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."

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1036.

    Which is why National Service is being put through Parliment, hardly a word......Did it in 1916 again in the thirties and again now. When they are skint, they turn to war, send our own to their deaths and call them glorious, makes me sick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1035.

    Is this a call for tactical reasons or is it a call from a bygone era?

    We still live in a world where it's your military muscle rather than intellectual brawn that decides the pecking order.
    But then I suppose it's impossible for some of us to imagine the thought that another major war could happen in our lifetime. Ignorance is perhaps bliss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1034.

    Another case of old men plotting wars for young men to die in. We don't need another cold war or military escalation and I'm sure the people of Russia feel the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1033.

    Dannatt is just a died-in-the-wool army guy with the army as his prime concern, who has spotted an opportunity to try to strengthen his plea for cuts to be reversed.

    Us having troops in Germany is outdated and an unnecessary drain on scarce taxpayer resources.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1032.

    @1011. Whatsyourproblem
    (Tongue in cheek ;-) !)

    Why do we not get Mr Tony Blair to have a word with them as Peace Envoy?
    I like your British humour. But why should the region be punished with having him there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1031.

    1013.PeterJ - "...The current president of Crimea received 3% of the vote in the last election two years ago. That is the cold truth."

    And even if true, its still 3% more than the current President in Kiev.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1030.

    Aren't Germany prevented from having a decent army since WW2?

    You all knows from the lessons of past wars how powerful Germany is left to it's own device

    Germany does have Europes biggest economy and yet spends less on their military than the UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 1029.

    1000 - Ian J "...Putin take whatever he wants"

    I agree, but the problem really isn't simply a "stand alone" problem is it?

    USA are adept at rhetoric & actually, their words can be perceived as honourable. However (and this is the crux)

    How does one rationally accept the USA stance while USA (& UK) openly allow Israel to land grab, while also condemning Putin presumed to be doing the same?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1028.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1027.

    1003 Quite
    "Germany would be delighted if the British army stayed."

    That's why they've asked us to leave then?

    "Higher living standard."

    Yeah, that's 13,300 squaddies (plus their families) including associated jobs that EMPLOY Germans. Don't let the little fact that they're not spending their money in the British Economy put you off. The Germans have an Army over 250K, our 13K is a token force.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1026.

    I don't even think there is any moral reason why we should have any troops in Germany anymore, they play a far bigger peace keeping role in terms of diplomacy than we do, it's about time both the UK (soon to be England, Wales and NI) and the US took a less active part in telling the world how to run it's affairs

  • rate this

    Comment number 1025.

    Nice to see so many postings by Russian moles here on HYS today

  • rate this

    Comment number 1024.

    @999 "A strong army is needed to deter war, not make war." -
    hmm... that's what everybody thought in 1914 though ... not convinced it worked all that well then ... surely there must be more constructive things we can do than start another arms race.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1023.

    We have long since ceased to be a "World Power" so we should stop behaving as such. The fact that we cannot feed our own population with resorting to food banks shows where the spending priorities should lie and at the moment it is not with defence.
    With regard to Crimea we should try talking to Russia before rattling the sabres - we should be able to resolve it without a war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1022.

    #989. Khuli

    It is not just Hague's fault.
    It is all the Europhobes that want to profit from Europe but not take any responsibility.

    What does their action teach Putin?

    They have not got the nations interests at heart let alone Europe's.

    They are simply worried about their own jobs.

    And that has led us to Cold War II.

    I hope it makes them feel better.
    They have let a dictator run amok.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1021.

    @1014. Jimmynoel

    Dude i mentioned that and the cat and mouse games they been playing with the UK/France and in Gaum where US chased there stealth bombers away.

    And all i got was like +1 so i doubt anyone cares about it. I remember a HYS on that issue and it was around the same that cuts were being handed out to military so everyone was typing about how our defense is crap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1020.

    BTW, it's not about numbers of troops, it's about the rest of humanity standing up and saying "This is wrong".
    First though, much heavier sanctions etc should be tried..but..be warned, fiction I know, but in Red Storm Rising, the USSR was pushed into war by being so constrained that if they hadn't done something, it's people would have rebelled.and no government wants that.same for Germany and WW1

  • rate this

    Comment number 1019.


    Do we need a permanent standing army (except for specialist positions)?

    Could a defence force of comprising of Reservists perform the role, or not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1018.

    @1014. jimmynoel
    May I take all of you back to the end of 2013 when the largest Aircraft Carrier in the World the Russian Carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov was allowed to wander about the Moray Firth for days before she was detected . No maritime reconnaissance planes were available and a warship had to be despatched from the south coast...
    Wow, you mean we were almost invaded? Incredible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1017.

    Tory austerity.We are all fed up with it.They have treated our public sector workers like scum.When I would much rather have a soldier doctor or nurse as prime minister than an eton educated snob.When will people see how they laugh at us.You are not us if you are a BANKER of course.We need more soldiers,more gps not more tory cuts.The only things increasing are crime poverty and immigration.


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