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 1076.

    The Russians have merely re-integrated a Russian speaking, ethnically Russian region, a region that should never have been 'given' to the Ukraine in the first place

    We should keep our noses out - especially after what we did in kosovo, iraq and afghansitan

    pot kettle black etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 1075.

    Peace, is just a temporary interlude between the norms of human existinal demands in which the fight for existance & to secure longevity of existance is played out in various opportunist windows.

    That Britains politicians have long given up & abandoned so much of vital existinal industrial longevity security is treasonable & has further economic & social negative domino effect longer term,

  • rate this

    Comment number 1074.

    I'm confused about the troop number graphics above; in the 'Army 2020 restructure' graphic it seems we have a total of 117,000. But on the 'Top locations for UK troops in the world' graphic it seems we have around 160,000 troops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1073.

    There are over 12'000'000 (million) soldiers in the world

    Just imagine the difference those fit young people could make to the poorest continents if those resources were shifted onto creative infrastructure projects

    ... sorry to be all John Lennon... but I'm so utterly bored of 70 year old farts spouting Military and Political bull.. while millions are dying for a lack of clean drinking water

  • rate this

    Comment number 1072.

    Ukraine is a non issue. The Eastern part was Russia for centuries until relatively recently and Russian speaking, Western part was Austria; Ukranian, German, Polish speaking.
    If the West wants to rejoin central Europe, its cultural home, that's no business of Russia's. If Crimea joins Russia, that's no threat to us.
    This isn't a regime change like Pinochet or Pol Pot. US-UK should be quiet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1071.

    "Defence Spending" is not "Military Spending."

    We don't need bases abroad, or to join "the West," in its entangling alliances/"Coalitions of the Willing," which find us in foreign wars of aggression (which we're still paying off), making us a target for terrorists at home.

    Why not an army composition of;

    20% Full time soldiers (dominating the specialist positions).
    80% Reservists?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1070.

    1027 squirrel "The Germans have an Army over 250K.."

    The strength of the whole of the German Armed Forces doesn't add up to 250,000, let alone the German Army:

  • rate this

    Comment number 1069.

    #1050 Essex

    "Why are British forces still in Germany? I could understand it for the ten years post war period but 69 years later still?"

    Thatcher failed to stop German re-unification.

    --The next best thing was to leave the British troops in Germany.

    -Germany had nothing against them staying.

    #1065 squirrel

    There is no German conscription !


  • rate this

    Comment number 1068.

    The real enemies of this country are the hypocrites who tried and prosecuted a fine British soldier for ridding the world of an enemy dedicated to killing him and those soldiers for whom he was responsible.
    And now the Law Society is looking into the use of Shia law in Great Britain. So much for justice.
    The enemy is within.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1067.

    1013. PeterJ
    My wife's family live in Crimea.
    ...... thousands of ethnic Russians (yes Russians) are fleeing Crimea. ....
    You mean, such as Abramovitches and the likes, fleeing where to?
    Tell me were to apply for, I also would like to be payed for writing nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1066.

    Future Defence strategy is notoriously difficult to get right. Our armed forces and navy had undergone a massive reduction process prior to the WW2 resulting in Dunkirk. A turn of events that exposed the miscalculation. Circumstances seem relatively similar now, a strong-arm leader sniffing weakness in the west. Whatever the plans for reduction were, I imagine they are being reconsidered now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1065.

    1051 Quiet
    Again you show your lack of understanding..

    "A total of 62,279 soldiers are currently (February 2013) on active service in the German Army"

    The Term 'Active' drop-off you list of pertinent words to either include/exclude from your Wiki cut and pastes? Germany's Reserve forces number in the 100's K's. Back in the 80's and 90's when conscription was rife, they numbered even higher...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1064.

    We get a lot of our energy/natural resources from Russia. I'm not sure it would be diplomatically wise to annoy them.... Particularly when the big 6 are whacking a great big lump of cash on the prices when it passes UK terminals...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1063.

    70 years of us having troops in Germany is 25 years TOO LONG! The Cold War ended, or @ least that's what we were TOLD in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down? Victory for the West & a PEACE DIVIDEND to claim, & now Lord D want's our bankrupt nation to prepare for ANOTHER ROUND of it? Not in MY NAME thanks! We can't even organise successful flood defences as yet..Time to pull the plug & COME HOME!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1062.

    1042 - Ian J "...slightly different..."

    I understand your post, but disagree. Putin is breaking International law & it is well documented that Israel is also breaking International law.

    So, then do we approach both as being "slightly" different when clearly it is not (unless one is USA or UK)? We are all where we are now, without a clear & constant premise and/or logical conclusion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1061.

    We have a Govt of appeasers at home and worldwide much akin to the Chamberlain Govt, Hague is a sabre rattling nonentity in the eyes of Russia and an idiot in the eyes of the UK populace, someone who is desperately trying to imitate a world statesman, something no one in this Govt will ever achieve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1060.

    1038. But the world is a different place and historically Germany (Prussia) was an important counter-weight in Central Europe.

    We are always having Germany cited as some economic miracle, yet they have had the US and UK pay for their military for the last 70 years

  • rate this

    Comment number 1059.

    WE should move to'
    An army composition of;

    20% Full time soldiers (dominating the specialist prostitutions).
    80% Reservists

    1054.Rogue Tutor
    There is a difference between "military spending," and "defence spending."

    1041.Henry (correction)
    ... dominating the specialist "positions"

  • rate this

    Comment number 1058.

    I am sick of the comments made by some here saying the UK is past it and no longer great. RUBBISH! We are a great country and have the potential to be even greater! I don't advocate stamping over other countries but we are a world leader even though the pessimistic chatter here would tell us otherwise!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1057.

    @1040 - Gammarus
    "Well he can pay for it himself then, I'd say being the 4th largest global military spender is already too much, and I resent having to pay for it"
    @1046 - johnboy99
    "Save the NHS not the army"

    The only part of my taxes which I do not resent paying is for defence; I cannot understand why the wealth drain called the NHS is held as a sacred cow; it is overdue for slaughter.


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