Defence cuts render Britain weak to potential enemies, former leaders warn

Former commanders of the Armed Forces see 'disquieting parallels' between UK's military situation today and that of pre-Second World War Britain

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Four former leaders of the Armed Forces have warned that Britain’s inaction towards crises in Iraq, Syria and Russia is akin to the appeasement of the Nazis in the Second World War.

Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh, writing in The Telegraph on behalf of Admiral Lord Boyce, Field Marshal Lord Walker and Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire, said that defence budget cuts have led to “feeble” responses to events in the Middle East and that further cuts will make the UK seem weak to potential enemies.

Sir Nigel, a former First Sea Lord, said that the current lack of public appetite for military intervention abroad has acted as a “cover for our recent, feeble responses to events in the Middle East such as in Libya, Syria and once again in Iraq, as well as in the face of the exponential threat posed by Islamic State.”

There are “uncomfortable similarities” between Britain’s unwillingness to arm itself today and in the build-up to the Second World War when its “blind faith in collective security” led to an “unwillingness to grasp the nettle of rearmament, at least until it was nearly too late”, the former commanders said. Now the UK “rightly” relies on collective security through the UN and Nato, “but, as then, does so while steadily weakening its own defence posture.”

The former leaders said that military cuts from the last five years have seriously harmed Britain alliance with the US, damaged its credibility of nuclear deterrence and put it in a weak position to face the possible threat of “a resurgent Russia”.

The 2010 defence review resulted in budgetary cuts across the Armed Forces and saw the Army cut from 102,000 to 82,000 personnel. Defence chiefs fear that the next review which is currently underway will bring similar results.

George Osborne, has already announced that the Ministry of Defence will have to reduce its budget by another £500 million this year. According to the former commanders, further reductions will cause the Government to neglect the defence of the nation.