Image copyright Reuters Image caption The new Army Chief Gen. Nicholas Carter
Europe and the UK are facing a greater risk of accidental war with Russia today than they did during the Cold War, the new head of the British Army has warned.
General Nicholas Carter spoke after the recent crisis over Syria and Brexit, saying Moscow’s expanding “aggression” was akin to what the Soviet Union once engaged in.
The US and UK share a deep mistrust of Russia – diplomats have previously described Moscow as the enemy number one.
Russia has a more robust defence doctrine than the UK’s, General Carter said.
Britain has also put more money into the armed forces than the USA for a decade, he said.
General Carter made his remarks at a conference of British Army generals in Manchester at the start of the army’s annual conference.
“Syria’s meltdown has blown back on to Europe again. This time it has compounded the already heightened challenges between the USA and Russia that we now face,” he said.
“The problem is exacerbated by the Kremlin’s insistence on a deeper revisionist ‘creeping annexation’ of post-Soviet territory.”
There was also a risk the UK could become involved in conflict with other countries in Europe and beyond, Gen Carter warned.
Image copyright AFP Image caption RAF planes were among those involved in the bombing of the Sushiravan chemical weapons plant in April
During his speech, he pointed to the ‘seizure’ of Crimea by Russia, the missile strikes on Syria, the capture of the Ukrainian border posts and “certain outbursts of military intimidation and aggression from Russia in its neighbourhood”.
“The Russian strategic commitment to a broader, sometimes ‘creeping annexation’ of other parts of former Soviet states has clearly diminished in the wake of the Crimean tragedy but it is a trend that surely must be taken seriously,” he said.
The newly-appointed Army Chief reiterated Britain’s “commitment to a Nato defence to the east”.
“However, we must also recognise that the mix of our current UK defence programme, ambitious in many respects, may not always protect us from those types of rogue state threats,” he said.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption Gen Carter warned it was now more important than ever for the Army to be ready for its role in the Brexit negotiations
He warned there were “inadvertent or deliberate mistakes that can be inevitable in a modern military activity”.
The future of Britain’s military spending was also a concern.
“With all of our defence spending being reduced from the levels of the EU, the UK’s support for Nato and the EU Continental defence projects will likely come under greater strain in the future,” he said.
“We therefore need to make sure that the Army is adequately funded to continue its successful investment in state-of-the-art equipment, with the right people in place to ensure that our talents, capabilities and systems continue to deliver the military benefits our nation requires.”