. countryboy and Shaun (comment now gone)

    How sad that you would just give up like that. If your opinion of your country is so low perhaps you should pick a really progressive democratic country and offer them your services. It would be interesting to see which you would choose, and more importantly, would they have you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    And Hague let it happen.
    His sloth now allows land grabs.
    Really - the situation in Crimea is all Hague's fault? Fascinating stuff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    Why bother with an armed force at all? The US tells us what to do with our force anyway so we may as well ditch it and let them police the world. Germany has a nominal force and is a powerful player on the world scene because their politicians HAVE to think things through. We should follow their lead and make our leaders negotiate, understand and talk rather than threaten to use a tiny armed force

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    I assume my earlier comment (955) quickly sank into negative territory because I said politicians are constrained by what's actually possible.

    To all those lovely people who think they could do a better job: put yourselves up for election. Or at least research and write a book. Otherwise, every so often, you really should open your mind up to the possibility that someone else knows more than you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    UK Defence Policy & Strategy is too important to be left up to elected politicians. It should be non political and no longer subject to the whims of successive governments who usually are unable to see farther than the end of their nose. I do not trust MP's or the MOD on this subject and a review into the whole question about defence is needed urgently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    We have cut our forces too far; this could be 1939 all over again. The sanctions will change nothing . NATO and the Germans cannot be relied upon as an ally. We shouldn't have any more troops in Germany until they adequately resource their own defence and show more backbone. We also need to have a cross party concensus on our own energy security and source through a renewables/nuclear mixture.

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    952.Peter Buck

    Volunteers to fight for what precisely?
    Ones lifestyle?

    The way it seems to me is that democracy has spoken but the lords masters diplomats and warmongers do not want to listen.

    Even so what will we fight with...no aircraft carriers and no planes?
    (Troops on the ground would be wiped out).

    UK troops in Germany were a LAST DITCH... as well as being FIRST.

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    107 Talbyr. You seem to have a naive view on International Relations and History. Let me help you.There is no particular reason that democracies and plurlalism will always prevail. Evil flurishes when good men stand aside. We fought 2 world wars in order to defend democracy in Europe. I'm imensely proud of that fact.I'm not entirely sure I could say the same if I was Swiss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    Standing armies are dangerous beasts, as we can see in the geographical area of Russia today, where the state uses it against various populations; Russian, Crimean, Chechnya etc...

    In the UK too; we've sent ours abroad for distant invasions with alarming alacrity...

    Am I saying the state should not maintain a credible defence force? No. But, a bloated military is not a defence force.

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    "107. Talbyr. I'd rather we be like Switzerland or Iceland and just get along with our lives quietly without concering ourselves with the flavour of the month crisis." This is exactly what we did in 1937 when Hitler anexed Sudets on a completely false pretence that the Czech oppress local Germans.. Dictators never stop unless stopped.

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    From the tone of comments, it's the "Long-term despair" and "Hard-pressed anxiety" tribes (together with a few "Cosmopolitan critics") that are the main posters here (Check our the Political Tribes piece from yesterday on BBC news website)

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    Why don't we just ally with Russia instead? They seem to have everything going for them. I hope it's not because of the human right abuses - I've yet to see a british PM critisise g'bay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    Putin is a better leader than Cameron, I'd pay Putin to replace Cameron, double his wage to!! Cameron is that bad!

  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    962 - SurvivalOfTheFickets. "...friendly fire"

    Reminds me of something my Father told me that the Tommies used to say when fighting during WW2.

    "When the Germans dropped bombs - the British ducked. When the British dropped bombs - the Germans ducked.

    But when the Americans dropped bombs, everyone bugger ducked"


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