Potential enemies may seek to take advantage of Britain’s reluctance to embark on new military operations after a decade of campaigning in Iraq and Afghanistan, the head of the Army has warned.
General Sir Peter Wall, the Chief of the General Staff, said that a sense of “moral disarmament” by a war-weary West may already be influencing calculations of other countries on how it would react in the face of provocation.
He warned that the potential for “force-on-force engagements” between nation states – seen by some politicians and analysts as “a thing of the past” – could not be ruled out and could come about “sooner than we think”.
In a speech to the Chatham House foreign-affairs think-tank, he highlighted the Russian incursion into Crimea as “a situation we did not foresee” that was “confounding our previous assumptions about stability across Europe”.
The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, last year warned of a “creeping aversion to risk” when it came to deploying UK military force, which he contrasted with the “mindset of aggressive risk management” shown by the French in operations in Mali and the Central African Republic.
While General Wall, who stands down later this year, said that the “reticence” of politicians to engage in new operations was understandable, there was a risk about the “strategic message” it sent to would-be adversaries.