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 1116.

    rather we be like Switzerland or Iceland and just get along with our lives quietly"

    The only reason Switzerland has been neutral for nearly 200 years is because its neighbours allowed it to be, not just because it declared it (as Belgium found out that guarantees nothing). In WW2 Iceland was occupied by Britain to prevent Germany doing so. Since WW2 it has been a member of NATO.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1115.

    Agree very much with Talbyr, we are no longer a powerful world force, just a bit part player used by the U.S. About time we settled in with other small European armies and our politicians realised we are just a small country these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1114.

    @1103.Henry Hazlitt

    You get voted down because you're percentages are wrong - probably borne by a complete lack of understanding as to how the military operate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1113.

    I listened to General Dannatt on The Today Programme, and concluded that he had simply lost the plot. While CDS he did support the Armed Forces against the tide of cuts, but linking his position now to retaining a presence in Germany and a Cold War rhetoric is plain silly. He could have made his point about reversing Army cuts in a much more elegant way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1112.

    There is absolutely no need for the British army to be in Germany. Historical and hysterical old generals with handle bar moustaches should be given no credence in the press.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1111.

    I'm rather liking Putin, he gave Greenpeace a good beating, definitely into old fashioned values, he bombed Chechnya back into the Stone Age, has no qualms about invading, Georgia, Ukraine.

    He definitely put his country and the values they have lived by first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1110.

    "....The EU should have moved far more slowly in its links with Ukrain. Anyone with a brain just knew something like this would happen."

    Tell me then whether Russia is or is not going to try to capture more Ukrainian soil. Not so easy to be sure in advance, is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1109.

    463 StuR
    And the poor squaddie has to put up with expensive equipment that doesn't work properly, arrives late, and support a large train of senior brass that doesn't risk anything. Navy and Airforce just the same. 2 Admirals for every ship, A General for each batallion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1108.

    Russia have seen the west's weakness in Syria and are now taking advantage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1107.

    Do the politicians want a credible defence force? Yes or No? Not a difficult question really, but they can't give a straight answer!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1106.

    complex and difficult situations call for world class statesmen and world leaders to ease the tensions and maintain the peace .... what a pity that the UK possesses none of them .

  • rate this

    Comment number 1105.

    I was shocked at the dismissive and arrogant attitude taken by Dannatt in his interview this morning.

    Our days of being a world power are over. Dannatt is a Walter Mitty. Our troops in Afghanistan achieved little and at enormous human cost.

    When we've got characters like him around they'll find wars to fight.

    I'm glad that someone had the good sense to pack him off to the House of Lords.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1104.

    This decision is going to cost the british goverment more than they realise, not all is fun and games, seems to me like the british goverment wants to use "words" to talk themselves out of every situation, when the time comes, not everyone fancies words and certainly not Russia. they will regret this decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1103.

    I keep getting voted down, but why cannot anyone explain, why is/isn't it a good idea to restructure our army to a composition of;

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

    *Specialist positions that aren't your standard infantryman, artillery, logistics etc, nor need full-time expertise in (similar to the Swiss model, but without the conscription).

  • rate this

    Comment number 1102.

    @1083 Yes, because that's all they were allowed to have after WW2. All of those countries faced bans on 'preparing for war', a position which was reconsidered in 2009, so we'll probably see an increase in military expenditure in those countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1101.

    conscription will be next for all 18 to 25 year olds, 3 years service so the rest of us can live in peace without them dam ruskys storming in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1100.

    Just now
    @ 107.Talbyr
    - 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"

    Hopefully after September's referendum EXACTLY what Scotland will do. Saving Billions into the bargain

    well said both of you


  • rate this

    Comment number 1099.

    It does make you laugh that a while back we saw a film of the Russian Navy rusting in docks and some clot insisting they were a spent force ! Putin and his mates must have benn laughing their socks off building their forces behind closed doors and the West fell for it ! Previous wars have shown how devious the Russians are and we never learn , Cameron , Hague , Obama and friends please note !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1098.

    Doesn't this Ukraine crisis demonstrate how futile Trident is? So many billions could be better spent elsewhere, partly in keeping up our armed forces which are clearly needed in this 21st Century scenario of conflicts and also, of disasters, such as the recent floods in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1097.

    @1083. The answer to you're perfectly reasonable question is,thanks to the vanity of egotistical politicians seeking to make a name for themselves on the world stage @ the taxpayers expense,most definitely YES!

    The question is WHY have we tolerated it for so long??

    Semi retired, ex military has been's making ridiculously impractical suggestions/demands don't help either.


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