SLASHING Britain’s troop numbers could encourage Russia or China to mount a devastating attack on the West, the former Chief of Defence Staff warned last night.
General Lord Richards hit out at the long-rumoured Government cut to the forces, expected to be revealed in today’s Command Paper Defence.
Up to 10,000 troops are on the line so ministers can spend more cash on high-tech weapons instead.
Lord Richards stressed Britain would not be able to recapture the Falklands if there were another invasion today, and was leaving Britain at risk from a traditional attack from Russia or China.
Speaking to Times Radio he backed ploughing more money into high-tech military, but stressed: “It can’t be at the expense of conventional capabilities. And key to that is numbers – mass still matters.
“Russia and China… they still possess large numbers, and if all we’ve got is high tech stuff, and they’ve got half a million troops that can come across the border at you, then these high tech capabilities aren’t going to be much good.”
Last night Defence Secretary Ben Wallace all but confirmed the news that Britain’s armed forces numbers would be cut.
He said the army would be the “right size” to combat threats in future – and added “when the threat changes, we change with it.”
And he defended plans to dramatically increase Britain’s arsenal of nukes in the case of an attack, saying his job was to “reflect and review what the Russians and others have been up to”.
He added: “In the past few years we have seen Russia invest strongly in ballistic missile defence… They have planned and deployed new capabilities and that means if we are going to remain credible, it has to do the job”.
In today’s new defence strategy ministers will argue that Britain will have more ships, submarines, sailors and Future Commando Force deployed to protect Britain’s security at sea.
And the army will boast a new special operations Ranger Regiment to operate discreetly in high-risk environments across the world.
It came as Mr Wallace insisted Britain has “wide eyes” about threats from China but we must continue to trade with them and exert our influence to help tackle their “appalling” behaviour.
Boris Johnson faced fury from his own backbenchers last week when he refused to freeze out China over their human rights abuses.
Today MPs will vote on an amendment to the Trad Bill which would ban Britain from signing trade deals with countries suspected of genocide – including China.
Labour has written to MPs urging them to back it.
The Defence Secretary vowed the PM was “certainly tougher than previous governments” and insisted ministers would repeatedly call out China’s poor practice.
He added: “Ultimately the best way to get stronger leverage on China to get their behaviour to change.
“If we didn’t trade with China, you would actually have in some areas less leverage to try and influence China’s behaviour in the international community.”
Source: The Sun